The Chair (game show)
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|Directed by||Michael A. Simon|
|Presented by||Matthew Ridge|
|Country of origin||New Zealand|
|No. of episodes||13 (4 unaired)|
|Running time||approx. 44-52 Minutes|
|Production company(s)||Touchdown Television|
Trailpolis Entertainment Group
|Original release||January 15 –|
March 4, 2002
The Chair was a game show television program that was made first in New Zealand and later premiered on ABC in the United States, January 2002. The New Zealand version was hosted by ex-rugby union player Matthew Ridge while the US version was hosted by former tennis champion John McEnroe and directed by Michael A. Simon. Among the show's writers was writer/actress Teresa Strasser, who had served on ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and later hosted While You Were Out after The Chair was cancelled.
Prospective contestants underwent extensive medical examination before appearing. They were given intelligence tests and had their heart monitored for several hours, among other diagnostic procedures to see how they would react to sudden surprises. If they were declared fit, they moved on to the game.
Once seated in the Chair, the contestant found him/herself looking up at a large video screen on which the host'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 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. For example, a contestant with a resting heart rate of 80 would have an initial redline threshold of 128 or 136 (160% and 170% of the resting rate, respectively), which would drop by 4 (5%) 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 while the heart rate was no higher than the threshold number 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 required the player to list items pertaining to a given category, and the seventh involved choosing which event occurred first/last (However, in Steven Benjamin's game, he was asked a question about animal groups for #7). After the fourth question, the host made 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. The game ended when one of the following events occurred:
- Answering a question incorrectly
- Losing all money by redlining
- Receiving three warnings from the Countermeasure Rule (see below)
- Answering all seven questions correctly
The question values and penalties for redlining are shown in the table below.
|Question||Value||Redline penalty (per second)|
If the contestant answered a question incorrectly, he/she left with whatever amount he/she had "stabilized" (see below). Correctly answering every question awarded the contestant all of the money in his/her account, for a potential top prize of $250,000 if he/she had no redlining penalties.
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 or a hive of bees, a large pendulum swinging just overhead, having McEnroe serve tennis balls at the contestant's head, etc.). Precautions were taken to ensure the contestant's safety during these events, such as a pane of heavy plastic being set just in front of his/her face as McEnroe served. If the contestant could endure the event for 15 seconds, or 20 seconds in the Korean version of the show, the event would end. If he/she went over the redline rate, the event continued until the heart rate was under control, and the contestant lost money at the rate for the previously answered question. In the Korean version, the host is responsible for initiating the heartstopper by saying, simply enough, "start the heartstopper", at which point the countdown begins. On the US version, if a contestant is redlining the heartstopper is not officially over until the contestant lowers their heart rate back into the "safe zone".
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 or received three warnings, 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.
In the UK version of the show, a contestant was required to stabilize after correctly answering the fifth question if he/she had not yet done so by that point.
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, the host gave a warning. Three warnings would end the game (contestants could still leave with their stabilized amount). 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. In the Korean version, that warning rule only applies in heartstoppers.
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. A week before Mackerer's $224,600 win, another player, Dean Sheffron, reached the last question with a total of $132,200 but lost it all due to redlining.
Thirteen episodes were taped, but only nine were broadcast. Many episodes were taped during post-midnight hours to hurry production in order to compete with Fox's show The Chamber. The latter was also cancelled quickly, airing only three episodes.
The Chamber vs. The Chair
The Chair premiered around the same time as Fox's torture show The Chamber. The production companies fought over this, each claiming the other show was a rip-off of theirs. A lawsuit was filed against Fox and the production company of The Chamber by the New Zealand production company of The Chair, Touchdown Television, but nothing became of it.
|Country||Name||Host||Channel||Prize||First year aired|
|Ibrahim Abu Joudeh||Abu Dhabi TV||US$100,000||2003|
|Austria||The Chair||Oliver Stamm||ATV (Austria)||€25,000||2003|
|Asparuh Minchev||NOVA||25 000лева||2002 - 2003|
|France||Zone Rouge||Jean-Pierre Foucault||TF1||€30,000||January 2003 - April 2005|
|Germany||Puls Limit: Jeder Herzschlag zählt||Peer Kusmagk||VOX||€20,000||April 22, 2003 — June 10, 2003|
|Kostas Apostolidis||ANT1||€50,000||October — December 2002|
|Masanori Hamada||TBS||¥10,000,000||May 25 - September 28, 2005|
|Mexico||La Silla||Juan Manuel Bernal||TV Azteca||MX$250,000||2005|
|New Zealand||The Chair||Matthew Ridge||TV2||NZ$50,000||2002|
|Fedor Bondarchuk||STS||RUB 410,000||September 7, 2002 — August 28, 2004|
|South Korea||더 체어 코리아
The Chair Korea
|Seo Gyeong-seok||KBS||₩20,000,000||December 14, 2011|
|Shin Dong-yup||₩50,000,000||March 14, 2012|
|Spain||La Silla||Constantino Romero||Telemadrid||€100,000||2002|
|Thailand||The Chair เก้าอี้ระทึก
The Chair Kao-Ie-Ra-Teuk
|Noppon Komarachun||BBTV CH7||฿3,000,000||July 8 - November 25, 2003|
|Turkey||Koltuk||Osmantan Erkır||Kanal D||250.000.000.000 lira||2002|
|United Kingdom||The Chair||John McEnroe||BBC One||£50,000||August 31 — November 9, 2002|
|United States||The Chair||John McEnroe||ABC||$250,000||January 15 — March 4, 2002|
- "Dame Julie Christie: the reality queen's finest moments". Stuff.co.nz. June 5, 2017.
- Bill Carter (January 29, 2002). "The Media Business: Fox TV Pulls 'The Chamber,' A Reality Show". The New York Times.
- Josef Adalian (January 3, 2002). "Webs' reality scuffle tortures 'Chamber'". Variety.
- Eyeworks site for The Chair (via Internet Archive) at the Wayback Machine (archived July 2, 2013)
- The Chair Promo Flyer at the Wayback Machine (archived 2014-08-30)
- The Chair (US) Official site at the Wayback Machine (archived December 7, 2002)
- The Chair (JP) Official site 1 at the Wayback Machine (archived November 10, 2005)
- The Chair (JP) Official site 2 at the Wayback Machine (archived December 22, 2005)
- UK Gameshows Page: The Chair
- The Chair @ NZONSCREEN