The Chair (game show)

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The Chair
Directed by Michael A. Simon
Presented by John McEnroe
Country of origin  United States
No. of episodes 13 (4 unaired)
Running time approx. 44-52 Minutes
Production company(s) Touchdown Television
Trailpolis Entertainment Group
Original network ABC
Original release January – March 2002

The Chair is a game show television program that premiered on ABC in January 2002. It 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.

Before the Show[edit]

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[edit]

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 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, 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. 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)
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

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 would continue until the heart rate was under control, and he/she would lose 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.

Countermeasure Rule[edit]

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 (contestants can 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.

Broadcast history[edit]

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 $224,600 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[edit]

The Chair premiered around the same time FOX's torture show The Chamber premiered. Both production companies fought over this, each claiming the other show was a rip-off of theirs. A lawsuit was filed, but nothing became of it.

International versions[edit]

Country Name Host Channel Prize First year aired
Arab League Arab World الكرسي
El Kursi
Ibrahim Abu Joudeh Abu Dhabi TV US$100,000 2003
 Australia The Celebrity Chair Shamar Stewart Nickelodeon 250.000 January 2002 - March 2002
 Austria The Chair Oliver Stamm ATV (Austria) 25,000 2003
 Bulgaria Столът
Asparuh Minchev NOVA 25 000лева 2002 - 2003
 Cambodia Unknown Unknown Apsara Television 300,000,000 2003
 France Zone Rouge Jean-Pierre Foucault TF1 30,000 January 2003 - April 2005
 Germany Puls Limit: Jeder Herzschlag zählt Peer Kusmagk VOX Unknown April 22, 2003 — June 10, 2003
 Greece Στα Όρια
Sta Oria
Kostas Apostolidis ANT1 Unknown October — December 2002
 Japan ザ・チェアー
The Chair
Masanori Hamada TBS ¥10,000,000 May 25 - September 28, 2005
 Mexico La Silla Juan Manuel Bernal TV Azteca MX$250,000 2005
 Netherlands The Chair Unknown RTL 100,000 2012
 New Zealand The Chair Matthew Ridge TV2 NZ$50,000 2002
 Russia Кресло
Fedor Bondarchuk STS RUB1,000,000 Septemder 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 100,000 Canal Sur 2002
 Thailand The Chair เก้าอี้ระทึก
The Chair Kao-Ie-Ra-Teuk
Noppon Komarachun BBTV CH7 ฿3,000,000 July 8 - November 25, 2003
John Rattanaveroj
 Turkey Koltuk Osmantan Erkır Kanal D lira 2002
 United Kingdom The Chair John McEnroe BBC £50,000 August 31 — November 9, 2002
 Vietnam CHUTICH Unknown VTV3 500,000,000 2005

External links[edit]