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July 10, 2000

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The Music from Millionaire: the Best Ever

       In my most recent column, I suggested ABC, Valleycrest Productions and Buena Vista Television have made very, very few mistakes with Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Giving away finishes is one. The CD they're about to release this fall is another.
       Don't be confused by the U.S. version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: the Album in stores everywhere this fall, probably for $22.95. True, that one will feature the megahit's theme song. However, the rest of it will be an assortment of singers and groups (including Regis doing a 1968 version of "Pennies from Heaven") offering a compilation of tunes about money ("Money, Money," "We're in the Money," etc.). Whatever sales are generated will depend solely on how desperate consumers are to play the theme at home.
       The WWTBAM: the CD which ought to be marketed here is the one which is going like gangbusters in the U.K., is on backorder from some American big-city stores of HMV and Virgin Records.
       One key reason the British CD, a production of Celador Records, is a monster hit. The disc contains every last musical track from the show. It's what radio and television stations have called a "production album" for decades. Rarely are such items ever marketed to the general public.
       However, HMV Records' online site from London is taking orders at www.hmv.co.uk and is having no trouble processing them. My CD came in six working days and despite my good friend Doak Fairey suggesting "you need to get out more," that CD is a constant musical companion in my car.
       Another secret to the success: Celador includes eight question cards inside the jewel case for you to play the game at home while using the music as a virtual background. If you have a good CD remote operator, you can re-create the virtual feel of the game at a party with the same heartbeat musical tension. The one trap: at least a third of the questions will be extremely difficult if you don't know British performers or terms of the U.K.'s culture.
       Mind you, Celador also produced a "single," which featured three five-plus minute versions of the theme, including one with Chris Tarrant's responses to contestants cleverly mixed inside. However, you will want the album.
       A friend of mine who is now on the staff of a popular syndicated game show doubted me six years ago when I suggested to him an audience existed for a compilation of game show themes. He said, "You might have a few of us, maybe 30, who'd buy it and then what would you do with all of those leftovers?" He's eating his words a bit now.
       The Game Show Themes CD, which offered 18 of the most memorable game themes (though most of them were from shows in Game Show Network's syndication package), turned out to be enough of a success that a second is in the works. The problem the producers are having: getting clearances from the publishers or composers of some they would dearly love to include. Please don't e-mail them your choices. Yours are probably theirs but music clearance is a complicated process. I will tell you the 1960s Bob Barker Truth or Consequences theme is in the mix, one which had one of the best closing fanfares of any game show signature in history. I'll guarantee you'll love some of the others they at least want in the sequel.
       However, let me leave you with this assurance: if you don't live in a big city with a major record store which handles imports, go right now to HMV's online site and order Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: the Album. Trust me. This may well be the finest addition you'll ever have to your game show music library. I only hope this starts a trend with other game show producers. I'd have loved a collection of Tom Scott's music from Twenty-One. Then, again, how many times could you listen to Edgar Strube's "The Love Theme from Greed?"


       One followup note to yesterday's column: if you haven't read it, don't because you'll probably be ticked off at my attempt to make a point.
       In an effort to illustrate why game show fans hate spoilers or finish giveaways in advance of air dates, I compounded the problem by using the example of one spoiler provided by the producers themselves for a show which is yet to air.
       While that giveaway was widely reported in virtually every newspaper in the country, a sizeable number of you had not heard of it or read it. I violated a rule which I have steadfastly adhered to in GSCC: if in the rare instance a spoiler is offered, a warning should be provided to the reader to turn away, in the same fashion as I always instructed my sports directors to do during the Olympics.
       Those of you who had not heard this spoiler plainly let me know how you felt about that column. You are right. Although your irritation plainly proves my point, I indeed should have given you a warning not to read.
       We are, indeed, human and make mistakes. We will endeavor not to repeat this one.

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