“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” returns to network television for the first time since 2009 tonight when a series of episodes with celebrities playing for charities of their choice begins at 10:01 p.m. on ABC.
“Modern Family” co-star Eric Stonestreet and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Will Forte will be the contestants
Stonestreet will be playing for Building Hope for Autism, an Overland Park, Kansas-based organization which seeks to fill gaps in services and support autism organizations that already exist. Its executive director is Stonestreet’s sister Mauria Stonestreet.
Forte will be playing for The Pangea Network, which bills itself as an international nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering motivated individuals in Kenya and the United States with the knowledge, skills and an ongoing network of support in order to achieve their dreams and make positive, life-changing contributions in the communities where they live.
The episodes will be hosted by late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel and are being billed by ABC as “the 20th anniversary prime-time celebration” of the game show that became a ratings phenomenon with its Aug. 16, 1999, premiere and the first U.S. network series to offer a $1 million top prize.
“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” was part of ABC’s schedule from 2000-2002. It was the most-watched prime-time program during the 1999-2000 season. In the 2000-01 season, three of its five weekly episodes were in the season-long top 10.
Overexposure caused the ratings to drop dramatically in the 2001-02 season, leading to its cancellation. A version aired in syndication from 2002-19.
Kimmel is also one of the executive producers, along with Michael Davies, the original executive producer.
The episodes include several new wrinkles. Celebrities can invite a guest to help them answer questions. Stonestreet’s guest is Danny Zuker, an executive producer of “Modern Family.” Forte’s guest is his father Reb, a financial broker.
There will be a new lifeline, Ask the Host. A live, play-along app will allow viewers to compete to win the same amount of money the celebrities are playing for on the show.
Contestants in future episodes include Oscar-winning actress Jane Fonda, CNN host Anderson Cooper and “black-ish” star Anthony Anderson.
“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” is part of ABC’s strategy to air at least one live or major event every month.
Recent past major events on ABC generally have had great ratings success because of their broad appeal “to kids and families and parents and young adults,” ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke said in January during the network’s portion of the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour.
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