“Who Wants to be a Millionaire?,” arguably the most successful game show of the last 20 years, took the country by storm in 1999 when ABC put it on in prime time and with ever-charismatic Regis Philbin as host.
But while the show took off with Philbin being introduced to a new generation of TV viewers and famously asking contestants “is that your final answer?” it was never supposed to happen.
Former ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor Dan Patrick has previously told the story about how he was actually promised the role as host of “Millionaire” by executive producer Michael Davies but that he only found out that he missed out when he saw a promo for the show on television with Philbin as host.
For the first time since the snubbing, Patrick and Davies, who is now best known among sports fans as one of the two hosts of “The Men in Blazers” soccer discussion show, met on “The Dan Patrick Show.” The pair discussed what happened and how Philbin ended up with the role and it involves all the politics (and alcohol) that you would expect from Hollywood.
First, here is how Patrick recalls their first meeting:
“[Davies] says ‘I want you to do ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?,’ But Regis calls me all the time. I gotta get him [a different show] so he will go away’,” Patrick recalled. “So, I have this job, ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’ … I fly home, I say to my wife, ‘hun, I think I am doing a show called ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?.’ Fast-forward to a promo, with Regis Philbin telling you about ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’ I called back to talk to Michael [Davies]. I didn’t hear back from him until today.”
Davies responded, “first of all, I don’t remember a lot about the late 1990s.”
When asked if he was “liquored up when [Patrick] got there,” Davies responded “almost certainly.”
Davies went on to explain that what he does remember is that as an executive producer at ABC, it was not easy getting talent from their sister-network, ESPN (both are owned by The Walt Disney Company).
“Every time we had [a new show], we wanted somebody from ESPN,” said Davies. “I wanted somebody from ESPN to go and host it. What I do remember is every time we wanted one of you guys from ESPN — and that was really you and Kenny [Mayne] and Stuart [Scott] a little bit — it was a huge, major problem and a political issue to go and do it.”
In the end, Davies said it didn’t matter who hosted the show, and “Millionaire” would have still been “a massive hit” with Patrick as a host, noting that it was a show that worked in 98 different countries regardless of who was hosting.
Still, it is hard to imagine the original prime time “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” without Regis Philbin needling the contestants for the final answer. But if Davies would have had his way, it might have never happened.
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