Top 10 Most Famous TV Quiz Show Contestants

TT10 June 26, 2012 Comments Off

Quiz contestants can either be successful by winning one major prize as in the case of the ultimate cash awards in ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ or there are serial quizzers who appear on many programmes and accumulate smaller winnings.

Alternatively, there are those who win very little at all and are just known for their long unbeaten runs on popular shows. Here are ten of the best and most memorable contestants in TV history:

10.   Judith Keppel


Those achieve records before anyone else will always be remembered and back in November 2000, Judith Keppel became the first ever winner of the top prize in the UK version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

In doing so, she became the 12th worldwide winner of a jackpot in excess of a million in local currency and the first in Great Britain to ever claim such a prize from a quiz show. A distant relative of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Keppel is now a regular on the BBC quiz show Eggheads.

 9.       John Carpenter


A year prior to Keppel’s win, John Carpenter was the first to scoop a million dollars in the US version of the show. Carpenter will always be remembered for the final question when he used his ‘phone a friend’ option to call his father.

In reality, he knew the million dollar answer and declared on US TV that he was just phoning him to announce that he was about to win a cool million.

8.       Ken Jennings


American Ken Jennings currently holds the record for the highest cumulative cash prizes from quiz shows – a figure that stands at over 3 million dollars.

His earnings come almost entirely from the hit show ‘Jeopardy’ where he also holds the longest winning streak although he has appeared on other programmes including ‘Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader’.

7.       David Edwards


Edwards was the second winner of UK’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire but there were aspects of his win and his background that were worthy of note.

He was a former Mastermind Champion, having won the show in 1990 and at one stage, he used all three lifelines on one question. His phone a friend option was his son Richard who later went on to win £125,000 on the programme.

6.       Kevin Ashman


Kevin Ashman is another regular on the Eggheads panel and holds a number of records related to UK quiz programmes. A professional quizzer since 2002, Ashman won Mastermind in 1995 and set a record of 41 points and no passes in the process.

In his time, Kevin Ashman has also won Brain of Britain, Master Brain and Sale of the Century.

5.       Julian Fell


On the British Quiz show Countdown, the prize is certainly one of prestige rather than any notion of financial gain. There are still many opportunities to make a real name for yourself in this letters and numbers game however and in 2002, Julian fell created the record for the highest total of points with an incredible score of 146.

The record for the longest winning streak is held by many as you can only be victorious on eight occasions, thereby becoming an ‘Octochamp’, before having to step down.

4.       Jack Whitehall


The comedian Jack Whitehall is a well-known face on British TV but he also holds a current UK quiz record. The million pound drop has the potential for contestants to win a seven figure sum but to date, the record prize money stands at £300,000 a sum won by Jack and his father Michael in 2011.

3.       Charles van Doren


American Charles van Doren was arguably the first person to make his name as a successful quizzer but his infamy stems from his involvement in the great ‘Quiz Show Scandal’ of the late 1950’s.

The incident, which was later recorded in film form, followed on from record winnings at the time of $129,000 from quiz show ‘Twenty One’. Van Doren later confessed to Congress that he had been given answers by the producers but while his reputation may have been tarnished, a path to wealth and fame had been assured.

2.       University College Oxford


The names of the four students who came together in 1987 to form a team on University Challenge may have faded from memory but their collective achievement remains.

In 1987, the scored a record 520 points in beating Reading and that statistic remains unbeaten until this day.

1.       Charles Ingram


A controversial choice and a debatable inclusion but Major Ingram has certainly been one of the most memorable quiz show contestants of all time. In 2001 he appeared on the UK version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire and ‘won’ first prize before being accused of cheating.

He was subsequently convicted of deception but subsequently denied the charge and this may have been the platform to emulate others such as Charles van Doren and capitalise on his notoriety. However, Ingram filed for bankruptcy in 2004 and it has been reported that he now repairs computers for a living.

Author Bio:

This post was written by Ben Skinner from Quiz Factor. Quiz Factor are a fun and free online quiz resource where users can play to win fantastic prizes. Play sports quizzes, music quizzes and general knowledge quizzes online! Visit them at


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