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Philbin returning for "Super Millionaire' stint

Almost two years after the prime-time Who Wants to Be a Millionaire died from overuse, ABC will bring the game _ and Regis Philbin _ back next month in a sweeps month stunt with a $10-million payoff.

Super Millionaire will air five times in six days starting Feb. 22, the network said Monday.

The value of the show's easiest question will jump to $1,000 and the 15th and final question will similarly be worth 10 times what it was in the show's initial incarnation, said Lloyd Braun, ABC entertainment chairman.

Three new lifelines will be added to help contestants, and the game will also take on a different "look" when big money is at stake, he said. Philbin is "part of the appeal of the show, and when you add these new things to amp up the format it will be a perfect combination of familiarity and something new and different at the same time," Braun said.

The time seemed right for the show's return, with the Meredith Vieira-led syndicated version of the game show having healthy ratings in its second year, said Michael Davies, Super Millionaire executive producer.

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire was both ABC's biggest success of the past decade and a huge downfall. It was an immediate sensation when introduced in the summer of 1999, and ABC rode its success to a surprise season victory in the ratings. But the game was scheduled too often. When the ratings suddenly tumbled, ABC had little to replace it, leading to a collapse the network is still trying to recover from.

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