Lord Grade, former chairman of both the BBC and ITV, won a spoof version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? with the proceeds going to the charity of his choice – the Samaritans.
Answering questions specially tailored to his life and career, Michael Grade made it all the way to the millionaire question – and answered it correctly – with considerable help from the audience and the programme’s presenter Chris Tarrant.
The prize was funded jointly by Paul Smith – who, as managing director of Celador, once produced Millionaire – and independent producer Paul Jackson.
The game was the highlight of an RTS Legend’s Lunch held on 2 December to honour Millionaire as it starts to fade from ITV screens after 15 years and more than 600 programmes.
Worldwide, it is believed to be the most-watched television programme in history.
Towards the end of the game, as Grade, who was not in on the gag, inched his way towards a million for the Samaritans, Tarrant revealed that the million being played for was actually in South Korean currency.
Financial specialists will realise that the South Korean Won has an exchange rate of 0.000578 to the pound.
As a result of his win the Samaritans will receive £577.52.
At no time during the Tarrant presentation was there any mention of pounds sterling.
Back in the real word of multi-millions, Smith told how the Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? idea – then called Cash Mountain – was turned down by every British broadcaster, including ITV, twice over.
It was David Liddiment, then ITV’s recently appointed director of programmes, who was enthusiastic about the concept.
This was despite being worried about showing the audience all the answers in advance – and even more worried about bankrupting ITV if there were millionaire winners night after night.
Smith told the lunchtime audience how he had to offer up his 38% stake in Celador as a form of 50-50 underwriting for the show with ITV.
“I told Sarah and the kids we would have to sell the house if it didn’t work,” he said.
Smith convinced Liddiment that the risk was acceptable by playing the game with him.
But there were still doubts because the pilot was made only two weeks before the show was due to go live on 10 consecutive nights, and was far from perfect.
Liddiment wrote to Smith, saying: “There is a really good show trying to get out.”
After non-stop rehearsals, everything from the lighting and music to the show’s sound was tweaked.
The rest is broadcasting history.
A full report of the event will be published in the January edition of Television.
“The Show That Ate the Schedule”, an RTS Legend’s Lunch, was held in central London on 2 December. It was produced by Paul Jackson, Paul Smith and Kevin Bishop.
Report by Raymond Snoddy
Pictures by Paul Hampartsoumian