Oh, the Humanity!: Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?

Welcome to "Oh, the Humanity!", the column that reviews videogame-based movies and books. This time, I'm reviewing a 2001 VHS tape I found at my local library entitled Where on Earth is Carmen Sandieg

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Welcome to “Oh, the Humanity!”, the column that reviews videogame-based movies and books. This time, I’m reviewing a 2001 VHS tape I found at my local library entitled Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?: Timing is Everything. Before I start my review, let me take a moment to explain why this VHS counts as a videogame spinoff.

In the 1990s, there was a TV show called Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?. It was a popular show, and they made several videogames based off it. You may already know about this.

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I still have the atlas that came free with the 1996 release of the game. Yeah!

The TV show eventually was cancelled, but the game series lived on. In fact, the series was so popular that PBS decided to make a new TV show out of it.  Thus, Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? was born. It’s a TV show based off a videogame series based off a TV show. Thank you, The Learning Company, for seriously confusing me.

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Lesson #1 on how to be a great thief, believe it or not, is that you should tie your trenchcoat to a motorcycle in order to fool the police.

“Timing is Everything” is episode #406 of the show, and it focuses on the Civil War. The plot is that Mason Dixon, one of Carmen’s henchmen, fails at his attempt to steal a historical sofa (No, seriously! A historical sofa!). Deeply ashamed, he decides to bolster his ego by hijacking Carmen’s time machine and changing the course of history so he can be a Master Thief. The end result is that everybody gets thrown into an opposite parallel universe where Mason Dixon is the world’s greatest thief and Carmen Sandiego is an incompetent goon.

Fortunately, our heroes Zack and Ivy are completely unchanged by the time-meddling for no apparent reason. They decide they have to get the world back to normal by recovering the time machine and undoing the damage done by Mason Dixon.

At least, that would be the plot if it made sense.  The heroes recover the time machine without any trouble at all, then they decide to totally forget about using it. Instead, they decide that the best thing to do in the alternate unvierse is to become friends with Carmen Sandiego and try to teach her how to become a great thief again.  I have no idea who thought up that plan, but it’s probably the same person who was behind the “stealing a historical sofa” scheme.

Faithfulness to the Game: This movie/episode is kinda faithful to the game, I guess. It has the same general backstory about Carmen and ACME. Also like the game, it throws out random educational facts that will probably never come in handy. Did you know it sometimes took over a minute to take a photograph during the 1800s?  That’s a long time!  Rawr!

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I'm pretty sure that Carmen Sandiego was hiding IN San Diego, actually.

The similarities pretty much end there. The 2001 Carmen Sandiego game starred the lovable duo of agents Shadow Hawkins and Jules Argent.  This 2001 video stars the more intense duo of Zack and Ivy No-Last-Name. All new main characters? When I was just starting to get used to Shadow and Jules, too? Aw…

I suppose I should mention the Chief, although I really don’t want to. They completely changed the Chief for this TV show. I mean, wow. Our beloved chief has been replaced by an odd-looking floating head with an annoying nasal voice. It’s…really bad.  I mean, really. Almost so bad that I’m tempted to recommend nobody watch this TV show, just to be spared seeing this character.

Entertainment Value: Is this entertaining? Not really. I probably wouldn’t have watched it as a kid. The plot doesn’t make too much sense, and I don’t really like the “SHOUT AN EDUCATIONAL FACT AT YOU EVERY OTHER MINUTE!” kind of educational TV show (my apologies to Bill Nye). When the VHS stopped halfway through the episode, I was somewhat relieved that it had stopped. Especially since that meant I wouldn’t have to see the new Chief anymore.

What’s that?  You want to see how unappealing the new Chief is? Fine. He’s at the start of the show’s theme song. He’s only on for a few seconds, but that’s a good thing.

Wait, that’s the theme song for the TV show? Come on! If you’re going to include a theme song, it should be the classic Carmen Sandiego theme, am I right? Of course, I’m right. Do it, Rockapella!

5 votes, average: 8.20 out of 105 votes, average: 8.20 out of 105 votes, average: 8.20 out of 105 votes, average: 8.20 out of 105 votes, average: 8.20 out of 105 votes, average: 8.20 out of 105 votes, average: 8.20 out of 105 votes, average: 8.20 out of 105 votes, average: 8.20 out of 105 votes, average: 8.20 out of 10 (You need to be a registered member to rate this post.)
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About the Contributor


From 2007 to 2016

Michael Gray is a staff writer for GameCola, who focuses on adventure games, videos and writing videogame walkthroughs.

9 Comments

  1. Wrong again! Where on Earth never aired on PBS at all. The series ran from 1994 to 1996 on Fox’s Saturday Morning block, and then was moved to Fox Family until it finished it’s run in 1999. The show was Fox’s answer to the Children’s Television Act, requiring an educational show to level with the crazy action cartoons like the 90’s X-Men and Spider-Man series. Zack and Ivy were the main characters for Carmen Sandiego: Junior Detective Edition, which was released in 1995, while the series was still on the air. I know this because I fucking adored this series as a kid, and going back and watching a few more episodes only reminds me of why I loved this series. Yes, it’s corny and the early episodes are high on facts low on story, but the later episodes in the last few seasons had some actually fun stories.

    And I fucking love that theme. I love them both, but there’s something about a bombastic orchestra and choir opening up a Saturday Morning Cartoon that makes my heart go pitter-patter.

  2. I know this was posted back in January. There are a couple inaccuracies.

    Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego first hit computers in 1985. Its fan following grew along with the titles in the game series including your shown Where in USA, followed by Where in Time, Where in Europe, Where in America’s Past, and Where in Space that were all made before the TV Series “Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego” was first produced.

    After that came the Game Shows on PBS for Where in the world and Where in Time as the V3 Where in the World, Where in USA, Where in Time and the new Junior Detective edition games started being marketed. The Junior Detective was targeted at Preschool age children and included some of the characters from the Where on Earth Series notably Zack Ivy and a single episode partner Stretch the dog.

  3. I’m surprised that the article is so inaccurate. I specifically double-checked _everything_ on Wikipedia to make sure there WERE no inaccuracies. Curse you, Wikipedia!

  4. Michael even Game Faq’s Moby Games and just about every other major game site has yet to even get close to a full listing of games published by Broderbund. There are versions I own or have played of these games that they don’t even seem to know ever were released. That is one of the problems of such a large software company (Distribution wise) that had its prime before the internet was more than porn and program passing bulletin boards.

    Spokavriel @ yahoo .com

  5. I remember Broderbund were an incredibly prolific company, and released a LOT of games. The only one I’ve ever played was The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis.

  6. I just did a bit of searching Oversoulthirteen still has most of Where on Earth available on Daily Motion. If you’d like to see more than what was on that lone VHS.

    Another prolific software company from the 80’s that is hard to get a full listing on because of their success being in the 80’s is MECC. But more people have played Oregon Trail than have played Broderbund’s titles, any of them. The publishing rights from both companies got sold, after a couple trades of hand, to The Learning Company. Riverdeep has good programmers as far as solid stable software goes but they just don’t make the newer games anywhere near as fun as the original companies did with the original versions of the games.

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