‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ returns for 25th anniversary with Kenan & Kel as contestants

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the 25th anniversary of 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?' (Part 1)

It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” premiered on American TV in 1999.

Hosted by the late great Regis Philbin, the game show’s music and catchphrases instantly entered our pop culture lexicon, from Oscar-winning movies like “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008) to acclaimed TV miniseries like “Quiz” (2020) starring Matthew Macfadyen (“Succession”) about the real-life cheating scandal from the British version.

Now, after years of daytime syndication hosted by Meredith Vieira, Cedric the Entertainer, Terry Crews and Chris Harrison, the beloved game show finally returns to primetime television this Wednesday at 8 p.m. on ABC and Hulu. Jimmy Kimmel returns to host the 25th anniversary just like he did the 20th anniversary back in 2020.

“We’ve got two celebrity contestants in the hot seat working to win big money for charity,” Kimmel says in the trailer. “It’s the most dramatic hour of three people sitting on stools in the history of American television.”


That’s right, this season’s contestants will be celebrity pairs teaming up to raise money for their charity of choice, including Wednesday’s episode with Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell (“All That,” “Kenan & Kel,” “Good Burger”).

“We make a good team because we’ve known each other for a long time,” Mitchell said.

“(We’ve teamed) all our lives,” Thompson said. “It feels like a comfortable shoe.”

“Don’t say the ‘f’ word, which is ‘final answer,'” Mitchell said.

The second celebrity pairing on Wednesday’s premiere will be John Mulaney and Nick Kroll.

“I’m nervous that I’ll look stupid on national television,” Kroll said.

“We both know what we don’t know,” Mulaney said.

Here’s the full list of celebrity pairings this season:

  • Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell
  • John Mulaney and Nick Kroll
  • Rosie O’Donnell and Lisa Ann Walter
  • John Stamos and Dave Coulier
  • Ray Romano and Brad Garrett
  • Zach Braff and Donald Faison
  • Lil Dicky and GaTa
  • Kelly Osbourne and Jack Osbourne
  • Ike Barinholtz and Alan Barinholtz
  • Sebastian Maniscalco and Omar J. Dorsey
  • Nicole Byer and Sasheer Zamata
  • Sophia Bush and Alex Edelman
  • Gillian Jacobs and Danny Pudi
  • Natasha Leggero and Jason Ritter
  • Ron Funches and Reggie Watts
  • Jeff Ross and “Cousin Sal” Iacono

Which lifelines might we see this season? Phone a friend? 50/50? Poll the audience? During the pandemic, a new lifeline was created called “Ask the Host” when crowds weren’t allowed indoors, but who knows if it’ll stick.

Either way, we’ll never forget the first $1 million winner confidently calling his father to brag.

“Uh, hi, Dad, uh, I don’t really need your help, I just wanted to let you know that I’m gonna win the million dollars,” John Carpenter said.

“Well,” Regis replied. “My gosh, what can I say except … this is the final answer heard all around the world: he’s won a million dollars!”

“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” airs Wednesday at 8 p.m. on ABC and streaming on Hulu.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the 25th anniversary of 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?' (Part 2)

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Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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