Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? (game show)

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Where in the World Is
Carmen Sandiego?
Developed by Howard Blumenthal
Dana Calderwood
Dorothy Curley
Directed by Dana Calderwood (seasons 1-3)
Hugh Martin (seasons 4-5)
Presented by Greg Lee
Starring Lynne Thigpen
Voices of Barry Carl
Chris Phillips
Doug Preis
Christine Sokol
Theme music composer Sean Altman
David Yazbek
Opening theme "Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?" by Rockapella
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 5
No. of episodes 295
Executive producer(s) Jay Rayvid
Kate Taylor
Producer(s) Howard Blumenthal, Jonathan Meath, Ariel Schwartz
Production location(s) Chelsea Studios
Manhattan, New York (1991–1992)
Kaufman Astoria Studios
Queens, New York (1992–1995)
Running time 26:46
Production company(s) WQED
Original network PBS[1]
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
Audio format Mono (1991)
Stereo (1992-1995)
First shown in United States
Original release September 30, 1991 (1991-09-30) – December 22, 1995 (1995-12-22)
Followed by Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?
Related shows Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?
External links
[{{#property:P856}} Website]

Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? is an American half-hour 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. Greg Lee hosted the program in the role of an "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 cappella 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. Supervising Producers were Jonathan Meath (seasons 2-5) and Ariel Schwartz (season 1).

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.[2]

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 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.

Main characters

The Chief

The Chief was played by 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.

Greg Lee

Although Greg Lee was referred to by his real name, he adopted a goofy yet amiable persona, often playing "Lucy" to Thigpen's "Desi"[further explanation needed] in various sketches. On the show, it was explained that he was a Special/Senior Agent in charge of training new recruits, but the show's continuity was very loose and the fourth wall was frequently (and intentionally) broken.

Featured crooks

  • Carmen Sandiego is the titular character of the show, heard during a phone tap as she plotted with each episode's crook from her gang. The ultimate goal of the game was to capture her after the day's crook was jailed.
  • The Contessa is a so-called criminal of style. The Contessa speaks with a distinctly Italian accent and her fashion incorporates styles from Milan. As her moniker implies, she considers herself to be near-royalty. The Contessa was absent in seasons 2 and 3, but returned in season 4 with a new appearance.
  • Double Trouble are a pair of different-colored twins who mirror each other in a Yin and Yang fashion who like to party. They are international playboys and speak in a manner similar to Jack Nicholson.
  • Eartha Brute is a muscle bound, slow-witted woman with a green beehive hairdo. Eartha wears a pink singlet uniform complete with weight belt that has the V.I.L.E. initials on the gold plate.
  • Kneemoi is an alien from the planet Roddenberry with a round body and two tentacled arms. Kneemoi has a reputation on 93 planets as a space outlaw and is a pink ball of ectoplasm that can morph into any form she desires. Her name is a reference to Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek and her home planet is a reference to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.
  • Patty Larceny is a ditzy, blonde schoolgirl who has a rather cloyingly sweet and giggly personality. Carmen treats her as if she were her niece. Though Patty is a wanted thief, she is described as a kind and polite person. Patty wears an orange shirt, a green jacket, green skirt, and saddle shoes. Her name is a pun on the word "petty larceny".
  • RoboCrook is a cyborg spoof of RoboCop who also appears in the third version of the U.S.A. game. His real name as mentioned in the phone conversation with the winning sleuth during the 3rd and 4th seasons of the show is "RoboCrook Unit-059".
  • Sarah Nade is a punk rock teenager with rainbow-colored hair who loves concerts and singing. Her name is a pun on the word "serenade". Sarah also appears in the computer game Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Deluxe Edition.
  • Top Grunge is a large, smelly biker with flies hovering over his head. Grunge rides on a badly-tuned motorcycle that spits out smoke wherever he goes. His eyes are always covered by large sunglasses.
  • Vic the Slick is a shrewd salesman in a loud polyester suit and an even louder tie with a seedy moustache, shifty eyes and slicked black hair. Vic often tries to hit on Carmen, giving her pet names such as "sweetheart" and "doll-face."
  • Wonder Rat is a parody of superheroes, and wears a makeshift rat costume. In lieu of flying on his own, he is often strapped via a bungee cord to a flying helicopter.[citation needed]


The show's main cast during the final season premiere.


In the program's opening, the three gumshoes are introduced, followed by Greg's entrance into the office where he meets the gumshoes for the first time. The Chief briefed the gumshoes on the crime and who committed it, often offering the crook's reasoning at the end of the briefing (examples: Vic the Slick steals Carmen Island as a gift for Carmen's birthday,[3] Patty Larceny steals the Lascaux cave paintings so she can turn them in as her school art project[4] and Wonder Rat steals the Kenyatta Conference Center so that he can make it the centerpiece of his resort, "Rat-lantic City".[5]).

Round One

Each gumshoe was given 50 "ACME Crime Bucks" to begin the round. Various live action, celebrity, musical, animated, and costumed comedy sketches were performed, each providing clues to a geographical location of the day's crook. Parodies of pop hits performed by Rockapella were also used as clues. After each clue was provided, a map with three possible locations was shown to the gumshoes, and each one chose an answer. 10 Crime Bucks were added to the gumshoe's score for each correct answer.

Lightning Round / Chief's Office

Partway through the round, a lightning effect played in the office signaling the start of the Lightning Round. Three questions, each with three choices, were asked to the gumshoes, all related to the area mentioned in the previous question. Buzzing in with the correct answer was worth 5 Crime Bucks. After the Lightning Round, Greg was called into the Chief's office for a brief conversation. This was used as a comedy break, during which the Chief and Greg would either announce that the gumshoe who captures Carmen would win a grand-prize trip (Seasons 1 and 2) or describe a home viewer contest in which viewers submitted the names and locations of the items stolen in four episodes for a chance to win a Carmen Sandiego T-shirt (Seasons 3-5).

The chief would often end this segment by telling Greg, (or anyone else in her office at the time) to "go away".

Training Exercise/Phone tap

For the fifth and final season only, after Greg left the Chief's office, he conducted a Training Exercise with the gumshoes in the alley outside the office. In this game, the gumshoes each opened a trash can in front of them and sifted through it to find a card. On each of the cards was a flag of the location in front and a clue on the back, and after all three clues were read, the first gumshoe that got their card and the lid back on their trash can got the first chance to answer. Whoever got the correct answer was given 10 Crime Bucks, and play moved back into the office afterwards.

As soon as play moved back into the office, the gumshoes were shown an animated scene where Carmen and the day's crook were talking to each other on the phone about the crime referred to as a Phone Tap. The clue in this case was based on the conversation between Carmen and her henchman, and was worth 10 Crime Bucks per usual.

The Chase/Final Clue

Beginning in Season 2, there was a series of five questions known as "The Chase", introduced with a chase scene performed by Rockapella and/or various studio guests, and on rare occasions with the Chief. The Chase provided clues about locations that followed a path, indicating that the gumshoes were close on the trail. This round was played similar to the Lightning Round, where the gumshoes received 5 Crime Bucks for buzzing in and giving the correct answer.

For the final skit of the round, Greg shows the gumshoes the three locations before the clue was given. After that, the gumshoes were given some time to wager 0-50 Crime Bucks (in increments of 10) on the clue, then were given the clue. If the gumshoe answered correctly, their wager was added to their score. Otherwise, the amount of the wager was deducted from the score. The two highest scoring gumshoes continued on and followed the crook to the correct destination. In case of a tie for second place, Greg read clues related to a famous person or place. The first gumshoe to guess correctly earned 5 ACME crime bucks, and moved on to the next round. In case of a three-way tie, Greg read two questions before moving on.

Round Two: Jailtime Challenge

Before the second round began, the Chief briefed the two remaining gumshoes where she described various landmarks in their final destination from the first round, in what was called a "Photo Recon".

Fifteen landmarks, including those shown during the Chief's briefing, were displayed on the board, and hidden behind three of them were the day's loot, an Arrest warrant to arrest the crook, and the crook him/herself. Behind the other 12 were shoe prints, which indicated nothing was there. Finding these ended a player's turn while finding the loot, warrant, or crook at any time enabled the player to continue choosing. However, the loot, warrant, and crook had to be found in that exact order in one turn in order for the crook to be captured. The highest scoring gumshoe from round one chose first—or the winner of a coin toss if they tied—and both of them continued taking turns until one found all three items in the right order, at which point the gumshoe won the game and threw the crook in jail. (In earlier episodes the gumshoe on the right side chose first.)

As each player located an item, Rockapella would 'sing' its name. Depending on what the loot was, as well as how many times it was called up, the band would sometimes use different humorous metaphors for each appearance. Primarily in the first season, they would simply say "The Loot". "The Warrant" was always sung as is, and for each crook the band had a special way of singing their name. For example, Patty Larceny was always sung as "P-P-P-Patty".

If a gumshoe was able to find the loot, warrant, and crook in the right order on their first turn, he/she earned a chance to find a $100 savings bond hidden behind one of the 12 remaining landmarks. Gumshoe Ali Haider was the only one to do this, doing so early in the first season, but did not find the savings bond after five picks from the board.[6]

Bonus Round: World Map

In the bonus round, the winning gumshoe was given a chance to capture Carmen Sandiego. At the end of the second round, the gumshoe wrote down a destination in the continental United States (season 1) or North America (all subsequent seasons) in a portfolio. Afterwards, the gumshoe received a phone call from the apprehended crook, who told the gumshoe where in the world to find Carmen. The Chief gave the gumshoe a list of 13 locations to which Carmen may have traveled. Sometimes during that round Greg would tell the gumshoe what to do in all Season 1 episodes. However that doesn't happen in some from Seasons 2-5, but from Season 3 and beyond Greg would instruct the gumshoe with his introductory phrase; "Let me explain it for those who may not know."

Afterwards, play moved to a giant map that covered the studio floor—either Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, or the United States. In Season 3, the U.S. map was replaced with North America. The map often contained small circles to represent cities. Beginning in Season 3 for North and South America and in Season 4 for all others, each map also featured arrows for bodies of water. (In addition, the North America map featured squares for national parks and monuments, and its small circles also represented islands, but these were seldom utilized.) The gumshoe was given 45 seconds to correctly identify seven (eight after Season 1) locations. The gumshoe used several large markers with flashing siren lights on them. If a location was correctly identified, the light turned on and a siren went off. One incorrect guess per location was allowed, but a second forced the gumshoe to leave the marker on the board and return for the next location. If the gumshoe succeeded and captured Carmen before time expires, he/she won the grand prize trip anywhere in the continental United States (season 1) or anywhere in North America (all subsequent seasons). Otherwise, Carmen escaped and the gumshoe received various consolation prizes. Regardless of the outcome, the Chief promoted the gumshoe to a "sleuth."


The show is noted for concluding with Greg complimenting the winning gumshoe on their work (regardless of the result), while reminding the sleuth there was one more thing for them to do and "you know what it is": Greg, the sleuth, and the audience pointing and yelling "Do it, Rockapella!" into the camera. This signaled the group to begin their title song for the animated closing credits, which depicted members of Carmen's gang stealing the names of production staff members against a background resembling a notepad (for the final season a black backdrop with confetti was used). After the credits and in Season 2 (sometimes in Season 1), the audience was invited onto the map to dance and sing the theme song.

Afterwards, the Chief, who joined in the celebration from her office, stated: "This is Lynne Thigpen (speaking) for Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, and remember, (something funny in rhyme)," or instead of the rhyme, the Chief would say "See ya next time!" Before the camera faded, a disclaimer would appear on the screen reading, "All contestants have been briefed prior to their appearance." In Seasons 2 and 3, the Chief read the disclaimer aloud. Seasons 4 and 5 did not have the disclaimer.

Since the series was produced in the early 1990s when many new nations were formed and borders shifted, the recording date and an announcement that "all geographic information was accurate as of the date this program was recorded" were added to the end of each episode. The first season was not rerun at all, due to the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.


The grand prize was a trip to anywhere in the continental United States (season 1) or anywhere in North America (all subsequent seasons). For each trip, the winning sleuth, a parent, and a guest flew round-trip coach from New York City to the selected location. The sleuth spent one week at a luxury hotel chosen by the Chief. Later in Season 4, the sleuth stayed in the hotel of his or her choice. A rental car was included in Seasons 3–5. The sleuth also received extra money to add to the Crime Bucks as spending money.

Season 1: $250
Seasons 2–4: $500
Season 5: $750 (later $1,000).[7][original research?]

A total of 295 episodes over five seasons were recorded.

Original music and theme song

"Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?"
Song by Rockapella
Released 1992
Genre A Cappella
Length 2:48 (Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?)
2:59 (Primer)
4:13 (In Concert)
5:44 (Live in Japan)
Label Shakariki Records
Amerigo Records
J-Bird Records
Composer Sean Altman
David Yazbek

All of the music on the series was arranged and performed by the a cappella group, Rockapella. The music package included a popular theme song and short signature stings such as "Let's Get Packing" when the contestant won the grand prize. The full theme song was played over the final, animated credits as Greg invited the sleuth to look up and shout, "Do it, Rockapella!"

The show's main theme song was written by Sean Altman and David Yazbek, and performed by Rockapella as the studio audience danced to the music on the map. Rockapella's original recording appears on the 1992 soundtrack album Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? and Television's Greatest Hits Volume 7: Cable Ready (TVT 1996).

Critical reception

Awards and nominations

The show won six Daytime Emmy Awards and one Peabody Award, and was nominated for several other awards.[8]

Year Award Title Recipient Result
1992 Young Artist Award Outstanding New Animation Series Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? Nominated
1992 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction/Set Decoration/Scenic Design Jim Fenhagen Won
1992 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Children's Series Jay Rayvid (executive producer) et al. Nominated
1993 Peabody Award Recipient, 53rd Annual Peabody Awards Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? Won
1993 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction/Set Decoration/Scenic Design Jim Fenhagen (set designer) & Laura Brock (art director) Won
1993 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Directing in a Children's Series Dana Calderwood Nominated
1993 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Achievement in Graphics and Title Design Gene Mackles & Chris Pullman Nominated
1993 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Children's Series Jay Rayvid (executive producer) et al. Nominated
1994 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series Lynne Thigpen for playing "The Chief" Nominated
1994 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction/Set Decoration/Scenic Design Jim Fenhagen (scenic designer) & Laura Brock (art director) Nominated
1994 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Children's Series Jay Rayvid (executive producer) et al. Nominated
1994 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Directing in a Children's Series Dana Calderwood Nominated
1994 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design Danajean Cicerchi Nominated
1994 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Achievement in Technical Direction/Electronic Camera/Video Control Richard Wirth (technical director) et al. Nominated
1994 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Achievement in Live and Tape Sound Mixing and Sound Effects Todd Miller (production mixer) et al. Nominated
1995 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Art Direction/Set Decoration/Scenic Design Laura Brock & Jim Fenhagen Won
1995 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series Lynne Thigpen for playing "The Chief" Nominated
1995 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Directing in a Children's Series Hugh Martin Nominated
1995 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Children's Series Kate Taylor (executive producer) & Jay Rayvid (executive producer) et al. Nominated
1995 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Costume Design Danajean Cicerchi Nominated
1995 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Achievement in Live and Tape Sound Mixing and Sound Effects Fritz Lang (production mixer) et al. Nominated
1996 Image Award Outstanding Performance in an Educational/Informational Youth or Children's Series/Special Lynne Thigpen Nominated
1996 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Art Direction/Set Direction/Scenic Design Jim Fenhagen, Laura Brock, Eric Cheripka, Hank Liebeskind Won
1996 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Live and Tape Sound Mixing Tim Lester, Robert Agnello, John Converting, Ronnie Lantz, Billy Straus Won
1996 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Children's Series Jay Rayvid (executive producer) & Kate Taylor (executive producer) et al. Nominated
1996 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series Lynne Thigpen for playing "The Chief" Nominated
1996 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Directing in a Children's Series Hugh Martin Nominated
1996 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Costume Design or Costuming Maria E. Kenny Nominated
1997 Image Award Outstanding Youth or Children's Series/Special Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? Nominated
1997 Daytime Emmy Outstanding Art Direction/Set Direction/Scenic Design Jim Fenhagen, Erik Ulfers, Laura Brock Won


The show was primarily funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by the annual financial support from the viewers/stations of PBS (1991-1996). Holiday Inn and Toyota both provided funding for four seasons (1991-1994). Delta Air Lines provided funding for the show's fifth and final season (1995-1996).

International versions

Disney's Buena Vista Productions International (BVPI) co-produced the series in Germany with MDR in Chemnitz (formerly Karlmarxstadt) where it aired on national broadcaster ARD and was entitled Jagd um die Welt – Schnappt Carmen Sandiego! (Chase Around the World: Catch Carmen Sandiego!) in 1994. In the same year, BVPI also co-produced the Italian series in Naples with national broadcaster RAI (entitled Dov'è finita Carmen Sandiego?), and the Spanish version, Dónde se esconde Carmen Sandiego, (Where Hides Carmen Sandiego) which was co-produced in Valencia with national broadcaster TVE in 1995. Canada's Télé-Québec produced a French-language version called Mais, où se cache Carmen Sandiego? (But, Where is Carmen Sandiego Hiding?), which aired between 1995 and 1998 and stars Pauline Martin as "The Chief" and Martin Drainville as ACME Agent in Charge of Training New Recruits. There was also a New Zealand version of Carmen Sandiego that lasted from 1996 - 1999.


  1. Bernstein, Sharon (September 30, 1991). "PBS Game Show Charts New Territory". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 2, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Rabinovitz, Jonathan (October 6, 1991). "The Case of the Game-Show Ploy". The New York Times. Retrieved August 14, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Season 2, Episode 070. "A Carmen For Carmen or I Only Have Islands For You."
  4. Season 2, Episode 073. "The Cave Art Caper."
  5. Season 2, Episode 089. "The Ta-ta Kenyatta Cantata."
  6. Season 1, Episode 006. "The Gateway Getaway."
  7. http://vileheadquarters.dreamhosters.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=859&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=15
  8. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106172/awards?ref_=tt_awd

External links