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‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’ rose to popularity in the Nineties, while the TV hit was presented by Chris Tarrant. Creator Steven Knight, who also made the ‘Peaky Blinders’, debuted the quiz show in the UK before it took-off internationally. Former host Tarrant, 73, retired in 2014 after he suffered a stroke, but the show was rebooted four years later with ‘The Grand Tour’ star Jeremy Clarkson at the helm. The TV programme will return to screens tonight for its 35th season, after delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic. In a resurfaced interview, ahead of tonight’s show (Sept 7) on ITV1 at 9PM, Clarkson revealed his uncertainty and gave a blunt verdict of the franchise.
Clarkson, 60, who was famously canned by the BBC over a dispute with a ‘Top Gear’ presenter, admitted he felt the pressure ahead of taking over the ‘Millionaire’ reigns.
In a breakaway from the previous format, contestants vying for the £1million jackpot were given an extra helpline – Ask The Host.
The motoring journalist revealed his concern over this option as a number of times when he practiced with friends he gave them the wrong answer.
He said: “I’m fairly sure I knew and I said, ‘Look, I’m at 75 percent’. Anyway she went for it and it was wrong, which meant she would have lost something like £64,000.”
Clarkson practised the expressions he would pull when that life line was used, based on the fear that he could “end up costing somebody a lot of money by being bombastic”.
He admitted that once someone “passed £100” he couldn’t “lose sight of the fact they are playing for large sums of money”.
The star said: “I can’t really c*** about to the extent that I would do if it was another show and they were playing for a ‘coveted trophy’.
“If you’re playing for £2.75 and a crummy trophy, then yes, you can mess about. But once they’re up into big money, I can’t be standing there pulling clown faces.”
In preparation for taking over as quizmaster, Clarkson watched hundreds of hours of Tarrant in the hot seat and described it as the most “technically complex” show he would be a part of.
In a flattering moment, he praised the former host for skillfully doing things “you don’t see” – including getting used to the sound effects, visual tricks and navigating the autocue.
Clarkson told The Sun in 2018: “Yeah, I have said taking over the show well-known for one host and then doing another doesn’t always go well.
“It is difficult following Chris Tarrant on Millionaire because he was bloody good at it.”
He feared that he was the “wrong person” cast to lead the 22-year-old franchise, which under Tarrant awarded £1million to only five contestants in 591 episodes.
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Clarkson added: “There’s no opportunity for not behaving yourself in this… I’m not here to put my personality forward when I’ve not even got one.
“I have to read some questions out and not talk over the sound effects. That’s my job, don’t talk over the sound effects.”
While he admitted that he felt safe with “huge chunks” of knowledge, there was a great deal he knew very little about.
Clarkson said: “I despise anything by Shakespeare and will know nothing.
“Can’t be doing with Dickens, Milton, hate poetry, know very little about art, good on capital cities and mountain ranges though.
“In my travels over the years I’ve been to most places, that helps.”
When asked if he considered reimbursing contestants in the event that he gave them an incorrect answer, he claimed to have thought deeply about it.
Clarkson quipped: “That has occurred to me. And then I remembered I was from Yorkshire. ‘Oh wait a minute, I’m mean aren’t I!’”
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