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The Chair (game show)

The Chair (game show)

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The Chair is a game show
Game show
A game show is a type of radio or television program in which members of the public, television personalities or celebrities, sometimes as part of a team, play a game which involves answering questions or solving puzzles usually for money and/or prizes...

 television program
Television program
A television program , also called television show, is a segment of content which is intended to be broadcast on television. It may be a one-time production or part of a periodically recurring series...

 that premiered on ABC
American Broadcasting Company
The American Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network. Created in 1943 from the former NBC Blue radio network, ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Company and is part of Disney-ABC Television Group. Its first broadcast on television was in 1948...

 in January 2002. It was hosted by former tennis champion John McEnroe
John McEnroe
John Patrick McEnroe, Jr. is a former world no. 1 professional tennis player from the United States. During his career, he won seven Grand Slam singles titles , nine Grand Slam men's doubles titles, and one Grand Slam mixed doubles title...

 and directed by Michael A. Simon. Teresa Strasser
Teresa Strasser
Teresa Lynn Strasser is an American writer and television personality known for hosting the first season of the home makeover show While You Were Out on TLC. She also co-hosted The Adam Carolla Show.-Personal life:...

, a former writer on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? is a television game show which offers large cash prizes for correctly answering a series of multiple-choice questions of increasing difficulty. The format is owned and licensed by Sony Pictures Television International. The maximum cash prize is one million pounds...

and later the newsgirl of the Adam Carolla Show and host of many TLC
TLC (TV channel)
TLC is an American cable TV specialty channel which initially focused on educational content. Since 1991 TLC has been owned by Discovery Communications, the same company that operates the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and The Science Channel, as well as other learning-themed networks...

 series, was a writer on the US version.

Before the Show

Contestants on the program underwent extensive medical supervision before they ever made it to the actual game. They were given intelligence tests and had their heart monitored for several hours, among other diagnostic procedures such as seeing how the contestants would react to sudden surprises. If they were declared fit, they would move on to the game.

Game play

Once seated in the Chair, the contestant found him/herself looking up at a large video screen on which McEnroe's image was displayed, as well as the information for the current question. He/she began with a stake of $5,000 and could increase it to a maximum of $250,000 by answering a series of seven multiple-choice questions. However, the contestant's heart rate
Heart rate
Heart rate is the number of heartbeats per unit of time, typically expressed as beats per minute . Heart rate can vary as the body's need to absorb oxygen and excrete carbon dioxide changes, such as during exercise or sleep....

 was continuously measured throughout the game and compared to a "redline" threshold. This value started at 60% (later 70%) above the resting heart rate, and it was lowered by 5% of the resting heart rate after each question.

Money was subtracted from the contestant's total for every second that his/her heart rate exceeded the redline value ("redlining"). In addition, he/she was ineligible to give an answer during this time; only after the heart rate dropped below the threshold could an answer be given. (Redlining between questions, or while a question was being asked, carried no penalty.) The third question involved recalling information from a video clip, the fifth was a list, and the seventh involved choosing which event occurred first/last (However, in Stephen Benjamin's game, he was asked a question about animal groups for #7). After the fourth question, McEnroe would make a one-time offer: keep the redline rate constant for the next question, at a cost of $25,000. This was rarely - if ever - accepted.

As long as the contestant had money in the account, and continued to answer questions correctly the game continued. If the money ran out or a question was answered wrongly, the game ended. The question values and penalties for redlining are shown in the table below.
Question Value Redline penalty (per second)
1 $5,000 $100
2 $10,000 $100
3 $15,000 $200
4 $25,000 $300
5 $40,000 $400
6 $50,000 $500
7 $100,000 $1,000


At two points during the contestant's campaign, a "heartstopper" event took place. These were designed to raise the heart rate (coming face to face with an alligator, a hive of bees, a large pendulum swinging just over their head, having McEnroe serve tennis balls at the contestant's head, etc.) If the contestant could endure the event for 15 seconds, the event would end. If he/she went over the redline rate, the event would continue until the heart rate was under control, and he/she would lose money at the rate for the previously answered question.


After answering the $15,000 question correctly (for a potential prize of $35,000), the contestant earned the chance to "stabilize". Once during the rest of the game, he/she could exercise this option after a correct answer; if he/she missed a question, he/she would leave with the money won up to the "stabilize" point. However, if the contestant redlined in the interim and went below the stabilized amount, the stabilized amount would fall and match the current prize amount.

If a contestant could answer all seven questions correctly and keep his/her heart under control for the entire game, the top prize of $250,000 is awarded.

Countermeasure Rule

Contestants were required to stay alert during the game at all times. If a contestant tried to close his/her eyes or perform some other task in an attempt to lower the heart rate, McEnroe gave a warning. Three warnings would end the game. The latter never happened, though one contestant on the US show was warned twice and almost disqualified for the above actions. On the first episode, one contestant closed her eyes for the entire time on the one heartstopper she reached and was not given a warning.

Broadcast history

The Chair lasted for nine episodes on ABC in 2002, but not before two people managed to answer the final question correctly; Kris Mackerer won $224,600 and Steven Benjamin won the maximum $250,000. Just a week before Mackerer's $224,000+ win; another player, Dean Sheffron, saw the last question but redlined away a massive $132,200 and lost it all after he was unable to get his heart-rate under control.

13 episodes were taped but the remaining four were never aired, despite ABC originally announcing they would air the entire order, but soon changed their minds.

Many episodes were taped post-midnight hours to hurry production in order to compete with Fox's show The Chamber
The Chamber (game show)
The Chamber is a short-lived game show television program that aired on FOX. It was an hour-long show that debuted on January 13, 2002. The show featured contestants answering questions while strapped into a torture chamber.-Pre-game Faceoff:...

. The latter was also canceled quickly, airing only three episodes.

The Chamber vs. The Chair

The Chair premiered around the same time FOX's torture show The Chamber
The Chamber (game show)
The Chamber is a short-lived game show television program that aired on FOX. It was an hour-long show that debuted on January 13, 2002. The show featured contestants answering questions while strapped into a torture chamber.-Pre-game Faceoff:...

premiered. Both production companies fought over this, each claiming the other show was a rip-off
Rip-Off is a top-down vector shoot 'em up arcade game released by Cinematronics in 1980. It is the first shoot 'em up arcade game to feature cooperative gameplay and to exhibit flocking behavior.-Gameplay:...

 of theirs. A lawsuit
A lawsuit or "suit in law" is a civil action brought in a court of law in which a plaintiff, a party who claims to have incurred loss as a result of a defendant's actions, demands a legal or equitable remedy. The defendant is required to respond to the plaintiff's complaint...

 was filed, but nothing became of it.

International versions

Country Name Host Channel Prize First year aired
 Arab League Arab World
Arab world
The Arab world refers to Arabic-speaking states, territories and populations in North Africa, Western Asia and elsewhere.The standard definition of the Arab world comprises the 22 states and territories of the Arab League stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the...

El Kursi
Ibrahim Abu Joudeh Abu Dhabi TV
Abu Dhabi TV
Abu Dhabi Al Oula is an Arabic television station that originally launched in 1969 but was re-launched in 2000 and again in 2008. It broadcasts from Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates and is owned by Abu Dhabi Media Company...

United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

 Early Modern France Zone Rouge Jean-Pierre Foucault
Jean-Pierre Foucault
Jean-Pierre Foucault is a French television and radio host.He is the host of Qui Veut Gagner des Millions ?, the French version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? He has been hosting the Miss France pageant since 1996.Foucault played himself in the 2006 film Mon Meilleur Ami directed by Patrice...

TF1 is a national French TV channel, controlled by TF1 Group, whose major share-holder is Bouygues. TF1's average market share of 24% makes it the most popular domestic network...

€30,000 January 2003-April 2005
 Japan ザ・チェアー
The Chair
Masanori Hamada TBS
Tokyo Broadcasting System
, TBS Holdings, Inc. or TBSHD, is a stockholding company in Tokyo, Japan. It is a parent company of a television network named and radio network named ....

Japanese yen
The is the official currency of Japan. It is the third most traded currency in the foreign exchange market after the United States dollar and the euro. It is also widely used as a reserve currency after the U.S. dollar, the euro and the pound sterling...

May 25- September 28, 2005
 Mexico La Silla Juan Manuel Bernal TV Azteca
TV Azteca
Azteca, is the second largest Mexican television entertainment. It was established in 1983 as the state-owned Instituto Mexicano de la Televisión , a holding of the national TV networks channel 13 and 7 and was privatized under its current name in 1993 and now is part of Grupo Salinas...

MX$250,000 2005
 Netherlands The Chair TBA RTL
RTL Television
Rtl.de' redirects here. For other uses, see RTL.RTL Television , or simply RTL, is a German commercial television station distributed via cable and satellite along with DVB-T , in larger population centres...

€100,000 2012
 Russia Кресло
Fyodor Bondarchuk STS 410,000руб
Russian ruble
The ruble or rouble is the currency of the Russian Federation and the two partially recognized republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Formerly, the ruble was also the currency of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union prior to their breakups. Belarus and Transnistria also use currencies with...

November 15, 2002 - August 28, 2004
 Thailand เก้าอี้ระทึก Noppon Komarachun
John Rattanaweeroj
BBTV Channel 7
BBTV Channel 7
Bangkok National Radio and Television Broadcasting Corporation Channel 7 is a Thailand television channel. The headquarters are located in Bangkok, Thailand. The channel was established in 1967 with the first live broadcast of the Miss Thailand pageant held in the Vajiravudhthanusorn event at...

 United Kingdom The Chair John McEnroe BBC One
BBC One is the flagship television channel of the British Broadcasting Corporation in the United Kingdom. It was launched on 2 November 1936 as the BBC Television Service, and was the world's first regular television service with a high level of image resolution...

£50,000 August 31, 2002-November 9, 2002
VTV3 is a substation operated and owned by Vietnam Television. It is launched in 1996 and operates 24 hours since 2003. It is the sports television....

₫500,000,000 2005

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