EXCLUSIVE interview with ‘Millionaire Hot Seat’ Executive Producer Steve Gilbert – Part II

‘Millionaire Hot Seat’ Executive Producer Steve Gilbert… doing a little bit of brushing up….


This week, my 2-part interview with Millionaire Hot Seat Executive Producer Steve Gilbert concludes, and I wanted to start by seeing if he had any words of wisdom about when to use the show’s built-in lifelines…


SH: Are there certain times when it’s strategically best to use the ‘lifelines’?

SG: Yep. If they don’t know the answer!

Firstly, with Hot Seat, it’s only this year that we extended the show to an hour. We have added the ‘Fastest Finger First’ element of the “classic” format back in to Hot Seat.

15 questions are asked of all 6 contestants. Whoever is the fastest overall wins $1000 that they may keep or use to buy a lifeline when they get in the Hot Seat for the main game. These lifelines are slightly different to the “classic” format. They are: 50/50Ask A Friend and Switch. The contestant may use only one of these lifelines once during the main game. This has worked really well for some contestants this year, helping them win some big money.

SH: So, in the Hot Seat format, when is it advisable for contestants to use these?

SG: 50/50…If you have absolutely no idea of any of the options offered, then to use this lifeline is risky as you’ll simply be left with two answers you still don’t know. But it’s a great lifeline to use if you are throwing up between two answers.

Switch…You can elect to get rid of the question you have and get a completely new question. This is probably the most popular lifeline, but again risky, as you may get something else you have no idea about.

Ask a Friend… This really depends on who your friend in the audience is. If, for instance, you’re faced with a cricket question and you have brought your brother along who plays cricket for Australia, then I’d be using this lifeline. Totally depends on the question being faced and who the potential friend is.

SH: Thanks Steve, great tips. Just jumping back to 2009 for a moment, where did the format for Millionaire Hot Seat originate, and how did it come to be on Australian TV at 5:30 on weeknights?

SG: Well, I started with Millionaire back in 2003. The format is owned by a company in the UK. It was then Two Way Traffic, now it’s Sony Pictures. In 2006, the “classic” version of the show was rested, as Eddie (McGuire, the show’s host) took over as the company CEO (of the Nine Network – the channel that broadcast Millionaire). I was sent a copy of a version done in Poland I think, where they played the show as musical chairs. It was sent to me in the hope we could develop this into a half-hour format. Between us we shaped it into what is today “Hot Seat”.

SH: And, from your perspective, who have been the best contestants on Millionaire Hot Seat?

SG: This is an easy one. Generally, most winners. Not just the big money ($100K, $250K or the big one), but more the people for whom $10 or $20K can completely change their lives. Those people who’ve simply worked hard all their lives, those people who are under financial stress, right through to the uni students who can now pay off their HECS bill (which is like a student loan).

SH: And the worst?

SG: Those that have not really watched the show and think they can just turn up and answer a few questions and walk away with cash. They generally find that is not a very solid plan.

SH: Given the “musical chairs”-like format of Hot Seat, is there any strategy that a contestant could apply to it? I haven’t been able to come up with one.

SG: No there is not. After more than 1600 episodes you can never tell what might happen. I can look at the questions and think, “gee this first person might be able to answer the first 10 pretty easily, due to perhaps the age they are and the demographic of the questions planned”. Then if they ‘Pass’ on the first question, the whole idea goes in a completely different direction.

SH: Finally, could you give us 3 tips for anyone wanting to go on – and win – Millionaire Hot Seat?

SG: Stay calm,

read the question and then re-read it. Try and eliminate the alternatives you think are incorrect.

Once you’ve made a decision, back yourself. Be confident.

SH: Steve Gilbert, thanks very much for your time today, and we wish Millionaire Hot Seat every continued success!


And there you have it – some great tips, directly from the man who makes the show! I’d like to thank Steve so much again for so generously giving of his time, and hope that all his study of The Pocket Basics of English and Maths does the trick!

2 thoughts on “EXCLUSIVE interview with ‘Millionaire Hot Seat’ Executive Producer Steve Gilbert – Part II

  1. I have just watched an episode of “millionaire” broadcast in NZ ON January 24th 2023. There was a question about “how do i love you let me count the ways” who wrote it. The correct answer is Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the contestant answered “William Shakespeare” which was the wrong answer but she was recorded as giving the right answer. How can this happen? I would like to know!!

    • Hello Robyn, and thank you for getting in touch.
      If that’s what happened, that’s incredible, and there’s absolutely no excuse for it! But are you definitely 100% certain that the quote was
      “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways”, and not, perhaps,
      “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” They do sound a little bit similar…

      It is possible for us to misremember things… and this reminds me (ironically, very clearly) of a question I wrote when I was working on the short-lived Australian quiz show ‘Shafted’. The question was “What type of creature is a Water Moccasin?” (and yes – it was included in the show’s ‘Difficult’ category). The question was duly programmed and it went to air, the answer was given as “a snake”, and we all moved on.
      The next day I received an angry complaint from a viewer, adamant that our show had got it wrong.
      “Your research is TERRIBLE,” she said. “Everybody knows that a Water Monitor is a type of lizard!” And, of course, it is.
      I was able to reply and tell her the question was definitely about Water Moccasins – not Water Monitors – and I included with my reply a copy of the programmed question, along with the two sources we used to verify it. She conceded that she may not have heard the question properly, or may have misremembered it – she’d only had the TV on in the background.

      I know I’ve done it. Sometimes when we mishear things or aren’t paying particularly close attention, our brains can tend to fill in the gaps…
      Not that I’m making excuses for ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’, but is there a chance that maybe that’s what happened here?

      Anyway, that’s enough rambling from me. I’ll let you get on with your day. Have a good one and thanks again for reaching out, Robyn!


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