On Saturday evening, two individuals competing in the ITV game show Limitless Win were awarded one million pounds. The contestants, Helen and Charlie from Suffolk, correctly guessed the number of years that have passed since Blur and Oasis competed for the top spot on the singles chart.
And, you know, good for them. Their ability to pinpoint key moments in the Britpop wars has made them incredibly rich. But if you detected a note of apathy in the wider public on news of this win, you’re probably right. Helen and Charlie may have a million pounds, but a million pounds isn’t exactly a million pounds these days.
Judith Keppel, a well-known figure in pub quiz circles, made history in November 2000 as the first person to win a million pounds on the popular game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? However, it is often falsely believed that she was the first person to ever achieve this feat on British television. In reality, Ian Woodley was the first to win a million pounds on a TFI Friday competition called Someone’s Going to Be a Millionaire, which was intended to compete with Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. Despite this, both Keppel and Woodley greatly benefited from their winnings. At the time, a million pounds was a significant sum of money, and in today’s terms, it would be equivalent to £1,811,738.94 due to inflation. This means that Keppel and Woodley essentially reached the maximum prize amount during the peak of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.
For the past 25 years, it hasn’t been impossible to win a million-pound prize. In fact, 14 individuals have achieved or surpassed this amount on various game shows. Six contestants won on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, two on Survivor, and one on the lesser-known show The Vault. If you recall PokerFace (which is unlikely), you may remember that the top prize was won twice. Similarly, Red or Black? (which you also probably don’t remember) had four instances of contestants reaching or exceeding the million-pound target. As the last two shows were hosted by Ant and Dec from Limitless Win, Helen and Charlie can take comfort in being the seventh time the duo has given away a million pounds. This is quite a feat, considering Ant and Dec may have given away more million-pound prizes than they have eaten kimchi. It’s no wonder the excitement for these big wins is starting to fade.
Some programs have attempted to overcome the elusive million-pound barrier. Netflix recently awarded $4.56m (£3.6m) to Mai Whelan for her win on Squid Game: The Challenge. However, this win has some caveats. The show was a reality show, not a traditional gameshow, and the contestants faced harsh conditions that led to legal action against Netflix. In contrast, Helen and Charlie won a smaller prize but with a simpler task of knowing 1990s pop music.
It should be noted that the well-known game show Shafted, hosted by Robert Kilroy-Silk, promised a grand prize of £2.5m in 2001. However, due to the show’s abrupt cancellation, no one ever received that amount.
This situation is rather disheartening, isn’t it? The television industry seems stuck on offering a million pounds as the only prize for straightforward question and answer games. Shrinking game show rewards is a real issue and is making everything less thrilling. However, there may still be hope with Limitless Win as the potential solution.
The main idea of Limitless Win is that there is no limit to the amount of money a contestant can win. If they remain composed, they have the potential to win an endless amount of cash. While Helen and Charlie deserve praise for winning a million pounds, the audience now expects even larger wins. We want to see someone win such a massive amount of money that it leads to the downfall of humanity before we consider it impressive.