Who Wants to be a Millionaire? con turned into ITV Drama

The great WWTBAM scam is turned into drama Quiz.

“I am delighted to be bringing James Graham’s wonderful play Quiz to screen on ITV. It’s testament to James’ brilliant scripts that Stephen Frears is directing, which together with Left Bank Pictures producing, promises to deliver a very special drama. It’s an extraordinary and thoroughly British story and is going to be a real treat for our audience.” –  Polly Hill, ITV’s Head of Drama

The extraordinary and sensational story of how Charles and Diana Ingram attempted an ‘audacious heist’ on the quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? is to be told in a three-part drama, Quiz.

Major Ingram, his wife Diana and an accomplice, Tecwen Whittock, who was sitting in the audience, were accused of cheating their way to a million pounds on what was, the most popular game show on earth in 2001. The couple stood trial for conspiring by coughing during the recording to signify the correct answers to the multiple choice questions posed to the Major by host, Chris Tarrant.

Quiz stars Matthew Macfadyen as Major Charles Ingram, Michael Sheen as TV presenter, Chris Tarrant, Sian Clifford as Diana Ingram, Mark Bonnar as Celador Television Chairman, Paul Smith, Helen McCrory as Sonia Woodley QC, Michael Jibson as Tecwen Whittock and Aisling Bea as ITV Entertainment Commissioner, Claudia Rosencrantz. The drama is written by playwright, James Graham and will be produced by Left Bank Pictures.

Quiz gives an insight into what went on behind the scenes as Celador Television Chairman, Paul Smith and one of the show’s creators, David Briggs, originally pitched the idea of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? to ITV’s newly installed Director of Programmes, David Liddiment. 

First airing September 1998, Millionaire saw contestants edge their way – question by question – towards one million pounds. The top prize rallied would-be contestants whilst ITV stripping the format nightly hooked in huge audiences to see how they would do. The show ended on ITV in 2014 but was revived last year with Jeremy Clarkson taking over from Chris Tarrant as host. 

Charles and Diana became fixated with appearing on the popular quiz show, which in its heyday attracted audiences of 19 million viewers to ITV. Their obsession and fascination with the format led to multiple attempts to appear on the show for both Charles and Diana and led to the infamous ‘Coughing Major’ appearance on 9 September 2001, which has sensationally gone down in television folklore.

The con was previously the subject of a documentary Millionaire: A Major Fraud, fronted by Martin Bashir. With 17 million viewers in 2003 it set a new record for a factual programme on ITV.

James Graham has adapted the drama for ITV from the critically acclaimed, Oliver-nominated play Quiz commissioned by William Village, which premiered in Chichester in 2017 before transferring to the Noel Coward Theatre in London’s West End in 2018 and played to packed houses. 

“I was gripped by this story over 15 years ago, and I’m still gripped now. It’s a very English heist. Putting it onto stage at Chichester and the West End was such a lot of fun, and with a new team we now get to re-imagine the whole story afresh for television. I have to pay credit to the late investigative journalist Bob Woffinden, who along with James Plaskett wrote the book Bad Show that kicked the whole creative process off by asking the question – what if the Major is innocent?” – James Graham

Filming is currently underway in London.

Chris Tarrant oversaw proceedings on the original WWTBAM. 
Share Button