ABC has taken Regis Philbin out of mothballs, reviving onetime network staple “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” in time for February sweeps.
Hoping to improve the net’s sweeps fortunes, a special primetime “Super Millionaire” version of the gamer will air five times during the week of Feb. 22. Special will bow that Sunday at 9, followed by editions on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 10 p.m. (Net is running a two-hour finale of “The Bachelorette” on that Wednesday.)
“Millionaire” hasn’t been seen in ABC primetime since 2002; a daytime version hosted by Meredith Vieira continues to do well for Disney’s Buena Vista syndie arm.
At its height, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” propelled ABC to No. 1 and destroyed virtually everything rival nets put opposite it. Alphabet web ultimately won the 1999-2000 TV season among adults 18-49 thanks to the monster hit.
“Millionaire” began as a two-week special in August 1999, returning that November before officially joining the net’s schedule in January 2000. At one point, ABC scheduled four weekly installments of the gamer, leading many to believe that the Alphabet web might burn it out.
That prediction eventually came to fruition, and ABC execs admitted they may have prematurely worn the show out by airing it so often. Show was pulling a fraction of its first-season ratings by the time Alphabet execs retired it.
This time around, the special “Super Millionaire” will extend all dollar figures 10 times, meaning players will ultimately vie for $10 million.
ABC has shown a new appetite for gamers as of late. Net recently picked up six episodes of the Endemol USA contest “Deal or No Deal” (Daily Variety, Jan, 15).