|Carmen Sandiego found yet another way to steal valuable artifacts in Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?—only this time, she wreaked havoc in history. This public television game show followed the diabolical adventures of the glamorous arch-villainess Carmen, while simultaneously exploring historical themes and teaching children about cultural and physical geography.
Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? began in the fall of 1996, replacing the former PBS Carmen show,Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, both produced by WQED Pittsburg and WGBH Boston.
Lynne Thigpen reprised her World role as the Chief of the ACME Detective Agency, but Time had a new host in Kevin Shinick. Also gone were the theme-song boppers Rockapella, replaced by another group of singers, the Engine Crew.
The new show also had a live-action Carmen Sandiego as well as live-action members of VILE (Villian's International League of Evil), replacing World's cartoon baddies. These henchmen were as rotten as they were clever: Jacquelyn Hyde, a thief with two personalites—one sweet (Jacquelyn), the other berserk (Hyde); Sir VILE, an evil knight willing to do whatever his lady (Carmen) commanded; Dr. Belljar, a mad scientist who was actually a cyborg; Medeva, a wicked, rhyming witch; Baron Wasteland, a rich man who hated clean air; and the insect-hating gangster Buggs Zapper.
The show opened with a segment in which the young contestants, called Time Pilots, tried to retrieve what Carmen had stolen by answering questions about history. Next, contestants ranked eight historical events from most recent to earliest. Then, in the final round, one contestant had 90 seconds to answer six of Carmen's multiple choice questions by running around the set through the gateways of time. A correct answer would open a gate for the contestant, and if the Time Pilot made it through 6 gates, he or she won a computer system.
Each episode of Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? reinforced a single historical theme and helped kids understand why the past continued to affect their lives. The series explored historical events from a number of different points of view, including ordinary citizens, women, racial and ethnic groups, children and political figures.
It may sound like pretty heady stuff for a kids' show, but Carmen and company managed to make history and geography, often dreaded subjects for young scholars, into an exciting, fast-paced game that everyone could understand.