Coming soon: TV quiz with prizes only a heartbeat away

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The Independent Online

How fast does a contestant's heart beat as he weighs up the answers to a big cash question? British viewers will soon know, thanks to the latest quiz show craze. The Chair will test the nerves as well as the knowledge of contestants by penalising them if they lose their cool.

How fast does a contestant's heart beat as he weighs up the answers to a big cash question? British viewers will soon know, thanks to the latest quiz show craze. The Chair will test the nerves as well as the knowledge of contestants by penalising them if they lose their cool.

They will be strapped to a heart-monitoring device while they answer questions for cash. If their heart rate rises above a certain level, they begin to lose their winnings. And they cannot continue answering questions until their heart calms to a determined range.

The show, brainchild of a New Zealand company, Touchdown, has been sold to America, France and Germany. The British distributors, Target, are in talks to produce it in the UK, despite waning audiences for shows such as The Weakest Link and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Alison Rayson, managing director of Target Distribution, said yesterday: " The Chair takes the game show format into a new dimension. Never before have contestants had to restrain themselves from answering questions by getting their heart rate under control. The show will take 2002 by storm."

She believes it is more likely than existing quizzes to appeal to a younger audience. Suspense will be increased by surprises to try to catch contestants off-guard and increase their adrenalin surge. The cash prizes are unlikely to rival the £1m on offer in Millionaire.

Interest in quiz shows is still there, but merchandising for Millionaire has fallen off and the value of shares in Avesco, joint owner of the worldwide rights, has fallen.

In America, audiences have slumped since 11 September, with viewers' tastes appearing to have become more serious. But the US broadcaster ABC has still commissioned 13 episodes of The Chair.

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