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with Chris Wolvie
The Game Show That Was Torture... to Play AND to Watch!
March 23
Once they enter, there's no turning back! Tonight, within these steel walls, human endurance will be taken to its very limit. If anyone can make it through all seven levels, they could walk away with more than $100,000! Will it be worth it? Welcome to...

AIR DATES: January 13, 2002 to January 25, 2002
CREATOR: Dick Clark Productions
HOST: Rick Schwartz
WATCH IT AT: Veoh  (clip; no full episodes could be found)


So "The Chair" was a bust in the U.S., though it found life in Europe for up to two years at a time. What about the OTHER prime time game show from 2002 featuring contestants answering questions while under duress? Well, FOX's "The Chamber" never showed up outside of the U.S...but that was probably because no sane European or Australian would be STUPID enough to try out for this show! Whereas "The Chair" was mild in comparison and only monitored a contestant's heart rate, "The Chamber" took the concept to its most illogical extreme. And, not only that, but contestants went through all that crap for PEANUTS compared to what "The Chair" offered!

Two contestants, always one male and one female, competed in a list-making competition. The host gives a subject and the two go back and forth giving possible answers that fit the subject. When one person gives a wrong or repeated answer or takes too much time TO answer, the point goes to the opponent. The first to get two points gets to enter the Chamber.

Electrodes, muscle contractors and medical equipment are attached to the player before entering the Chamber. They are offered $500 to bail out (though nobody took the offer) and, if they didn't, they have to sign a waiver stating they are entering on their own free will (which is ridiculous 'cause you KNOW they signed a litany of such papers before they even showed up on camera).

The Chamber came in two varieties. The Hot Chamber included temperatures from 110 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit (43 to 66 Celsius) and a chair that rotated back and forth. The Cold Chamber featured temps from 30 to -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 to -29 Celsius) and water jets spraying the player. In both Chambers, the chair would shake with earthquake-like force, wind turbines would blast the player with gusts up to 55mph and those aforementioned muscle contractors would get harder and harder to endure as time went on.

The game is played in seven one-minute rounds. During each round, the conditions inside the Chamber worsen and the player's "stress quotient" - an equation that used blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature as variables - is constantly measured. A pre-designated "Danger Zone" is shown along with the player's current quotient. During each round, a player has to answer questions thrown at them by a different voice, ranging from general knowledge to multiple choice to personal questions such as "What is your mother's maiden name?". For each question answered correctly, the player earns $1000. After each round ends, the Chamber goes into "standby mode" for a few seconds before the next round begins.

The game ends in one of five ways:
1) The player answers two consecutive questions incorrectly
2) The player's "stress quotient" stays in the "Danger Zone" for 20 seconds straight
3) The medical staff deems the player cannot continue or has been rendered unconscious
4) The player shouts "Stop the Chamber!"
5) The player endures all seven minutes without any of the above conditions being met

In the case of the first four, the player exits the Chamber and the money earned to that point is halved. If, however, the player gets through all seven levels AND answers at least 25 questions correctly, their amount is TRIPLED. If less than 25 questions were answered right, the player still left with whatever they earned. The maximum number of questions is never stated, but, given that they say contestants can win over $100,000, it can be assumed that at least 34 questions can be asked.

Uh,...well,...the....Chamber itself looked pretty impressive, I guess. I'm sure medieval torturers would've loved to have THIS setup. Well, either them or the "interrogators" in a certain Cuban prison (allegedly).

Oy vey, where to start?!? Let's start with the fact that these (obviously) deranged people were so desperate for money and/or TV exposure that they WILLINGLY subjected themselves to stuff normally considered "cruel and unusual punishment" in most court systems. Is it any WONDER only one person get to the seventh level...and THAT person actually SUED the network because he was hospitalized afterwards!

And that's another thing: with all that crap they had to endure, they left with, at MOST, $20,000 (that was the guy who sued and was given $100,000 by the production company). They couldn't have given more money per right answer for each more-difficult round?! Was FOX that freakin' cheap after "Greed" tanked?!?

And they FURTHER saved money because, every time a contestant got a question wrong, the "voice" wasted about five seconds reminding them that the next wrong answer would end the game. Uh, HELLO! They knew that going IN! You could've just moved on to the next question. Time is MONEY, y'know! Not MUCH money but still...

The so-called "host" did nothing but commentary and giving the subjects during the Face-Off. It was told that veteran host Matt Vasgersian was slated to host...but was so disgusted with the format that he walked off. So FOX had to scramble to get this correspondent from "Extra" to take his place. They might as well have left that "voice" do everything, but I guess they needed a human face to put the blame on for this turd.

I think it's safe to say that, if anyone ever mentions "The Chair" or "The Chamber" again, it should ONLY be used to describe two forms of capital punishment. Thank God no one suggested a game called "The Hangman's Noose"! No, I think Lewis Black summed it up best in 
this clip. Both shows were purely exploitative, the resulting lawsuits against each other were thrown out in the interest of maintaining good taste and whoever came up with the initial ideas for them should be PLACED in the "chair" and "chamber" for the first degree murder of our brain cells!

NEXT TIME: The poet laureate hosts his OWN show...

Chris Wolvie is hot then is cold, is "yes" then is "no". Follow him on Twitter @ChrisWolvie and e-mail him at