In a surprise announcement, Meredith Vierra has called it quits as host of Who Wants To be A Millionaire. Up to this point, she was host of the syndicated series’ entire run, which spanned eleven seasons.
Vierra, who also was a Today co-host during Millionaire’s run, plans to devote more time to other projects, including a film she is currently producing, and several assignments from NBC News.
Disney-ABC Television Distribution said it planning to find a new host, but would not elaborate further. Millionaire’s contracts with local stations expire in September.
Regis Philbin, who hosted the primetime edition of Millionaire from 1999 to 2002, has expressed some interest in hosting the show again, but would have “to think about it”. If Philbin returns, it wouldn’t be the first time a former host would return to a game show – Richard Dawson returned to Family Feud in 1994 after host Ray Combs was fired. Dawson hosted the first incarnation of Feud from 1976 to 1985.
Despite its age, Millionaire had been doing respectable ratings this season, placing fourth among syndicated game shows behind Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, and the current version of Feud, which surged past Millionaire after Steve Harvey took over as host.
Over the years, Millionaire’s made gameplay changes in order to stem declining ratings, but some of the changes were questionable, including a 2010 format overhaul which eliminated key features of the game and introduced “Jump The Question”, enabling contestants to skip a question if they didn’t know the answer (yours truly playfully likened this to “Jump The Shark” in a 2010 article.)
In Chicago, Millionaire airs weekdays at 4 p.m. over WGN-TV, which has aired the show since 2003 (the first season aired over WBBM-TV at 6 p.m.)