INDIANAPOLIS — For more than a decade, Hoosier Millionaire was must see TV in Indiana.
It was a weekly appointment for Hoosiers across the state to see family, friends and neighbors get the opportunity to take home big money.
Airing from 1989 to 2005, the show cemented WTTV as a cornerstone of Indiana broadcasting, all the while changing the lives of Hoosiers everywhere.
“Over the course of the 13 years that I was lucky enough to do it, to see that much money go out the door was pretty phenomenal. And it did, it just changed so many lives,” former host Mark Patrick said.
Patrick was a young 30-something doing work for an ad agency when he got the call he landed the job. Overnight it turned him into a local celebrity.
“I think there were about 300 people that auditioned for the show. Then I got told four days before the show aired that I had gotten the job,” he said.
Along with Barbara Hobbs and Tony Lamont, Patrick helmed Hoosier Millionaire for 13 years until 2003. The show’s popularity made the trio household names. At the same time, Hoosier Millionaire gained recognition for being one of the first shows to give away cash prizes of such staggering size.
“Channel 4 just blew everything out of the water. I mean, they set all-time records in the first week. And it just kind of stayed from there,” Patrick said.
The show also commanded the attention of viewers in Illinois and Kentucky.
“I have people to this day when I say I’m with the Hoosier lottery ask me about the show, ask me about Mark, Barbara and Tony and have fond memories. And maybe it was they watched it with their grandparents, or they watched it with their family, or they knew someone on it. But it’s really a big part of our history,” said Hoosier Lottery Executive Director Sarah Taylor.
Throughout its 16-year run, Taylor says 191 millionaires were made.
Beyond its large prizes, Hoosier Millionaire’s appeal was its accessibility. For just a dollar, any Hoosier could buy a ticket and win the chance to be on the show. People tuned in weekly just to see if someone they knew would be on and how much the winners would walk away with.
“So many people knew somebody that had been on the show. And after the 13-year run, everybody knew somebody that had been on it,” Patrick said.
For WTTV, Hoosier Millionaire was a cross-generational phenomenon and a cornerstone in its 70-year history. For those who remember the show, it was a throwback to a different time when families spent Saturday nights together, at home, watching their favorite show.
“It’s kind of something that we don’t have anymore, it was almost the last of the appointment television generation. Cable and satellite were huge in the 90’s. But these were all broadcast live 7:30 on Saturday night, and people sat down to watch it,” Patrick said.
Hoosier Millionaire ended its 16-year run in 2005. In 2014, a traveling reunion show was put on to mark the 25th anniversary of the first scratch-off ticket in Hoosier Lottery history.