United States: September 29, 1986- December 27, 1991
Canada: 1986-1991 (Exact dates unknown, but Canadian broadcasts began several months earlier than American broadcasts)


United States: USA Network
Canada: Global


Rod Chalabois

Produced by

Bob Stewart-Sande Stewart Productions

“The game is…”

Geoff, having tested the waters as a substitute host for Bill Cullen in 1980, got the “Chain Reaction” emcee gig full-time with this version.

Two teams of two players compete. The teams face a seven-word chain, with the first & last words already revealed, and the middle five words completely hidden. For example, connect the word CONFORM to the word TICKET…

If something is made to CONFORM, it's made to FIT. A healthy person stays FIT and TRIM. To make meat more nutritional, you may TRIM the FAT. An unlucky person is said to have a FAT CHANCE. You might have a CHANCE if you play the LOTTERY, and to do that, you need a LOTTERY TICKET.

Each team’s players have a designated role, either “giver” or “receiver.” (Teammates alternate these roles after each chain.) The giver decides whether to reveal a letter above or below a completed word, and whether to give that word to their partner or to the receiver on the other team. With the letter revealed, the receiver guesses. Guessing the word correctly wins points and keeps control for their team.

In Round One, each word guessed is worth 10 points, but the final word guessed in that chain is worth 20. In Round Two, these values escalate to 20 points each & 40 points for the final word. In Round Two, the middle word of the chain was also a bonus word (designated by a dollar sign) worth $250 for the team that guessed it. Round Three awarded 30 points per word & 60 points for the last word.

The first team to score 200 points or more wins the game and the right to play the Final Chain for a cash jackpot.

In the Final Chain, the team is given only the first word of the chain, and the first letter of the six remaining words in the chain. Additionally, they are given a seven letter counter. The teammates alternate guessing each word in the chain. A correct guess earns the right to guess the next word in the chain. A wrong guess adds a letter to the word, while taking a letter away from the counter. If the team can complete the chain without going beyond the allotted seven letters, they win a cash jackpot that starts at $3,000 and grows by $1,000 a day until won. If the team uses all seven letters and still fails to complete the chain, they receive $100 per revealed word (including the word given for free at the start).

At the end of the show, Geoff would play a game called Missing Link with announcer Rod Chalabois. Rod would show Geoff the first and last words of a three-word chain, plus the first letter of the word in between. Geoff would make his guess, and Rod would reveal the correct answer, plus a preview of the puzzle for the next episode. The reason for this seemingly arbitrary game will be explained later.


1987 Changes

In addition to a few new coats of paint on the set, the new year brought some changes to the format. In Round One, the final word of the chain is worth 15 points. In Round Two, the bonus word was eliminated and replaced by the Missing Links game. The team in the lead would be shown the first and last words of a three-word chain. If they could guess the word in between with no letters revealed, the team received $500. Every wrong guess added a letter while taking away $100 from the potential payoff.


1988 Changes


Two solo players competed, acting as both giver and receiver. It now took 300 points to win the game. In the event that a fourth chain was needed to decide the game, the point values were 40 points per word and 80 for the final word.


On New Year's Eve, 1991, the twilight of the show’s run, it became “The $40,000 Chain Reaction.” In the new format, contestants competed to 500 points. If a fifth chain was needed, the point values were 50 points per word and 100 for the final word. The winner played Missing Links for $300. Each week had a tournament format, and the champion of the week received $7,500 and a spot in the championship tournament. The winner of the tournament received $40,000 in cash.


Taped in Montreal, Quebec and attracting mostly Canadian contestants, “The New Chain Reaction” launched in 1986 on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation with host Blake Emmons. Although he’s known in Canada as an established country music star, Blake proved to be a less-than-stellar emcee and was replaced by Geoff shortly before the series made its American debut on the USA cable network. USA skipped Emmons’ entire run as host and began their broadcasts with Geoff’s first episode, and American viewers didn’t see Blake Emmons until GSN unearthed his episodes several years ago.


Geoff’s involvement caused an interesting problem: Canadian television has a regulation that shows imported to other countries must have Canadian content, and Geoff was 100% American. Hence, Canadian-born announcer Rod Chalabois was given an on-camera role for most of his duties; he engaged in banter with Geoff and played the Missing Links game to give the show Canadian content.


GEOFF REMEMBERS: PUT SOME ENGLISH INTO IT We did that show in Canada. It was part-owned by USA, part-owned by Canadian Broadcasting Company. We did it in Montreal where the first language is French, second language is English. Most of our contestants were one step behind, trying to translate everything, and we thought, "Oh my gosh, this is terrible, what are we going to do?" It turns out that because they were so slow, the audience could solve it before them, and the show got to be popular because of that, just like "Wheel of Fortune."

Much like the original Bill Cullen version, this version was far more fun than the description sounds. For the most part, the half-hour moved along briskly. Because of budget considerations, celebrity participation was wiped out and the jackpot was slashed significantly,  but "Chain" overcame both of those constraints to last five years, showing what a strong game that seemingly-boring rulesheet really has going for it.

After a decade and a half, Geoff now comes across as a seasoned veteran, hosting the show in a smooth way that certainly can't be called phoning it in, but would certainly make a viewer think, "Well, this guy knows what he's doing." Despite having no live audience to feed from, Geoff manages to pull excitement and energy for the game out of thin air. Nobody could fill Bill Cullen's shoes, but with Chain Reaction, Geoff seemed to be making a pair of his own.


Up two levels to GEOFF EDWARDS' WORLD

Up three levels to GAME SHOW UTOPIA