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Game Show franchise created in 1980 by Bob Stewart (of Password and Pyramid fame) for NBC and hosted by Bill Cullen. In this game, two teams — in true Stewartian fashion, each composed of two celebrities and a civilian — competed to form a chain of eight words. Each chain would consist of two-word phrases with a common word. For instance, a completed chain might have CHAIN REACTION TIME TABLE TENNIS BALL GAME SHOW, forming the phrases of "chain reaction", "reaction time", "time table", "table tennis", etc. Given the first and last word of each chain, the teams would attempt to guess the missing words, which were revealed one letter at a time. The winners then proceeded to a Bonus Round which was more of a cousin to the Pyramid format of using a long clue to describe a word, except the celebrities from the winning team constructed the clues one word at a time. This Bonus Round was later adapted into its own game, a short-lived format called Go.

A later adaptation, taped in Canada, aired on USA Network from 1986-91 with teams of two contestants each. At first, this version was hosted by Blake Emmons, a Canadian television personality and Country Music singer. Emmons was a contestant on The Jokers Wild during Cullen's tenure, and lasted only a few months as host of Chain Reaction before being replaced by Geoff Edwards (who had previously substituted on the NBC version when Cullen had to fill in briefly on Password Plus). Because of Can Con laws, Chain Reaction had to feature a Canadian personality on camera, and as a result announcer Rod Charlebois appeared on-camera in every show for the rest of the run. This version simply offered another chain as its bonus round.

In 2006, GSN (formerly Game Show Network) revived the format with Dylan Lane as host. The rules stayed mostly the same, except the teams were always three men vs. three women. The format also included a small four-word "speed chain" after each solved chain, as well as a betting format in Round 4. In Round 4, contestants bet certain amounts on whether or not they would get the chain word right; unfortunately, this often led to contestants whittling away their lead on stupid guesses. This version also retained the NBC bonus round, but with slight rule changes. GSN's Chain Reaction lasted 15 episodes into its second season.

The show has been adapted internationally, including a French-Canadian version in Quebec called Action Reaction (taped on the same set as the Emmons/Edwards run), an Italian version called Reazione a catena, and a British version called Lucky Ladders.

Not to be confused with the film starring Keanu Reeves.

Game Show Tropes in use:

  • Bonus Round: The NBC and GSN runs had the players chaining together words, one at a time, to make a question. This was taken from an unsold Stewart pilot called Get Rich Quick! (1977), and spun off into Go (1983-84).
  • Bonus Space: If a word had a plus sign next to it, it was worth double the normal value.
  • Home Game
  • Personnel:
Tropes used in Chain Reaction (TV series) include:
  • Ascended Extra: Rod Charlebois, who would play a quick round with Geoff at the top of each show. His ascension was mostly due to Can Con laws.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In a GSN episode, the first part of the word was "Cock". The first letter of the second word was "S". Then the second letter was "U". Everyone was laughing about it and trying to avoid saying what it looked like. (The word was "Sure".)
  • Guest Host: Geoff Edwards hosted the original version for a short time so that Cullen could fill in for Allen Ludden on Password Plus.
  • Obvious Rule Patch:
    • The NBC version had five bonus round payout structures. The second format had contestants start with $1 and add a half-zero for each correct response, but was changed when the most money won from this in the first week was $100.
    • The GSN version began its bonus round with seven correct answers doubling the team's bank and ten correct answers tripling it. After six weeks of people stinking it up, the requirements were lowered to five (doubling) and seven (tripling).
  • Recycled Soundtrack: The theme for the first two versions had previously been used on, of all things, Supertrain.
  • Shout-Out: After a contestant couldn't get the word "pyramid", Cullen remarked "Well, the nighttime version's been canceled."
  • Spin-Off: Go used the NBC bonus round as its main game.
  • Thematic Theme Tune: From the GSN version: "It's guys against the girls right now on Chain Reaction."
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The NBC/GSN bonus round had nothing to do with the front game.
    • Although, in a way, it almost does. Since you're having to form a "chain" of words to answer the question.
    • Reazione a catena shoehorned in a round based on the unsold 1996 quiz show pilot Combination Lock, which was even further removed than the 1980 bonus round.
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