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What do you get when you take a person, a chair, a pit that probably represents Hell, and someone who's practically The Devil himself (well, in the world of tennis anyway)? You get this short-lived ABC Game Show hosted by tennis analyst and former player John McEnroe (who was best known for several infamous on-court confrontations during major tournaments). Yes, we cannot be serious — this actually happened.
Contestants were asked a variety of questions while seated in the titular chair (which was elevated above a giant pit they entered the studio from), going up a money ladder of seven questions which added to the player's bank (which began at $5,000 and could go up to $250,000). However, contestants were analyzed prior to the show to gauge their reaction to sudden events, and to establish their resting heart rate (which was monitored at all times while playing). But why did they do this, you ask?
Well, that was the twist to this game — if a contestant's heart rate went a certain percentage over their resting heart rate at any time after a question was read (starting at 60% or 70% above, referred to in-game as "redlining"), the contestant's bank would begin to drain of money at a rate of $100 per second. The rate of deduction and the redline threshold also increased and decreased respectively throughout the game.
To make things even more interesting, two "Heartstopper" rounds occurred between two questions. In these, the player had to endure a random event of Nightmare Fuel for 15 seconds, such as a fake alligator lowered from the ceiling or McEnroe serving tennis balls at them. Oh, and did we mention the redline rule was also in effect during these interludes, and even if the 15 seconds were up, it would keep going if the player were over their threshold?
The show wasn't a hit.
Game Show Tropes in use:
- Deadly Game: Almost seemed like that, didn't it?
- Lifeline: The Stabilizer, earned after the third question, allowed the player to set their own checkpoint in case they answered a question wrong. However if they redlined their bank below this checkpoint, said checkpoint would also go down.
- Who Wants to Be Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?: Aired by the same network as Millionaire and had a considerably lower cash prize, but still has a money ladder, a lifeline, a scary and glitzy set, and debuted during the renaissance period. This said, unlike Millionaire, The Chair used a variety of different question styles instead of just multiple-choice, including observation, lists, timelines, etc.
- Catch Phrase: "You may (not) answer this question."
- Cool Chair: Of course.
- Missing Episode: Thirteen episodes recorded, only nine aired.
- Trans Atlantic Equivalent: A very faithful British adaptation ran on BBC One from 31 August to 9 November 2002, with a top prize of £50,000. John McEnroe also hosted, since we're pretty sure anyone who is among the top tennis players in the world are bound to be well-known worldwide (although Paul Hendy did the unaired Pilot).