The Chair (game show)

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The Chair
GenreGame show
Created byJulie Christie
Darryl McEwen
Brian Bigg
Written byPhil Andres
Charles Bacer
Robert Hammersley
Gary Stuart Kaplan
Gary Lucy
Teresa Strasser
Directed byMichael A. Simon
Presented byJohn McEnroe
ComposersAllan Ett
Scott Liggett
Timothy Winn
Country of originUnited States
New Zealand
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes13 (4 unaired)
Executive producersJulie Christie
Darryl McEwen
Andrew J. Golder
Gregory V. Sherman
Ann Miller-George
ProducersPaul Wernick
Craig W. Hoffman
Running time44 minutes
Production companiesTouchdown Television (Touchdown Productions)
Trailpolis Entertainment Group
Target Distribution, Ltd. (William Morris Agency)
Original release
ReleaseJanuary 15 (2002-01-15) –
March 18, 2002 (2002-03-18)

The Chair is an American game show that was created by Julie Christie, Darryl McEwen and Brian Bigg for Touchdown Television (now Eyeworks Touchdown).[1][2] Although The Chair was originally developed in New Zealand, the first country where the program aired in was the United States. The American version, which was hosted by former tennis champion John McEnroe, aired on ABC for nine episodes from January 15 to March 18, 2002; the American version would be canceled with four episodes remaining unaired of its original 13-episode order. McEnroe would later host the British version, which aired between August 31 and November 9, 2002, on BBC One.[3][4] 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 TLC's While You Were Out.


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.

Question round
Question Value Redline
Redline penalty
(per second)
1 $5,000 160%-170% ($100) $10,000
2 $10,000 155%-165% $20,000
3 $15,000 150%-160% ($200) $35,000
4 $25,000 145%-155% ($300) $60,000
5 $40,000 140%-150% ($400) $100,000
6 $50,000 135%-145% ($500) $150,000
7 $100,000 130%-140% ($1,000) $250,000

Once seated in the Chair, the contestant found themselves looking up at a large video screen on which the host's image was displayed, as well as the information for the current question. They began with a stake of $5,000 and could increase it to a maximum of $250,000 by answering a series of seven questions. 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 reduced by 5% of the resting heart rate after each question (with a maximum redline threshold of between 130% and 140% for the final 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.

For each question except the fifth, a list of four possible answers was presented, and then the question itself was read. The host would then tell the contestant whether or not an answer could be accepted, depending on their heart rate at the moment.

Money was subtracted from the contestant's total for every second that their heart rate exceeded the redline value ("redlining"). In addition, they were 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, mostly carried no penalty; for at least the first episode, the penalty went into effect when the host began reading the question, but later it would be after the whole question had been read. The third question involved recalling information from a series of images that appeared on the screen above them and required the player to remember something specific or particular details about one image, the fifth required the player to list items pertaining to a given category, and the seventh involved choosing which event occurred first or last (this question type would be eliminated later in the show's run). 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 offer was rarely accepted.

As long as the contestant had money in the account and continued to answer questions correctly, the game continued until all seven questions were answered correctly. The game prematurely ended when a contestant answered a single question incorrectly, lost all of their money due to redlining, or committed a third violation of the countermeasure rule.

If the contestant answered a question incorrectly, they left with whatever amount they had "stabilized" (see below). Correctly answering every question awarded the contestant all of the money in their account, for a potential top prize of $250,000 if they 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 their face as McEnroe served. If the contestant could endure the event for 15 seconds (20 seconds in some versions), the event would end. If they 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. If a contestant is redlining, the Heartstopper is not officially over until the contestant lowers their heart rate back into the "safe zone".

In some international versions of the show (usually for the first Heartstopper only), a contestant must answer rapid-fire free-response questions in a 45-second bonus round which is designed to add 1 heartbeat back to the redline threshold for each correct answer. In the original New Zealand version, for the second Heartstopper, the contestant must answer 7 rapid-fire questions in a 60-second bonus round on one of the three categories shown on the screen above them. Each correct answer it was given, they will earn money but with each wrong answer to each question, they will be monetarily penalized from only their stabilized winnings.


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, they could exercise this option after a correct answer; if they missed a question or received their third violation of the countermeasure rule, they 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 British version of the show, a contestant would be required to stabilize after correctly answering the fifth question if they had not yet done so by that point.

Countermeasure rule

Contestants were required to stay alert during the game at all times. If a contestant tried to close their eyes or perform some other task in an attempt to lower the heart rate, the host gave a warning. If a contestant received a third violation or suffered a medical issue during the game, they were disqualified from the game; contestants could still leave with their stabilized amount. The latter never happened, though one contestant on the US show received two violations and was 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 penalized. In the Korean version, this warning rule only applied in Heartstoppers.

Broadcast history[edit]

The Chair aired for nine episodes on ABC between January 15 and March 18, 2002, but not before two people managed to answer the final question correctly; Kris Derrico (née Mackerer) won $224,600 (equivalent to $380,469 in 2023) on the fourth episode that aired on February 5[5] and Steven Benjamin won the maximum $250,000 (equivalent to $423,497 in 2023) in the ninth and final episode that aired on March 18. A week before Mackerer's $224,600 win, another player, Dean Sheffron,[6] 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 (which was canceled after three episodes of its six-episode order were aired). Both programs would air during NBC's coverage of the 2002 Winter Olympics, which resulted in low ratings and became a factor in the cancellation of both programs (along with high production costs).

The Chamber vs. The Chair[edit]

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.[7] A lawsuit was filed against Fox and the production company of The Chamber by the New Zealand production company of The Chair, Touchdown Television,[8] but nothing became of it.

International versions[edit]

Country Local Name Host Network Top Prize Premiere/Air dates/First year broadcast
Arab League Arab World الكرسي
El Kursi [9]
Ibrahim Abu Joudeh Abu Dhabi TV US$100,000 February 17, 2003
 Australia The Chair Un­known Seven Network Un­known 2002
 Austria The Chair: Nimm Platz in der Hölle[10] Oliver Stamm ATV 25,000 June 2003
 Bulgaria Столът
Asparuh Minchev NOVA 25,000 лева 2002–2003
 France[12][13] Zone Rouge[14][15] Jean-Pierre Foucault TF1 15,000
January 2003 – April 2005
 Germany Puls Limit: Jeder Herzschlag zählt[16] Peer Kusmagk VOX 20,000 April 22, 2003 – June 10, 2003
 Greece Στα Όρια
Sta Oria[17]
Kostas Apostolidis ANT1 50,000 October 2002 – December 2002
 Japan ザ・チェアー
The Chair
Masanori Hamada TBS ¥10,000,000 May 25, 2005 – September 28, 2005
 Mexico La Silla[18] Juan Manuel Bernal TV Azteca MX$250,000 2005
 Malaysia The Chair Yang Wei Han
Dylan Liong
NTV7 RM13,250 2002–2005
 New Zealand
(original version)
The Chair[2] Matthew Ridge TV2 NZ$50,000 April 2, 2002 – June 4, 2002
 Philippines The Chair Philippines Yassi Pressman TV5 Php2,000,000 2023
 Russia Кресло
Fedor Bondarchuk STS 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[19][20] Constantino Romero Telemadrid
Canal Sur
100,000 June 2002 – August 2002
 Thailand The Chair เก้าอี้ระทึก
The Chair Kao-Ie-Ra-Teuk
Noppon Komarachun BBTV CH7 ฿3,000,000 July 9, 2003 – November 26, 2003
John Rattanaveroj
 Turkey Koltuk[21] Osmantan Erkır Kanal D 250,000,000,000 April 10, 2002
 United Kingdom The Chair[22] John McEnroe[4] BBC One £50,000 August 31, 2002 – November 9, 2002


  1. ^ "ABC heart-pounder". Variety. December 16, 2001.
  2. ^ a b "Dame Julie Christie: the reality queen's finest moments". June 5, 2017.
  3. ^ "The Chair's UK deal finally signed".
  4. ^ a b "McEnroe brings The Chair to UK". BBC News. BBC. May 16, 2002. Retrieved May 20, 2014.
  5. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: The Chair (February 5, 2002). YouTube.
  6. ^ YouTube, a Google company. YouTube. Archived from the original on July 3, 2020.
  7. ^ Bill Carter (January 29, 2002). "The Media Business: Fox TV Pulls 'The Chamber,' A Reality Show". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Josef Adalian (January 3, 2002). "Webs' reality scuffle tortures 'Chamber'". Variety.
  9. ^ "يعتمد على دقات القلب ويبث في 17 الجاري، قناة ابوظبي تطلق «الكرسي» برنامج المسابقات العالمي بنسخته العربية".
  10. ^ ""The Chair - Nimm Platz in der Hölle" - Reality-Show testet Kandidaten auf Nervenstärke". April 17, 2003.
  11. ^ Нова телевизия променя програмната си схема. January 2003.
  12. ^ "Le quizz cardiaque qui angoisse TF1". September 17, 2002.
  13. ^ "The Chair : prochainement sur TF1 ?". November 12, 2002.
  15. ^ "Jean-Pierre Foucault en zone rouge". March 15, 2003.
  16. ^ "VOX startet neue Gameshow "puls_limit: Jeder Herzschlag zählt"". March 15, 2003.
  17. ^ 8 τηλεπαιχνίδια, 500.000 ευρώ. Ta Nea. September 5, 2002.
  18. ^ "'La silla' pondrá a prueba el ritmo cardiaco". ElUniversal. September 17, 2005.
  19. ^ "Las autonómicas lanzan un concurso "no apto para cardíacos"". May 23, 2002.
  20. ^ "Constantino Romero presenta "La silla" en las autonómicas". June 1, 2002.
  21. ^ "Hiçbir koltuk bu kadar heyecan verici olmadı". Hurriyet. April 8, 2002.
  22. ^ Deans, Jason (May 16, 2002). "McEnroe takes The Chair". The Guardian. Retrieved May 20, 2014.

External links[edit]