Oh, the television I watched when I was young. There was Quantum Leap and Star Trek: The Next Generation and Doctor Who on channel 44 and Tiny Toon Adventures… and every day, at around 5pm, there was Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?
It was, as you may recall, a game show based on the popular computer game series; a series beloved by history and social studies teachers who needed to kill an afternoon. The TV version featured Greg Lee in a fedora as your chipper and sprightly host, the late great Lynne Thigpen as The Chief of ACME Crime Net, and, of course, the inescapable Rockapella, a veritable Greek chorus of white man jive.
I would have done anything to be on that show. I would have killed my left leg or cut off my own grandmother. Unfortunately, I never figured out quite how to get on it. This is probably fine, because if I had ever made it on the show there would be video footage of a young, nervous, sweaty Andy losing terribly on national public television to a Chinese girl and a painfully shy Indian boy, while Rockapella cold dissed me for letting Vic the Slick get away with the loot. And the warrant. Having said that, at age twelve I did win my school’s National Geographic Geography Bee. No matter how hard they try, they can’t take that away from me.
If you made it through all three rounds without screwing or throwing up, you would win a trip anywhere in the continental US for you and your family. I’m not sure where I would have picked – probably Disneyworld, though possibly the Grand Tetons, just because of the wave of snickers it would have sent across the pre-adolescent audience. If they ever expanded their options to South America, I totally would have gone with Lake Titicaca.
I remember there were different crooks, too, and you never knew which one was going to show up. Let’s see if I can remember them all….
– Vic the Slick was a sort of used car salesman type with an unfortunate moustache.
– The Contessa was a shady foreigner with an enormous hat.
– Top Grunge was an enormous man on an enormous motorcycle
– Double Trouble sort of looked like the aliens from the original Star Trek episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” if they mated and had twins (and holy crap that’s a mental workout to picture, but you know what I mean.)
– Patty Larceny was a sweet, dim, blonde valley girl type who just happened to be a master criminal and kind of looked like first season Buffy.
– Robocrook was, well, exactly what he sounds like.
– Eartha Brute was a massive butch bruiser of a chick with a Marge Simpson hairdo.
– Nee-moy (who showed up in the second season) was a weird little alien guy who looked like the weird little alien guy from the Hitchhiker’s Guide books.
I’m so glad I remember all that stuff, and not, say, my girlfriend’s birthday.
Then there was Carmen herself. If they ever make a Carmen Sandiego movie and Catherine Zeta-Jones doesn’t play Carmen, there’s no justice.
Anyway, vgcf on YouTube has been kind enough to post a couple episodes of Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego online for our streaming pleasure. Here’s The Canal Caper, where Top Grunge somehow manages to get his grubby paws on the Panama Canal, and only this crack team of interracial Odyssey of the Mind rejects can stop him.
Oh, and just because I can, and because it isn’t fair that I never got to when I was a child….
DO IT, ROCKAPELLA!