Pyramid was a durable television
show where contestants tried to guess a series of words or
phrases, based on descriptions that were given to them, in the shortest
amount of time. It has won nine Daytime
Emmys for Outstanding Game Show, second only to Jeopardy!,
which won its 10th in 2005.
Its most recent run of original episodes ended in 2004, although reruns of
at least one version or another have been airing continuously since 1988.
Pyramid was created by Bob
Stewart, the quiz-show producer who also invented To
Tell the Truth, The
Price Is Right and Password
during his years at Mark
Todman Productions before forming his own company. It went
through several name changes over the years, with the title originally
reflecting the top prize that contestants could win in that particular
The show debuted as The $10,000 Pyramid on March
It ran for one year on CBS
at 10:30 a.m. Eastern
Time before being cancelled on March
due to some ratings decline the weeks before. However, several weeks
brought back the show on May
airing it for the rest of the year at 4 p.m., where it made headway (not
just in ratings, but in affiliate clearances) against Tattletales
on CBS and the soap
The day before Christmas
Eve, ABC relocated Pyramid to the old time slot of the
Game, 2 p.m., and there it would become, for three
consecutive seasons, the number-three-rated game show on television
Squares and Match
Game). This was especialy extraordinary because Pyramid
had to lure viewers away from popular soaps such as Days
of Our Lives, As
the World Turns, and Guiding
Light. On January
the show was renamed The $20,000 Pyramid, doubling the payoff for
victorious contestants. After being displaced by the expansion of the soap
Life to Live to a full hour, the show settled at 12 Noon on January
for the rest of its ABC run.
A once-a-week nighttime syndicated
version called The $25,000 Pyramid, hosted by Bill
Cullen, ran from September
Originally sold and distributed by Viacom,
this edition was mostly seen in the prime-access time slot, usually at
7:30 p.m. Eastern (6:30 Central)
on many stations in various markets, on different days of the week (known
in the trade as "bicycling" videotapes). In New
York City, the show was first seen on CBS' flagship station, WCBS-TV
on Thursday, September
with an episode featuring Anne
Meara and William
A special week of five shows with celebrity adult-children contestant
teams featuring Susan
Richardson and Jimmy
Baio on the network daytime version was titled as The Junior
Pyramid and it originally aired between Monday, July
9 and Friday, July
A network primetime celebrity half hour special, The All-Star Junior
Pyramid, aired on ABC on Sunday, September
at 7:30p.m. Eastern. It featured Susan
Richardson and Tony
Danza playing the game for charity with young future stars from
the new ABC shows debuting in the fall of that year (one of them on that
particular episode was a youthful looking Rob
Lowe). That broadcast's ratings success led to the daytime
version briefly adopting a full-time Junior Partner Pyramid format
featuring civilian adult-children teams (with no celebrities at all)
between Monday, October
1 and Friday, November
A special Celebrity Junior Pyramid week followed suit with
celebrity guests Susan
Burton and Michael
McKean, but beginning with the Monday, November
telecast, the daytime show reverted to its original $20,000 Pyramid
The $20,000 Pyramid was the last remaining network daytime game
show among the three commercial broadcast networks then to be produced and
videotaped in New
York City. Further, it was ABC's last game show to be recorded
there until 1999,
when that network introduced Who
Wants To Be A Millionaire? for its primetime schedule. ABC's
daytime version, which had taken a strong beating in the ratings from the
Young and the Restless on CBS, ended its run on June
bringing the overall total of episodes that had aired on both CBS and ABC
to 1,808 telecasts. (Two ironies of note: Y&R premiered on the
same day in 1973 as the CBS version of Pyramid, and both shows are
now owned by the same company, Sony.)
The theme music used on the versions between 1973
was "Tuning Up," composed by Ken Aldin. The original set created
for the CBS version was built by its in-house network scenic designer Jim
Ryan, while the replica set made and constructed for the ABC daytime and
1970's syndicated versions (necessitated because of union
refusals to grant permission for transport out of the Ed
Sullivan Theater), copying much of Ryan's basic design at a cost
of approximately $80,000, was co-credited to Dick Bernstein.
Awesome80s & Virtual90s editions
After a short-lived syndicated revival known as The $50,000 Pyramid,
which employed a rather complicated tournament format and aired from January
26 to September
the show returned to CBS as The $25,000 Pyramid on September
That entailed a permanent move to CBS
Television City in Los
Angeles. Prior to then, the show had been based in New
York City, first at the Ed Sullivan Theater (CBS Studio 50) and
then the Elysee Theatre (ABC TV-15), since its 1973 debut, except for a
few weeks in Fall 1973, during which tapings were held at CBS Television
CBS placed the show at 10 a.m. Eastern, where it easily handled weak
competition from NBC
games and sitcom
reruns, and syndicated programs on ABC affiliates or independent stations.
Within a few weeks of its CBS-TV return, the show was retitled The New
$25,000 Pyramid to avoid confusion with reruns of the syndicated
1974-79 Cullen version still running in some markets (the "New"
was eventually dropped from the title on the January
During the updated Pyramid run on CBS, a second five-day-a-week
version also aired in late-afternoon or nighttime syndication as The
$100,000 Pyramid from September
this arguably became the most famous incarnation of all the versions
of Pyramid produced. The gameplay was identical to the daytime
version, except the three players with the fastest winning time in the end
game returned to play for an additional $100,000. The tournament took
place every six weeks or so. The nighttime version was distributed by 20th
The updated Pyramid ran on CBS until the last episode on December
but viewer demand prompted CBS to bring the show back to its daytime
schedule on April
after the game show Blackout
failed in Pyramid's time slot. The returned show only lasted until July
however, giving way to the new version of Family
Feud the following Monday. This would mark the end of Dick
Clark's 15-year reign as host.
aired on the USA
Network from October
acquired the rights to Pyramid reruns in 1997.
Ironically, CBS did broadcast two repeat episodes, one each on December
24 and December
originally from January 1983 featuring Lynn
Redgrave and Billy
Crystal during the same period as the reruns being shown on the USA
Pyramid returned to syndication again from January
7 to December
as The $100,000 Pyramid, with John Davidson presiding. Reruns of
the Davidson show continued airing into the following year until March
The new set for the updated 1980s
editions was created by Ed Flesh, but the show did list in the long
closing credits, shown at the end of any episode, the original Pyramid
design done by Jim Ryan, who was responsible for the 1970s
New York set. The music used was a new cover version of "Tuning
Up" as orchestrated by Bob Cobert, who previously composed themes for
other game shows originally produced by Bob
Stewart and Mark
In the fall of 2002
Pyramid without any dollar amount in the title returned in
syndication. Sony Pictures (the production company that currently owns the
format rights) did not renew the show after two seasons. The i
network (formerly PAX) had been airing reruns of the show beginning
but its last repeat telecast was on Friday, February
and replaced by reruns of Balderdash.
This particular edition did not have the direct involvement of original
creator and executive producer Bob Stewart and/or any staff members of his
former production company. Instead, the executive producer on this version
was Stephen Brown, who previously helmed a syndicated 1997-2000
version of The
Newlywed Game, and the executive program consultant was Harry
Friedman, currently the executive producer of Wheel
of Fortune and Jeopardy!
Clark, who is most associated with the program since its original
1973 debut as its emcee, hosted the following versions: the CBS and ABC
versions of The $10,000 Pyramid (including its renaming in 1976 as The
$20,000 Pyramid), the CBS version of The (New) $25,000 Pyramid,
the syndicated $50,000 Pyramid and the first $100,000 Pyramid.
Cullen hosted the 1974-79 version of The $25,000 Pyramid
Davidson hosted the 1991 revival of The $100,000 Pyramid.
Osmond hosted Pyramid from 2002-2004.
Clark has appeared in all versions, either as a host or a celebrity
player, except for the Davidson version. (However, on the series premiere
of the Davidson version, Clark did appear in a pre-taped greeting.)
The main game
Two teams, consisting of one celebrity
player and one contestant, competed against each other. Six categories,
each of which had a name pertaining to what that category was about, were
placed on the pyramid-shaped
game board. A contestant chose one of those categories, and after the host
explained the subject of that category, the contestant was given 30
seconds to guess seven words (originally eight), phrases, or names (20
seconds for six in the most recent version of Pyramid) using clues
given by his/her celebrity partner. If any descriptions were deemed
illegal by the judges usually when all or part of the word or phrase
was given a "cuckoo" sound was played, the clue was
immediately thrown out, and the contestant couldn't earn any points for
it. If a word was passed, the giver could not go back to that word, but if
the receiver knew the word later on and guessed it, the team still earned
Once time had expired or the contestant guessed all of the necessary
clues (whichever came first), the opposing team followed the same
Three rounds, with two subjects per round, were played in the main
game. While the celebrity gave the clues and the contestant received them
in the first round, the roles were reversed in the second round, meaning
that the contestant gave the clues and the celebrity received them. In the
third round the contestant had the option to give or receive, with the
team trailing going first.
If the score was tied after three rounds, tiebreaker rounds were played
using words that begin with a letter of the alphabet.
During the 1970's editions, especially on the ABC daytime version,
tiebreaker rounds would normally be continued to be played until the score
was untied, and a winner declared. There had been occasions when
tiebreaker rounds would finally end with high point totals, such as that
it was on July
Arnaz versus Anson
Williams and a 45-44 score; on June
Duncan versus Nipsey
Russell and a 43-42 score; and on August
Anne Worley versus David
Letterman and a 40-39 score.
During the 1980s and 1990s editions, the scores were reset to zero
before the tiebreaker rounds began. If the first team completed its
tiebreaker round with seven words answered successfully, the opponents
would have to beat the time it took the first team to get all seven.
The winner of the game played the Winner's Circle bonus round (see
In the original daytime version, when a contestant lost the main game,
he/she left with parting gifts. In the syndicated and daytime versions
both contestants played on the entire show, swapping celebrity partners
after the first game. In the 1980s version, whoever had the highest score
at the Winner's Circle returned on the next show. If both players matched
their Winner's Circle totals, both returned the next day. The
"bonus" dollars such as the "7-11" (discussed below)
did not count as for "score", which host Dick Clark would say
numerous times. The "score" money is to be won only in the
One randomly-chosen category in each game contained a hidden bonus on
the mini-pyramid main game board, which allowed the contestant to win
additional cash or prizes if all of the clues were guessed correctly.
The 1973-1980 daytime network versions featured the "Big 7",
instituted on the ABC version on December
where contestants could win $500 for getting seven out of seven in less
than 30 seconds. This was played once per show, and could appear in either
main game (though it was most often played in the first round). In early
appearances of the "Big 7", a vacation trip to a holiday
destination was first offered. It was later changed to bonus cash, as an
option was first given to the contestant's choice of either $25 per answer
up to $175 ("Play it Safe") or $500 bonus for all seven in that
same fabric. Eventually, the "Big 7" would be modified and best
known as answering all the words correctly in an all-or-nothing fashion
for the additional bonus.
The 1974-1979 nighttime syndicated version also featured the "Big
7", first in the 1975-1976 season for $1,000. It was later changed as
"The Big Money" card displaying a random cash amount from $1,000
to $5,000 in the 1976-1977 season, and from $1,000 to $4,000 in the
1977-1978 season. For the 1978-1979 season, the "Big 7" card
returned to which a contestant could win an automobile as the bonus prize.
There were no bonus cards in play on the 1981 syndicated $50,000 version.
The 1982-1988 versions featured the "7-11" in the first game,
first introduced on April
and similar in format like the "Big 7", contestants won $1,100
for seven correct answers in that subject. Early on, the player had the
option to play for $1,100 in that fashion or to "play it safe"
and take $50 per answer up to $350 total. This option was eventually
dropped without comment when virtually every contestant opted to try for
the bigger money. The "bonus" dollars won in the
"7-11", and later in the 21-21 tiebreaker round (discussed
below), did not count as for "score" during 1983-1988,
which host Dick Clark would mention on many occasions. Thus, the
"score" money is to be won only in the Winner's Circle.
There was also the "Mystery 7" in the second game, begun on
the premiere episode of the CBS $25,000 Pyramid, where contestants
won a prize (most of the time either a trip or a car) for seven correct
answers without receiving the subject of that category from the host (the
subject was revealed after the 7 was played). Originally, the
"Mystery 7" was displayed in plain sight on the gameboard, but
beginning on April
it was hidden behind a category just like the "7-11."
For a brief time in 1983, the CBS version of The $25,000 Pyramid
brought back a "Player of the Week" bonus rule as similar from
the syndicated $50,000 version introduced in 1981, whereas at the end of
the week which ever player identified 7 out of 7 answers in the quickest
time (excluding the tiebreaker round) won a trip to Greece.
During that short period, the program had dropped the "Mystery
7", but this concept was soon discontinued when the same player would
have been disqualified for the following week, after having won the trip
on the prior week.
The 1991-1992 version originally retained the bonuses of its immediate
predecessor, with the "7-11" and "Mystery 7" played as
described above on the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday episodes of a given
week. The Tuesday and Thursday episodes, however, saw the "7-11"
dropped, the "Mystery 7" moved to the first game and a new bonus
called "Double Trouble," played in the second. Two categories on
the board were designated as "Double Trouble" subjects (numbered
1 and 2), which consisted entirely of two-word answers. These subjects
gave the teams 45 seconds (rather than the standard 30), and paid off $500
for getting through all seven. Each team was required to pick one
"Double Trouble" category during the course of the game. Later
on, during the 1991-1992 season, the "7-11" was dropped
altogether in favor of "Gamble for a Grand" (also played as
"Gamble for a Trip"), which gave contestants the option of
playing that category normally for no bonus, or to take a chance at
winning $1,000 (or the announced trip) by getting all seven answers in 25
seconds instead of the usual 30.
On The $100,000 Pyramid, no bonus cards were used during
tournament play, but the 21-21 tiebreaker rule in winning an additional
$5,000 cash prize remained in place (discussed below).
The most recent version of Pyramid featured a "Super
Six" in each game where contestants won a prize for guessing all six
clues correctly within the 20-second time limit.
From 1976-1980 on the daytime version, $1,000 was won for achieving a
perfect score of 21 points. This bonus only appeared in the 1977-1978
season of the nighttime show, but for $2,100. On the 1982-1988 version, if
the game ended in a 21-21 tie, the tiebreaker was played for a new car in
1984, but starting in 1985 it became a $5,000 cash bonus.
The Winner's Circle
The Winner's Circle round, named for the circular structure around the
chairs that the celebrity and contestant sat in, also featured a pyramid
of six subjects: three on the bottom level, two in the middle and one at
the top. Each subject, however, was revealed one at a time and whoever
gave the clues (usually the celebrity, but the contestant always had the
option of giving or receiving) had to give a list of objects that fit into
that subject. The subjects increased in difficulty toward the top of the
Any descriptions other than a list of items resulted in immediate
disqualification of that category (signaled by a buzzer, which was also
used to indicate that time expired). The strictness of the judging has
varied over the years. The following clues were considered off-limits to
- Using hand gestures (the cluegiver had arm straps to help discourage
this); hand gestures were allowed for a short time in the early CBS
days and during special weeks in which the contestants were blind.
- Saying a key part of the answer (e.g. "a building"
for "Things You Build")
- Using synonyms (e.g. clueing "Things That Are Attractive"
with "a beautiful woman")
- Using a prepositional
phrase (e.g. "the train on schedule" for
"Things That Arrive")
- Describing the category itself rather than naming items (e.g.
"open your mouth I'll drill your teeth" for "Things A
Dentist Uses," even though this would have been a legal clue for
"What a Dentist Might Say")
The start of the clock produced one of TV's (and Dick Clark's) most
phrases: "Here is your first subject. GO!"
The contestant had 60 seconds to get to the top of the pyramid by
guessing all six subjects correctly; doing so won the grand prize, which
had changed with each incarnation of the show:
- The original version (1973-1976) offered $10,000 as its top prize.
If won, the contestant retired undefeated with the $10,000 and any
other winnings to that point.
- On the 1974-1979 syndicated version, a player's first trip to the
Winner's Circle was played for $10,000. If a contestant won both
games, his/her second trip to the Winner's Circle was played for a
grand total of $25,000.
- By 1976, the top prize offered was $20,000. The contestant who went
to the Winner's Circle the first time played for $10,000; the second
time for $15,000 and the third and subsequent times for $20,000.
Players in this version continued until a successful Winner's Circle
try at whatever cash prize level (thus retired at that point), or
defeated in the main game.
- In the 1981 syndicated version the first trip to the Winner's Circle
was worth $5,000 and the second time was worth $10,000.
- From 1982 to 2004 and during the syndicated 1974-1979 version, the
first trip to the Pyramid was worth $10,000 and the second $25,000.
(Note, however, that the contestant was playing for a total of
$25,000 on his/her second trip; in other words, if that player had won
the $10,000 in his or her first trip, the second trip would
"really" only be worth an additional $15,000.) Players in
the 1982-1988 CBS-TV $25,000 and syndicated $100,000 versions could
remain on the show up to a maximum of five days. However, on the CBS
run, players who won $25,000 or gone over the $25,000 winnings limit
were retired as champion, although they got to keep whatever they won
over the $25,000. It was later changed to $50,000 in September 1984
and towards the end of that network's run to $75,000, most likely
resulting after the amazing outcome of contestant Michael
Larson's winnings of $110,237 on CBS'
Your Luck in 1984.
- For the 2002-2004 version, a player had to have won the
$10,000 in his/her first trip to qualify for the $25,000 attempt and a
spot in the tournament.
The first Winner's Circle win occurred on the first broadcast in 1973,
Reiner successfully used the clue "A doughnut" for
"Things With A Hole". Interestingly, when Dick Clark was playing
as a celebrity player on the syndicated $25,000 Pyramid, he had
trouble with the same exact subject, and eventually came up with the same
clue Reiner used earlier when time was running out, resulting in a $25,000
If the top prize was not won, the contestant was awarded money for
every subject guessed. The amount was displayed after the subject was
guessed. Dick Clark would also provide clues for the subjects missed after
the round ended to the player receiving the clues as suggestions had he
been the clue-giver; even asking the judges if a certain clue would be
acceptable, with the judges responding either with a bell or a buzzer.
- 1973-1980 (network) and 1981 (syndicated) - $50 for the bottom three
subjects, $100 for the middle two subjects and $200 for the top
- 1974-1979 (syndicated) - $100 for the bottom three, $200 for the
middle, and $300 for the top.
- 1982-1992 - the first subject was worth $50 and increased in value
by $50 for each subject up to $300 for the top subject.
- 2002-2004 - the bottom three subjects were worth $200, the middle
two $300 and the top subject $500 ($500 for each of the three bottom
categories, $1,000 for each of the two middle categories, $2,500 for
the category at the top during tournament play).
In most versions, each subject was displayed on a trilon
that concealed the name of the subject, the dollar amount (if the
contestant guessed that subject correctly), and a pyramid (if an illegal
clue was given or if the subject was unused). At the end of the game, the
subject of the illegal clue would be unveiled. The 2002-2004 version used
television monitors instead, as producer Sony used their television
In the early years on occasion, if there was no time for the second
bonus round, it would be played at the top of the next show. On the
week-ending Friday episode, if there was no winner from the main game, the
celebrities would play the winner's circle themselves which, if won, would
split $5,000 to both stars. This procedure was eliminated in the 1982-1988
version when both contestants would play both games with celebrity
switching between games.
On The $50,000 Pyramid, the player with the fastest time in the
front game during that week qualified for the $50,000 tournament. The
field started with eight contenders but was narrowed down to three by the
end of the first week of the tournament. Starting the following Monday,
two finalists would play one game and the winner would play the Winner's
Circle for $50,000. If the grand prize was lost, that player would play
the next game against the finalist who sat out the previous game.
Tournaments were frequently held on The $100,000 Pyramid where
the three contestants who reached the top of the pyramid in the shortest
amounts of time played until someone won the Winner's Circle, where
$100,000 was awarded. These tournaments were played like the tournaments
on The $50,000 Pyramid, but without the elimination process. If a
contestant won the $100,000 Winner's Circle during the first half of a
given episode, the second half would then feature the two remaining
tournament contestants playing a consolation game, the winner of which
would play the Winner's Circle for $10,000. This happened four times, with
the first time coming in Pyramid 's first six-digit win. If the
$100,000 was won the entire audience came up to congratulate the winners
from the audience.
In the fall of 1985,
Richard Mahaffey became the first contestant to win $100,000. He and
celebrity partner Shelley
Smith went up to the top of the pyramid and correctly guessed
"Things That Are Warped" with three seconds left on the clock to
become the first game show contestant to win $100,000 on any version of
The fastest tournament ever was finished in the first half of the
second episode, when Nathan
Cook helped contestant Keif Ferrandini win the $100,000 in
The longest tournament was twelve days with Linda
Kelsey and contestant Marilyn Evans during the spring of 1987.
Other players who won the $100,000 tournament include: Andy Culpepper,
Patty Geiger, M.G. McCornmick, Mary Monte and Cheryl Reinwand, who would
become the program's biggest winner with a total of $150,800 in cash. In
the winter of 1991, Teresa Mueller became the first contestant to win
$100,000 on the John Davidson-hosted version of The $100,000 Pyramid,
with the assistance of her celebrity partner Adrienne
The last version of Pyramid held four three-day tournaments
where a contestant could win $100,000. In a six-player tournament, two
players would compete for the first show, two more would compete on the
second show and the last two players competed on the final show.
Each contestant's first attempt at the Winner's Circle would be played
for $25,000. If $25,000 was won in the first half, and that same player
returned to the Winner's Circle that contestant played for an additional
$75,000 and the tournament title. If the tournament ended with neither
player able to win both Winner's Circles in one show, the contestant who
won $25,000 in the fastest time, would have his or her tournament winnings
augmented to $100,000.
In a four-player tournament, the first two semifinalists would compete
on the first two days. Each attempt at the Winner's Circle would be played
for $25,000. The category payoffs remained the same as with the six-player
tournaments. On each of the two semifinal shows, whoever won more money
returned to compete in the finals, in which each Winner's Circle attempt
would pay the contestant $1,000 for each of the bottom three categories,
$2,500 for each of the two middle categories and $5,000 for the category
at the top or $50,000 for all six. This was the only version where a
$100,000 win was not guaranteed, or even a contestant winning $100,000,
however a payoff of $175,000 was possible if one contestant won all four
games and got to the top of the pyramid in each round.
One of TV's toughest games
When Pyramid first began in 1973, game play was slow at times,
but as the ABC version progressed, the main game play became better. By
the middle of the 1980s CBS version, both the civilians and celebs were
more comfortable with the game, and the Winner's Circle rounds were won
somewhat more often. (A similar phenomenon has been noticed in the NBC
versions of the Password franchise, as opposed to the original CBS
Still, some of the toughest game play on TV came in the $100,000
versions of the 1980s and 90s, which resulted in the top prize not being
won for days, if not weeks.
The bonus round evolves
In the original concept for the Winner's Circle, a team had to guess ten
subjects in 60 seconds to win the top prize. This idea survived long
enough for the Winner's Circle gameboard to be constructed with ten
trilons rather than six.
Perhaps realizing that ten in sixty seconds made it too unlikely for
the $10,000 to be won with anything less than perfect gameplay, Bob
Stewart changed the game to its familiar six-subject configuration. The
bottom four windows on the gameboard were "dummied out" by
having a large piece of plywood nailed across them, which would remain for
the entire duration of its initial 1973-74 CBS run. The set was
reconstructed without the eliminated trilons when the show moved to ABC in
1974, though the bare section on the ABC board briefly carried a
It is generally assumed by fans (though by no means confirmed) that the
four bottommost categories would have been worth $25 apiece, keeping with
the established doubling pattern of the six categories that remained.
Despite Pyramid 's moving to ABC in 1974, the first few episodes
on the Alphabet Network were taped at CBS's Ed Sullivan Theater while a
replica set was being built at ABC's smaller Elysee Theater. One reason
may have been the size of the set (including the big board), but according
to Pyramid historian William Padron, a key factor was the objection
of the CBS union staff to seeing their creations moved to an ABC studio.
The $50,000 Pyramid was unusual in that the clock in its main
game actually counted up, from 00 to 30 (to facilitate "Time
of the Week" scoring). It was also the first Pyramid version
to use a fully electronic display for the main-game clock (using a
vane-display clock), rather than a chromakeyed
board display. During regular gameplay, the Winner's Circle
clock was also vane-display, with it starting at "1 00" and
counting down from there. The Solari boards were used for the clock during
tournament play, going as before (counting down from "30" and
When Pyramid returned to CBS, the clock and score displays were
all vane displays (each digit using seven flipper pieces to display
numbers). However, during the Winner's Circle round, the player receiving
the clues and host Dick Clark would see a eggcrate-display clock to
indicate how much time is left. When time was running short when the next
to last subject was guessed, Clark would advise the clue giver to hurry on
the final subject.
Shatner and Leonard
Nimoy both guested on the ABC Pyramid in the 1970s, on a
week which was billed as Kirk vs. Spock. Shatner became infamous in
1977 for throwing a chair across the stage after giving an illegal clue on
the final subject ("Things That Are Blessed"; Shatner
inadvertently gave a clue containing the word "blessed"), which
cost his partner $10,000. (Interestingly, Shatner an occasional Pyramid
panelist rarely appeared as a semi-regular on the daytime show after
that.) On one episode two years earlier, in an unusual twist, Shatner
played the Winner's Circle by himself (giving the clues in one chair then
racing to the other and guessing the subject).
Several game show hosts (mostly those hosting Bob Stewart games)
appeared as celebrity guests, most notably Bill
Cullen and Geoff
White and Henry
Polic II would eventually host a game show at one point and are
also added to this list. Clark himself appeared as a celebrity guest on
the syndicated Cullen Pyramid on a few occasions, as well as on
three episodes of the Donny Osmond-hosted Pyramid.
Celebrity partner Billy
Crystal holds the record for the fastest Winner's Circle win at
26 seconds in 1977.
Jenner almost broke Crystal's record in the Winner's Circle, as
he and contestant M.G. McCormick went up to the top in 27 seconds in 1987.
McCormick won $100,000 with 33 seconds left on the clock. Kelly
Packard also achieved a 27-second mark in 2002 in leading a
contestant to a $10,000 win, the fastest win in the Osmond era.
The 1980s CBS and 1985-88 $100,000 versions are often considered the
best of the Pyramid franchise, for their production and gameplaying
values. Guests like Nipsey
Burton and Soupy
Sales from the 70s versions showed great enthusiasm in resuming
their panelist roles. And newer viewers got to see Vicki
Siebert and Henry
Polic II shine just as brightly as Russell and the others did
during the first runs. Based upon each of their great gameplaying, Post
and Polic were often brought back as panelists during tournament weeks on
the mid-80s $100,000 versions.
Celebrities giving the clues in the Winner's Circle that have won for
their partners the $100,000 cash prize during those special weeks included
Shelley Smith (twice), Brian
Stokes Mitchell, Mary
Garrison and Teresa
Ganzel. The only mid-1980's $100,000 tournament winner that had a
celebrity guest receiving the clues from his civilian partner was in early
1988 with Nathan Cook and contestant Kief Ferrandini.
White also became a semi-regular during the 80s version,
displaying the same word-game proficiency on Pyramid that she did
for Stewart on Password. It was on a 1987 week of CBS Pyramid
shows playing opposite White that Bill Cullen made his last network TV
appearance. Her most recent Pyramid appearance was on November
on a special episode with former Pyramid host Dick Clark as the
other celebrity guest.
Harris of thirtysomething
appeared on Pyramid as a contestant before finding success as an
actress. She later appeared as a celebrity on the Davidson era in 1991.
announcer and host Bob
Clayton handled the announcing chores on the 1970s Pyramid
(and other Stewart-produced shows) until his death in 1979 after a heart
attack. Other New York-based announcers, including Alan
Kalter and Steve
O'Brien, rotated the announcing duties until its last New York
broadcast in 1981.
When Pyramid moved back to CBS in 1982 relocating at
Television City in Los Angeles LA-based announcers such as Jack
Hilton and Charlie
Tuna rotated, with Clark and Gilbert credited as regular
announcers. In 1985, Charlie
O'Donnell, Dick Clark's announcer on American
Bandstand, worked with Clark again on Pyramid
mostly on the $100,000 version. Dean
Goss also announced on the show.
When The $100,000 Pyramid returned in 1991 with Davidson as
host, both Gilbert and Goss returned to the announcer position.
Cramer, previously of the 1997 versions of The
Newlywed Game and The
Dating Game, as well as the 2000 version of Twenty-One
and the US prime time version of Weakest
Link, announced on the Osmond 2002 revival.
Versions outside the USA
Foreign editions have been produced as well, among them, The Pyramid
Game in the United
Kingdom, Pyramide in France
which was later called Hast Du Worte?. There was even a version in Singapore
as well. From March 2006, Pόramiid started in Estonia.
Episode status and rights
All versions are assumed to exist, with the following exceptions:
- The original CBS $10,000 Pyramid is believed to be largely
erased; the only episodes confirmed to exist come from a special
three-week period where the show originated from CBS Television City
in Hollywood rather than its usual New York home base. GSN
has aired these episodes in the past.
- GSN has only the last two seasons (1978-80) of The $20,000
Pyramid in its archive (which was purchased from Bob Stewart when
Sony acquired the rights to that library). It is believed that the
tapes of episodes prior to that were erased and recycled by ABC.
- The Bill Cullen $25,000 Pyramid exists in what is believed to
be its entirety, but GSN does not have this version; it remains
with its original syndicator, Viacom.
The $50,000 Pyramid is in a similar limbo, as is the '90s $100,000
Pyramid (discussed below).
- As previously mentioned, Sony now has rights to the Pyramid
game format and most of the numerous incarnations. Sony does not own
the following versions: the Cullen $25,000 Pyramid version
(held by Viacom), the brief 1981 $50,000 Pyramid edition
(formerly distributed by CPM Programs) and the Davidson $100,000
Pyramid version (held by Paramount
Domestic Television and StudioCanal
via the latter's acquisition of the library of Carolco
Pictures, which distributed the Davidson/$100,000 Pyramid
References in popular culture
- The $100,000 Pyramid was parodied in a 1992
episode of In
Living Color, with Jim
Carrey playing the role of Dick Clark.
- An episode of The
Yeller Belly", featured a clip of Santa's
Little Helper as "Suds McDuff" barking clues to a
contestant on the Donny Osmond version of Pyramid.
- The $25,000 Pyramid was satirized on an episode of Jim
Henson's Muppet Babies in which Baby Miss Piggy played
the Winner's Circle on "The 25,000 Dollhouse Pyramid".
- A television
commercial for Comcast
featured footage from an episode of The $20,000 Pyramid. The
dialogue was dubbed and the subjects in the Winner's Circle were
edited to relate to Comcast products (such as "Things You'd Give
Your Right Arm For" and the clincher, "Things That Are
Comcastic"). The celebrity player featured in this clip was Loretta
- On an episode of Friends,
Joey makes an appearance on the Pyramid show hosted by Donny
Osmond. He fumbles over most of the answers, but somehow makes it to
the Winner's Circle. There he stumbles his way to the top, where he
jokingly makes fun of Chandler and time runs out.
- Pyramid turned up in a live 2003 Ellen
DeGeneres standup special on HBO,
during which she described what happens when a speaker loses the
thread of a conversation... in mid-conversation: "Suddenly, it's
like The $10,000 Pyramid with these people. 'Things that taste
like chicken. Things a monkey would wear!' "
- In the 2006
Dad! episode "Rough
Trade," Stan was seen watching a Winner's Circle round
of The $100,000 Pyramid while he was at home on house arrest.
Later, a drunk Stan plays along with the show, after which Klaus (the
talking fish) informed him that he was watching The
Price Is Right instead.
- The $25,000 Pyramid was featured in the 1982
episode of VH1's
Love the 80s 3-D.
- Even Dick
Clark was involved in a comedy spoof of The $20,000
Pyramid on the short-lived 1978
syndicated revival of The Soupy Sales Show, with Soupy
Sales and Pookie the Lion playing a very long and quite
futile Winner's Circle round. After the end of that round, both Sales
and Dick Clark each get hit with a pie in the face by Pookie.
and the Brain featured a spoof show called "The
$100,000 Pyramid Tournament Winners - (Dick Clark Version)
- Richard Mahaffey - $119,450
- Andy Culpepper - $113,250
- Patty Geiger - $126,800
- Cheryl Reinwand - $150,800
- Denise Bumbliss - $118,600
- Mary Monte - $123,600
- Marlyn Evans - $147,600
- M.G. McCormick - $133,650
- Debbie Seppien - $129,400
- Keif Ferrendini - $122,450
- Tracy Trench - $121,250
- Carrie Etheridge - $119,100
$100,000 Pyramid Tournament Winners - (John Davidson Version)
- Teresa Mueller - $114,600
- Kris McDermont - $147,750
- Peggy Belski - $115,700
- Melia Kline - $127,800
- Baron Harris - $124,800