Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? is an American children’s television game show based on the Carmen Sandiego computer game series created by Brøderbund Software. The program aired on PBS from September 30, 1991 until December 22, 1995, and reruns of the series continued until October 4, 1996. Greg Lee hosted the program in the role of “The ACME Special Agent renamed Senior Agent for Seasons 3–5 in charge of training new recruits.” He was joined by Lynne Thigpen as “The Chief” and a capella performing group Rockapella, who served as the show’s in-house band and comedy troupe. The series was recorded in New York City and coproduced by PBS stations WQED and WGBH. Howard Blumenthal, Dana Calderwood, and Dorothy Curley were the series’ developers and Blumenthal served as the show’s producer for its first four seasons.
The show was created partially in response to the results of a National Geographic survey that indicated Americans had alarmingly little knowledge of geography, with one in four being unable to locate the Soviet Union or the Pacific Ocean. Each episode consists of three contestants (typically 10–14 years of age) answering questions to determine the location of one of Carmen Sandiego’s henchmen. The contestants are referred to as “gumshoes” throughout the program in reference to private detectives that are just starting out in the field. The program received the George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in 1993. The program’s theme song, written by Sean Altman and David Yazbek, has maintained public awareness over the years. In 2001, TV Guide ranked the show at #47 on its list of 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time.
The Chief was played by Broadway and television actress Lynne Thigpen as a comically no-nonsense figure with a strong sense of justice who spoke with dialogue that was riddled with puns, alliteration and other forms of word play. The Chief also has a great-grandmother, Agnes Acme, who is the founder of ACME. Agnes Acme was also played by Thigpen herself and is apparently deceased, though that didn’t stop her from providing clues. The Chief proved popular and became a part of subsequent editions of the computer games. Thigpen reprised her role in the Time game show.
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