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Pyramid (game show)

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7.9/10 TV

Created by  Bob Stewart
First episode date  26 March 1973
6.9/10 IMDb

Genre  Game show
Country of origin  United States
Program creator  Bob Stewart
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Directed by  Mike Gargiulo (1973–81)Bruce Burmester (1982–92)Paul Nichols, Bob Loudin (2002–04)Paul Overacker (2012)Rich DiPirro (2016)
Narrated by  Bob Clayton (1973–79)Steve O'Brien (1979–82)Alan Kalter (1979–81)Jack Clark (1982–85)Johnny Gilbert (1982–88, 1991)John Cramer (2002–04)JD Roberto (2012)Brad Abelle (2016–)
Theme music composer  Ken Aldin (1973–81)Bob Cobert (1982–92, 2012, 2016)Barry Coffing, John Blaylock (2002–04)Alan Ett, Scott Liggett (2012)Bleeding Fingers Music (2016)
Presented by  Bill Cullen (1974–79, syndicated)
Executive producers  Bob Stewart, Sande Stewart, David Michaels, Francine Bergman, Anne-Marie Schmitt, Jane Rothchild
Awards  Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host
Nominations  Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Technical Team, Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lighting Direction
Similar  Match Game, The Price Is Right, Password, Wheel of Fortune, Hollywood Squares

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Pyramid is an American television game show franchise that has aired several versions domestically and internationally. The original series, The $10,000 Pyramid, debuted March 26, 1973, and spawned seven subsequent Pyramid series (most with a full title format matching the original series, with the title reflecting the top prize increase from $10,000, $20,000, $25,000, $50,000 to $100,000 over the years). The game features two contestants, each paired with a celebrity. Contestants attempt to guess a series of words or phrases based on descriptions given to them by their teammates. The title refers to the show's pyramid-shaped gameboard, featuring six categories arranged in a triangular fashion. The various Pyramid series have won a total of nine Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Game Show, second only to Jeopardy!, which has won thirteen.


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Dick Clark is the host most commonly associated with the show, having hosted every incarnation from 1973 to 1988, with the exception of the original version of The $25,000 Pyramid, which aired in weekly syndication from 1974 until 1979 and was hosted by Bill Cullen. The $100,000 Pyramid was revived for a brief 1991 run with John Davidson hosting. In 2002, the series was revived as simply Pyramid, with Donny Osmond hosting for two seasons. GSN's The Pyramid was hosted by Mike Richards and aired for a single forty-episode season before it was cancelled in 2012. Reruns of The (New) $25,000 Pyramid are currently shown on GSN. A revival of The $100,000 Pyramid debuted June 26, 2016, on ABC with Michael Strahan as host.

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Broadcast history

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The $10,000 Pyramid, with host Dick Clark, made its network debut on March 26, 1973 and was a ratings hit, sustaining its ratings even when episodes were delayed or preempted by the Watergate hearings. A year later, the ratings temporarily declined (against the original version of Jeopardy! on NBC) and CBS canceled it. The show was quickly picked up by ABC, and began airing on that network on May 6, 1974. As per CBS custom at the time with celebrity game shows, three weeks of episodes for CBS were taped in Hollywood, at CBS Television City, Studio 31. The remainder of the 1973–81 episodes originated in New York City at the Ed Sullivan Theater, moving to ABC's Elysee Theatre after Pyramid switched networks.

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On September 20, 1982, the series returned to the CBS daytime lineup as The $25,000 Pyramid, again with Clark as host, but now taped in Los Angeles full-time at CBS Television City's Studio 33 (currently used for The Price is Right, which recognizes it as the "Bob Barker Studio") and remained there for the entire run up until December 31, 1987. Blackout began airing in the series' 10:00 a.m. timeslot the following Monday, but that show was canceled after thirteen weeks of episodes. On April 4, 1988, The $25,000 Pyramid returned to the CBS daytime schedule; the show's final episode aired on July 1. The following Monday, the show was replaced by a revival of Family Feud hosted by Ray Combs.

The original $25,000 Pyramid and The $50,000 Pyramid were taped in the Elysee Theatre in New York, and the original version of The $100,000 Pyramid taped at Studio 33 in Hollywood. The revival of The $100,000 Pyramid, hosted by John Davidson, ran from January until December 1991 and taped in Studio 31. Pyramid, hosted by Donny Osmond, ran from September 16, 2002 to September 10, 2004 and was taped at Sony Pictures Studios. The Pyramid was taped at the CBS Studio Center. Strahan's The $100,000 Pyramid is taped at the ABC Television Center in New York.

Later developments

Following CBS's cancellation of Guiding Light in April 2009, Pyramid was one of three potential series considered as a replacement for the veteran soap opera. (Let's Make a Deal and The Dating Game were the other two, with a pilot shot for the former series.) During the tapings that took place in June of that year at the Kaufman Astoria Studios in New York (marking the franchise's return to New York after 28 years), the top prize was raised to a potential $1,000,000 with a tournament format similar to the $100,000 format. Dean Cain and Tim Vincent were tabbed as hosts of the pilots, with $50,000 announcer Alan Kalter returning, and Sony Pictures game show legend Ken Jennings served as a panelist in the pilots.

CBS passed on Pyramid and opted to pick up Let's Make a Deal, hosted by Wayne Brady, as Guiding Light's replacement. Several months later, in December 2009, CBS announced the cancellation of another long-running soap opera, As the World Turns. Pyramid was once again among the series being considered as a potential replacement. CBS ordered a third pilot on April 9, 2010. Andy Richter was identified as a potential host.

On May 18, 2011, TBS announced development of a possible new version of Pyramid, again to be hosted by Andy Richter. It was later announced that the show was not picked up.

Another pilot, titled The Pyramid, was taped on June 16, 2012. On July 12, 2012, GSN announced The Pyramid had been picked up and would premiere on the network on September 3, with Mike Richards hosting the show. The series ran for 40 episodes before being cancelled later in the year.

On January 9, 2016, ABC announced a revival of the series, specifically the $100,000 format, had been green-lit and set to air during the summer of 2016. This version also marked the return of the show to New York City, where it had originally been produced in the 1970s. The first season will comprise ten hour-long episodes, with Michael Strahan serving as host; due to the show's expansion to one hour, two games are played per episode. In addition, this will be the second incarnation of Pyramid to air in prime time on the network (the first was the one-off All-Star Junior Pyramid in 1979). The series premiered on June 26 of that year, airing as part of ABC's "Sunday Fun & Games" lineup at 9:00pm ET/8:00pm CT (along with the Steve Harvey-hosted Celebrity Family Feud and the Alec Baldwin-hosted Match Game). On August 4, 2016, ABC renewed The $100,000 Pyramid for a second season.

Other personnel

Bob Clayton was the series' original announcer and performed these duties until his death in 1979. Alan Kalter and Steve O'Brien shared the primary announcer role until The $50,000 Pyramid ended production in 1981. Substitutes included Fred Foy, John Causier, Dick Heatherton, Scott Vincent, and Ed Jordan.

When the series was revived and production moved to California in 1982, Jack Clark became the announcer and held the position until 1985. Johnny Gilbert became the primary announcer for The $25,000 Pyramid while Charlie O'Donnell took the job for The $100,000 Pyramid when it launched that fall. Both Gilbert and O'Donnell substituted for each other on their respective series; other substitutes included Jerry Bishop, Rod Roddy, Bob Hilton, and Dean Goss. For the 1991 revival, Gilbert and Goss were both featured announcers and frequent panelist Henry Polic II also announced for several weeks. John Cramer announced the 2002–04 version, and JD Roberto announced The Pyramid (2012).

Mike Gargiulo directed through 1981, with Bruce Burmester replacing him until the end of the 1991 revival.

The original theme tune was "Tuning Up" by Ken Aldin. In 1982, it was replaced by an original, similarly-styled composition by Bob Cobert, which was also used on the 1991 revival. Barry Coffing and John Blaylock composed the theme of the 2002–04 version, and Alan Ett composed a cover of Bob Cobert's 1982–91 theme for The Pyramid. Bleeding Fingers Music composed a separate cover of Cobert's theme for the 2016 version.


The Pyramid's gameboards, both in the main game and in the Winners' Circle bonus round, feature six categories arranged in a triangle (referred to as a pyramid), with three categories on the bottom row, two on the middle row, and one on the top. In the main game, a category's position on the board is arbitrary. In the Winners' Circle, categories become progressively more difficult the higher they are on the board.

Main game

Two teams compete in the main game, each composed of a celebrity and a regular contestant.

At the beginning of the game, the teams are shown six categories, whose titles gave vague clues to their possible meaning (for instance, "I'm All Wet" might pertain to things found in water). Once the category was chosen, its exact meaning is given (except in certain bonus situations where the meaning was not given and a cash/prize bonus won for completing all the clues). For up to 30 seconds, one contestant conveys to the other clues to a series of items belonging to a category. One point is scored for each item correctly guessed. If a word is passed, the giver could not go back to that word, but if the receiver knows the word later on and guesses it, the team still earns a point (no sound effect was played, in order to avoid a distraction). On the Osmond, Richards, and Strahan versions, a team that passes on any words could return to them if time permitted, but if a word is guessed correctly after it had been passed, it did not count until the word was returned to and correctly guessed then.

When The $10,000 Pyramid launched on CBS, there were eight possible items in a category. This was reduced to seven when the show moved to ABC, and this became the standard used for every subsequent series with two exceptions. When The $20,000 Pyramid briefly switched to its Junior Partner Pyramid format, the time limit was increased to 35 seconds. The Donny Osmond-hosted Pyramid used categories with six items, with 20 seconds given to guess all six. Illegal clues, such as using part of the word in the description, or conveying its essence, results in the word being thrown out (denoted by a rapid "cuckoo" sound).

Originally, the celebrity gave the clues in both the first and third rounds, and the contestant in the second round. This changed to having the contestant decide whether to give or receive in the third round. The teams alternated in the first two rounds, and the team with the lower score played first in the third round. Whoever had the higher score after three rounds advanced to the Winners' Circle. In the 1970s, 1980s and 2016 versions, in the rare event that contestants were mathematically unable to at least tie their opponent before the opponent has had his/her last turn (or even rarer, before that point), the game ends and the remaining categories are left unplayed, unless one of them concealed a bonus.

Originally, if a tie occurred after the rounds were completed, the host gave the team who caused the tie a choice between two letters of the alphabet, and the team then played a round with seven words each beginning with that letter. The opposing team was then given seven words with the other letter. Tiebreaker rounds were played until the tie was broken. The rules were later changed to award the victory to whichever team completed its own seven words faster, if both teams did so. As of 2016, if both teams achieve the same score, the team to do so in the shorter time is declared the winner, with another tiebreaker being played if the teams match each other for both score and time.

Throughout the 1970s, a random category during the main game doubled as the "Big 7", meaning that the contestant received a prize if all seven words were guessed correctly. For most of the run, the prize was varying amounts of cash; for the final season of the Bill Cullen-hosted $25,000 Pyramid, the prize was a car. A similar bonus called the "7–11" was introduced on The (New) $25,000 Pyramid, hidden behind one category in the first round; if all seven words were guessed, the contestant won an $1,100 bonus. Initially, the contestant could choose to play for either this bonus or $50 per correct guess, but this option was soon dropped in favor of the all-or-nothing approach.

Similarly, a random category in the second round was designated as the "Mystery 7", in which the host did not reveal the topic of the category until after the fact, and correctly guessing all seven words awarded a prize. The "Mystery 7" was initially shown to the teams as one of the six categories, but it was later hidden behind a category name. This is the only bonus used in the 2016 edition, during the second round of each half.

The John Davidson-hosted version had its own similar bonuses: "Gamble for a Grand"/"Gamble for a Trip" offered the choice to reduce the round's time limit to win $1,000 cash or a trip, respectively, and "Double Trouble" offered the team 45 seconds to guess seven two-word responses for a $500 bonus. The Donny Osmond-hosted version had only one bonus: "Super Six", which awarded the contestant a prize if the team managed to get all six words within the 20 seconds.

Winners' Circle

The winning team from the main game plays "The Winners' Circle," in which the goal is to communicate six categories of increasing difficulty within 60 seconds, using only lists of words and phrases that fit them. During the show's original run on CBS from 1973 to 1974, hand gestures of any kind were permitted in this round. However, when the show moved to ABC in 1974, hand gestures became strictly forbidden, and some editions of the show included wrist straps attached to the chair to help contestants abide by this rule. One team member gives clues to the category currently in play, while the other tries to guess it. An illegal clue or hand gesture results in the category being thrown out, thus disqualifying the contestant from winning the grand prize. If all six categories are guessed before time runs out, the contestant wins the top prize; if not, he/she wins money for the guessed categories. The clue-giver can pass on a category and then return to it after playing through all six, if time allows.

The values for individual categories during standard gameplay are shown in the table below. Category numbering proceeds across the bottom row of the pyramid (left/center/right), then the middle (left/right), and finally the single one at the peak.

Returning champions and winnings limits

On the 1970s daytime version, contestants were allowed to remain on the show until they were defeated or won the Winners' Circle. Under the $10,000 format, a contestant who won the Winners' Circle was allowed to keep all earlier winnings. Under the $20,000 format, the contestant's total was merely augmented to the amount won in the Winners' Circle. The syndicated versions featured no returning champions prior to 1985.

During the 1970s syndicated version, if a contestant won a bonus prize, then went on to win the $25,000 top prize, the value of the bonus (either the additional bonus cash, or the value of the car offered during the final season) was deducted from the champion's total, leaving them with exactly $25,000. This version did not feature returning champions. On all versions from 1982 onward, all main-game bonus winnings remained intact in the event of a $25,000 win.

On the $25,000 and $100,000 versions of the show, the same two contestants competed for both halves of the episode. A contestant who won the first of the two games on the episode played the Winners' Circle for $10,000. A contestant who won both games played the second Winners' Circle for a total of $25,000 (e.g., if a contestant won $10,000 in the first Winners' Circle, the second was worth an additional $15,000 to the contestant). On all versions from 1982 to 1991, a contestant who won both games of an episode became the champion and returned on the next show. If each contestant won one game, the contestant who won the higher amount in the Winners' Circle became champion (winnings from the various main game bonuses were not considered as part of the "score" winnings). If both contestants won equal amounts of money in the Winners' Circle (including $10,000 wins), both returned on the next show.

From 1982 to 1991, contestants were allowed to remain on the show until defeated or a maximum of five episodes. Champions on the CBS version also retired after exceeding the network's winnings limit. This was originally $25,000, but was increased to $50,000 on October 22, 1984 (episode #0542) and to $75,000 on September 29, 1986 (episode #1041). Contestants were allowed to keep a maximum of $25,000 in excess of the limit. Both Pyramid and The Pyramid did not have returning champions.

On Pyramid, the goal was once again to try to win $25,000. However, this required a contestant to get to and win the Winners' Circle twice. If the contestant made a second trip without having won the first, he/she was given another chance at $10,000. If the contestant managed to win both, he/she won the $25,000 and automatically qualified for the $100,000 tournament.

On The Pyramid, each Winners' Circle was played for a base of $10,000. For each category that the contestant and celebrity swept, an additional $5,000 was added to the potential prize, with the maximum prize for a trip to the Winners' Circle being $25,000 for each contestant.

The 2016 ABC format consists of hour-long episodes, each containing two complete pairs of games. The contestant who wins the first game of a pair plays the Winners' Circle for a prize of $50,000. If the same contestant wins both games, he/she plays the second Winners' Circle for an additional $100,000, leading to a potential maximum total of $150,000. Two new contestants compete in each half of an episode; there are no returning champions.

$100,000 tournament

On the 1985–91 version of The $100,000 Pyramid, the three contestants who completed the Winners' Circle in the shortest lengths of time qualified for a $100,000 tournament, which was held every few weeks. During the tournament, all front game bonuses were removed except the $5,000 bonus for breaking a 21–21 tie. The first contestant to complete the Winners' Circle won the $100,000 grand prize, ending the tournament. If neither contestant did so on a particular episode, the one who accumulated more money in the Winners' Circle returned on the next show to compete against the contestant who had not played on that episode. In the event of a tie, a coin toss determined who returned. If one of the three contestants won the $100,000 in the first Winners' Circle of an episode, the other two played against each other in the second half and that winner played for $10,000 in the Winners' Circle.

International versions

The British version was called The Pyramid Game and ran intermittently from 1981 to 1990, with Steve Jones as host. Donny Osmond hosted a short-lived 2007 revival, which used the same music package and a similar set as the 2002 American revival hosted by Osmond.

In 2009, Sony created an Australian version of The Junior Partner Pyramid called simply Pyramid. This version was hosted by Shura Taft until 2012, with Graham Matters taking over the following year.

A German version titled Die Pyramide aired on ZDF from 1979 to 1994, and was hosted by Dieter Thomas Heck. A new version aired on ZDFneo in 2012, and was co-hosted by Micky Beisenherz and Joachim Llambi.

Versions in French, both titled Pyramide, were produced at different times in France and in Canada.

Versions of Pyramid have been also produced for other countries outside the United States:


Pyramid (game show) Wikipedia