January 14, 1980 - June 20, 1980
NBC Daytime
Johnny Gilbert
Produced By:
Bob Stewart Productions

"This is Chain Reaction, where one word leads to another!"

"Chain Reaction" was a short-lived but fun word association game that marked Bill's final collaboration with producer Bob Stewart.

Two teams of three, comprised of two celebrities & a civilian compete to solve a 8-word chain. The top and bottom words are revealed to start and the teams try to complete the chain.

Here's a sample chain to help you understand better. Connect the word CANNON to the word FACTORY:

A CANNON fires a BALL. A BALL is a type of PARTY. A PARTY has a HOST, and the HOST is the person who will SERVE. You can SERVE on a JURY. The JURY has a FOREMAN. And the FOREMAN is in charge at a FACTORY.

Teams alternate choosing a word to which to add a letter (they can either pick the word above or the word below a completed word). Correctly guessing a word keeps control of the board for your team and a point for every letter in the word (the word "PARTY" is worth five points.) One or two words in each chain are worth double point value (indicated by a plus sign) .

The first team to score 50 points wins the game, $250, and a chance at $10,000 in Instant Reaction. The loser received $5 for each point their team scored.

Instant Reaction was later spun off into its own game show, "Go" (1983 on NBC). The contestant sits between the two celebrities, each of whom has a monitor that displays answers one at a time. The celebrities have to contruct a question, alternating between each other to give one word at a time, and then ring a bell to indicate a question mark. Only when the bell rings can the contestant give an answer.

Originally, teams had 60 seconds and started with $1. Each right answer lit up half a zero on the scoreboard, hence 2 right=$10, 4 right=$100, 6 right=$1,000, and 8 right= $10,000. Under this format, most teams walked away with about $100, or even $10 a few times. After only one week of taping, the scoring system was changed.

Contestants now had 90 seconds, and started with $1. The payoffs for right answers escalated as follows:

Contestants began winning TOO MUCH money in this version, so again it was changed to a flat $100 per right answer, with 10 right answers paying $10,000.

The payoff was adjusted AGAIN with the $100 (scaled down from $250) won in the front game used as a building point up to $10,000.


"This is Chain Reaction, where one word leads to another, and the right word leads to $100,000!"

The "Chain Reaction" pilot taped October 27, 1979, and the show was exactly the same except that it was different.

There were only two celebrities (Joyce Bulifant & Nipsey Russell) in the pilot. They were each paired up with a married couple. The husband & wife alternated play, with the celebrities & wives playing the first chain and the celebrities & husbands playing the second chain (so even though there were six players onstage, only four played at any time).

The gameboard for the pilot was different, and the entire board rotated to show each new chain. For the pilot,
The chains did not have any words specifically designated as double point value, but the last word revealed in any chain was worth double the points. First team to score 50 points won one cent (I'm not kidding) while the losing team received $1 per point and a small prize.

Instant Reaction actually had another entirely different payoff scheme. The game was played the same, with the one cent won in the main game used as a building point. The clock started at sixty seconds, and correct answers were worth 10 cents, $1, $10, $100, $1,000, $10,000, and the grand prize of $100,000

A couple of shots of Bill enjoying himself during the pilot's Instant Reaction rounds were used for NBC's press releases. This one's dated for the end of premiere week.

This one was used to give the show an extra push during February sweeps.

The thing that amazes me about this show is that, on paper, it actually sounds fairly dull, but watching it (and playing along with it) is incredibly entertaining. Part of the fun, I suppose, is thinking you've figured out the word, only to see "the wrong letter" come up. And funnily enough, Bill did his part on this show by frequently staying out of the way. Perfectly content to let the game be the star, he recognized the suspense in watching a contestant studying an unfinished word and the humor in the barely-coherent sentences that celebrities often wound up constructing in the bonus round.

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