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A comparative analysis of The weakest link and Who wants to be a millionaire

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Quiz shows really hit off in the 1950’s, when they were introduced to television after first developing on wireless. The viewer numbers continued to grow dramatically, and the cash prizes grew with them.

New shows gave viewers a chance to dream of over night wealth and instant glory which was pretty much impossible in the real world. These included shows like ‘Break the Bank’ and ‘Strike it rich’.

‘The sixty four thousand question’ was about the most popular program on TV during its hay day, with around 85% of the TV audience. The success did not last, as producers were accused of giving the favored contestants ‘a helping hand’. After this, viewing members dropped, and sponsors became rarer, afraid of down fall.

Game shows have slowly crawled their way back up the ladder of TV success. now days, popular shows are sold to companies all around the world, such as, ‘The weakest link’, and ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’ these are both examples of incredibly modern and successful quiz shows, but both very different.

After researching both shows in detail, I feel that I may have unearthed some of the deep secrets of the quiz show industry…

‘The weakest link’ evolves a group of strangers who have to work together as a team to win prize money of up to �10,000. But only one person can take the money away- the others leave with nothing as, round by round, they are voted off with Anne’s famous words ringing in their ears: ‘You are the weakest link. Goodbye.’

‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’ begins with ‘Fastest finger first’ (note alliteration) , and then, once a candidate has been successfully chosen (the one with fastest finger), they take their seat in the centre of the ‘arena’. They must answer as many correct questions as possible in order to achieve a good prize. The limit is one million pounds.

Here I think it’s the prize money that attracts such a high viewing number, where as with ‘Link’, it’s the host, Anne Robinson, who makes the show what it is. Her acid delivery could make anyone think she’s the rudest person on TV. Just a few of her famous verbal put-downs include: ‘We’re not fainting with admiration here’, ‘Shameful’, ‘Pathetic’, ‘appalling’. However, one suspects that her dominatrix persona may attract ‘a certain kind’ of male contestant. The female contestants seem confidant, if not dominant themselves, and the humor is very ‘tongue and cheek’. Is there a sexual undertone to this program?

This cannot be said for the competing show, ‘Millionaire’, is still an air of dominance around the host, Chris Tarrant, whose character is allowed to have strength – he is a focal point in the program. He is able to enforce his ‘man of show business’ image through the program. His smart, dark suits and laid back appearance. (don’t you just hate that ‘know it all’ little grin?) You can feel his male dominance sitting right there, in the large, expensive looking black leather chair.

The chair seems to enforce the large cash prize that one could argue, makes the program. Surely this is the game show with the highest cash prize- ever! Or maybe it’s just meant to sound like that from the title? The question, ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’ is openly almost inviting the viewers to take part. ‘Millionaire’ does have a significantly large display of audience participation, whether on the actual show in person, in the audience or by phone.

On the other hand, ‘Link’, in my opinion, has quite a strict hierarchy. Anne comes first, then the nine contestants, until they are eliminated, second. The audience plays no part, except for laughing as Anne humiliates the players. Even in the studio, they are not lit at all and not visible, their presence however, is felt…

The studio echoes this ‘hierarchy’. Anne quizzes her victims from a circular step above them, giving her a sociological advantage.

She, as well as Tarrant, wears smart, dark suits. They mimic the futuristic theme of the studio. All the surfaces follow strict rules to suit the show: they are elliptical and muted. (U.F.O comes to mind)

Millionaire follows quite a similar style to this, the stage is circular, and the general colours are blues and blacks, with the exception of the large gold pillars that surround the arena. (Obviously to enforce the ‘win big money’ approach) one gets the feeling that the spherical platform is not to emphasize a futuristic approach, but to give us the feeling of the roman arena, with the two gladiators, head to head.

However, the show is very focused around Chris Tarrant. It is filmed in a way that the audience is fixed on the expressions of either Chris or the contestant.

On the other hand, Link regularly concentrates on all nine contestants and Anne from a little distance, giving the viewers time to take in the scenery. On these shots, the camera is always moving to keep the attention of the audience. The lighting too, is constantly changing, depending on the mood of the moment.

As the contestants choose the fait of their team members/ rivals, (a tense moment) the spot lights flash red, which is in contrast to their general colour, blue.

This is all an insight into the works of the quiz show. Programs with original ideas, such as the ones mentioned, seem to be the most popular in today’s world of TV viewing.

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