Can We Talk About Where in The World is Carmen Sandiego?

A screenshot from an episode of the PBS kids' geography game show, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, depicting the title card with a cartoon rendering of Carmen Sandiego, a woman with brown hair, light skin, a red fedora hat, and a red trench coat in the middle of the show's circular logo. Children in the audience are shown in the background.

Show of hands, who here watched PBS a lot as a kid, or during the 90s? PBS was my go-to as a kid for a long time, as I’ve probably mentioned a time or two around here. One of those shows was Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

From what I’ve been able to dig up, the Carmen Sandiego franchise started out as an old-school computer game in the late 1980s dedicated to teaching geography, and eventually branched out into other subjects. Personally, I had no idea this game even existed. I thought it was a TV show my mom and I both loved during the tail end of its’ heyday on PBS when I’d come home from school.

It was one of the shows I’d look forward to catching on the weekdays. That, and Family Matters on Fox. I have no idea how I got into it, but it was late into the show’s run. Every day, I’d be in my mom’s room w/ her, watching Carmen Sandiego after I got off the bus.

It would be just in time, too. The TV was turned to PBS, and there was the Chief’s voice:

“All these ppl want to know…”

Then Rockapella, the band that’s basically a household name and has been since forever, sang the intro:

“Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?”

We then meet the contestants, and after having watched like a dozen episodes over on YouTube while slamming out even more applications in this whole infuriating clusterfuck of a job search life sentence, I noticed the format changed over the years. First, it was a group of kids standing in the alley outside of ACME Crime Net. Then it was a group of kids shown on TV and their elevator pitches about what they like and where they live. Then it was a group of kids waiting in the Chief’s office, and 3 were chosen out of them.

When I saw this as a kid, I thought those kids all seemed so glamorous and mature. They were the kind of kids I wished I could’ve been, haha. Tbh, I still like those outfits they wore.

The contestants all started out w/ 50 ACME Crime Bucks, after the Chief gave a briefing on which one of Carmen’s gang stole what thing from what country.

Carmen’s gang, that’s another story. Bankrolled by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and Viewers Like You, here are the ones we get to meet in the show. Not all at once, unless you count the credits where they come across the screen and/or swipe crewmembers’ names. This isn’t counting the ones that have made appearances in later spinoffs and remakes.

Wonder Rat, a lame superhero

Contessa, super-exxie jet-set royalty

Vic the Slick, the smarmy used car salesman

RoboCrook, full name being RoboCrook Unit-059

Top Grunge, a biker dude who does his laundry at the wastewater treatment facility and whose coughs come w/ a prize

Sarah Nade, the punk musician

Patty Larceny, a high school girl

Eartha Brute, the dopey bodybuilder

Double Trouble, the Doublemint dorks who resemble mimes

Kneemoi, the cute little shapeshifting alien from the planet Roddenberry (lolz, i see what u did thar!)

Throughout the show, we’d see appearances from famous peeps like Jane Pauley, and this guy, who did a thing a time or two…

Screenshot from an episode of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, the PBS kids game show from the 1990s of President Joe Biden, who was Senator at the time this aired, and went on to become Vice President during the Obama administration. Joe Biden is wearing a gray suit, a white shirt, a dark red tie. In the background is an American flag and three framed photos hanging on the wall. The text on the screen reads "Senator Joe Biden."
OMG, I had no idea Biden was even on this show!

It’s Joe Biden, then-Senator, who became Vice President like 15 years after this show, and now President. I didn’t remember him ever being on a show like this, but I think it’s cool he made at least one appearance, tbh.

‘Member this one, President Biden? Pepperidge Farm remembers.

I don’t remember the first couple seasons at all, which is why I watched those first. The show’s first season was in 1991, and there was so much happening in the world at the time. For starters, there was the fall of the Soviet Union, aka the United Soviet Socialist Republic, and it was surreal to see one of the earlier episodes specifically list the USSR as one of the places in Asia that Carmen may have traveled to.

After the first season, they started to include a disclaimer at the end, stating that “all information was accurate as of the date this program was recorded,” and including the exact date of the program recording.

Throughout the show, we get skits featuring the Plastic Diver Guy, Rockapella w/ the Word on the Street, Nana Rap, and the Roach Motel. I loved Plastic Diver Guy and the Roach Motel. Nana Rap was always fun, and from the audience reaction, it was a huge hit w/ good reason.

Oh, and Rockapella! I loved seeing them throughout the show, and now? They’ve really cheered me up during this rotten time in my life, and I’ve had the Carmen Sandiego song stuck in my head for like a week now.

I feel like Rockapella would make the coolest roomies. Agree? Yes, no, maybe so? Lmk in the comments!

This show was how I learned so much about geography back then, and having watched the YT videos, I’m re-learning things, and learning some new stuff that went over my head back then. Most of the jokes from Greg and the Chief also went over my head back then, so I shouldn’t be too surprised.

I often wonder what became of the kids who were on that show. I hope all of em went on to become total rockstars. I know one kid from the YT videos wanted to be an archaeologist, and another one wanted to be a neurosurgeon. I hope they’re now archaeologists and neurosurgeons. However, I can confirm that one went on to become a lawyer! Seriously, I’m so proud of you, Hashim!

Over to you, readers. Do you remember Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Did you like it? Better yet, were you actually on the show or in the audience? I’d love to hear all about it, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and takeaways. Drop em like they’re hot below, and let’s talk.

I want y’all to do one more thing, and you know what it is: Do it, Rockapella! (lolz, couldn’t resist that one.)

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