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Series / The Chair

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What do you get when you take a person, a chair, a pit that probably represents Hell, and someone who's practically The Devil himself (well, in the world of tennis anyway)? You get this short-lived ABC Game Show hosted by tennis analyst and former player John McEnroe, who was best known for several infamous on-court confrontations during major tournaments.

Contestants were asked a variety of questions while seated in the titular chair (which was elevated above a giant pit they entered the studio from), going up a money ladder of seven questions which added to the player's bank (which began at $5,000 and could go up to $250,000). However, contestants were analyzed prior to the show to gauge their reaction to sudden events, and to establish their resting heart rate. If a contestant's heart rate went a certain percentage over their resting heart rate at any time after a question was read (starting at 60% or 70% above, referred to in-game as "redlining"), the contestant's bank would begin to drain of money at a rate of $100 per second, and lost permission to answer until they got back under their threshold (or until their bank reached $0, instantly ending the game).


The rate of deduction and the redline threshold also increased and decreased respectively throughout the game. To make things even more interesting, two "Heartstopper" rounds were played in between questions; the player had to endure a random event of Nightmare Fuel for 15 seconds, such as a fake alligator lowered from the ceiling or McEnroe serving tennis balls at them, while still subject to the redlining rule. If the player was over their threshold after time expired, their bank would still go down until they cool down.

The show wasn't a hit, and it had to compete with Fox's even more diabolical The Chamber. Neither lasted long, but The Chair at least did relatively better.


Game Show Tropes in use:

  • Deadly Game: In the vein of one, but not quite that deadly.
  • Lifelines:
    • The Stabilizer, earned after the third question, allowed the player to set their own cash checkpoint in case they answered a question wrong. However if they redlined their bank below this checkpoint, said checkpoint would also go down.
    • After the fourth question, a player could give back the $25,000 they earned on it and keep their redline heart rate unchanged for the next question. Very rarely (if ever) used.
  • Personnel:
  • Who Wants to Be "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?": Aired by the same network as Millionaire and had a considerably lower cash prize, but still has a money ladder, lifelines, a scary and glitzy set, and debuted during the renaissance period. Unlike Millionaire, however, The Chair used a variety of different question styles instead of just multiple-choice, including observation, lists and timelines.

This show provides examples of:

  • Catch-Phrase: "You may (not) answer this question."
  • Cool Chair: The titular Chair is in fact pretty cool looking, actually.
  • Epic Fail: Happened at both ends of the game. One player made it through six questions with a bank of nearly $125,000, then redlined it all away on the last question. Another redlined as soon as McEnroe finished asking the first question, never got their heart rate down, and went broke in 50 seconds.
  • The Stoic: Invoked by the show's very premise, which forced the contestants to stay as calm as possible.
    • Not So Stoic: Also invoked, as contestants could drop the calm act as soon as their game ended. At least one contestant managed to win the top prize, and immediately went from stoic to ecstatic.
  • Transatlantic Equivalent:
    • A very faithful British adaptation ran on BBC One from 31 August to 9 November 2002, with a top prize of £50,000. McEnroe also hosted the British version; surely anyone who's played Wimbledon would be well known to British sports fans, right? (Paul Hendy did the unaired Pilot).


Example of: