The Chair (game show)

The Chair (game show)

The Chair was a game show television program that premiered on ABC in January 2002. It was hosted by John McEnroe and directed by Michael A. Simon. A UK version, also hosted by McEnroe, ran for one series in the same year on BBC One with a top prize of £50,000. Teresa Strasser, a former writer on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire", better known as the newsgirl of the Adam Carolla Show and host of many programs on TLC as well as ABC's "How to Get the Guy" was a writer on the US version.

Before the Show

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.

The game

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 questions. However, the contestant's heart rate was continuously measured throughout the game and compared to a "redline" threshold. This value started at 160% (later 170%) of the resting heart rate, and it was lowered by 5% after each question.

Once a question had been asked, 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 after the heart rate dropped below the threshold could an answer be given. (Redlining between questions, or while McEnroe was asking a question, carried no penalty.) The third question involved recalling information from a video clip, the fifth was a list, and the seventh involved choosing which event occurred first/last (However, in Stephen 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. If the money ran out or a question was answered wrongly, the game ended. The question values and penalties for redlining are shown in the table below.


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, a hive of bees, having McEnroe serve tennis balls at the contestant's head, etc.) If the contestant could endure the event for 15 seconds, 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.


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, 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.

If a contestant could answer all seven questions correctly and keep his/her heart under control for the entire game, the top prize of $250,000 is awarded.

Countermeasure Rule

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. 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.

The Chair lasted for nine episodes on ABC in 2002, but not before two people managed to answer the seventh question correctly, with Chris Mackerer winning $224,600 and Stephen Benjamin winning the maximum $250,000. Just a week before Mackerer's $224,000+ win, another player, Dean Sheffron, got to see the seventh question, but redlined away $132,200 after he was unable to get his heartrate under control.

13 episodes were taped but the remaining 4 have never been aired, despite ABC originally announcing they would air the entire order, but soon changed their minds.

Many episodes were taped post-midnight hours to hurry production in order to compete with Fox's show The Chamber. The latter was also canceled quickly, airing only 3 episodes.

The Chamber Vs. The Chair

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. Supposedly, a lawsuit was filed but nothing became of it.

International versions

*In the United Kingdom, the show aired on BBC1 from 31 August to 9 November 2002, with a top prize of £50,000. John McEnroe hosted this version as well.
*In France, the show was called "Zone Rouge" ("Red Zone" in French) and was hosted by Jean-Pierre Foucault (also host of the French version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire") and aired on TF1 with a top prize of 10,000.
*A version in Russia aired on STS with a top prize of at least руб1,000,000.
*In Thailand, the show was called "เก้าอี้ระทึก" (The Excited Chair) and was hosted by John Rattanaweeroj and aired on CH7 with a top prize of ฿3,000,000.
*TBS aired a version of the show in Japan with ¥10,000,000 as the grand prize. *A version once aired in the United Arab Emirates as well.

External links

* [ UK Gameshows Page: "The Chair"]

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