Chain Reaction '79 Pilot

Pilot, October 27, 1979
NBC Daytime, January 14, 1980 - June 20, 1980

Run time
30 Minutes
Bill Cullen, Geoff Edwards (sub-host)
Johnny Gilbert
NBC Studios 2 and 4, Burbank, California

Chain Reaction, the game show where one word leads to another.

Game FormatEdit

Main GameEdit

Two teams of three competed in each game. A team consisted of one contestant and two celebrity guests. The teams were shown the beginning and ending words of an eight word chain. Each word related to the word above it and below it. A sample chain could be:









The challenging team began the game. In the event two new players were competing, a coin toss determined which team went first. Usually, the challengers were the blue team and the champions were the yellow team; sometimes it was vice versa.

As the game continued, the words would be revealed one letter at a time. A correct response is worth one point for each letter in the word (two if word had a '+' mark next to it) and that team kept control of the board. If they player in control was incorrect, or gave no guess, control went back to the other team. The game continued until either one team scored 50 points, or the chain was finished. If the latter happened (and it usually does on the first chain), another chain was put up and the game continued until one team reached the goal of 50 points; any letters exceeding 50 points are not included to the team's score. The first team to 50 points won the game. The team's contestant won $250 (later dropped when the final version of the endgame was introduced) and the right to play for $10,000 in the Instant Reaction bonus round. The losing player got $5 a point for playing (changed to parting gifts with the third endgame present).

Instant ReactionEdit

In the bonus round, the two celebrities from the winning team attempted to get the contestant partner to guess a series of words phrases by constructing a question one word at a time. The celebrities alternated giving words in order to construct the question, then hit a bell signaling the contestant to provide a response. Cash was awarded to the contestant for every correct response. If the winning team can meet the goal of a required number of answers within the time limit, the winning contestant won $10,000.

In the first format (which only lasted the first week of the series), the team was staked with $1 and had 60-second time limit. Each correct response added one half of a zero behind the $1, meaning that after the two correct responses the player would win $10, after four the player would win $100 and eight correct answers won the $10,000 maximum.

For the next four weeks, the time limit was increased to 90 seconds and the first three correct responses each added full zero behind the $1. At that point, the contestant's winnings would be $1,000 and the next four correct responses each added $1,000 to their total. The ninth overall correct response increased their total by $5,000 for a grand total of $10,000.

The third format had the same time limit, but the contestant was not staked with any money and each of the first nine correct responses were worth $100. The tenth correct response increased the contestant's winnings to $10,000. In the final format, the team was again given 90 seconds and staked with $100 at the start of the bonus round. Each correct answer was again worth $100. The ninth correct response increased the contestant's winnings to $10,000. 

If at any point a contestant provided an incorrect response, a celebrity gave two words in succession, accidentally gave part of the answer or passed the word, the word was thrown out and gameplay continued on to the next word.

Champions remained on the show until they were defeated or until they won ten matches.

1979 PilotEdit

The game was pretty much the same except for the following:

  • Married couples played with a single celebrity partner. One spouse played one chain and the other played another.
  • The chain board turned around to reveal another chain but in the other direction.
  • The word boxes were backlit boxes instead of digital displays. Plus the top & bottom slots were red while he rest was blue.
  • Instead of plus signs ("+"), the last word (the one remaining unsolved word) was the double scoring word. That rule would become available in The New Chain Reaction.
  • Losing couples won their final score in dollars plus a parting gift.

Instant Reaction (1979 Pilot)Edit

In the pilot instead of playing for $10,000, the winning team played for $100,000. They had 90 seconds within which to win it.

They started at one penny, and each correct answer moved the one off to the left meaning that the first two correct answers were worth a dime (ten cents) and one dollar respectively. The next five correct answers added a zero to the stake, so a total of seven correct answers was needed to win the $100,000 grand prize.

The champion limit for the pilot is unknown.


An online game semi-based on the show was once available through Sony's official site at The Station.

Ticket Plug (1980)Edit

Chain Reaction Ticket Plug


Stewart later developed and expanded the bonus round from Chain Reaction into another short-lived NBC daytime game show Go.

International VersionsEdit

Main Article: Chain Reaction/International


Episode StatusEdit

See also: Chain Reaction/Episode Guide


Chain Reaction ticket plug, 1980

Chain Reaction ticket plug, 1980

Chain Reaction (1980)

Chain Reaction (1980)

Chain Reaction (1980)-0

Chain Reaction (1980)-0

Chain Reaction (1980) - 02 (1 15 1980)

Chain Reaction (1980) - 02 (1 15 1980)

See AlsoEdit

Chain Reaction (1986)
Chain Reaction (2006)
Chain Reaction (2015)


Chain Reaction's formerly official online site at The Station