We sit down with TV show host George Kurdahi for an exclusive interview ahead of the return of hit game show Who Wants to Be A Millionaire.
By Ahmed Mansour
On October 16, the newest season of the hit show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire aired exclusively on OSN Ya-Halla HD. The auditions for contestants started on September 15 at the Mena House Hotel, and then in the UAE and later in Jordan.
“The return of the hit show Who Wants to Be A Millionaire is one of the happiest news I heard all year," says Khloud Hems, vice president of programs and creative services at OSN. "After the huge success that the program has made throughout the last decade, we are glad that it’s back, especially with its much-loved host George Kurdahi. The show is back based on the request of many people around the Arab World, and we feel obligated to serve the people what they need to feed their brains with valuable information, and we are hoping to achieve that through the show."
In an exclusive interview, we talk to Kurdahi about his plans for the new season.
You graduated from the faculty of Political Science in Lebanon. Why change your career from politics to hosting programs?
I started my career by being a journalist in Lebanon. I wrote a few articles at the time, and then I presented the news on local Lebanese television. But I consider my career as having actually started in 1979, when I worked at the Monte Carlo Radio station, which is based in Paris. I worked there for almost 17 years, until I got an offer to manage MBC FM in London and with persistence and God’s help I managed to turn it into a very successful company.
I found out that I’m really good at this, and I always believed that people tend to ace what they love doing. In my case, Mass Communication was the field that I love. I also believe that I wouldn’t have been as famous and successful as I am now if I had pursued a career in politics, so obviously I took the right decision.
What does Who Wants to Be A Millionaire mean to you?
I made, in my opinion, two of the most creative shows that have ever been viewed in the Arab World: Who Wants to be A Millionaire that used to air on MBC, and Al-Mosameh Kareem, which is being aired on CBC.
As for Who Wants to be a Millionaire, I can surely say that I have merged with the program in a way. Whenever anyone mentions the program, the first thing that comes to their mind is host George Kurdahi. It is my pleasure to host this marvelous, one-of-a-kind program once more. I believe people are sick and tired of talent shows that show people dancing or singing, the people demand diversity and Who Wants to be A Millionaire is a unique show that educates and entertains people.
Why was the show taken off air these past few years? And how did OSN manage to buy the rights to the show?
Airing the show again was made possible because of OSN. Ever since MBC relinquished the copyrights to the show, the program has been moving around. Al-Hayyah television channel bought the show from Sony Entertainment, but there were a lot of disagreements between the channel and Sony that led to the termination of the contract between them. This went on until OSN came into the picture and purchased the rights to the show.
OSN and I hope to provide people an even better and more successful run of Who Wants to be A Millionaire.[caption id="attachment_361653" align="alignnone" width="620"] George Kurdahi speaks to writer Ahmed Mansour during the interview at Mena House Oberoi.[/caption]
How is this season going to be different than the ones before?
For starters, this season the show will have the grand prize of two million Saudi Riyals instead of one million. We actually thought of making the grand prize in dollars, but refrained from applying this idea since we didn’t want to introduce too many changes to the show. Raising the grand prize makes Who Wants to be A Millionaire the show with the highest grand prize to ever air in the Arab World.
We also added an extra “help option” to the traditional three. This time, the contestant who doesn’t know the answer to a question can ask for the help of three experts in different fields, such as sports, science, history etc. The experts will be made available by the show. This help option is only available once and I recommend that contestants use this help option during the later stages of the contest. Why was your contract with MBC terminated?
The contract was terminated because of my personal political views. I’ve always feared for Syria, and I always believed that Bashar Al-Assad should step down from his position as president. Still, I do not believe that revolution was the most effective way for him to step down. Unfortunately, I do not think that the Arab Spring revolutions were of any good for any country. I wish the best for the people and I hope to see unity and stability in the Arab World.