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The Carmen Sandiego Show was Created Partially in Response to the Results of a National Geographic Survey That Indicated Americans Had Very Little Knowledge of Geography.

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? is a half-hour American children’s television game show based on the Broderbund Software Is Carmen Sandiego computer game series. Greg Lee hosted the show, co-hosted by Lynne Thigpen, and featured the Cappella vocal group Rockapella as the house band and comedy troupe. But did you ever wonder why the show was created in the first place?

The Carmen Sandiego Show, which aired from 1991 to 1995, was created in part in response to the findings of a National Geographic survey, which revealed that Americans had an alarming lack of geography knowledge, with one in four unable to locate the Soviet Union or the Pacific Ocean.

The Alarming Lack of Knowledge in Geography

In 1991, PBS aired Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? a children’s trivia game show. Based on the video game series, The show was marketed to kids in fourth through seventh grades, and its goal, like the game, was to teach kids geography fun.

PBS decided the lessons were fundamental after several studies revealed Americans’ embarrassing lack of geography knowledge; according to National Geographic, one in every four Americans couldn’t find the Pacific Ocean on a map. (Source: Ranker)

Carmen Sandiego’s Different Backstories

Carmen Sandiego appears in so many different forms of media, and the scarlet thief has a few official backstories. Carmen is a former spy who works for the Intelligence Service of Monaco in the early games. Her backstory became more detailed in the television show Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? Carmen is revealed to have been raised in San Francisco rather than San Diego. The young girl was placed under the care of ACME’s leader, The Chief. Carmen was regarded as one of the best detectives in the ACME organization by the age of 17.

Her backstory is completely different in Carmen Sandiego: Secret of the Stolen Drums. In that story, Carmen wins a large sum of money on a game show when she is only 10 years old. She uses her winnings to travel the globe and starts working at ACME when she is 20. (Source: Ranker)

Carmen Sandiego’s Secret Identity

Despite appearing in various media, fans never get a good look at Carmen’s face. The only live-action version of the villain can be found in the 1996 PBS sequel Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? Even so, the thief remains a bit of a mystery. Although the other actors on the show are named, the name of the actress who plays Carmen is unknown, and she did nothing to promote the show.

Todd Van Luling, a Huffington Post reporter, set out in 2016 to discover the identity of the enigmatic Sandiego. Van Luling followed various leads, and with the assistance of the internet, he eventually tracked down Broadway actress Janine LaManna.

The actress’s first television role was in the PBS series. In speaking with LaManna, who had never previously interviewed Carmen, the reporter discovered one of the reasons why her identity was kept hidden: it allowed her to play other characters on the show. The show’s creators’ main goal was to keep Carmen’s mysterious lore alive. (Source: Ranker

Image from SmithsonianMag

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