Pitfall (game show)
|Directed by||Geoff Theobald|
|Presented by||Alex Trebek|
|Narrated by||John Barton|
|Country of origin||Canada|
|Executive producer(s)||Bill Armstrong|
Vancouver, British Columbia
|Running time||30 Minutes|
|Production company(s)||Catalena Productions|
|Original release||September 14, 1981 – September 1982|
Pitfall is a Canadian game show that aired in American and Canadian syndication from September 14, 1981 to September 1982. The host was Alex Trebek and the announcer was John Barton (who also served as co-producer). The show was filmed at Panorama Studios in Vancouver, British Columbia and produced by Catalena Productions, with distribution provided by Rhodes Productions.
Two contestants attempted to predict how the studio audience answered questions about lifestyle and personal preference. For each question, the contestants and audience were shown four possible answers. Using a keypad, each audience member chose one of the responses, after which Trebek asked each contestant to choose the answer they thought had received the highest percentage of votes. Contestants could not choose the same answer. The champion chose first on the opening question, and control alternated between the contestants on every subsequent one.
One point was scored for choosing the most popular answer to a question. Contestants could also earn "Pit Passes," which would come into play in the Pitfall round. One pass was awarded for a contestant's first, third, and fifth points, for a maximum of three per game.
Play continued for a maximum of five minutes. The first contestant to reach five points, or the one who was in the lead when time ran out, won the game and advanced to the Pitfall round.
The champion attempted to cross a bridge composed of eight numbered sections in under 100 seconds by answering general knowledge trivia questions. Three of the eight sections contained pitfalls, and stepping on one caused the champion to drop down to the floor below the bridge. Before the round began, the champion watched a sequence of flashing lights on the bridge sections in random order; safe sections lit up once, while pitfalls lit up twice. He/she then selected the appropriate number of Pit Passes from a rack of eight numbered cards.
Trebek and the champion rode an elevator up to the left end of the bridge, and the clock began to count down as soon as Trebek started to read the first question. The champion could advance from one section to the next only by correctly answering a question; if he/she answered incorrectly or passed, Trebek gave the answer and read a new one. Handing Trebek a Pit Pass enabled the champion to bypass a section entirely, whether or not it was a pitfall, but the champion had to give the corresponding pass to Trebek before stepping into the section for it to count.
If the champion stepped onto a pitfall without either having the proper pass or giving it to Trebek in time, an elevator took him/her down to the stage floor as the clock continued to run. Trebek waited to continue asking questions until the champion was at floor level. One correct answer brought him/her up to the bridge, with the clock temporarily stopped during the ascent, and he/she would have to answer another question in order to advance.
The contestant received $100 for each section reached or bypassed within the time limit, and a prize package totaling approximately $5,000 for reaching the right end of the bridge. Later, a prize was awarded for reaching the fifth section and a prize package of approximately $2,500 was awarded for crossing the bridge.
Catalena Productions, which also produced the 1980–81 syndicated revival of Let's Make a Deal, went bankrupt in early 1982. As a result, most contestants who appeared near the end of the show's run did not receive their winnings, nor was Trebek ever paid for his hosting duties. Because of this, Trebek called the show "one of the great tragedies of [his] life" and keeps the bounced check for his salary framed on a wall in his home office. Trebek also commented that he found it ironic that the only time he has ever been stiffed was by his fellow Canadians.
About two years after Pitfall was cancelled, Trebek went on to host the syndicated revival of Jeopardy! – a position he holds to this day.
In Canada, the series continued in reruns on Global for several years after its cancellation. A number of stations in the United States aired reruns of Pitfall during the 1985–86 season, among them WLIG in Riverhead, New York and KHJ in Los Angeles.