Series / Chain Reaction
Game Show franchise created in 1980 by Bob Stewart (of Password and Pyramid fame) for NBC and hosted by Bill Cullen. In this game, two teams in true Stewartian fashion, each composed of two celebrities and a civilian competed to form a chain of eight words. Each chain would consist of two-word phrases with a common word. For instance, a completed chain might have CHAIN REACTION TIME TABLE TENNIS BALL GAME SHOW, forming the phrases of "chain reaction", "reaction time", "time table", "table tennis", etc. Given the first and last word of each chain, the teams would attempt to guess the missing words, which were revealed one letter at a time. The winners then proceeded to a Bonus Round which was more of a cousin to the Pyramid format of using a long clue to describe a word, except the celebrities from the winning team constructed the clues one word at a time. This Bonus Round was later adapted into its own game, a short-lived format called Go.

A later adaptation, taped in Canada, aired on USA Network from 1986-91 with teams of two contestants each. At first, this version was hosted by Blake Emmons, a Canadian television personality and Country Music singer. Blake Emmons was a contestant on The Joker's Wild during Bill Cullen's tenure, and lasted only a few months as host of Chain Reaction before being replaced by Geoff Edwards (who had previously substituted on the NBC version when Bill Cullen had to fill in briefly on Password Plus). Because of Can Con laws, Chain Reaction had to feature a Canadian personality on camera, and as a result announcer Rod Charlebois appeared on-camera in every show for the rest of the run. This version simply offered another chain as its bonus round.

In 2006, GSN (formerly the Game Show Network) revived the format with Dylan Lane as host. The rules stayed mostly the same, except the teams were always three men vs. three women. The format also included a small four-word "speed chain" after each solved chain, as well as a betting format in Round 4. In Round 4, contestants bet certain amounts on whether or not they would get the chain word right; unfortunately, this often led to contestants whittling away their lead on stupid guesses. This version also retained the NBC bonus round, but with slight rule changes.

GSN revived the format again in 2015 with another new host, Mike Catherwood (best known as the host of Loveline).

There had been other versions of the format for countries outside the United States, including a French-Canadian one in Quebec called Action Reaction (taped on the same set as the Blake Emmons/Geoff Edwards run), an Italian one called Reazione a catena, and a British version called Lucky Ladders.

Not to be confused with the film starring Keanu Reeves.

Game Show Tropes in use:

  • Bonus Round:
    • The NBC and first GSN run had "Instant Reaction" (only named in the NBC run), where the players chained together words, one at a time, to make a question. This was taken from an unsold Stewart pilot called Get Rich Quick! (1977), and spun off into Go (1983-84).
    • The USA run merely had another chain with a Progressive Jackpot linked to it.
    • The 2015 GSN run replaces it with the "Super Chain", in which the winning team has 60 seconds to complete seven pairs from a common starting word.
  • Bonus Space: If a word had a plus sign next to it, it was worth double the normal value.
  • Home Game
  • Personnel:

This show provides examples of:

  • Ascended Extra: Rod Charlebois, who would play a quick round with Geoff Edwards at the top of each show. His ascension was mostly due to Can Con laws.
    • Also, before getting to host the USA run, Geoff Edwards had been a Guest Host while Bill Cullen was over on Password Plus subbing for an ill Allen Ludden.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In a GSN episode, the first part of a word near the bottom was "Cock". The first letter of the second word was "S". Then the second letter was "U". Everyone was laughing about it and trying to avoid saying what it looked like. (The word was "Sure".) See for yourself.
  • Guest Host: Geoff Edwards hosted the original version for a short time so that Bill Cullen could fill in for Allen Ludden on Password Plus.
  • Obvious Rule Patch:
    • The NBC version had five Instant Reaction payout structures. The second format had contestants start with $1 and add a half-zero for each correct response, but was changed when the most money won from this in the first week was $100.
    • The GSN version began its bonus round with seven correct answers doubling the team's bank and ten correct answers tripling it. After six weeks of people stinking it up, the requirements were lowered to five (doubling) and seven (tripling).
    • The GSN version also altered its Bonus Round format multiple times in order to keep the contestants from playing loose and fast with the "alternating words" rule.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: The theme for the first two versions had previously been used on, of all things, Supertrain.
  • Shout-Out: After a contestant couldn't get the word "pyramid", Bill Cullen remarked "Well, the nighttime version's been canceled."
  • Spin-Off: Go used the NBC bonus round as its main game.
  • Thematic Theme Tune: The GSN version had a vocal theme song that explained how the game worked.
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: Several foreign versions have aired.
    • The United Kingdom had Lucky Ladders, based on the USA Network format, from 1988 to 1993.
    • The Canadian province of Quebec had Action Réaction from 1986 to 1991.
    • Indonesia had Kata Berkait ("Hooked Word") from 1995 to 2001.
    • Italy has Reazione a catena: L'intesa vincente ("Chain Reaction: The Agreement Winner"), which debuted in 2007.
    • Turkey has Kelime Zinciri ("Word Chain"), which debuted in 2012.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The NBC/GSN bonus round had nothing to do with the front game. But, it still makes some sense, given the idea that you have to form a question by making a chain of words.
    • Reazione a catena shoehorned in a round based on the unsold 1996 quiz show pilot Combination Lock, which was even further removed than the 1980 bonus round.