Sunday, March 05, 2017

The Final Chain Reaction


If you do not remember how the NBC show "Chain Reaction" was played here is an example. 
 
I worked with  Bob Stewart and Sandy Stewart on several of their game shows.  I was a semi-regular on the various versions of  "Pryamid" and they considered me a good player.  "Chain Reaction" was also their show and I enjoyed doing that one too. I remember the game very well, and  this particular episode specifically. Here is what I remember about that very day in the summer of 1980. 

 "Chain Reation" was only on for a cycle of 13 weeks but I got to do several weeks  during that short time.  We knew before we started taping this would be the last one. As you will see the "end game" was played by the "civilian" player in the middle with the two "stars" on either side of a desk.  The stars could see a word on a screen that was hidden to the civilian.  The idea was this: the stars would construct a question one word at a time that would be answered by the civilian with the word that was hidden from them.  It is more complicated to explain that it is to comprehend when you see it.  But back to the story.

So, it is the last show.  I say to Sandy Stewart it would be funny if we put my puppet partner Bob in the hot seat for the final end game between Betty White and me and he would get every word wrong.  We would give the money made to charity.  He loved the idea and even improved on it.  Sandy suggested that Bob miss the correct answer because of his interpretations.  For example if the word on the screen was "chair", Betty and I would construct a question one word at a time like: "What do you sit on?" And Bob would answer "A ventriloquists knee".  The other one I remember was for the word "scalpel": Queston: "What does a doctor use to cut you open?"  Bob would answer "A saw".  We wrote enough of these gag answers to fill the end game. It was going to be great fun and a great way to end the run of the show.

The time comes for Sandy Stewart to explain to the network what we were planning.  He had to run it by "Practices and Standards" which is the office that makes sure game shows are legitimate and there is no cheating.  Sandy made his way into the office of the "suit" who was in charge of  "Chain Reaction". He explained that Jay and Betty would be the clue givers and puppet Bob would be the contestant in the middle.  Before Sandy could even get to the jokes we wrote the suit said, "You mean Bob... Jay Johnson's dummy."
Sandy said yes and started explaining how the jokes would work from Bob's wooden point of view. It would be funny and the money made will go to charity. 
 The suit said, "Wait a minute if Jay is seeing the clue won't Bob know the answer?"
"Of course", said Sandy, "And he will get them all wrong as a joke."  
"If Bob knows the answer then that would be cheating."  Says the suit. 
"It is the last show... you cancelled us... there will be no more so this is just a gag as a going away bit."
"Well, cheating is cheating, Sandy, even for charity... you can't do it." Said the suit.

What we eventually did was lampoon the ruling by writing a bit about Bob trying to cheat.  You can see how that worked in the final round. The end game was played round robin style with all the celebrities.  I think Bob in the Hot seat would have been much funnier, but hey....there will be no ventriloquist cheating on NBC. 
As you were,
Jay 


 

1 comment:

Zach Horan said...

The show got cancelled after 23 weeks because NBC stuck it in the Noon EST slot, where nothing between 1974 and 1984 lasted more than a year, and some shows lasted less time than the original Chain Reaction did. Also, Fred Silverman thinking in error that David Letterman's brand of humor would work in daytime also helped to cancel the show. CHain Reaction ran on USA Network with a version taped in Canada but a different bonus round, albeit more like the Maingame, for five years. GSN has revived Chain Reaction twice, once with the NBC bonus round, and once with a bonus round more like the maingame.