Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? (TV show)

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Where in Time Is
Carmen Sandiego?
Season 1 Title Card
Based onWhere in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?
published by Broderbund
Directed byDavid Turner
Presented byKevin Shinick
Lynne Thigpen
StarringThe Engine Crew
Alaine Kashian
John Lathan
Owen Taylor (season 1)
Jamie Gustis (season 2)
Theme music composerSean Altman
David Yazbek
Randy Vancourt (French Version)
Opening theme"Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?" by The Engine Crew
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes115 [2]
Executive producer(s)Jay Rayvid
Kate Taylor
Producer(s)Howard Lee (supervising producer)
Charles Nordlander
James Greenberg
Dana Calderwood
Jonathan Meath
Production location(s)Kaufman Astoria Studios
Queens, New York
Editor(s)Kevin Conrad
Running timeapprox. 28 minutes
Production company(s)WGBH-TV
Original networkPBS[1]
Original releaseOctober 7, 1996 (1996-10-07) – December 12, 1997 (1997-12-12)
Preceded byWhere in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?
Related showsWhere on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?
Carmen Sandiego

Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? Is an American half-hour children's television game show loosely based on the computer game of the same name created by Brøderbund Software. Just like its predecessor, the show was produced by WGBH Boston and WQED Pittsburgh. The program lasted two seasons on PBS, consisting of 115 episodes, which ran from October 7, 1996 to December 12, 1997, with reruns airing until October 2, 1998. The show starred Lynne Thigpen as "The Chief", Kevin Shinick as "ACME Time Pilot Squadron Leader" and "The Engine Crew" as various informants.[3] The show replaced Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, and was recorded entirely at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, New York City.


Before the show begins, the viewing audience sees Carmen Sandiego in her V.I.L.E. headquarters (In Season 1, Carmen appears in a Fourth wall type of narration; whereas in Season 2, a surveillance nano-probe films Carmen's lair unnoticed) complaining to herself and plotting to steal the historical "seed" of her complaint. Carmen then summons one of her V.I.L.E. henchmen and henchwomen and tells him/her what to steal and where to go. (In Season One, she shines an 'Info-Beam' to give the details of the object in question; whereas in Season Two, she gives the thief a 'Loot Orb' or 'Cybersphere' to contain it). The Chief then tells the audience that Carmen's chosen henchman has stolen something, which must be recovered in 28 minutes (the length of each episode) to prevent Temporal paradox. The show then begins with the Engine Crew preparing the ACME Chronoskimmer (a flying saucer capable of time travel) for launch and then singing the show's theme song while dancing. Afterwards, the Chief introduces host 'Kevin Shinick'. In the first season, Kevin enters from the left of the Chronoskimmer. In Season 2, Kevin is seen goofing around in his room doing a certain activity until the Chief calls him to do the show. He then enters from the right of the Chronoskimmer.

Round One[edit]

Three players (ages 10–14) known as "Time Pilots" compete, each given 100 'Power Points' to begin. The Chief identifies the stolen object and its source, and various skits give clues to the location. After the skit, three possible answers or locations are shown to the pilots. The viewer can see the individual choices represented by an individual color (pink, green, or blue). Any pilot with the correct answer scores 10 Power Points, with no penalty given for an incorrect answer.

At one point in the game, Carmen's henchman would provide a clue from the viewscreen. The points in time visited follow the historical progression of the "seed" originally stolen. The typical course of the round is as follows:

  • Data Boost: At two points during the game (one in the second season), the episode's villain sabotages the Chronoskimmer. (In Season One, a Data Boost is also done to replenish the Chronoskimmer's 'Fact Fuel'). In Season Two, the Engine Crew reports the problem. During the Boost, Kevin reads clues in a given subject and gives the pilots a choice of 2 or 3 answers. The first pilot to buzz in and guess the correct answer scores 5 Power Points; but loses 5 Power Points for wrong answers.
  • Global Pursuit: After one skit, the Global Pursuit round is played, for a series of questions of three possible answers. Only one pilot can buzz in for 5 Power Points up or down. This round in some episodes came before the Data Boost, and played similarly to the Chase round of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
  • Ultimate Data Boost: This is just like a normal Data Boost, but the questions are worth plus or minus 10 Power Points, and several questions are asked according to time.

The two pilots with the highest score after the first round advance to the second round, while the third-placed pilot is eliminated from the game. If there was a tie between two pilots for second place, or a three-way tie for first place, a tiebreaker question was asked.

There are also other ways to gain clues:

  • Cluefinder: The Cluefinder was an alarm identifying a clue, whereupon a historical figure or object appeared aboard the Chronoskimmer to reveal more clues.
  • V.I.L.E. Villain: The show's villain is shown revealing a clue; ostensibly against his or her intention. When this happens, Kevin often exclaims, "We're losing communications!", if the villain is taking over the ship. On other occasions, the ship's nano-probes film the villain reporting to Carmen, still giving the clue to the contestants.
  • Collision Alert: Where in Kevin converses with a possible 'future' version of himself, to acquire clues.
  • Parallel Universe: Clues are given by Commisaar (an evil Chief) and an evil Kevin from ACME Slimenet, the evil version of ACME Timenet.
  • Omnicia: On certain occasions, when Kevin runs out of clues, he would ask the Chief to contact an omniscient informant known as Omnicia. Contacting Omnicia takes a lot of power, according to the Chief. She warns Kevin that they may not have enough power, but Kevin will tell her that they have to risk it.
  • Engine Crew's Clues: The Engine Crew sang the clues of the year from the Engine Room. On other occasions, the Engine Crew are in the Chronoskimmer's cafeteria conversing with Libby the Cafeteria Robot (portrayed by Thigpen).
  • Intruder Alert: The Intruder Alert alarm alerted Kevin to an intruder in his bedroom, which is Sector 5, where a figure representing his mother revealed the clue.
  • Millenia: "The world's oldest woman;" she ostensibly has been around for almost everything. She was portrayed by Thigpen.
  • Elephant Guy: A businessman being chased by an elephant gives clues to the time pilots. Portrayed by Owen Taylor
  • The Unknown Explorer: An old bearded sailor riding on a float provides a clue. Portrayed by John Latham.
  • ACME Street Entertainers: Three street entertainers (portrayed by The Engine Crew) performed in front of some of the studio audience members and gave out a clue.
  • Molecular Generator Clue: Kevin finds clues inside the Chronoskimmer's Molecular Generator.
  • TIMENET Weather Report: A weather woman with a southern accent (portrayed by Alaine Kashian) gives clues during her weather report.

Round Two[edit]

With Kevin on command, the two remaining pilots activated the Loot Tractor Beam to capture the stolen artifact. The Chief then listed eight events, related to the artifact that was stolen, that the pilots had to recite in reverse chronological order. The first pilot to recite the events in the correct order advanced to the Bonus Round to capture Carmen and the day's villain, while the runner-up won a CD player and Carmen Sandiego merchandise.

Bonus Round: The Trail of Time[edit]

The winning pilot had 1:30 (90 seconds) to answer questions at several "Time Portals", posed by Carmen, with each portal themed to a particular period of time. All questions were related to the artifact stolen in the day's show, and contained two choices each. If the pilot answered a question correctly, the gate opened automatically. Otherwise, the pilot was required to operate a device to manually open the gate. After the first two or three gates, the pilot captured the day's villain; whereas if the pilot passed through all six gates before time expires, he or she was permitted to capture Carmen and win a computer system. The Engine Crew always guided the pilot to the appropriate portal using hand signals; in the second season, the portal flashed to help them. If Carmen escapes, the pilot received a portable music system in addition to a 32-volume set of Encyclopædia Britannica (in season 1) or an ACME Time Net mission pack (in season 2). If Carmen was captured, the time pilot had to put an orb into the "chronolock chamber" in order to fully capture her, and he/she would win the computer system.

The show always ended with Kevin, the pilot, and the Engine Crew saying: "At ACME Time Net, history is our job, and the future is yours!", followed by the theme song being played again.


Season 1 lasted 65 episodes and ran from October 7, 1996 until January 3, 1997. Season 2 lasted for 50 episodes and ran from October 6, 1997 until December 12, 1997.[2] Reruns of the show continued on PBS until October 2, 1998.

V.I.L.E. gang[edit]

Other than playing the Engine Crew, Owen Taylor, Jamie Gustis, Alaine Kashian, and John Lathan as well as James Greenberg (who was also one of the show's producers) and Paula Leggett Chase also portrayed Carmen's V.I.L.E. minions.

  • Carmen Sandiego (Janine LaManna, Season 1; Brenda Burke, Season 2) – V.I.L.E.'s mastermind, portrayed as a straight villain. Though her iconic red trench coat and fedora were visible, her face was largely obscured. Carmen herself was played by general cast members Janine LaManna and Brenda Burke. They were not credited, because the actresses also played "good" characters who would help the contestants.[4]
  • Baron Wasteland (James Greenberg, Season 1 only) – A moustached villain wearing a V-marked eyepatch; a wealthy aristocrat who loves pollution and enjoys destroying the environment. His name is a play on "barren wasteland" and he is supposed a native of the Industrial Era. He was only in the first season, being replaced by Buggs Zapper in Season 2 (see below). His getaway animation showed his body shattering into several triangular shards. When assaulting the Chronoskimmer, he would shock it with lightning emitted by his cane. He is the only villain on the show not adapted into the newer version of the computer game, although the game featured a different villain holding the title of baron, that being Baron Grinnit ("grin and bear it").
  • Buggs Zapper (James Greenberg, Season 2 only) – Buggs Zapper is a New York-accented gangster with a fear of insects who wears a pinstriped suit and constantly carries an old-fashioned bug sprayer. He was introduced in the second season, replacing Baron Wasteland (see above). In the computer game's manual, it is stated that his only goal in life is to "rub out" a single fly that may exist only in his imagination. When assaulting the Chronoskimmer, he was shown spraying a cloud of pesticide from his bug sprayer into an open hatch. His time era is presumably the 1920s to the 1930s. His name is a play on "bug zapper" and gangster Bugsy Malone.
  • Dr. Belljar (Owen Taylor, Season 1) & (Jamie Gustis, Season 2) – A cyborg mad scientist. His name apparently refers to bell jars. He appeared on both of the show's seasons, but his appearance was drastically retooled for the second season. His getaway animation in the first season showed him disintegrated into a multitude of cubes through a device mounted on his wrist. In the second he was simply obscured by television static. In season 1, he assaulted the Chronoskimmer by zapping it with electricity from his fingertips (identified as the 'Misinformation Missile'). In the second season, he sabotaged the systems directly.
  • Jacqueline Hyde (Alaine Kashian) – Jacqueline Hyde is a split personality, one ("Jacqueline") being sweet-tempered and innocent with the other ("Hyde") being vindictive and insane. She repeatedly alternates between her personalities, with each surfacing for a few seconds. She wears a red blazer, a pink blouse, a red miniskirt and knee-length stockings, perhaps to suggest a traditional schoolgirl uniform of the early-to-mid-20th century. Her getaway was becoming a sphere and floating from sight. In the first season, she assaulted the Chronoskimmer by throwing an orb of electricity; whereas in the second season, she physically sabotaged the craft at an open maintenance panel. Her name is a play on "Dr. Jeykll & Mr. Hyde".
  • Medeva (Paula Leggett Chase) – Medeva is a witch from the Middle Ages who mostly speaks in rhyme. In season one, she assaulted the Chronoskimmer by breathing fire at it; and in the second, she would cast a spell into an open maintenance panel. Her name seems to be a portmanteau of Medea (a sorceress in Greek mythology) and "diva", or a play on the term medieval.
  • Sir Vile (John Lathan) – Sir Vile is an obsequious medieval knight. In the first season, his armor was a dull silver; but appeared fiery red in the second. In season one, he assaulted the Chromoskimmer by striking with lightning; whereas in the second season, he was shown ripping a cable from a maintenance panel and breathing fire into the opening. His name is a play on the adjective "servile", owing to how obsequious he acts around Carmen Sandiego.
  • Shadow Spider (David Hayter) - Shadow Spider is a insect Spider. in the first season, his suit was a dull black; but appeared dark blue in the second. in season one, he assulted the chronoskimmer by thwipping a web; wheares in the second season he even reassembles Spider-Man.


The budget was smaller on this version of the show compared to World. As a result, the grand prize for a winning pilot capturing Carmen was a computer system instead of a trip. If the contestant did not win in the trail of time, he/she received a set of encyclopedias and a stereo system. Pilots on all levels received the ACME Time Net Mission Pack, which consisted of: a baseball cap, a T-shirt, a Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? board game, a Where in the U.S.A. Is Carmen Sandiego? board game, a Where in Space is Carmen Sandiego board game, a plastic watch, an Encyclopædia Britannica World Atlas, and a set of the most recent Carmen Sandiego CD-ROM games (all of which also featured Lynne Thigpen as the Chief).


The music on the show was performed by The Engine Crew. The music package included the theme song and the songs about clues in the engine room. The theme was played in the opening and closing sequences. When the contestant was heading for the trail of time, the theme was sometimes edited after the crew sang, "We're on the case" and the villains say, "And they're chasing us through history!" (used in first season). In the second season, when the contestant headed for The Trail of Time, the ending was normal instead of the villains singing the end part. The show's main theme song was written by Sean Altman of Rockapella and David Yazbek, and is sung by The Engine Crew.

Like its predcessor series, which faced outdated information during its run, the end of every episode had an audible disclaimer from Lynne Thigpen stating that "All historic information has been verified by Encyclopedia Britannica (and was accurate as of the date this program was recorded)." with the recording date shown with the copyright information at the end of each episode.

The show was funded primarily by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by the annual financial support from the viewers/stations of PBS throughout the entire series. Delta Air Lines and the National Endowment for Children's Educational Television both provided funding during the show's first season.


Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego has been nominated thirteen times for awards. It also won a Daytime Emmy Award in 1998.[5]

Award Category Nominee Result
1997 Daytime Emmy Awards Outstanding Children's Series Nominated
1997 Daytime Emmy Awards Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series Lynne Thigpen Nominated
1997 Daytime Emmy Awards Outstanding Directing in a Children's Series David Turner Nominated
1997 Daytime Emmy Awards Outstanding Graphic Titles and Title Design Nominated
1997 Daytime Emmy Awards Outstanding Graphic Titles and Title Design Nominated
1997 Daytime Emmy Awards Outstanding Achievement In Costume Designing/Styling Wendy Stuart Nominated
1997 Daytime Emmy Awards Outstanding Hairstyling Nominated
1997 Daytime Emmy Awards Outstanding Live and Direct to Tape Sound Mixing Nominated
1997 Online Film & Television Association Awards Best Game Show Nominated
1998 Daytime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lighting Direction Dikran Hazirjian & Charles Noble Won
1998 Daytime Emmy Awards Outstanding Children's Series Nominated
1998 Daytime Emmy Awards Outstanding Performer In A Children's Series Lynne Thigpen Nominated
1998 Daytime Emmy Awards Outstanding Directing In A Children's Series David Turner Nominated
1998 Daytime Emmy Awards Outstanding Graphics and Title Design Nominated
1998 Daytime Emmy Awards Outstanding Costume Design/Styling Wendy Stuart Nominated

International versions[edit]

  •  Quebec – A French-Canadian version of the show, titled À la poursuite de Carmen Sandiego (In pursuit of Carmen Sandiego), was aired on Radio-Canada between 1998 and 1999, shortly after the original American version of the show ended, taped in Montreal using the same set as the American series, The French theme song was written and produced by Randy Vancourt. This version of the show stars Brigitte Paquette as "The Chief", Patrick Labbé as "ACME Time Pilot Squadron Leader", and Daniel Dô, Marie-Hélène Fortin, and Widemir Noumil as "The Engine Crew". Gameplay in this version stayed the same as the original, with each pilot going through all six gates and capturing Carmen wins a grand prize package that included a mountain bike instead of a computer system. Joe Bocan played Carmen Sandiego.


  1. ^ Anthony G. Picciano; Joel Spring. "The Great American Educational-Industrial Complex". Books.google.co.uk. p. 154. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
  2. ^ a b "Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? - Episode Guide". LocateTV. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
  3. ^ "Lynne Thigpen, Actress in CBS's 'District,' Dies at 54". NYTimes.com. 2003-03-14. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
  4. ^ Van Luling, Todd (2016-08-16). "My 20-Year Quest To Find Carmen Sandiego". The Huffington Post. Retrieved August 16, 2016.
  5. ^ Cynthia Littleton (1998-03-11). "ABC tops Emmy noms". Variety. Retrieved 2016-03-30.

External links[edit]