The word ‘quiz’ has a number of different possible origins. One of these is that it has originated from ‘Qui es? ‘, translated to “Who are you? ” from Latin. The word ‘quiz’ was then incorporated within a radio show to begin with and later, television, to become the ‘quiz show’. The quiz show itself has been around for over seventy years and has progressed a great deal from the radio show promoting pocket soups to the instantly recognisable dominant question/answer sessions of today, now offering prizes up to a million pounds.
During the latter part of the 1990s and the early part of the 2000s, quiz shows began to offer larger amounts of money than before, such as, ‘The Vault’, ‘The Chair’, and ‘The Weakest Link’, although, by far the biggest amount being given out on these quiz shows were on ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? ‘ This essay will focus on ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? ‘, in particular, analysing the techniques used to create tension and viewer enjoyment in this show. This show was first aired on ITV on September 4th 1998, and is hosted by Chris Tarrant.
The programme’s Unique Selling Point is the fact that it gives out a maximum prize of one million pounds, one of the largest prizes available on any quiz show. Also, it is continually stressed that anyone can win this prize money. This show has been extremely popular and the fact that it has had numerous celebrity special editions just highlights this point. ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? ‘ has a very simple concept in the question/answer session. The questions themselves span from i?? 100 to i?? 1,000,000, and they flow consecutively through difficulty, meaning that the easiest questions are the i??
100 and i?? 200 questions, with the most difficult questions being i?? 500,000 and i?? 1,000,000. The preliminary round of the show is called ‘Fastest Finger First’. This title has been ingeniously used in that the alliteration in the title has been used to emphasise the speed needed in this round, as it is very short, approximately 10 seconds in length. This is tense because it is extremely short, forcing the contestants to act quickly under pressure. In the show, there are milestones to aid the contestants in their attempted progression to a million pounds. These currently stand at i?? 1,000 and i??
32,000, and are a form of security for the contestants as they are guaranteed to leave with at least that amount of money, even if they happen to answer a question incorrectly after progressing past that milestone. However, these also create tension as there is a large amount of pressure placed on the contestants to reach the next milestone, meaning that the contestants know that they will receive a larger guaranteed amount of money if they reach the next milestone, therefore placing pressure on them to reach these goals. The contestants do not have to reach these milestones purely by using their
general knowledge. They are given three ‘Lifelines’ to aid them. These are called ‘Ask the Audience’, ’50:50′ and ‘Phone a Friend’. These make the show tense and exciting in their unique ways. Firstly, ‘Ask the Audience’ increases tension as the contestants can be dependant on trusting strangers. It can either help or hinder the contestants by either lulling them into a false sense of security when the audience gives them the wrong answer, or aiding them by reinforcing their choice. Secondly, ’50:50′ heightens the tension as it increases the temptation for the contestants to guess.
This again can either help or hinder the contestants because it eliminates two answers, leaving the right answer and one remaining wrong answer. However, if the two wrong answers that were eliminated contained the choice that the contestant believed was correct, then they become confused. Lastly, ‘Phone a Friend’ increases the tension for a number of reasons. Primarily, the contestant is under a great deal of pressure due to the time aspect. Because they are only allocated 30 seconds time, the contestant and their counterpart have to think quickly.
In some occasions, the person that the contestant is phoning will not be told how much money is at stake, due to the fact that this could affect their decision somewhat. This phone call tests the relationship of the two people, as if the contestant is on a large amount of money, and they answer the question incorrectly, then the ‘friend’ may be to blame. The layout of the show is unique and instantly recognisable. The twin stools and the computer screens are set in the centre of he stage, and the stools are not un-like the world renowned ‘Mastermind’ chair.
This heightens the tension as the audience is set all around the contestants and the host, in a gladiatorial amphitheatre-like formation, meaning that the contestant is under pressure from the watching audience at all times. The fact that there is a close friend or relative sitting immediately behind the contestant, and the contestant is not oblivious to this, adds to this sensation of always being watched. Sound effects and music are used frequently in this show, with many of them being used to heighten the tension.
The theme tune is instantly recognisable as so many people watch the show and know the theme tune. The music itself is instantly recognisable as it is unique in its sound. This background music itself is played quietly during the easiest questions, these being i?? 100 and i?? 200. The volume of this increases gradually as the contestants’ progress through the game, resulting in it being at its loudest at i?? 500,000 and i?? 1,000,000. This heightens the tension as the volume signifies the pressure placed upon the contestant throughout the game.
While some of the ‘Lifelines’ are being utilised, a clock sound effect can be heard, symbolising the pressure and the tension. Another sound effect used to increase the tension is the heart beat that can be heard after the i?? 1000 ‘Milestone’, symbolising the relief that the contestant is feeling after reaching that momentous ‘Milestone’. One sound effect is used to diminish the tension, giving some light relief in an otherwise tense situation. This would be the horn used to signify the end of the show. This lessens the tension as it is a humorous sound that can be used to release the tension.