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16th Aug 2019

We need to talk about AMC’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire ‘coughing major’ drama

Wil Jones


It’s not exactly an original observation, but true crime is having a moment right now. Not just in the case of documentaries like Making A Murderer, but also big-budget TV adaptation of real cases like American Crime Story fictionalisations of the OJ Simpson trial and the murder of Gianni Versace.

But now, finally, we are getting a big, flashy TV drama of the biggest, sexiest, most fascinating crime of the century: the case of Charles Ingram, the coughing major who won the jackpot on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, only to be caught cheating by using a sophisticated series of, erm, coughs from the audience.

As reported by Deadline, AMC – the people behind Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead – are bringing the story of former British Army major Charles Ingram. Along with ITV, they have announced that they will be adapting James Graham’s acclaimed stage play Quiz, which was based on the incident.

It goes without saying that this sounds incredible. But a big part of the joy of American Crime Story has been the stunt casting – Cuba Gooding Jnr as OJ Simpson, David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian, John Travolta as Robert Shapiro, and Penélope Cruz as Donatella Versace.

So who have they’ve got for this? None other than Port Talbot’s second greatest living thespian, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominee Michael Sheen, is going to be playing Chris Tarrant. Sheen has previously portrayed both Tony Blair and Brian Clough, and now he’ll be bringing all that Shakespearian grandiose to the delivery of “Is that your final answer?”

Clough. Blair. And now Tarrant. Is there a trifecta more representative of modern Britain than that? I think not.

Playing the disgraced major himself is Matthew Macfadyen, of Spooks, Ripper Street and Pride & Prejudice, with his wife Diana portrayed by Sian Clifford (Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s sister in Fleabag). Diana Ingram played an equal role in the epic quiz show heist, being the Brad Pitt to her husband’s George Clooney, sitting in the audience along with friend Tecwen Whittock (the Matt Damon of the Ingram’s Eleven), coughing when the correct answer was read aloud.

Shockingly, the show’s producers noticed the coughing.

The Ingrams always had the sort of comedy-neighbours-in-a-bland-BBC-One-sitcom vibe, and in an ideal world, Charles Ingram would be played by Chris Barrie or Martin Clunes. Matthew Macfadyen is far too handsome and cool for the role. Sian Clifford is good casting though, especially if she can bring those record-scratch-how-did-I-get-here Fleabag moments to the real life madness.

Still, the story has it all: money, intrigue, lies, a befuddled posh couple, prime time ITV, fake coughs, Chris Tarrant. There’s no way this can’t be great.