The premise of UK-based Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was simple enough. The contestant was asked questions, and if they answered them all correctly, then they would win a maximum cash prize of £1 million. The contestants who appeared on the TV show, after successfully auditioning and getting past the “fastest finger first” elimination round, had to answers a list of increasingly difficult questions. If they wanted to, they could leave the game prior to answering any question, with their prize pot standing at whatever it was for their last correct answer.
Although Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was axed in 2014 after TV ratings started to plummet, at one stage the show was attracting 19 million viewers. It was fun, thrilling and intellectually satisfying, and there was a pot of gold waiting at the end of the rainbow. The show produced as many as five millionaires, and below we take a look at who they were and how they managed to answer all of their questions correctly.
Judith Keppel was the first winner of the hit game show back in November 2000. At the time, she was a garden designer and was struggling financially. In fact, her telecoms operator had called her to warn about rising phone bills as a result of dialing Millionaire’s premium-rate hotline several times.
Keppel later suggested that the key to her winning the show was that she remembered trivial things. Interestingly, she also attributed her participation on the show to being single at the time, claiming that having a husband would have stopped her from becoming a contestant.
Unlike some millionaires, Keppel, who is a distant cousin of Camilla Parker Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall, was wise with the money she won. The then 58-year-old went on a four-day money-management course, appointed a financial adviser, sold her Fulham house, and bought a property in France and a small London flat.
A few months after Keppel scooped £1 million, David Edwards did the same. The Welsh teacher answered all of his questions correctly in April 2001 to become a millionaire. Edwards was then 53 years of age and was a quiz buff. He had won Mastermind, and he himself admitted that he was determined to succeed in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and had actually prepared for it.
Edwards calculated the number of phone calls he would need to make to win a place on the TV show and then set aside £1000 to cover the costs, and he also practised the “fastest finger” round. He watched a lot of television to get information and increase his general knowledge.
Robert Brydges won the game show in September 2001, but he actually did not need the prize money. Then 47 years old, Brydges was already a millionaire and owned a £2 million townhouse in London. Given that he had experience of working as a vice-president at Hanover Trust (ultimately taken over by JPMorgan Chase & Co.) and as a director of investment brokers GNI Fund Management, the banker was understandably clever, quick-witted, smart and intelligent.
Brydges’s appearance on the show caused controversy at the time as he was already wealthy enough. Even to this day, some would claim that he should not have been on the show and that it would have been better if an average 9-5 worker would have won the jackpot.
Things have changed since 2001, with a wealth of options for would-be contestants. You could, for example, practice your technique by playing the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? video game, of which numerous versions have been released over the years. Perhaps you’ll even take things one step further by playing Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? on Fabulous Bingo for real money. The 5-reel, 50-line slot features free spins with shifting WILDS and an in-reel Prize Pick bonus, allowing players to work their way up to the jackpot.
Pat Gibson was the fourth winner of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? The Irishman claimed the jackpot in April 2004, thanks to his encyclopedic knowledge. Since his triumph on the ITV hit quiz show, Gibson has won Mastermind Champion of Champions, BBC Radio 4’s Brain of Britain, and International Quiz Association World Quizzing Championship.
The key to Mr Gibson’s success was that he is very smart and knows a lot of things about a lot of things. There is no guesswork involved, and the Irishman is surely one of the smartest men alive. As he himself revealed, he was “a great atlas reader as a child”, and to this day, he hunts for trivial but interesting facts in newspapers.
Ingram Wilcox became the fifth and final winner of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in September 2006. It probably did not come as a surprise to those who knew him, as he was a quiz bluff and had a wealth of general knowledge.
The then 61-year-old and civil servant had already reached the final of Mastermind in 1980, and had appeared on Brain of Britain, Fifteen to One and Countdown. Just like Gibson, Wilcox is an intelligent man who loves quizzes. The secret to his success was simply knowledge accumulated over years and years.