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Christopher John "Chris" Tarrant OBE (born October 10, 1946), is an English musician, radio and television broadcaster. He presented the ITV children's television show Tiswas from 1974 to 1981, and was a Capital Radio host from 1984 to 2004. Tarrant is best known for hosting the first version of the television game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in the United Kingdom from 1998 to 2014.

Tarrant's career began in 1964, when he was hired by the since-dissolved television network ATV. He presented ATV Today, a current affairs programme serving the Midlands area of England, until 1982. Tarrant rose to prominence after becoming a co-host on Tiswas, the children's television show broadcast on a Saturday morning from 1974 to 1981. 

In January 1982, along with Bob Carolgees, John Gorman, Randolph Sutherland and Lenny Henry, Tarrant launched a late-night show, O.T.T., thought of as an "adult" version of Tiswas, but it did not prove popular. Tarrant was a Capital Radio host from 1984 to 2004, presenting the early-morning show Capital Breakfast. The show was highly popular, increasing Capital Radio's audience share in London. 

Tarrant hosted the ITV game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? from 1998 to 2014, while also providing some audio recordings for some console games, and a tabletop game made by Tiger Electronics based on the show. In total he recorded a total of 592 episodes, where five contestants walked away with the cash prize of £1 million. Since Millionaire, Tarrant found successful presenting parts harder to come by, hosting a series of failed game shows for ITV. In 2012, Tarrant began a travel documentary series, Chris Tarrant: Extreme Railways, which has been compared to similar programmes presented by Michael Palin and Michael Portillo.

Tarrant received an OBE in 2004 for his charity work, in particular his campaigning on behalf of disadvantaged children.

Early life

Chris Tarrant in his younger years.

Tarrant was born in October 1946 in Reading, England, to Basil and Joan Tarrant. His father had joined a territorial unit of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in 1936 and was among those evacuated from Dunkirk in the retreat of May 1940. He was also active in the Normandy landings. Tarrant was educated as a boarder in Choir House at the King's School, Worcester from 1960 to 1964. He represented the school at hockey and cricket and gained A, B and D grades at A-level in English, history and ancient history. He then studied English at the University of Birmingham, graduating in 1967.

Tarrant worked as a schoolteacher and also briefly as a film director for the Central Office of Information before joining ATV as a newsreader on ATV Today.

Career

Tiswas

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Tarrant rose to prominence after becoming a co-host on Tiswas, a children's television show broadcast on a Saturday morning from 1974 to 1981. In 1982, he hosted the short-lived Saturday late-night show O.T.T., which was billed as an adult version of Tiswas but was not such a success. After this, he did a stint on the breakfast television station TV-am.

Capitol Radio

In 1984, Tarrant joined Capital Radio as a presenter, initially presenting the station's Sunday lunchtime show before moving to a late morning weekday slot, following David Jensen. From March 1987 until April 2004 he hosted Capital Breakfast. The show was highly popular, increasing Capital Radio's audience share in London. Tarrant had regular co-presenter Kara Noble (eventually replaced by Zabe Newsome for a very short duration) as his sidekick for the early years until Noble moved to Heart FM in 1995 with regular contributions from Flying Eye traffic reporter Russ Kane and newsreader Howard Hughes.

At 9:00 am on 2 April 2004, after hosting 4,425 shows over 17 years on Capital Radio and giving away prizes to the value of £3.5 million, Tarrant said his farewell to the station.

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

His first ever episode

Tarrant hosted the original British version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire since it first aired in 1998 until it ended in 2014, hosting all broadcast episodes. He is known for coining several catchphrases, the most famous two examples being "Is that your final answer?" and "We don't want to give you that!". Regis Philbin on the U.S. show later used the former as his main catchphrase, and other international hosts have used variations of the quote; for example, Eddie McGuire (currently hosting Australia's Hot Seat) and "Lock it in?". In July 2000, Tarrant signed a contract with ITV to present the show until December 2002.

In September 2001, an oblivious Tarrant asked the questions of contestant Charles Ingram, then a British Army Major who was found to be cheating in a 2003 trial. The same year ITV themselves made a documentary about the incident: A Major Fraud.

In October 2013, it was confirmed that Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was to come to an end after airing for 15 years on ITV. The channel made the decision to coincide with Tarrant stepping down as host.

Tarrant's final live edition of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was a celebrity edition which aired live on 19 December 2013. On the day before, Tarrant pre-recorded two other celebrity episodes that were shown in February 2014.

In 2018, ITV commissioned another series of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? to be presented by new host Jeremy Clarkson. Now former host, Tarrant stated he had chosen not to watch the revived series. In a TV interview he stated "I did it for 16 years, about 592 shows. I loved it – I had a fantastic time but I don't want to do any more, so good luck. It’s a great show." Tarrant said he would have "politely turned down" an offer by the network to return to the show if approached.

Other work

Chris is also known to have worked at Salford Royal Foundation Trust as a Hospital radio presenter.

Tarrant narrated the schools programme Stop, Look, Listen, made by ATV and later Central Television.

Tarrant hosted Everybody's Equal in 1989, although the programme came to an end in 1990 (the format was revived in 1997 by Channel 5 as Whittle, with Tim Vine as host). In 1991 he hosted the second series of Cluedo which was part panel quiz and part murder drama, based on the board game of the same name. On 1 January 1993, after Thames Television lost its ITV franchise had been replaced by Carlton Television, Tarrant hosted the first programme of the new contractor, A Carlton New Year. Also in 1993, Tarrant hosted Lose A Million, in which contestants started off with a (fictional) million pounds and were required to lose it by aiming to incorrectly answer a set of questions. Ironically Tarrant would go on to host Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, where the objective of the game is to do the complete opposite. From 1996 to 1999 Tarrant hosted the UK edition of Man O Man.

In 1994, Tarrant hosted a revival of Pop Quiz, previously hosted by Mike Read. It ran one series and eight episodes in total, airing again on Saturday nights (as Read's version did). 

Tarrant was also the long-term host of Tarrant on TV, a programme which shows clips featuring a number of unusual television programmes from around the world. He presented the show from 1990 to 2006. In 1998, Tarrant released a compilation album entitled Ultimate Party Megamix on PolyGram Television's record label. A second edition entitled Ultimate Summer Party was also released. Both albums contain songs compiled by Tarrant himself in the form of a megamix.

In 2003, he did voice over work on the film Johnny English, where he starred as himself hosting a radio presentation of Sauvage's coronation. In 2008, he presented the game show It's Not What You Know on Challenge. In January 2009, Tarrant began to host new ITV show The Colour of Money, which was cancelled after just seven episodes after failing to perform well in the ratings.

In June 2008 it was announced he would return to radio, hosting a weekly Saturday morning show for the GMG Radio network of stations including London's 102.2 Smooth Radio, Real Radio in Scotland and the North West's Century Radio.[15] The show would air in direct competition to Jonathan Ross's show on BBC Radio 2 and began on 26 July. It was aired for 12 months until July 2009.

In 2009, UKTV signed Tarrant to present a show for Watch called Tarrant Lets the Kids Loose. The eight-part series, beginning on 4 October, gives three- to six-year-olds the chance to fulfil their greatest ambitions in the adult world; whether running a photographic studio, a radio station or an ice-cream van. The show will be executively produced by Lisa Perrin and Tess Cumming.

In April 2010, Tarrant become one of the first three celebrities to be subjected to the British version of the American institution of a comedy roast, on Channel 4's A Comedy Roast.In August 2010, Tarrant launched the Fishing with Chris Tarrant application for iOS devices in association with Angling Times magazine. Also in 2010 he presented ITV1's The Door, a game show in which celebrities faced unpleasant and scary challenges to win money for charity.

In January 2011, he appeared on BBC's The Magicians and was voted to do the forfeit trick (walking barefoot on broken glass and swords).

Tarrant has sat in for Steve Wright on his BBC Radio 2 show on at least ten occasions between 2010 and 2013.

On 13 April 2012, Tarrant made an appearance in the BBC show Would I Lie to You? on David Mitchell's team alongside Mel Giedroyc.

In 2012, Tarrant filmed the Chris Tarrant: Extreme Railways series for Channel 5, with locations including the Congo Ocean Railway, the Ghan across Australia and the Konkan Railway. The series was aired in December 2012. A second series was shown in 2015. In 2013, Channel 5 aired a new series called Chris Tarrant Goes Fishing. The show was a hit with the viewing figures. A year later Tarrant began appearing in the ITV daytime game show Show Me the Telly as the TV legends team captain.

Since 2014, Tarrant has been a brand ambassador and has appeared in commercials for Lottoland.

In 2017, Tarrant became a continuity announcer for the TV channel Challenge.

Personal life

Tarrant had two children from a marriage to Sheila Roberton, Helen in 1977 and Jennifer in 1980. The couple married in Southend in 1976 and divorced in 1982. Tarrant met his second wife, Ingrid Dupre-Walsh, when they both worked for TV-am. The couple married in 1991 and divorced in 2007. After a series of tabloid stories, on 18 September 2006 the couple announced that they were separating. The couple previously lived with their two children, Sammy and Toby, in Esher, plus two children from Ingrid's previous marriage, Dexter and Fia, the latter a radio presenter with Heart. In a statement in September 2006, Tarrant said: "I am deeply sorry for the hurt I have caused to my loyal wife and wonderful children, all of whom I adore. I have only myself to blame for the breakdown of my marriage." Since 2008, Tarrant has been in a long-term relationship with legal assistant Jane Bird.

On 12 March 2014, it was reported that Tarrant had suffered a mini stroke while flying from Bangkok to London on 1 March 2014, returning from overseas shooting for Chris Tarrant: Extreme Railways. Upon landing, he was rushed to Charing Cross Hospital where doctors did emergency surgery to remove a blood clot from his right leg.

Tarrant is a fan of British rock group Status Quo, and in 1991 followed them on their Rock Til You Drop tour, which covered four concerts in one day (Sheffield, Glasgow, Birmingham and London) in aid of Nordorff-Robbins. In 2013, he went to the premiere of the band's feature film Bula Quo! in London. He is also a supporter of Reading Football Club.

Tarrant's son Toby has followed in his father's footsteps as a radio DJ employed by Global Radio, hosting programmes initially for Capital FM and now Radio X. Tarrant’s other daughter from Ingrid's previous marriage, named Fia Tarrant, also followed her father's footsteps, now currently presenting on Heart (radio network) weekdays from 10pm-1am, and is also employed by Global Radio

Tarrant's charity work, for which he received an OBE in 2004 includes: being an ambassador for the homeless charity, Centrepoint; trustee/patron of the New School at West Heath for disadvantaged children (the school previously being a private school for girls that Diana, Princess of Wales attended); patron of Milly's Fund, set up in memory of murdered Surrey teenager "Milly" Dowler; patron of Swings & Smiles, a charity for children with special needs.

He was a patron of the Headway Thames Valley, until he left in 2006, blaming "work commitments".

Tarrant is a patron of the Trooper Potts VC Memorial Trust, Reading.

Gallery

Trivia

Chris Tarrant (played by Michael Sheen) in the ITV drama Quiz

  • Tarrant was originally intended to host the U.S. version but he declined as he didn't want his children growing up in New York. The role eventually went to Regis Philbin.
  • On a 27 April 2001 appearance on long-running BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs, Tarrant chose Tequila Sunrise by The Eagles as his favourite record, The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris as his favourite book and a lucky sixpence as his favourite luxury.
  • He is a supporter of Reading FC. He once discussed the team with fellow game show host Henry Kelly in a BBC Radio Berkshire interview.
  • In the ITV drama Quiz, Tarrant was portrayed by British actor Michael Sheen.
Preceded by
N/A
UK host
Chris Tarrant
Succeeded by
Jeremy Clarkson
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