Not as difficult as "Jeopardy", not as blah as "The Wheel", the show was fresh with up-to-the-minute questions and a futuristic set. "Is that your final answer?" became an instant catchphrase and I can remember a coworker showing me how to play the game at ABC.com.
The show was given a regular slot in the fall and gradually the number of nights it aired each week increased until it was at 4 a week. I didn't watch every ep, but was fortunate enough to see the show give out its first million. I was shopping at Kmart with a friend and noticed that a nerdy-looking guy was getting mighty close. The million dollar question was a bit too easy for my tastes, but the way he pranked Regis on that last question was a thing of beauty. Check it out here.
The good times couldn't last forever, though, and the show's ratings began to decline in the early '00s. A syndicated version hosted by Meredith Vieira ran for a number of years after, but there's just something about airing in prime time that makes a show feel more special, like the entire country is watching, like they did back in the 50's with programs like "The $64,000 Question" and "21".
Well, happy days are here again as ABC is bringing Regis and "Millionaire" back for two weeks this August on the occasion of its 10th Anniversary. There will be a number of changes (more lifelines), but I look forward to being there once again.
As a postscript, if you're in the mood for a chuckle, check out these game show bloopers.