Series / Chain Reaction

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/chainreaction.jpg
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 dubbed Instant Reaction, 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 Montreal, aired on USA Network and Global in Canada 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 hosted a number of Stewart series and pilots; his most recent hosting gig up to that point was Starcade, plus the unsold 1985 Stewart pilot $50,000 A Minute). Because of CanCon 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. 1988 saw the two-member teams dropped for solo players, and the final season became a tournament for a top prize of $40,000, hence the rename to The $40,000 Chain Reaction.

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 saw the return of Instant Reaction, 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); this version seemed to hark back more to the USA era, with a similar logo and format (the Speed Chains were dropped, and the contestant teams were reverted back to two players; the betting element in Round 4 was still present, however); because of the lack of a third contestant, Instant Reaction was dropped again, this time for a new endgame called the Superchain (see below).

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 Emmons/Edwards run), an Italian one called Reazione a catena, and a British version called Lucky Ladders on ITV.

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 team/player was shown the first word in a chain and the initial letter of the other words. One at a time, the player(s) would guess at the next word in the chain. For each wrong guess, the next letter would be filled in and a letter deducted from their account. If the team could finish the chain before running out of letters the team won the jackpot. If not, they (or he/she) won $100 per word, including the one at the top. The $40,000 season eliminated the endgame entirely.
    • The 2015 GSN run replaced Instant Reaction with the Superchain, in which the winning team has 60 seconds to complete seven pairs from a common starting word for $5000.
  • Bonus Space:
    • In the Cullen version, if a word had a plus sign next to it, it was worth double the normal value.
    • For the first USA/Global season, the middle word in the second chain had a dollar sign (or early on, an asterisk) next to it; if a contestant managed to guess it, $250 went to their team.
  • Game Show Winnings Cap: The NBC run had champions playing until reaching ten matches or until defeated. The USA/Global era had the limit lowered to five matches. Both GSN runs were one-and-done.
  • Home Game: The Lane version had an interactive counterpart on GSN's website.
  • Personnel:
  • Progressive Jackpot: For the USA-era endgame, it would be worth a base of $3,000 plus $1,000 for each day it wasn't won; the base was dropped to $2,000 when the show switched from two-member teams to solo players. The highest the jackpot got was $16,000.
  • Retired Game Show Element: For the first season of the USA/Global run, any team that stayed for five days retired undefeated and earned a $5000 cash bonus.

This show provides examples of:

  • Ascended Extra: Rod Charlebois, who would play a quick round with Geoff Edwards at the end of each show. His ascension was mostly due to CanCon 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.
  • Mythology Gag: The first GSN run had a blue and yellow color scheme, much like the NBC run; the second GSN run has a modernized version of the later USA-era logo and a similar color scheme.
  • 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 $1,000.
    • The first 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 first GSN version also altered its Instant Reaction format multiple times in order to keep the contestants from playing loose and fast with the "alternating words" rule.
  • Pilot: One for the Cullen version, taped October 27, 1979; here, only two celebrities were present, competing alongside two married couples, and Instant Reaction offered a possible $100,000 payout.
    • The 2006 version also had three pilots, hosted by Tim Vincent of Access Hollywood (he would later host some of the 2009 $1,000,000 Pyramid pilots); these pilots had your standard audiovisual differences (including an oddly-comical logo), two betting rounds (to facilitate this, each team started with $1,000 banks), the teams were "three-of-a-kind", Hot Potato style (as compared to the "battle of the sexes" the series had), and returning champions were in place.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: The theme for the first two versions had previously been used on, of all things, Supertrain. It was, in turn, recycled by Stewart for an unsold 1982 pilot called Twisters, used as the sound for the puck going up and down the shuffleboard.
  • Shout-Out: After celebrity guest Joyce Bulifant couldn't get the word "pyramid", Bill Cullen remarked "Well, the nighttime version's been canceled."
  • Stealth Pun: Possibly; the 2015 GSN run's bonus round was named the "Superchain"- and the USA era (of which the 2015 run was partially modelled after) utilized the NBC-era theme, which as stated was recycled from Supertrain (and yet, didn't use that theme).
  • Spin-Off: Go used the NBC bonus round as its main game.
  • Thematic Theme Tune: The first GSN version had a vocal theme song that explained how the game worked.
  • Theme Tune Rap: A milder example with the first GSN version.
  • Those Two Guys: Geoff and Rod from the USA era.
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: Several foreign versions have aired.
    • The United Kingdom had Lucky Ladders, based on the USA Network format, from 1988 to 1993 on ITV, via Anglia.
    • The Canadian province of Quebec had Action Réaction from 1986 to 1991; this was taped at the same station the USA run did, so they shared the set and graphics.
    • 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.
  • Visual Pun: The first GSN run had the word graphics literally linked by chains.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: Instant Reaction 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.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Series/ChainReaction