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Series: Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?

Successor to Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? on PBS, Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? challenged kids with history instead of geography. The action took place aboard The Chronoskimmer, a massive floating Time Machine powered by knowledge and dancing crew members. The gumshoes were renamed "Time Pilots", host Kevin Shinick was their "Squadron Leader", and "The Chief" Lynne Thigpen from World had a much less prominent role. And for the first (and, to date, only) time, a live actress played the lady in red herself.

The format was virtually identical to that of World. Three contestants answered trivia questions to earn "Power Points" (instead of "ACME Crime Bucks") and track one of Carmen's crooks through time. Eventually, the contestant with the lowest score was sent home with a Consolation Prize package, and the remaining contestants played a mini-game that had them place historic events in reverse chronological order. The winner moved on to the Bonus Round, "The Trail of Time", to try to capture Carmen and win the grand prize.

The show lasted for two seasons on PBS and a total of 115 episodes which aired from October 7, 1996 to December 12, 1997 (with reruns airing until October 2, 1998).

Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? provides examples of the following tropes:

Game Show tropes:

  • Bonus Round: "The Trail of Time". The contestant went through six stations and answered a question at each one. For a correct answer, the door opened and the contestant moved on to the next station; an incorrect answer meant that the contestant had to open the door manually using a pulley, a pump, or whatever was there.
  • Golden Snitch: The reverse chronological order game. The contestant with the most Power Points got to choose who went first, but it was just a matter of luck and memory as far as who won. So a contestant could do poorly on the trivia rounds and still make it to the Bonus Round by winning this game.
  • Losing Horns: The time buzzer in the Trail of Time round was a type A. Carmen herself laughed as well.
  • Personnel:

Other tropes:

  • Accidental Misnaming: In Season 2, Episode 44, Kevin Shinick quickly gets frustrated when Thomas Edison comes onboard the Chronoskimmer and repeatedly refers to the former as Wishbone. Without asking the obvious question, of course. How in God's name does Thomas Edison know about ''Wishbone'' years before even the invention of the television?
  • Acme Products: Sort of. Acme Timenet appears to be a spiritual successor or branch of the Acme Detective Agency.
  • Acting for Two: Due to budget constraints, most of the actors on the show portrayed more than one character, the notable exception being the two actresses who played Carmen Sandiego.
  • Ambiguous Syntax:
    Jacqueline Hyde: I was just playing catch with my uncle. (switches to Hyde mode) Boy, is he hard to throw!
  • Black Boss Lady: Lynne Thigpen
  • The Cameo: One episode had the World Chief suddenly appear on the ship as it traveled around 1991, and as you'd expect she wondered where Greg Lee and Rockapella were. Thigpen wore her World costume, and even got to speak with her equally confused future incarnation. (Considering that the whole reason Time existed was because World's budget was slashed, this cameo may fall squarely into Biting-the-Hand Humor and/or Self-Deprecation.)
  • Canon Immigrant: All the Season 2 villains appeared in the 1997 version of the video game, along with four additional villains (Baron Grinnit, Jane Reaction, General Mayhem, and Dee Cryption). Note Baron Wasteland isn't in the video game, but they put a different character with the title "baron" in it.
  • Cardboard Prison: You'd think they'd have fixed it by now with all that fancy technology.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Carmen, as portrayed in the show's opening, as well as all her crooks. Very much the opposite of her portrayal in the Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? cartoon. (She didn't have any characterization to speak of in the World game show, aside from being annoyed by her crooks' incompetence.)
  • Cartoon Bug-Sprayer: Carried by Buggs Zapper. Perhaps a way to give him some kind of weapon in lieu of an actual gun. He is a gangster, after all.
  • Catch Phrase
    • "At ACME Time Net, history is our job! The future is yours!"
    • Carmen: "There's something very special I want you to steal." This was usually followed by:
      • Season 1: "This Info Beam will give you all the details."
      • Season 2: "Bring it back to me in this Loot Orb when you have it."
    • The Chief: "Time Pilots, [a member of Carmen's gang] just stole something from the past! You've got twenty-eight minutes to get it back, or history will change forever!"
    • Kevin: "Let's warp to the time of the crime!"
  • Celebrity Paradox: In the episode on computing, one of the items in the reverse chronological order game is the debut of the first Carmen Sandiego computer game in 1985.
  • Couch Gag:
    • What the thief-of-the-week says after being summoned by Carmen at the start of the show.
    • In the second season only, the goofy thing Kevin is doing in his bedroom before he's summoned on stage.
  • Delayed Ripple Effect
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Early contestants on the Trail of Time wore elbow pads and knee pads in addition to their helmets.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Apparently, the Tienanmen Square massacre and the events of "Trail of Tears" offends Sir Vile's sense of honor.
  • Evil Is Hammy: V.I.L.E. liked to ham it up.
  • Expository Theme Tune: "Chronoskimmer, engine's hot, V.I.L.E. villains, evil plot! Our brave squadron leader will help us defeat her and bring back the loot to its rightful place in time!" That pretty much sums it up.
  • The Faceless: Carmen's face was always partly hidden by her hat.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: The "Global Pursuit" round always ended with Kevin telling the Time Pilots the crook left the final location just before they got there.
  • Five-Bad Band:
  • Fully-Clothed Nudity: In the episode where the sewing machine is stolen, the "clue finder" is a tailor who accidentally steals Kevin's clothes, leaving him in Goofy Print Underwear.
  • Game Over Woman: When the clock hit zero in the Trail of Time, the viewers were treated to a scene of Carmen escaping with an Evil Laugh.
  • I'll Never Tell You What I'm Telling You: Usually at some point in the show in the second season, the villain-of-the-week breaks into ACME communications to gloat about how the Time Pilots will never find them. By describing the time period where they're hiding in great detail. Might also count as Criminal Mind Games.
    • Justified when there was a Data Boost round after that clue, as those were caused by the crook attacking the Chronoskimmer, implying such gloating was likely trying to bait the Time Pilots into a trap.
  • It Runs on Nonsensoleum: The Chronoskimmer runs on "fact fuel" generated by kids answering history questions. It's a game show. Just take it.
  • Kick the Dog: In the Mirror Universe skits, the ACME members did things like pouring acid on flowers.
  • Large Ham: Pretty much the whole cast.
  • Laughably Evil: All of Carmen's gang, especially Baron Wasteland.
  • Long Bus Trip: Baron Wasteland, replaced by Buggs Zapper in Season 2. They were played by the same actor.
  • Mirror Universe: In one type of skit, the ACME Agency was evil and V.I.L.E. was good. Kevin always announced the skit by saying, "Oh no! We're being sucked into a parallel universe!"
  • Monumental Theft: It wouldn't be Carmen Sandiego without one.
  • Nintendo Hard: The Trail of Time wasn't this in theory, but it became this in execution. The time pilot would stand in one of six gates and be asked a history question with two answers (Example: It's 1939, what epic movie has its premiere in Atlanta: Gone with the Wind or The Ten Commandments?) If they got the answer right, the gate opened, but if they didn't, they had to perform some time-consuming task such as pulling up a rock with a rope. It became downright maddening when they decided to scatter the gates in a big mess, and didn't put any type of trail on the ground (the Engine Crew would point them where to go with airport flashlights). It's led some to believe that PBS deliberately made the whole thing confusing to avoid paying out the grand prize.
  • The Omniscient: Omniscia
  • Punny Name: It wouldn't be a Carmen Sandiego game without it, although a couple of the puns on the villains' names were less obvious in this show than in World. Buggs Zapper, Baron Wasteland and Jacqueline Hyde were obvious enough. Dr. Belljar and Sir Vile were more obscure, and Medeva was an interesting three-layered pun of Madea, Medieval and Diva.
    • The guides in the computer game were even worse: Ann Tiquity (for adventures in ancient times), Ivan Idea (for anything involving inventors), and Polly Tix are just a few.
  • Rogues Gallery
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Medeva. "Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme and Sage... What's up, boss? I got your page."
  • Screen Shake: When the Chronoskimmer got hit by something.
  • Self-Deprecation: During a clue, Kevin is prompted by a woman about the new technology of Television. Kevin then describes possible shows one could watch on this new device, including "....a host and three kids chasing an imaginary crook thru time." After the Q&A, Kevin laments that if they don't stop the criminals antics, the show "might not exist."
  • San Dimas Time: The entire point of the series. Every episode has The Chief tell us, "Time Pilots, (name of Carmen's henchman of the episode) just stole something from the past. You've got 28 minutes to get it back or history will change forever!"
  • Shoot The Fuel Tank: The V.I.L.E. villains would sometimes do it to drain the Chronoskimmer's "fact fuel". Of course, it wouldn't explode.
  • Speed Round: While not timed, the "Data Boost" segments served this purpose. They consisted of either/or questions on the buzzers at 5 points each, up or down (10 points for the final, "Ultimate Data Boost"). Similarly, the "Global Pursuit" segment, which was triple choice for 5 points up or down.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Buggs Zapper, who replaced Baron Wasteland in Season 2. Justified, in that they were played by the same actor.
  • Techno Babble: A lot of it. What exactly is a "temporal sequencer"?
  • Technology Marches On: The grand prize was a desktop computer with an 850 MB hard drive. Yes, 850 megabytes. We have USB flash drives now with more space than that.
    • Not an obvious one, but the second season opening sequence led with a machine moving a CD onto a reader. One could argue the disc is some sort of more advanced storage device, but given the time frame and that it seemed the disc contained numerous case files.....
  • Temporal Paradox: "You have 28 minutes to get it back, or history will change forever!"
  • Timed Mission
    • The "Trail of Time" bonus round was played in 90 seconds. Between the fact that each question chewed up six seconds of your time and you had to work off any wrong answers by opening the gate manually, you needed 4 out of 6 to even have a fighting chance, and that's if you could work the device quickly enough. Five or six, on the other hand, more or less guaranteed a win...although see Nintendo Hard, above.
    • The contestants ostensibly had 28 minutes to recover the object. Given that that's the length of an episode, it's more of a Continue Your Mission, Dammit!, because the structure of the show guarantees that they'll recover the object with enough time to spare to put it back, then attempt a Trail of Time campaign.
  • Time Machine: The aptly named Chronoskimmer, much larger than the version in Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?
  • Time Police: ACME Timenet
  • Time Travel
  • Title Theme Tune: "Tell me where in time is Carmen Sandiego?"
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: A French-Canadian version aired in about 1998 or so, which amusingly replaced their version of World.
  • Voice of the Legion: Jacqueline Hyde's evil side.
  • When Things Spin, Science Happens: In the first opening sequence, two of the things The Chief orders the crew to do to get the Chronoskimmer running involve making something spin. In at least one case(starting up the engine), a crew member is strapped to the spinning object. Because... well, why not?
  • World of Ham: Hoo, boy... A fun game for those at home might be "Pick the Hammiest Actor".
  • You ALL Look Familiar: Recycling the actors created this. It was especially jarring whenever Lynne Thigpen played a different character. Less jarring with the crooks since they were so worked over in post production.
  • You Have 48 Hours: Or 28 minutes, in this case.

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alternative title(s): Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego
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