|Lynne Thigpen as "The Chief"|
|Sean Altman (All Seasons)|
Scott Leonard (All Seasons)
Elliot Kerman (All Seasons)
Barry Carl (All Seasons)
Jeff Thacher (Season 5)
Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? was a children's television game show loosely based on the computer games of the same name created by now-defunct Brøderbund Software (later taken over by the Learning Company, now part of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). World aired on PBS from 1991 to 1995 and starred Lynne Thigpen as "The Chief", Greg Lee as the "ACME Special Agent in charge of training new recruits" (renamed "Senior Agent" for Seasons 3-5), and Rockapella as the house vocal band and comedy troupe. Rockapella featured Sean Altman as tenor, Elliot Kerman as baritone, Barry Carl as bass, and Scott Leonard as high tenor, with Jeff Thacher joining in the fifth and final season as vocal percussion.
World holds the record for being the longest-running game show on PBS and the second-longest running children's game show in U.S. television history (behind Double Dare, which ran from 1986 to 1993 and for which Greg was a contestant coordinator). The show received the George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in 1993. The show's theme song, penned by Altman and David Yazbek, is one of the most well-known themes in television history according to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. In 2001, TV Guide ranked the show at #47 on its list of "The 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time".
- 1 Origin
- 2 Plot of each episode
- 3 Production
- 4 Post-Production
- 5 Gameplay
- 6 Prizes
- 7 Fundings
- 8 Merchandise
- 9 Carmen Sandiego Live!
- 10 International Versions
- 11 Additional Pages
- 12 References
- 13 Rating
- 14 Music
- 15 Spin-Offs
- 16 Inventor
- 17 Trivia
- 18 Links
Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? was created partially as a response to a National Geographic survey that found Americans had an alarmingly low knowledge of geography, with one in four being unable to locate the Soviet Union or the Pacific Ocean. The game series, started by Brøderbund in 1985, was developed for television by Howard Blumenthal, Dorothy Curley, and Dana Calderwood and was produced by WQED Pittsburgh and WGBH Boston.
The half-hour show premiered on September 30, 1991. The game franchise also inspired the unrelated animated series Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?, which ran on Fox Kids from 1994 to 1999.
Plot of each episode
The bulk of each World episode consisted of three child contestants, called "gumshoes" (typically 10-14 years of age), answering questions to determine the location of one of Carmen Sandiego's wacky crooks with zany sketches being performed to provide clues. Eventually, the gumshoe with the lowest score was eliminated, and the remaining two gumshoes played a Concentration-esque game to capture the day's crook. The winning gumshoe then moved onto the final round, where siren lights had to be correctly placed on a giant map as locations were named. If the player was successful in this round, Carmen Sandiego was "captured" and the gumshoe won a trip to anywhere in the continental United States in the first season, which was expanded to anywhere in North America in the second season and beyond.
The first season's programs were recorded at Chelsea Studios in Manhattan, but subsequent seasons were recorded at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, home to another PBS hit show, Sesame Street. Contestants were required to reside in the New York City area.
- Executive Producers – Jay Rayvid and Kate Taylor.
- Directors – Dana Calderwood and Hugh Martin.
- Producers – Howard Blumenthal, Jonathan Meath, and Ariel Schwartz.
- Writers – Included McPaul Smith, Charles Nordlander, Dorothy Curley, and James Greenberg.
- The original stage settings were designed by Jim Fenhagen, with subsequent art direction by Laura Brock.
Following the completion of taping for Season 1 in 1991, massive geopolitical changes in the world, such as the dissolution of the Soviet Union, rendered the entire season geographically inaccurate and these episodes have not been seen since. Season 2 (1992) began the practice of Thigpen announcing a disclaimer over the credits that "all geographic information was accurate as of the date this program was recorded", with the recording date and copyright information displayed.
Starting in Season 3 (1993), home viewers were asked to participate in a contest. They were told to write down what was stolen and from where on each day's show. If they wrote down four correct loots and locations on a postcard with their name and address, and sent it to the show's address, they were entered in the contest. Each day, the producers picked five people with correct lists and sent each of them a Carmen Sandiego T-shirt.
65 episodes were produced during Seasons 1-3, with Seasons 4-5 cutting this down to 50 shows, a total of 295 episodes. The episodes were also shown four times a year, with September-December being the first-run period. The show ended in 1995, and was replaced in 1996 by Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?.
In Season 1, the three child contestants (gumshoes) were introduced in the alley, followed by Greg's entrance, when the day's episode was shown onscreen. The Chief explained what kind of spectacularly impossible heist one of the crooks from Carmen Sandiego's outlandish henchpeople had pulled. The dossier of the crook then appeared on the screen. Carmen and her crooks were, in contrast to the live-action actors and the child contestants, portrayed as cartoon characters and were never shown directly interacting with the live-action people.
In Season 2, the day's episode was shown onscreen, followed by where the theft took place and what the crook had stolen. The gumshoes were shown in the alley, as well as Greg's entrance. The Chief then showed the viewers the dossier of the day's crook. In Season 3, the gumshoes were introduced from the arrivals room, as well as the day's crook, and his/her/their last known whereabouts, and what they had stolen, followed by that day's episode being shown onscreen, before Greg's entrance. Beginning in Season 4 and ran until the end of the series, the Chief introduced three gumshoes as they left the office by standing at their podiums before Greg's entrance. Rockapella was introduced by Greg. The day's crook was introduced, his/her/their last known whereabouts were heard, and what they had stolen was shown, as well as the day's episode.
The crooks, all animated characters, were a Rogues' gallery of ne'er-do-wells. In addition to Carmen, there were ten rotating crooks for each episode, with all ten appearing for the final two seasons:
- Carmen Sandiego – The master criminal and the title character of the show. During the show's "Phone Tap" segments, she would be heard talking to the episode's crook, giving them advice to evade detection. The ultimate goal of the game was to capture Carmen after the crook was caught.
- The Contessa - One of the seven original crooks. She is a so-called criminal of style from Milan, Italy who fancies herself to be near-royalty. She was dropped from the show after the first season, but returned in Season 4 with her new appearance.
- Double Trouble - One of the seven original crooks. They are a pair of Yin and Yang party-boy twins with quarter moon-shaped heads. They speak in a voice similar to Jack Nicholson.
- Eartha Brute - One of the seven original crooks. She is a muscular, dimwitted woman. Her name is a pun on that of actress and singer Eartha Kitt.
- Kneemoi - An shape-shifting alien from the planet Roddenberry. Her name is a reference to Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek and her home planet to its creator Gene Roddenberry. Kneemoi first appeared in Season 2.
- Patty Larceny - One of the seven original crooks. She is a flighty, blonde schoolgirl with a sweet and giggly personality. Her name is a pun on the phrase "petty larceny".
- RoboCrook - One of the seven original crooks. He is a spoof of RoboCop.
- Sarah Nade - A loud, obnoxious teenage punk rocker with rainbow-colored hair. Her name is an ironic play on the word "serenade". Sarah first appeared on the show in Season 3.
- Top Grunge - One of the seven original crooks. He is a burly and unkempt biker who was always riding his chopper motorcycle. Dirty and surrounded by flies, he would continually sneeze, snort, and cough in conversations. His name appears to be a reference to Top Gun.
- Vic the Slick - One of the seven original crooks. He is a tactless salesman who wears a loud polyester suit. He also has a pencil thin mustache, shifty eyes and slicked black hair.
- Wonder Rat - A superhero parody who wears a makeshift rat costume. According to the Chief, as described in one episode, he is the only crook to love Cheez Whiz. Wonder Rat first appeared in Season 2.
Each gumshoe was given 50 "ACME Crime Bucks" (points) to begin the round. Various comedy sketches were performed, each providing clues to a geographical location of the day's crook. After the clues were provided, a map with three possible locations, all within proximity to one another, were shown to the players. Each gumshoe simultaneously selected their answer and then revealed that answer to Greg. Each correct answer earned a gumshoe 10 Crime Bucks. The typical course of the round would be as follows:
- Lightning Round – After three sketches were performed (two in the final season, and sometimes in the second season), the game moved to the "Lightning Round" which began with a deliberately cheesy lightning effect. Greg read three questions about the last location visited and provided three possible answers for each. The first gumshoe to buzz in with the right answer earned five crime bucks. If they were wrong, the other gumshoes would be offered to answer. If no gumshoes buzzed in within five seconds (indicated by a single-note buzzer), or buzzed in but nobody got the right answer, Greg would reveal the correct answer himself.
- Chief's Office Sketch – After the Lightning Round, Greg was always called into the Chief's office for a special briefing or conversation or lunch. This was used as a comedy break, an opportunity for a bizarre interaction between the Chief and Greg. Sometimes, the Chief didn't call Greg in her office. Instead, Greg would choose to just go in her office. To end the break the Chief would almost always (less often in the later seasons) say exasperatedly, "Greg, go away." In the later seasons she'd say "Greg, get back on the case." In the first and second seasons, the sketches were used to promote the grand prize to whoever caught Carmen Sandiego in the final round. In the third season and beyond, the sketches were used to promote the contest for the home viewers. In those episodes, Greg would promote the grand prize to the gumshoes upon his arrival to the studio and greeting the gumshoes one-by-one. He would follow up by saying, "And that isn't bad." However, in some episodes, there was no office sketch. But in most of these instances, the Chief quickly promoted the grand prize and announced the Phone Tap. In the third and fourth seasons, Greg announced the Phone Tap and the contest was described during the closing credits. These sketches were always pre-recorded, and often re-used. If a sketch continued as Greg left the office and returned to the live shoot, the sequence had to be re-created live each time the sketch was used.
- Training Exercise – In the fifth and final season, a new mini-game was added, and was played after the Chief's conversation with Greg. Greg met the gumshoes in the alley, and they would come across a few trash cans. Most of the time, Greg's can contained a gag (mostly from earlier in the episode). One example: As Greg tried to lift the lid, Barry Carl's voice would intone, "WARNING! This bag is full, and can only be activated by saying 'Swordfish.'" On several occasions, Greg's can would contain a video camera - the screen would cut to that camera while Greg explained the rules. Once that was done, Greg took out a card with a flag of a country. The gumshoes then raced to grab a similar card out of their own cans, ending by putting the lid on the can. After that, each gumshoe would get a clue (e.g., language, capital, government, etc.) about the country in question. Greg would give three choices for the country, and the gumshoes would then offer their answers in turn, starting with the first one to get their clue card and lid their can. The first gumshoe to guess the right country earned 10 ACME Crime Bucks, and the ACME Bug Net Alert next to Greg would signal Greg and the gumshoes to go to the Phone Tap.
- Phone Tap – After the break, the gumshoes watched an animated phone conversation (aka "phone tap") between Carmen and the day's crook, courtesy of ACME Bug Net. In this sequence, Carmen would tell the crook where to go, and, typically, become exasperated by the crook's stupidity. The gumshoes were than asked where the crook went. In the first through third seasons, Greg would formally introduce the phone tap to the gumshoes, but sometimes in the third and most of the fourth season, as the Chief's office sketches continued outside the office, Greg would usually just say "Phone tap." to cue the video.
- Several other clues were presented and questions answered. Two or three more skits and questions took place before the next break.
- The Chase – Starting with the second season, there was a new series of five questions known as "The Chase" beginning with a funny chase scene performed by Rockapella and occasionally with the Chief or on rare occasions Greg participating if either one of them was attacked/robbed by a Rockapella member. While the Lightning Round asked questions related to the last visited country, The Chase provided clues about locations that followed a path, indicating that the gumshoes were hot on the trail of the crook. Each question had three locations as choices and the first gumshoe to buzz in with the right answer received five crime bucks. As with the Lightning Round, there was no penalty assessed for an incorrect response, though unlike the Lightning Round, only one player could buzz in and answer (although in some early Season 2 episodes, more than one player could buzz in and answer). An incorrect response resulted in Greg giving the right answer.
- Final Clue – After a few more clues (or The Chase), Greg showed the gumshoes one more map (in this case before the skit was performed). The gumshoes were asked to make a wager of zero, 10, 20, 30, 40, or 50 ACME Crime Bucks on their ability to provide a correct answer. The final skit was performed and the gumshoes made their guesses. Anyone with a right answer had their wager added to his or her score, and anyone with a wrong answer had their wager subtracted from his or her score. The top two gumshoes at this point moved on to the day's crook's Jailtime Challenge (Round 2), while the third-place 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 buzz in with the correct answer received an additional five crime bucks and moved on to the next round. Generally speaking, the last clue would contain the answer. For example: "This state's capital, Oklahoma City, is one of only two whose name contains the name of the state." If the round ended in a three-way tie, then Greg would read two tiebreaker questions and only two would be tied and move on to the next round.
Round 2: Jailtime Challenge
The two remaining gumshoes "traveled" to their final destination from Round 1, where The Chief described various landmarks in that country, city or region, called a "Photo Recon". Often, these descriptions were silly; the writers always used this sequence as an opportunity to poke fun at the destination. For example, the camera zoomed in on graffiti on a small landmark and the Chief openly scolded the people who had spray painted their initials on a marker. 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 show, the warrant to arrest the crook, and the crook himself/herself. Hidden behind the remaining landmarks were a pair of shoe prints (sometimes one or three), which meant that nothing was there.
The gumshoe in the lead after Round 1 played first. If the two gumshoes were tied, a coin toss determined who would start (early in the first season, the gumshoe to Greg's left went first in the case of a tie). If a gumshoe found any of the three key items, he or she would get a free turn. A gumshoe's turn ended if he/she did one of three things:
- Find a box with shoe prints
- Took too much time (10-second limit) picking a location (which happened very few times)
- Find the loot, the warrant, and the crook in the wrong order in a single turn (which happened on at least four occasions)
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 crook). When a gumshoe found all three items in the correct order, he/she won the game and was given the right to "put the crook in jail" by pulling on a hanging chain before proceeding to the final round to catch Carmen Sandiego. The other Gumshoe was eliminated.
On the one occasion in the show's history that one gumshoe (Ali Haider) won the Jailtime Challenge on the first try, he not only won the game, but also earned the chance to win a $100 savings bond. The bond was hidden behind one of the remaining 12 landmarks, and Ali was given 5 chances to find it, although he was unsuccessful in doing so. Because winning the Jailtime Challenge on the first try only happened once, no one won the savings bond.
Final Round: World Map
In the final round, the gumshoe was given a chance to try to catch Carmen. If successful, he/she won an all-expenses paid trip to anywhere in the lower 48 states (expanded to anywhere in North America starting with Season 2). After the gumshoe wrote down their desired trip destination, the jailed crook then "called" the sleuth on a telephone so as to rat on Carmen. The crook gave the general location of Carmen Sandiego (one of four continents (South America, Europe, Africa, or Asia) or the United States). After the second season, the U.S. was replaced with North America. The Chief then gave a list of 13 possible locations Carmen may have traveled (either countries, states, cities, islands, bodies of water, national parks, or national monuments) on that continent. After that, in some Season 2-5 episodes Greg would tell the gumshoe what he or she needed to do in that round or sometimes just go on to the markers. In Season 3 and beyond Greg did that with the introductory phrase: "Let me explain it for those who may not know."
The gumshoe was then presented with a giant map that covered the floor of the studio, with dots marking the cities and islands, squares marking national parks and monuments, and arrows marking bodies of water (the national parks were only used in North America in the third and fourth seasons, and bodies of water were used in all continents except Africa in the third and fifth seasons). As Greg read the locations, the gumshoe had to place a marker with a red flashing siren light on the correct location on the map. If the gumshoe placed the marker on the correct location (indicated by a siren), that marker was activated and the contestant was given the next location. If he or she was wrong, (indicated by a two-note buzzer), the gumshoe was given one more chance to move the marker. After two incorrect guesses (indicated by a four-note-buzzer in the first season), he/she had to pick up a new marker and another location was read; otherwise, the next answer wouldn't count. Later on in the round, if the gumshoe needed to move incorrectly located markers in order to identify correct locations, they were allowed to do so. Overall, the biggest challenge was the fact that from the gumshoe's perspective, the map was upside down, which was often given as a reason for a loss.
If within 45 seconds (60 in at least two first season episodes when the Asia map was used) could the gumshoe successfully identify seven locations (eight after the first season) on the map, they captured Carmen Sandiego, became a sleuth, and won the trip. If not, they would win consolation prizes. From the second season and beyond, win or lose, the Chief would congratulate and promote the gumshoe to a sleuth.
The round would end with a simulation of a newspaper headline. If the gumshoe won, the headline would read "(Gumshoe's name) Captures Carmen!". If the gumshoe failed, however, the headline would read "Carmen Escapes Again!". In Seasons 4 and 5, the photo of Carmen would either be a white outline (if the gumshoe failed to catch her), or have prison bars overlayed in front of it (if she was successfully caught).
At the end of each episode, Greg, the sleuth and the audience would point up in the air and yell "Do it, Rockapella!" as the camera pulled away from them. In the pilot episodes, instead of "Do it, Rockapella!", they said "Hit it, fellas!". After that, the group performed the show's theme 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 background with falling confetti was used. After the credits and in the second season (sometimes in the first season) the audience was invited onto the map to dance and perform the theme song. Greg and Rockapella performed and danced with audience members. Even the eliminated gumshoes would come out once again to dance with the sleuth, until the end of the third season; afterwhich they did not dance anymore.
Afterwards, during the first season, the Chief, who had joined in the celebration from her office, said "This is Lynne Thigpen speaking for Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, and remember, (something funny in rhyme)". Sometimes the funny rhyme part wasn't heard, and during some of the first season episodes "See you next time!" was said instead. Before the camera fade, a disclaimer would appear on the screen reading, "All contestants have been briefed prior to their appearance." In the second and third seasons, Lynne Thigpen read the disclaimer aloud. the fourth and fifth seasons did not have the disclaimer.
Beginning in the second season, there was also voice-over disclaimer by Thigpen stating that "All geographic information is accurate as of the date this program was recorded." This was probably added due to the dissolution of both the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia when the show's first season was taped, causing some episodes to be rerun with outdated geographic information, despite the fact that a vast majority of game show reruns have included outdated information in any topic whatsoever. It was also during the second season and beyond when the actual recording date of each program was shown on the bottom of the screen rather than just the year, as in the first season.
Every new season brought at least one change in the order of the show's format. Some of these were:
- In the third season episodes involving Eartha Brute, the Chief would inform Greg that they were out of ACME Travel Kits, so Greg would tell her to use a holographic version of it to which the Chief accepted, although the Gumshoe would still receive the real kit. As this was done there was a message scrolling at the bottom reading: THIS IS NOT THE ACTUAL ACME KIT. IT'S A CLEVER HOLOGRAPHIC REPRODUCTION. THE GUMSHOE HOWEVER, WILL RECEIVE THE REAL DEAL.
- The Carmen Sandiego t-shirt style and design varied from season to season.
- In some second season episodes, the same background vocals sung by Rockapella when the gumshoes were introduced in the first and second seasons, and in the third season after the crook, loot, and title of the episode were revealed, played during The Chase--when Greg read the clues for the crook's latest whereabouts and the gumshoes buzzed in to identify the answers.
- In the last two seasons, the Lightning Round began with either actual lightning bolts or other objects of some sort, or often a pair of hands.
- In the final season, "The Chase" theme was re-recorded to include Jeff Thatcher's vocal percussion.
- Occasionally when the show ended early, filler segments would be added to the episode to fill the allotted time. Appearing only in The Disoriented Express, Greg asked the younger audience questions. The prize for getting them correct was a Carmen Sandiego sweatshirt or the object that the question was about. For the rest of the first season, the Chief called audience members into her office so that they would answer a multiple-choice geography question. If answered correctly, the audience member would win a Carmen Sandiego sweatshirt; if wrong or if he/she said he/she didn't know, he/she received an atlas, and the Chief would tell him/her the correct answer. All the same, those selected audience members would return as gumshoes in later episodes. Sometimes an "ACME Music Net Extra" a song by Rockapella was featured, such as "Zombie Jamboree" performed after shortened first season episodes and "Capital" (featured on the WITWICS CD album), a song of state capitals performed after shortened final season episodes. Other songs included parodies of songs they covered like Billy Joel's "The Longest Time" performed after some shortened second season episodes--in which Rockapella sang about various seas worldwide and The Hollies's "Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress" performed after some shortened Season 2 episodes--in which Rockapella sang about the 15 countries that gained independence from the Soviet Union during the 1991 breakup of the U.S.S.R., which took place after the making of the first season. The background acappella to Rockapella's version of "Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress" was used during the Bonus/Map Round as the background music when the gumshoe(s) identified the locations with markers, or flags during the pilot episodes containing the United States map. One other song performed after some shortened second season episodes featured Rockapella, Greg Lee, and Nana Rap (a recurring Rap music cartoon clue-giver during various episodes) rapping about the five biggest islands in ascending order in the world. It's currently unknown whether the audience games or the ACME Music Net Extras carried over to the third and fourth seasons if the game ended early. However, in one episode in the third season, the theme song was extended to its full-length version with Rockapella performing and lip-synching it on camera, as heard live in concert or on studio recording.
- In the second and third seasons, at the end of the Jailtime Challenge, after the winning gumshoe received a telephone call from the crook, telling him/her where to go catch Carmen, Greg would ask him/her where the crook said to go. The gumshoes would respond by saying the name of the continent, and Greg would verbally cue the Chief to name the list of places Carmen may have traveled in that continent. In the fourth and fifth seasons, after the crook informed the gumshoe of Carmen's whereabouts, Greg would cue the Chief immediately without asking the winning gumshoe for a summary of the conversation first. In the first season, Greg would not ask the winning gumshoe about where to find Carmen; instead, he would say (in the early-recorded non-pilot episodes), "Well, so much for honor among thieves, it looks like we're/you and I are going to (name of continent). Chief?"
- Sometimes, when there was still extra time, and Greg and the winning gumshoe awaited a telephone call from the crook notifying them of Carmen's whereabouts, the caller would be a celebrity, giving Greg and the gumshoe motivation to catch Carmen. After the brief stint, the crook would call and the game would continue as normal.
- While the Contessa was a regular villain in the first season, she disappeared from Carmen's gang until her return in the fourth season with a new outfit. Her vocal mannerisms and theme music remained consistent with the first season.
- During the first season, the Chief would introduce the gumshoes, and talk directly to them. From the second season and beyond, she stopped doing that, due to the fact that the show had moved and almost every one of her appearances had been pre-recorded for unexplained reasons. Barry Carl took over introducing the gumshoes. In some episodes, Scott Leonard Or Sean Altman introduced the Gumshoes.
- In the first and second seasons, after the first clue in Round 1 (before the game started in the early episodes) Greg would ask the gumshoes to tell a little about themselves. After the second season, Barry Carl described the gumshoes as he introduced them.
- At different points throughout the first round of each episode (from the second season and beyond) and sometimes before the game started, Greg Lee would remind everybody that "all of our answers have been verified by National Geographic World." Rockapella would follow up by singing, "National Geographic World!"
- In the first four seasons, Greg and the contestants walk into the station, where the day's crook was shown. In the fifth and final season, Greg and the contestants were teleported to the station to capture the day's crook, as they were hanging from the ceiling while holding their breaths.
- For the first season, still images of Carmen's henchmen stealing items from their proper locations were placed behind the scrolling credits on a notepad-like backdrop. In the second through fourth seasons, the henchmen popped out from behind the credits in the same notepad-like background used at the beginning and end. The fifth and final season used a black background with falling confetti.
- On rare occasions, Greg would hilariously be involved in an actual chase during "The Chase", which happened in at least one episode, What's What with Watts? when Sean threw a snowball at Greg.
- In the first season while doing the briefing (aka Photo Recon) of the final location in Round 1, the Chief used a slide projector and showed slides of various landmarks in the particular location while a dramatic business-style music theme played in the background. In the second season, the Chief displayed the landmarks from the location via a television screen she inserted into a monitor that popped up from her desk when she knocked or tapped with her magnifying glass. The music also vanished after the first season. From the third season onward, she traveled along with Greg and the gumshoes to the final location and gave the descriptions there on the Jailtime Challenge board in which the board turned into a video wall after Greg inserted a mini-monitor (a different shape was used in early-recorded third season episodes with the Chief on it), in the third and fourth seasons only and hit a button to summon her. NOTE: The Chief was superimposed on the board to the home viewers while the audience members in the studio saw a video screen sliding in, and the Chief's image appeared. This resulted in a stop down for two to five minutes before and after the briefing. Then, starting in the fourth season, the Chief used a double-knobbed remote control for the slide show. In the final season, the second knob was used to report Greg and the gumshoes to the location via modem.
- In the first season, when the Chief read the list of places Carmen may have traveled for the Final Round, Carmen did not walk across the screen. She did in most episodes of the last four seasons.
- For the first three seasons of the show, the scoreboard and the clock that were displayed during the map round were both white; for the first season only, they also had blue outlines; subsequent seasons had black outlines. During the last two seasons, they were switched to yellow. Regardless, the time counted down graphically during the entire round (the colored-in portion would gradually shrink, and a final 9-second numerical countdown was also seen inside the clock).
- During the last two seasons of the show, the newspaper at the end of the map round had the image of Carmen behind bars (if she was caught) or Carmen's image from the logo disappear, leaving only a white shadow (if she escaped). Prior to that the newspaper just showed Carmen's image from the show's logo normally.
- During the last two seasons, after Round 1, Greg would step up to the eliminated Gumshoe and give him/her a high-five before the Chief would announce the consolation prize for the eliminated Gumshoe.
- During the last two seasons, as the Gumshoe caught the crook in the Jailtime Challenge, he/she pulled the chain by him/herself while Greg stood by the eliminated Gumshoe.
- Only one episode (Disturbing the Heavenly Peace; the second season premiere) had teams of gumshoes. The teammates were celebrities, Mayim Bialik of Blossom, Tatyana Ali of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Jeremy Miller of Growing Pains. The winning gumshoe (Lindsey Wolper) and celebrity (Jeremy Miller) had made it to the final round, but failed to catch Carmen in Asia. Since it was the only celebrity special, there were no more teamups since, and the headline never, said "(Gumshoe's Name) and (Gumshoes's Name) Capture Carmen!"
- In the second season finale (Gotta Get a Yeti), a gumshoe Tahare Campbell answered a question right but it was counted as incorrect. This was the first and only episode to have a geographical error. After the episode ended and before the funding credits, there was a message where which the Chief said: "Due to a factual error in this game, Tahare Campbell has been invited to play a new game in our next season." In the third season's "The Glacier Erasure", he was invited back, and this time, he made it all the way to the final round and captured Carmen in Asia.
- In Season 1, Greg Lee wore a red business suit, as well as a green one. In Season 2, Greg Lee wore a dark blue business suit. From Season 3, right on to the end of the show's run, Greg Lee wore a cyan business suit. In the earlier-recorded Season 1 episodes, the Chief wore a green suit. She wore a regular red suit for the rest of the series.
- Also in the first season, Rockapella's street outfits varied from one episode to another. In earlier-recorded episodes, they would wear actual street clothing. From the second season on, each member of the group wore the same outfit, respectively, for every episode.
- In the third and fourth seasons, Greg, the gumshoes, and the Chief traveled to the final destination to capture that day's crook, the show would cut to transportation as a pretender of how they traveled. The clip would then cut back to the show as they arrived.
- Beginning in the third season, "The Corporation For Public Broadcasting" logo that appeared in the funding credits on the revolving Planet Earth in outer space at the beginning and end of each episode contained the add-on, "A Private Corporation Funded By The American People". That same year (1993), many other PBS shows produced by the CPB contained the same logo in their funding credits as well.
- In the third season and beyond, as Rockapella sang the show's theme song in the credits, the line from the first bridge "She goes from Nashville to Norway, Bonaire to Zimbabwe, Chicago to Czechoslovakia, and back!" used in the first and second seasons was replaced with the line from the second bridge, "Botswana to Thailand, Milan via Amsterdam, Mali to Bali, Ohio," "And back" was added after the word Ohio and "she goes" was added before the word Botswana. This was due to the break up of Czechoslovakia.
- On one episode of the first season, the gumshoes wore their hats for the entire first round and took them off after the Photo Recon segment.
- The first filmed episodes of the first season did not require the correct order of the loot, warrant and crook in the Jailtime Challenge.
- The gumshoes did not usually wear hats during the shows intro, especially in early episodes with the flag and clue format in the USA map.
- On non-pilot early episodes, Greg interviewed the gumshoes before the first clue instead of afterwards.
- On the first filmed episodes, a slightly different scoring system was used. Gumshoes started with 125 ACME Crime Bucks, with all answers prior to the last clue being subtracted instead of added. Correct answers deducted 10 Crime Bucks, and incorrect answers cost the player(s) five additional (15). It was confusing, and so it was changed to traditional adding for correct answers and receiving nothing for the wrong ones after the pilot episodes were recorded. Also in these 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 instead of the usual siren and two-note buzzer in the pilots; in addition, the time buzzer sound was performed by one of the Rockapella singers in addition to the music. Sound effects from other various game shows were used in the other early-recorded episodes until the flags were replaced by markers.
- In the earlier season 1 episodes, Greg would read a description of a location before giving the name of the location itself in the bonus round. He did this with the United States map in the first few recorded episodes, and he did this with the Europe map in the mid-early episodes (the Europe map would never be used again afterwards until the second season). Only two Gumshoes captured Carmen in each of the two different formats. Starting in the mid-late episodes, Greg would just read the location, and more than twice as many gumshoes captured Carmen.
- 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.
- There was no Lightning Round in the pilots.
- In the pilots, Greg Lee did not take his fedora off, he decided to keep it on throughout the whole show.
- The second round winner didn't pull the chain to throw the criminal in jail; instead, they showed a clip of the criminal in jail after the Chief told what the consolation prize was.
- Some of the audience would support the gumshoes in the second round.
- Greg would tell the Gumshoes that Carmen Sandiego was in the United States.
- In the pilots, the trips were selected by the Gumshoes prior to the show rather than prior to the Map.
- Greg and the Sleuth yelled "Hit it, fellas!", a line that would briefly be replaced by a much more common line, "Do it, Rockapella!"
- Africa was used in Vic the Slick's debut recorded episode, Who Stole the Hole?, but since only the United States was available, the continents never used flags, and Africa would not be available until the mid-late episodes of the season, meaning the bonus round was shot several weeks after the second round. During this episode's bonus round, the sleuth also wore the hat that the gumshoes usually wore in the shows intro.
- In these episodes, the Chief would give a list of 12 (instead of 13) places Carmen might have traveled.
- Also in early episodes, the telephone in the second round was a strange object like a vase or a shoe (a possible homage to the detective series Get Smart).
- In non-pilot early episodes, the Chief would congratulate the sleuth for capturing Carmen. This only occurred at least three times.
For each trip, the winning sleuth, their parents, and a guest flew round-trip coach from New York City to the selected location. The sleuth spent one week at a hotel chosen by the Chief. Later in the fourth season, the contestant stayed in the hotel of their choice. A rental car was included since Season 3 provided by Toyota. The contestants also received $250 (increased to $500 in the second season, $750 for the first half of the final season, and $1,000 in the second half of the final season) ($100 in the pilot) as spending money.
The trip to anywhere in the lower 48 States/North America was really chosen from a list of possible destinations. The winning sleuth generally wrote down the identifying state, province, or country. Occasionally, they identified a city as well.
Eliminated gumshoes received a set of consolation prizes called the official ACME Crime Net Travel Kit (towards the end of the third season (mainly with Eartha Brute as the crook), the Chief would tell Greg that ACME Crime Net would be out of kits, so Greg would tell her to use a holographic version of it, although the Gumshoe would still receive the real kit) (renamed Travel Pack in the fourth season, then to ACME Gumshoe Gear in the final season). Some of the consolation prizes on the show included:
ACME Travel Kit – This was given by the Chief to the third place contestant. This typically included:
- World Atlas by Rand McNally
- Official Carmen Sandiego watch (Season 1–3)
- Official Carmen Sandiego sweatshirt (pilots and late Season 1)/T-Shirt (early Season 1 and 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 WiTWiCS logo (Season 4; which has the atlas, t-shirt, and magazine)
- ACME Voice Identification Badge and Leave-a-Message Wallet (Season 4)
- ACME Stealth Pencorder (voice recorder pen) (Season 5)
- The ACME Crime Net Cap (Season 5)
Typically given to the second place contestant in addition to the ACME Travel Kit:
- A pocket translator (Seasons 1–3)
- A world-band radio (Seasons 1–4; a channel guide was included with the radio in season 4)
- Digital encyclopedia (Season 2)
- Automatic camera (Season 3)
- Two ACME Secret Senders, which functioned as: two way communicators, Personal Organizers, and a TV/VCR remote (the Chief sometimes accidentally changed the channel to ACME Home Spending Net when she demonstrated the TV remote feature) (Seasons 4 and 5)
Typically given for a final round loss:
- A portable CD player and a library of CDs from around the world, which included a CD by Rockapella, featuring the Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? theme song (included in Seasons 1 and 3, but was given for advancing to the second round in Season 2).
- After the final round, win or lose, a Carmen Sandiego "Sleuth" Jacket (the gumshoe's vest and coat would usually be removed in order to put on the jacket); if the sleuth got at least six locations right on the Map, they received a camera as well. (Season 2)
- A boom box and a library of CDs from around the world (Season 4)
- A portable color television (Season 5)
- Corporation for Public Broadcasting
- Public Television Viewers
- Holiday Inn (Seasons 1-2)
- Toyota (Seasons 1-3)
- Delta Air Lines (Seasons 4-5)
The opening variant was "[Today's Caper is presented by WQED Pittsburgh and WGBH Boston.] Carmen's gang is bankrolled by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and (by) Viewers Like You. [Corporate Bucks provided by Holiday Inn and Toyota]." Both speeches in brackets were used in the first and second seasons.
The closing variant was "[This program was presented by WQED Pittsburgh and WGBH Boston. And as always, gumshoes,] Carmen's gang is bankrolled by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and (by) Viewers Like You. [Corporate Bucks provided by Toyota]." The first speech in brackets was used in third and fifth seasons and the second speech in brackets was used in the third season but was changed into "Corporate bucks provided by Delta Air Lines." and was used in the fourth and fifth seasons.
There has been several merchandise for Carmen Sandiego such as CD Roms, video games, t-shirts, watches, and many more.
Carmen Sandiego Live!
A live version of Carmen Sandiego was shown in cities across America. Greg Lee and Lynne Thigpen filled their TV roles in person, and the gameplay was based on the TV show. The live version was shown on weekends, when the show wasn't airing any episodes.
- Germany had Jagd um die Welt – schnappt Carmen Sandiego? (Hunt around the world- does Carmen Sandiego get caught?), which aired on ARD in 1994.
- A Spanish version called Donde se Esconde Carmen Sandiego? (Where does Carmen Sandiego hide?) ran from 1994 to 1996, with Luis Montalvo as ACME Agent in Charge of Training New Recruits and Lola Munoz as "The Chief".
- Canada's Télé-Québec produced a French-language version called Mais, où se cache Carmen Sandiego? ("But Where is Carmen Sandiego Hiding? or But Where Lies Carmen Sandiego?"), which aired from 1995 to 1998. It starred Pauline Martin as "The Chief", and Martin Drainville as ACME Agent in Charge of Training New Recruits.
- New Zealand had a version from 1998 to 1999, using the show's English title. A group known as "The Chemistry Bois" was the comedy troupe and performers for the show. Phil Vaughan was the ACME Agent in Charge of Training New Recruits and Nina Nawalowalo was the chief.
- Italy also had a version, called Che fine ha fatto Carmen Sandiego? (What Happened to Carmen Sandiego?).
List of Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? sketches
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?/Airdates
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?/Gallery
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?/Quotes & Catchphrases
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?/Video Gallery
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?/Villains
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?/World in Popular Culture
Theme – "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" Performed by Rockapella, written by Sean Altman & David Yazbek
Nearly all of the sound effects and music cues were also sung by Rockapella as well.
Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? – Successor to this show aired from 1996 to 1997 (reruns until 1998)
Based on the computer game by Broderbund Software
This was the first ever PBS Kids game show.
Rockapella was first formed in 1986, five years before World aired. Sean Altman and Elliott Kerman are the founding members of the group. However, Steve Keyes was the high tenor from 1986-1991 and David Stix was the bass from 1986-87 before being replaced by Charlie Everett in 1987. Barry Carl then replaced Everett in 1988 and continued to be the bass of Rockapella until his retirement in 2002. As for Steve Keyes, he left the band to pursue a legal career just before World officially premiered. Scott Leonard took Keyes's place and retains the high tenor position in the group to this day. While Jeff Thacher became a member of Rockapella in 1993, he did not appear until the show's final season in 1995. Sean Altman continued to be the lead singer until 1997, just a couple of years after the show went off the air. After that, Altman pursued a music solo career. Elliott Kerman then retired in 2004 as the baritone. In addition, Altman started a new acapella group called The GrooveBarbers, where former Rockapella members Steve Keyes and Charlie Everett are in it with him. Kevin Weist is the baritone of the group, even though he was never a member of Rockapella.