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Syndie ‘Millionaire’ ready for fall debut

Jul 29, 2002  •  Post A Comment

The last time the co-host of a daytime talk show took center stage on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” the results were hugely successful. Now Buena Vista is banking on another host to deliver similar results in syndication.
Last week, the distributor began taping the leaner syndicated version of the game show with a look that is familiar yet different to longtime fans of the prime-time series, according to series producers. New host Meredith Vieira, perhaps best known for her role on “The View,” will fill Regis Philbin’s place across from the hot seat.
Executive producer Michael Davies said that after selling out its upfront advertising inventory with sponsors such as Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Clorox, the anticipation for the series is as strong now as it was when announced a year ago.
“Our test shows have been sensational,” he said. “Meredith has a lot of what Regis had in that she knows how to deal with the contestants while providing her own humor to the game. You can tell she really gets into the game even though she’s on the other side this time around.”
The series is cleared on the CBS owned-and-operated stations, the McGraw-Hill station group, the Scripps Howard station group and three Post-Newsweek stations. The show is cleared in 95 percent of the country for its September launch.
Although the series will return to its roots by focusing on “regular people” competing for the jackpot, some new twists have been added to the mix. For the faster-paced half-hour format, the lighting effects, set and graphics package and “fastest finger” competition have all been tweaked.
“I have such empathy for these contestants, and my heart went out to every single one of them,” Ms. Vieira said. “I hated seeing anyone lose.”
To boost interest and pin down some solid prospective contestants, the series launched a bus tour that started in San Diego and will travel through Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Memphis, Nashville and Oklahoma City in search of would-be players.