|Created by||Julie Christie|
|Written by||Phil Andres|
Gary Stuart Kaplan
|Directed by||Michael A. Simon|
|Presented by||John McEnroe|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||13 (4 unaired)|
Andrew J. Golder
Gregory V. Sherman
Craig W. Hoffman
|Running time||44 minutes|
|Production||Touchdown Television (Touchdown Productions)|
Trailpolis Entertainment Group
Target Distribution, Ltd. (William Morris Agency)
|Picture format||NTSC 480i (4:3)|
|Original release||January 15 -|
March 4, 2002
The Chair is a New Zealander game show that was created by Julie Christie, Darryl McEwen and Brian Bigg. Although The Chair was originally developed in New Zealand, the first country where the program aired in was the United States. The American version, which was hosted by former tennis champion John McEnroe, aired on ABC for nine episodes from January 15 to March 4, 2002; the American version would be cancelled with four episodes remaining unaired of its original 13-episode order. McEnroe would later host the British version, which aired between August 31 and November 9, 2002 on BBC One. Among the show's writers was writer/actress Teresa Strasser, who had served on ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and later hosted While You Were Out.
Prospective contestants underwent extensive medical examination before appearing. They were given intelligence tests and had their heart monitored for several hours, among other diagnostic procedures to see how they would react to sudden surprises. If they were declared fit, they moved on to the game.
Once seated in the Chair, the contestant found him/herself looking up at a large video screen on which the host'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 multiple-choice questions. The contestant's heart rate was continuously measured throughout the game and compared to a "redline" threshold. This value started at 60% (later 70%) above the resting heart rate, and it was reduced by 5% of the resting heart rate after each question (with a maximum redline threshold of between 130% and 140% for the final question). For example, a contestant with a resting heart rate of 80 would have an initial redline threshold of 128 or 136 (160% and 170% of the resting rate, respectively), which would drop by 4 (5%) after each question.
For each question except the fifth, a list of four possible answers was presented, and then the question itself was read. The host would then tell the contestant whether or not an answer could be accepted, depending on their heart rate at the moment.
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 while the heart rate was no higher than the threshold number could an answer be given. Redlining between questions, or while a question was being asked, mostly carried no penalty; the penalty goes into effect after the answer choices had been read. The third question involved recalling information from a series of images that appeared on the screen above them and required the player to remember something specific or particular details about one image, the fifth required the player to list items pertaining to a given category, and the seventh involved choosing which event occurred first or last (this question type was eliminated later in the show's run). After the fourth question, the host made a one-time offer: keep the redline rate constant for the next question, at a cost of $25,000; this offer was rarely accepted.
As long as the contestant had money in the account and continued to answer questions correctly, the game continued until all seven questions were answered correctly. The game prematurely ended when a contestant answered a single question incorrectly, lost all of their money due to redlining, or committed a third violation of the countermeasure rule.
If the contestant answered a question incorrectly, he/she left with whatever amount he/she had "stabilized" (see below). Correctly answering every question awarded the contestant all of the money in his/her account, for a potential top prize of $250,000 if he/she had no redlining penalties.
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 or a hive of bees, a large pendulum swinging just overhead, having McEnroe serve tennis balls at the contestant's head, etc.). Precautions were taken to ensure the contestant's safety during these events, such as a pane of heavy plastic being set just in front of his/her face as McEnroe served. If the contestant could endure the event for 15 seconds (20 seconds in some versions), the event would end. If he/she went over the redline rate, the event continued until the heart rate was under control, and the contestant lost money at the rate for the previously answered question. In the Korean version, the host is responsible for initiating the heartstopper by saying, simply enough, "start the heartstopper", at which point the countdown begins. If a contestant is redlining, the heartstopper is not officially over until the contestant lowers their heart rate back into the "safe zone". In some international versions of the show, a contestant must answer rapid-fire free-response questions in a 45-second bonus round which is designed to increase the redline threshold. In the New Zealand version, the contestant must answer 7 questions on one of the three subjects on the screen above him/her. Each correct answer it was given, he/she will earn money but with each wrong answer to each question, he/she will be monetarily penalized from his/her banked winnings.
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 or received their third violation of the countermeasure rule, 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.
In the British version of the show, a contestant was required to stabilize after correctly answering the fifth question if he/she had not yet done so by that point.
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, the host gave a warning. If a contestant received a third violation, he/she was disqualified from the game; contestants could still leave with their stabilized amount. The latter never happened, though one contestant on the US show received two violations and was 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 penalized. In the Korean version, that warning rule only applied in heartstoppers.
The Chair aired for nine episodes on ABC between January 15 and March 4, 2002, but not before two people managed to answer the final question correctly; Kris Mackerer won $224,600 (equivalent to $319,260 in 2019) on the fourth episode that aired on February 5 and Steven Benjamin won the maximum $250,000 (equivalent to $355,365 in 2019) in the ninth and final episode that aired on March 4. A week before Mackerer's $224,600 win, another player, Dean Sheffron, reached the last question with a total of $132,200 but lost it all due to redlining.
Thirteen episodes were taped, but only nine were broadcast. Many episodes were taped during post-midnight hours to hurry production in order to compete with Fox's show The Chamber (which was cancelled after three episodes of its six-episode order were aired). Both programs would air during NBC's coverage of the 2002 Winter Olympics, which resulted in low ratings and became a factor in the cancellation of both programs (along with high production costs).
The Chair premiered around the same time as Fox's torture show The Chamber. The production companies fought over this, each claiming the other show was a rip-off of theirs. A lawsuit was filed against Fox and the production company of The Chamber by the New Zealand production company of The Chair, Touchdown Television, but nothing became of it.
|Country||Local Name||Host||Network||Top Prize||Premiere/Air dates/First year broadcast|
El Kursi 
|Ibrahim Abu Joudeh||Abu Dhabi TV||US$100,000||February 17, 2003|
|Australia||The Chair||Unknown||Seven Network||Unknown||2002|
|Austria||The Chair: Nimm Platz in der Hölle||Oliver Stamm||ATV (Austria)||EUR25,000||June 2003|
|Asparuh Minchev||NOVA||25 000?||2002 - 2003|
|France||Zone Rouge||Jean-Pierre Foucault||TF1||EUR15,000
|January 2003 - April 2005|
|Germany||Puls Limit: Jeder Herzschlag zählt||Peer Kusmagk||VOX||EUR20,000||April 22, 2003 -- June 10, 2003|
|Kostas Apostolidis||ANT1||EUR50,000||October -- December 2002|
|Masanori Hamada||TBS||¥10,000,000||May 25 - September 28, 2005|
|Mexico||La Silla||Juan Manuel Bernal||TV Azteca||MX$250,000||2005|
| New Zealand
|The Chair||Matthew Ridge||TV2||NZ$50,000||April 2, 2002 - June 4, 2002|
|Fedor Bondarchuk||STS||RUB 410,000||September 7, 2002 -- August 28, 2004|
The Chair Korea
|Seo Gyeong-seok||KBS||?20,000,000||December 14, 2011|
|Shin Dong-yup||?50,000,000||March 14, 2012|
|Spain||La Silla||Constantino Romero||Telemadrid
|EUR100,000||June - August 2002|
The Chair Kao-Ie-Ra-Teuk
|Noppon Komarachun||BBTV CH7||?3,000,000||July 8 - November 25, 2003|
|Turkey||Koltuk||Osmantan Erk?r||Kanal D||250.000.000.000 lira||April 10, 2002|
|United Kingdom||The Chair||Paul Hendy (Un-aired Pilot)
|BBC One||£50,000||August 31 -- November 9, 2002|
|United States||The Chair||John McEnroe||ABC||$250,000||January 15 -- March 4, 2002|