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Wednesday, 18 August, 1999, 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK
Millionaire cash-in for US TV
Chris Tarrant: Praised for his "menacing" performance
Quiz show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire has been a hit with US viewers on its American debut - hitting the highest ratings of any series this summer.

The programme, which has been an enormous hit for ITV in the UK, made its debut on the ABC network on Monday evening in the US.

According to overnight figures quoted in industry newspaper Daily Variety, the show attracted just under 10 million viewers, easily beating off competition from other networks.

The US version of the show is identical to the British original, hosted by Chris Tarrant. Contestants win increasing amounts of money by answering 15 multiple-choice questions of varying difficulty, with a top prize of $1m.

Praise from critics

The ABC programme is hosted by talk show host Regis Philbin, already one of US TV's most famous faces for his daytime talk show Live! With Regis And Kathie Lee.

ABC executives are hoping the programme's performance will mirror its UK success, where it quickly built up a huge audience - reaching nearly 19 million in March.

Like ITV, ABC is running the show nightly for two weeks rather than as a weekly series.

But the show's contestants did not fare as well - the first night's biggest winner won just $4,000.

The show won praise from New York Times reviewer Ron Wertheimer, but he thought homely Regis Philbin was too much of a "nice guy" compared with the "menacing" Chris Tarrant.

"Everything Mr Tarrant does and says is calculated to rattle the contest and keep the viewer's heart palpitating in time to that relentless music," he wrote, adding that Philbin "may be perfect for his morning talk show, but the man seems constitutionally incapable of torturing people".

One other aspect of the show has not changed - viewers still have to ring a premium-rate phone-line to become contestants on the programme, being filmed over the next two weeks in New York.

See also:

05 Jan 99 | Entertainment
ITV's millionaire windfall
31 May 99 | Entertainment
TV Tarrant in the spotlight
09 Mar 99 | Entertainment
Quiz 'winner' waits for news
30 Jul 99 | Entertainment
Quiz contestants denied winnings
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