Chris Tarrant reveals how he almost turned down Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Virgin Radio

5 May 2022, 11:04

Chris Evans and Chris Tarrant

TV and radio legend Chris Tarrant is back with a brand new book, called It’s Not A Proper Job: Stories from 50 Years in TV, and while chatting on The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky, Chris revealed why his career-defining role as host of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? almost never came to be. 

Not only was Chris at the helm of the beloved quiz show from 1998 to 2014, but he also made his name on Capital Radio as their Breakfast Show presenter. 

Chris explained that he almost turned down the Millionaire gig due to a hectic schedule caused by his morning schedule. 

He said: “I was too busy. I mean, sounds pathetic. I was too busy. I was doing Capital every day. So much other stuff, spin offs and all that.”

He was asked by the show’s creator, and Capital producer David Briggs, after doing a similar show called Double or Quits on the airwaves, and Chris eventually agreed to shoot the pilot to help David get the series on the telly.

Chris added: “I did the pilot with no real thoughts. And as I'm doing that, I'm thinking this is actually quite good. I quite like this thing. We did one more pilot. My bit stayed pretty much the same. We had the lifelines by then and all that stuff. 

“Originally it started as a pound and we all went ‘that's a bit silly starting with a pound,’ so we started with £100 and went up to a million. We did the last pilot at the end of July, I raced off for a quick holiday with my family. And then we started literally the very beginning of September.”

Despite such a quick turn around, the new bosses over at ITV wanted the show up and running, every night for 10 nights at 8pm. 

After just one episode, the show was a total hit. Chris continued: “We did one show. I popped back to Capital, bashed up a bit of radio, and came back. 

“I was walking up the hill for a lunchtime sort of meeting with some journalists about you know, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and stuff. And this bloke came past in a lorry, wound his window down and went 'phone a friend'. And I thought this show has been out once anywhere in the world. You forget how huge it was.”

Chris went on to host 592 episodes in total, and the format went right across the world, and was sold to over 100 countries. 

He said: “Millionaire was huge and it was good fun. It's a tremendous thing. One of the many things I loved about Millionaire was the number of people who came on who would just never in a million years do a game show. I mean, ever, Sir Alex Ferguson, McCartney, George Michael…”

Chris Tarrant’s brand new book ‘It’s Not A Proper Job: Stories from 50 Years In TV’ is out now in hardback. 

For more great interviews listen to  The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky, weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or  catch up on-demand here.