Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? (game 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 languageEnglish
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes115[1]
Executive producersJay Rayvid
Kate Taylor
ProducersShirley Abraham (senior producer)
Howard Lee (supervising producer)
Charles Nordlander
James Greenberg
Dana Calderwood
Jonathan Meath
Production locationsKaufman Astoria Studios
Queens, New York
EditorKevin Conrad
Running timeapprox. 28 minutes
Production companiesWGBH-TV
Original networkPBS[2]
Original releaseOctober 7, 1996 (1996-10-07) –
December 12, 1997 (1997-12-12)

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 Broderbund Software. Just like its predecessor, the show was produced by WGBH Boston and WQED Pittsburgh. The program ran for two seasons on PBS, consisting of 115 episodes (65 in Season 1 and 50 in Season 2), which ran from October 7, 1996 to December 12, 1997, with reruns airing until September 25, 1998. The show starred Lynne Thigpen as "The Chief", Kevin Shinick as "ACME Time Pilot Squadron Leader" replacing Greg Lee and "The Engine Crew" who is considered a replacement for Rockapella 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, the longtime home of Sesame Street.



Before the show began, the viewing audience would see Carmen Sandiego in her V.I.L.E. headquarters. In Season 1, Carmen appeared in a fourth wall type of narration. In Season 2, a surveillance nano-probe from ACME filmed Carmen in her lair where it went unnoticed. She would be complaining to herself and plotting to steal the historical "seed" of her complaint. Carmen then summoned one of her V.I.L.E. henchmen or henchwomen and told him/her what to steal and where to go. In Season One, she would shine an "Info-Beam" on the villain to give the details of the object in question. In Season Two, she would give the thief a "Loot Orb" or "Cybersphere" to contain it and are just told to bring the object back to her when they find it. Once the villain takes off to do their mission, The Chief then told the audience that one of Carmen's chosen henchman had stolen something from the past. She tells them to recover the loot in 28 minutes (the length of each episode) to prevent temporal paradox. The show then began with the Engine Crew preparing the ACME Chronoskimmer (a flying saucer capable of time travel) for launch like activating the Chrono-Computer, launching the Time Pods, powering up the boosters, and then singing the show's theme song while dancing. Afterward, the Chief would introduce host "Kevin Shinick". In the first season, Kevin would directly enter from the left of the Chronoskimmer. In Season 2, Kevin was seen goofing around in his room until the Chief called him to do the show. He would then enter from the right of the Chronoskimmer.

Each episode's general theme stemmed from the loot of the day, which helped to shape the history of its kind. For example, when Carmen stole P.T. Barnum's "The Greatest Show on Earth" slogan, the episode focused on the history of advertising.

Round One[edit]

Three players (ages 10–14) known as "Time Pilots" competed. Each was given 100 'Power Points' to begin. Each section of the round had an informative skit, a question, and then a warp to pursue the villain through time; the round had four sections in Season 1 and three in Season 2.

After a skit, Kevin would present three possible answers to the pilots. The viewer could see the individual choices represented by an individual color (pink, green, or blue). All three pilots answered the question, and anyone with the correct answer scored 10 Power Points, with no penalty for incorrect answers.

Skits include the following:

  • Mission Profile: The Chief briefs Kevin and the Time Pilots by identifying the time and place of the crime, as well as some background information on the loot. This is the first skit in every episode.
  • Cluefinder: The Cluefinder was an alarm identifying a clue, either leading into one of the other skits below or causing a historical figure or object to appear aboard the Chronoskimmer to reveal more clues. The person brought aboard could be a famous figure such as Elisha Gray or Ada Lovelace or a normal person caught in a famous event, such as a Navajo Code talker or the opening of Coney Island.
  • V.I.L.E. Villain: The show's villain was shown revealing a clue, ostensibly against his or her intention. When this happened, Kevin often exclaimed "We're losing communications!" if the villain was taking over the ship. On other occasions, the ship's nano-probes would film the villain reporting to Carmen, still giving the clue to the contestants.
  • Collision Alert: Kevin conversed with a possible 'future' version of himself, to acquire clues.
  • Parallel Universe: Clues were 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 ran out of clues, he would ask the Chief to contact an omniscient informant known as Omnicia. According to the Chief, contacting Omnicia took a lot of power, and she always cited the risk of crippling the Chronoskimmer before using a computer secured in a briefcase to input the enabling codes.
  • Engine Crew's Clues: The Engine Crew sang the clues from the Engine Room. On other occasions, the Engine Crew were in the Chronoskimmer's cafeteria conversing with Libby the Cafeteria Robot (portrayed by Thigpen) as other passengers dine in the background. One episode where Kevin interacted with Eleanor Roosevelt during the "Cluefinder" skit had him stating that the cafeteria is for the Engine Crew and some other people he doesn't know.
  • Intruder Alert: The Intruder Alert alarm alerted Kevin to an intruder in his bedroom, which was Sector 5, where a figure identified as his mother revealed the clue.
  • Millenia: "The world's oldest woman;" Millenia (portrayed by Thigpen) ostensibly had been around for almost everything. Sitting on a rocking chair on her front porch, she recalls a memory relevant to the current case.
  • Elephant Guy: A businessman (portrayed by Owen Taylor) being chased through a jungle by an elephant gave clues to the time pilots, displayed in black and white.
  • The Unknown Explorer: An old bearded sailor riding on a raft provided 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 found clues inside the Chronoskimmer's Molecular Generator.
  • TIMENET Weather Report: A weather woman with a southern accent (portrayed by Alaine Kashian) gave clues during her weather report.

Other events during the round are:

  • Data Boost: Immediately after a warp, Kevin gave the pilots a choice of 2 or 3 answers and then read several questions (usually five) on a given subject using those answers (e.g., listing terms and asking whether they were cars or facial hair; listing people's names and asking if they were already dead or not yet born in the year they've traveled to; simple true/false questions; etc.). The first pilot to buzz in and guess the correct answer scored 5 Power Points, but lost 5 Power Points if they gave a wrong answer. The Data Boost happened twice per episode in Season One and once per episode in Season Two; in Season One, the first time was because they ran out of Fact Fuel after a warp and the second time was due to the villain sabotaging the Chronoskimmer. In Season Two, it was always the villain's sabotage. After the first Data Boost, Kevin always said, "Just a reminder: all our fact fuel is verified by Encyclopædia Britannica."
  • Global Pursuit: Immediately after a warp, the villain begins "globe-hopping" to try shaking off the time pilots. The time pilots looked at a map with certain areas circled on their screens and Kevin read clues about the locations, with three answer choices displayed alongside the map. Like the Data Boost, correct answers scored 5 Power Points while incorrect answers lost 5 Power Points. This round occurred once per episode and played similarly to the Chase round of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? In Season 1, pilots could ring in during the question, as was the case on World. In Season 2, pilots could only ring in after Kevin had finished reading the question.
  • Ultimate Data Boost: The final event in Round One, with twice as many questions as a normal Data Boost and with the value of the questions doubled.

The two pilots with the highest scores after the first round advanced to the second round, while the third-placed pilot was eliminated from the game. If there was a tie between two pilots for second place or a three-way tie for first place, Kevin asked a tiebreaker question, which was always identifying a President of the United States.

Round Two[edit]

With Kevin in command, the two remaining pilots fast forward to the present day and activated the Loot Tractor Beam to capture the stolen artifact. The Chief then listed eight events related to the day's theme that the pilots had to recite in reverse chronological order, with the final item being the day's loot; whichever pilot had the higher score from Round One chose who went first, with a coin toss as a tiebreaker. The first pilot to recite the events in the correct order restored the loot to its proper place in time and advanced to the Bonus Round to capture Carmen and the day's villain.

Bonus Round: The Trail of Time[edit]

The Trail of Time consisted of six "Time Portals," each one themed on a different era, which the winning pilot had ninety seconds to navigate. At each portal, Carmen would ask them a question on the day's theme with two answer choices. If the pilot answered correctly, the gate opened automatically; if not, he/she had to perform a small manual task to open the gate (spinning a wheel, turning a crank, pulling a rope, etc.).

Once through the second or third gate, the pilot captured the day's villain and began chasing after Carmen. If the pilot passed through the sixth gate before time ran out, they took the energized "Capture Crystal" and placed it into the "Chronolock Chamber" to capture Carmen.

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, as they all headed back to the present.


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.[1] Reruns of the show continued on PBS until September 25, 1998.


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 (portrayed by Janine LaManna in Season 1, Brenda Burke in 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 (portrayed by James Greenberg) – 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 supposedly 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 was 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 (portrayed by James Greenberg) – 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 (portrayed by Owen Taylor in Season 1, Jamie Gustis in 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 Missiles"). In the second season, he sabotaged the systems directly.
  • Jacqueline Hyde (portrayed by 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 (portrayed by 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. In the second, she would cast a spell into an open maintenance panel that would cause something to happen to the Engine Crew causing a Data Boost to be done to undo the spell. 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 (portrayed by 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 it 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.


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.

The third-place player received an "ACME TimeNet Mission Pack." It contained a Britannica world atlas; a Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? t-shirt, baseball cap, and wristwatch; and a collection of Carmen Sandiego CD-ROM games (all of which also featured Lynne Thigpen as the Chief) and board games: Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?, Where in the U.S.A. Is Carmen Sandiego?, and Where in Space is Carmen Sandiego? The second-place player received a Mission Pack and a CD player.

If the first-place player won the Bonus Round and captured Carmen, he/she won the grand prize of a complete multimedia computer system (specifically, the Gateway 2000 P5-120) a year of Britannica Online, a Britannica CD-ROM encyclopedia, and a 32-volume set of Encyclopædia Britannica. If Carmen escaped, the pilot received a portable music system in addition to a 32-volume set of Encyclopædia Britannica (in season 1) or an ACME TimeNet Mission Pack (in season 2).



The series was created as a spin-off of the long-running geography game show, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?.[5] Executive producers Kate Taylor of WGBH and Jay Rayvid of WQED wanted to refocus the show on history as a recent study had shown American children were weak in this area, and because Broderbund had already created a game in this field.[6] Taylor noted that it was important to them to create something new and fresh and different for fans of the original show.[5]

Around 10% of each half-hour episode consisted of computer-generated animation and 3-D special effects, and the graphics/illustration for all episodes in a season were produced in around four months. The budget for each episode of the show' was $46,000. Animator David J. Masher spent $120,000 for animation equipment in his studio -he worked with a tight schedule and low budget.[6] The question writers worked with the Encyclopædia Britannica and a panel of history teachers.[7]

Educational goals[edit]

Rayvid noted that history can be more politically charged than the more cut-and-dried geography, noting, for instance, how the nature of historical documents led to bias toward male white stories. Moving away from a pro-American bias, in a World War II themed episode, the show spoke candidly about American internment camps for Japanese-Americans, citing this as an example of how "We try to deal with controversy in a very straightforward, educational way".[8] Another aim of the show was to give young viewers "a sense of time", in that things happened before they were born that influenced their current reality.[9]


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,[10] and is sung by The Engine Crew.

Like its predecessor 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.

Scott Wells served as the 3-D animator while Raeford Dwyer was the animation producer; together they gave the show a style that mixed computer-treated video FMV performances computer-generated two- and three-dimensional animation and special effects.[11]

A live version of the World and Time shows ("Carmen Sandiego Live") was performed at 85 sites across the United States and Canada from 1993 to 1997.

Critical reception[edit]

The New York Times felt the show stood out among new afternoon series.[12]


Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego has been nominated thirteen times for awards. It also won a Daytime Emmy Award in 1998.[13]

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[14] Outstanding Lighting Direction Dikran Hazirjian & Charles Noble Won
1998 Daytime Emmy Awards[14] Outstanding Children's Series Nominated
1998 Daytime Emmy Awards[14] Outstanding Performer In A Children's Series Lynne Thigpen Nominated
1998 Daytime Emmy Awards[14] Outstanding Directing In A Children's Series David Turner Nominated
1998 Daytime Emmy Awards[14] Outstanding Multi-Camera Editing Nominated
1998 Daytime Emmy Awards[14] 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 produced by Radio-Canada in 1998 (with reruns airing through at least 2001), 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 Normil 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 Sandiego wins a grand prize package that included a mountain bike instead of a computer system.


  1. ^ a b "Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? - Episode Guide". LocateTV. Archived from the original on April 13, 2016. Retrieved March 30, 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  2. ^ Anthony G. Picciano; Joel Spring (May 7, 2013). The Great American Educational-Industrial Complex. p. 154. ISBN 9781136322303. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  3. ^ "Lynne Thigpen, Actress in CBS's 'District,' Dies at 54". The New York Times. March 14, 2003. Archived from the original on April 17, 2016. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  4. ^ Van Luling, Todd (August 16, 2016). "My 20-Year Quest To Find Carmen Sandiego". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on August 16, 2016. Retrieved August 16, 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Current.org | PBS shows for older kids". current.org. Retrieved December 29, 2018.
  6. ^ a b Diesenhouse, Susan (October 20, 1996). "What in the World's With 'Carmen Sandiego'?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on December 29, 2018. Retrieved December 29, 2018.
  7. ^ ""Carmen Sandiego: Time Traveler" by Niki Kapsambelis Of the - St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), November 3, 1996". w. Archived from the original on December 29, 2018. Retrieved December 29, 2018.
  8. ^ ""Carmen Sandiego: Time Traveler" by Niki Kapsambelis Of the - St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), November 3, 1996". Archived from the original on December 29, 2018. Retrieved December 29, 2018.
  9. ^ ""'Carmen Sandiego' Will Make Learning History an Adventure" by McAllister, Nancy - The Florida Times Union, October 28, 1996". Archived from the original on December 29, 2018. Retrieved December 29, 2018.
  10. ^ "SeanTalk - Sean Altman's Seanecdotes". www.seanaltman.com. Archived from the original on November 21, 2019. Retrieved December 29, 2018.
  11. ^ Diesenhouse, Susan (October 20, 1996). "What in the World's With 'Carmen Sandiego'?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on April 11, 2019. Retrieved September 6, 2019.
  12. ^ Mifflin, Lawrie (November 3, 1996). "Fattening Up the Menu for Children's TV". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on December 29, 2018. Retrieved December 29, 2018.
  13. ^ Cynthia Littleton (March 11, 1998). "ABC tops Emmy noms". Variety. Archived from the original on October 2, 2013. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  14. ^ a b c d e f Littleton, Cynthia (March 12, 1998). "ABC tops Emmy noms". Variety. Archived from the original on October 2, 2013. Retrieved December 29, 2018.

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