Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? (TV series)

Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?
Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? title card for Season 1
Format Game Show
Created by Brøderbund Software
Developed by Howard Blumenthal
Dana Calderwood
Dorothy Curley
Directed by Dana Calderwood
Hugh Martin
Starring Lynne Thigpen as The Chief
Greg Lee as Agent in Charge of Training New Recruits
Rockapella as House Vocal Band and Comedy Troupe
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 296 (1 unaired) (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Jay Rayvid
Kate Taylor
Producer(s) Howard Blumenthal (seasons 1–4)
Jonathan G. Meath (seasons 2–5)
Ariel Schwartz (season 1)
Location(s) Chelsea Studios, Manhattan (season 1)
Kaufman Astoria Studios, Queens (seasons 2–5)
Running time 30 minutes
Original channel PBS[1]
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
Audio format Mono (Season 1)
Stereo (Seasons 2–5)
First shown in United States
Original run 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?

Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? is an American children's television game show based on the computer games of the same name created by Brøderbund Software. The program aired on PBS from September 30, 1991 to December 22, 1995 (with reruns being shown until October 4, 1996) and starred Lynne Thigpen as "The Chief", Greg Lee as "The ACME Special Agent (renamed Senior Agent for Seasons 3–5) in charge of training new recruits," and Rockapella as the house vocal band and comedy troupe. The series was replaced by Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?

Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? holds the record for being the longest-running game show on PBS and as the second longest running children's game show in U.S. television history behind Double Dare (for which Greg was a contestant coordinator). 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.



See complete list of Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? episodes.


Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? 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] The Carmen Sandiego series was developed for television by Howard Blumenthal, Dorothy Curley, and Dana Calderwood and produced by WGBH, Boston, and WQED, Pittsburgh. The program premiered during prime time on September 30, 1991.


Each episode consists of three contestants (typically 10–14 years of age), called "gumshoes", answering questions to determine the location of one of Carmen Sandiego's henchmen with sketches performed to provide clues. Eventually, the gumshoe with the lowest score is eliminated and the remaining two gumshoes play a game to capture the day's criminal. The winning gumshoe then moves on to the final round, where markers must be correctly placed on a giant map of Asia, Africa, North America, etc. If the player is successful in this round, Carmen is "captured" and the gumshoe wins a trip to anywhere in the continental United States in Season 1. This grand prize was expanded to include anywhere in North America during later seasons.


The first season's programs were recorded at Chelsea Studios in Manhattan, but subsequent seasons were recorded at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens. Gumshoes were required to reside in the New York City area. Later in the run, Gumshoes attempted to earn spots on the program by competing against one another in a nationwide Carmen Sandiego contest held at local schools. A total of 296 episodes over five seasons were recorded.

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, and the Spanish version was co-produced in Valencia with national broadcaster TVE. Canada's Télé-Québec produced a French language version called Mais, où se cache Carmen Sandiego? (But Where is Carmen Sandiego Hiding?), which aired from 1995 through 1998 and starred Pauline Martin as "The Chief" and Martin Drainville as ACME Agent in Charge of Training New Recruits.

Global changes

The series was produced in the early 1990s when many new nations were formed and many borders shifted. As a result, the recording date and an announcement that "all geographic information was accurate as of the date this program was recorded" was incorporated into each episode.


The show was funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (September 30, 1991–December 22, 1995) and by the annual financial support of Viewers Like You (September 30, 1991–December 22, 1995). Delta Air Lines (October 10, 1994–December 22, 1995), Holiday Inn (September 30, 1991–December 22, 1995) and Toyota (September 30, 1991–December 23, 1994) also provided funding.

"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

Original music and theme song

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

The theme song, "Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?", was written by Sean Altman and David Yazbek, and performed by Rockapella as the studio audience danced to the music.

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).

Main Characters

The Chief

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 character proved popular and became a part of subsequent editions of the computer games. Thigpen reprised the role for the Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? series.

The Chief also has a great-grandmother, Agnes Acme, who is the founder of ACME. Agnes Acme was also played by Thigpen and is apparently deceased, though that didn't stop her from providing clues.

Greg Lee

Although Greg Lee was referred to by his real name, he adopted a goofy yet amiable persona, often playing "Lucy" to Lynne Thigpen's "Desi" 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—the titular character appeared on each episode, 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 spoke with a distinctly Italian accent and that most of her fashion features styles from Milan. As her moniker implies, she considers herself to be near royalty. The character was absent in Seasons 2 and 3.
  • Double Trouble are a pair of different-colored twins who mirror each other in a Yin and Yang fashion. They are international playboys and spoke in a manner similar to Jack Nicholson.
  • Eartha Brute is a muscle bound, slow-witted woman with a green beehive hairdo. Eartha Brute 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. She 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. Kneemoi debuted in Season 2.
  • Patty Larceny is a ditzy, blonde schoolgirl who has a rather cloyingly sweet and giggly personality. Carmen Sandiego treats her as if she were her niece. Though she is a wanted thief she is described as a very kind and polite person. She wears an orange shirt, a green jacket, green skirt and saddle shoes. Her name is a play on "petty larceny".
  • RoboCrook is a cyborg parody of RoboCop who also appears in third version of the software, Where in the U.S.A. is Carmen Sandiego?. 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"). She came from the computer game Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Deluxe Edition. She joined Carmen's gang on the TV Show in Season 3.
  • Top Grunge is a large smelly biker with flies hovering over his head. Due to his filthy nature, he seems to have a chronic head cold and a very bad navel. He rides on a badly-tuned motorcycle that spits out smoke wherever he goes. His eyes are always covered by large sunglasses -- which were also, unsurprisingly, featured in the hit Tom Cruise film Top Gun.
  • 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. He often tries to hit on Carmen Sandiego, giving her pet names such as "sweetheart" and "doll-face."
  • Wonder Rat is a parody of superheroes. He is Carmen Sandiego's personal caped criminal who considers himself "The Rat of Steel" (a reference to both Superman and Harry Harrison's hero The Stainless Steel Rat.) Wonder Rat can't fly on his own, so he has to resort to using the Rat-Copter with himself strapped to a bungee cord while the helicopter is on automatic pilot. Wonder Rat debuted in Season 2.


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 them. The Chief explains the spectacularly impossible heist by one of the bad guys in Carmen Sandiego's gang, accompanied by an animation of the criminal inserted into stock photographs, perpetrating the crime in a humorous way. The opening typically ended with the Chief explaining for what reason the criminal wanted the loot (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" (the program's official currency) 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 criminal. Examples included a "Dying Informant" who fell into a typical crime scene chalk outline and took seemingly forever to die while providing essential clues; a world band radio; an animated fish that sounded a lot like actor Joe Pesci, celebrities including first lady Barbara Bush, stars of dozens of television series, famous models, politicians and ballplayers, and more, songs that parodied pop hits performed by Rockapella (often in silly costumes; a song about Nebraska, for example, featured the singers as giant ears of corn). After each clues were provided, a map with three possible locations, all within proximity to one another, were shown to the players. Each gumshoe chose his or her answer and was rewarded 10 ACME crime bucks if correct. Other features of this first game:

  • Lightning Round – After several sketches were performed, the "Lightning Round" began with a deliberately cheesy lightning effect, followed by three fast-paced multiple choice questions about the correct response on the most recent clue, each worth 5 crime bucks.
  • The Chief's Office – After the Lightning Round, Greg always went into the Chief's office for a special briefing, conversation or other purpose. This was used as a comedy break, an opportunity for a bizarre interaction between the Chief and Greg. Bits included pretzel farming, the transformation of her office into Grand Central Station, a celery (salary) dispute involving a ten-foot piece of celery, and other silly stuff. Usually, the Chief would announce that the gumshoe who would capture Carmen would win a grand-prize trip.
  • Training Exercise – Added in Season 5, the gumshoes met Greg in the alley after he finished up with the Chief. Each one was assigned a trash can and told to search for clues in the garbage. Hidden in each can was card with a flag of a location on one side and a clue on the other. The first gumshoe who found their the card first got a chance to identify it. The first to identify the location earned 10 crime bucks.
  • Phone Tap – After the Office Sketch or the Training Exercise (in season 5), the gumshoes watched an animated phone conversation (aka "phone tap" ) between Carmen and the criminal via ACME Bug Net. In this sequence, Carmen would tell the criminal where to go and, typically, become exasperated by their stupidity. The gumshoes were then asked where the criminal's location was.
  • The Chase – Starting in Season 2, there was a series of four or five questions known as "The Chase," introduced with a chase scene performed by Rockapella and various studio guests (usually carrying props from earlier in the show as gags) and on rare occasions with the Chief or Greg. The Chase provided clues about locations that followed a path, indicating that the gumshoes were close on the trail. Each question had three locations as choices and the first gumshoe to buzz in and guess correctly received five crime bucks.

After a few more clues or The Chase, Greg showed the gumshoes one more map, in this case before the skit was performed. They were asked to make a wager of anywhere from 0–50 crime bucks, in increments of 10, on their ability to provide a correct answer. After the final skit was performed, the gumshoes select their answers. If the gumshoe answered correctly, their wager was added to their score, but if the gumshoe answered incorrectly, the wager was subtracted from their score. The top two gumshoes advanced to the next round, and the third gumshoe was eliminated.

In case of a tie for second place, Greg read clues related to a famous person or place (typically a U.S. state). Gumshoes could buzz in as often as they wanted; the first gumshoe to guess correctly earned 5 ACME crime bucks, and moved on to Round Two. In case of a three-way tie, Greg would read two tiebreaker questions.

Round Two

The two gumshoes advanced to their final destination from the first round, where The Chief described various landmarks in that country, city or region, in what was called a "Photo Recon". Often, these descriptions were silly and poked fun at the pictures (in one notable visit to Key West, for example, the camera zoomed in on graffiti on a small landmark and the Chief openly scolded the people who had spray painted their first names on it[6]). Fifteen names of the local landmarks were placed on a board. Hidden behind three of the landmarks were the loot that was stolen at the beginning of the program, the warrant to arrest the criminal, and the criminal him/herself. Hidden behind the remaining landmarks were shoe prints, indicating that nothing was there.

The top gumshoes played first (if the two gumshoes were tied, a coin toss determined who started). If a gumshoe found any of the three key items, they could select again. Their turn ended if they found a box with shoe prints, denoting nothing was at that location, took more than 10 seconds picking a location or found the loot, the warrant, and the crook in the wrong order in a single turn.

The gumshoes alternated turns until one found the loot, the warrant, and the crook in that order in a single turn (as the loot is the evidence needed to get a warrant and the warrant is needed to arrest the criminal). When the gumshoe found all three items in the correct order, they pull on a hanging chain to capture the criminal before advancing to the final round, while the runner-up is eliminated.

On the one occasion in the show's history that a gumshoe (Ali Haider) won the round on the first try, he also earned the chance to win a $100 savings bond. The bond was hidden behind one of the remaining 12 landmarks, and Haider was given 5 chances to find it, although he was unsuccessful in doing so.[7]

Final Round – The Map

In the final round, the gumshoe was given a chance to capture Carmen Sandiego. If the gumshoe captured Carmen, he or she won the all-expenses paid trip to anywhere in the lower 48 United States in season one and North America after that. After the gumshoe wrote down the desired trip destination, the henchman called him or her on a telephone so as to rat on Carmen. The henchman gave Carmen's general location, one of five continents or the United States. The Chief then gave a list of 13 possible locations Carmen may have traveled in that area.

The gumshoe was presented with a giant map that covered the floor of the studio, often with small circles representing the cities. As Greg read off a location, the gumshoe had to place a marker with a red flashing siren light on the map in the same location. If the gumshoe guessed correctly, the marker was activated and the gumshoe was given the next location. If the gumshoe was incorrect, a two-note buzzer sounded and he or she would try again. After two incorrect guesses, the gumshoe had to leave the marker where it was, pick up a new marker and receive the next location.

If within 45 seconds, the gumshoe could successfully identify 7 locations (8 after Season 1) on the map, he or she captured Carmen and won the trip. If not, the show awarded consolation prizes. Regardless of the outcome, the Chief promotes the gumshoe to a "sleuth."

In the unaired episode "Auld Lang Gone," the winning gumshoe (Jasmine Doman) slipped and broke her arm on the map during the final round. Production stopped for a moment until the second-place finisher (Ed Mann) ran the map for her.[8]

The maps featured on the show are as follows:

  • United States: Used only in Seasons 1 and 2.
  • North America: Replaced the United States for Seasons 3–5. This map featured small circles for both cities and islands and squares to represent national parks and monuments (the squares were seldom used).
  • South America: Used regularly in all seasons.
  • Europe: Used only in the early-to-mid episodes of Season 1, then used regularly from Season 2 onward.
  • Asia: Used regularly in all seasons. In Season 1, before the round began, Greg would point out to the gumshoe the locations of the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Ocean, mostly due to the map's size. Also in two episodes of Season 1, the time limit was 60 seconds instead of the usual 45 seconds.
  • Africa: Used regularly in all seasons.

Beginning in Season 3 for the North and South America maps and in Season 4 for all other maps, each map also featured arrows for bodies of water.


The show is noted for concluding with Greg complimenting the winning gumshoe on their work (regardless of the result of the bonus round), while reminding the contestant 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, signaling the group to begin again 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.

Afterward, the Chief, who has joined in the celebration from her office, says "This is Lynne Thigpen speaking for Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, and remember, (something funny in rhyme)," or instead of the rhyme, she would say "See ya next time!" Before the camera fade, 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.


One episode (Season 2's "Disturbing the Heavenly Peace") has a celebrity teamup with the gumshoes. The celebrities were Mayim Bialik (Blossom), Tatyana Ali (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), and Jeremy Miller (Growing Pains).

Pilot/Early episodes

The series was produced without a pilot, but the first few episodes were produced as examples of the series, and so, included several elements later discarded. For example, in these early episodes, the map of the United States was used in the bonus round, and the markers placed on it were flags of each state. Sound effects from Double Dare (5 quick bells and a short buzz, respectively) were used in the pilots instead of the usual siren and two-note buzzer; in addition, the time buzzer sound was performed by one of the Rockapella singers. Sound effects from various game shows were used in the other early-recorded episodes until the flags were replaced by markers. The pilot episodes did not require the correct order of the loot, warrant and crook in the second round. In the pilots, the limit on the amount of Crime Bucks that could be wagered was 25 (20 in the first pilot), in increments of 5. Also in the pilot episodes, there was no Lightning Round. In each season, the order and rules of the games changed slightly, mostly to maintain audience interest, sometimes to eliminate tricky or costly production sequences.

If episodes with these differences aired (and at least one did[citation needed]), there was a disclaimer before the show notifying the home audience that, though the scoring was different, the game was the same.


Grand Prize

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).[9]

Consolation prizes

Gumshoes who were eliminated received a set of consolation prizes called the official ACME Crimenet Travel Kit, renamed Travel Pack in Season 4 and Gumshoe Gear in Season 5. Some of the consolation prizes on the show included:

Third place
The ACME Travel Kit. This typically included:
  • World Atlas by Rand McNally
  • Official Carmen Sandiego watch (Season 1–3)
  • Official Carmen Sandiego sweatshirt (pilots and mid-to-late Season 1)
  • Official Carmen Sandiego T-shirt (early-to-mid Season 1, Seasons 2–5)
  • One year subscription to National Geographic World magazine
  • A portable basketball globe, with which the Chief would either try to make a basket behind her back or slam dunk it into the basket in the back corner of her office (Seasons 2–3)
  • The ACME Travel Pack (backpack with the show's logo, and the ACME Crime Net Logo) (Season 4; which has the atlas, t-shirt, magazine, and wallet)
  • ACME Voice Identification Badge and Leave-a-Message Wallet (Season 4)
  • ACME Stealth Pen Recorder (Season 5)
  • The ACME Crime Net Cap (Season 5)
Second place
  • ACME Travel Kit
  • A pocket translator (Seasons 1–3)
  • Two ACME Secret Senders (Personal Organizers) (Seasons 4–5)
  • A world-band radio (Seasons 1–4) (In season 4, a manual is included)
  • Automatic camera (Season 3)
Final round loss
  • A portable CD player, and a library of CDs from around the world (a CD by Rockapella, featuring the Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? theme song included in seasons 2 and 3) (Seasons 1 and 3, but was given for advancing to the 2nd round in season 2)
  • (both loss and win) a Carmen Sandiego "Sleuth" Jacket; if the sleuth got at least 6 locations right in the Map, they receive a camera as well. (Season 2)
  • A boom box (season 4)
  • An ACME pocket color television (season 5)


  1. ^ Bernstein, Sharon (1991-09-30). "PBS Game Show Charts New Territory". The Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/1991-09-30/entertainment/ca-2396_1_carmen-sandiego. Retrieved 2010-10-02. 
  2. ^ Rabinovitz, Jonathan (1991-10-06). "The Case of the Game-Show Ploy". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE4DF153BF935A35753C1A967958260. Retrieved 2010-08-14. 
  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 2, Episode 079. "The Statue Steal or Togo To Go." Chief: "Well, Sue and Janet, if you're watching this show, how does it feel to have 5 million people know you have defaced public property?"
  7. ^ Season 1, Episode 006. "The Gateway Getaway."
  8. ^ http://vileheadquarters.dreamhosters.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=859&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0
  9. ^ http://vileheadquarters.dreamhosters.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=859&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=15

External links

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