Pyramid (game show)

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This article is about the U.S. game show. For the Australian game show, see Pyramid (Australian game show).
The Pyramid
The Pyramid logo.jpg
Genre Game show
Created by Bob Stewart
Directed by Mike Gargiulo (1973–81)
Bruce Burmester (1982–92)[1]
Paul Nichols, Bob Loudin (2002–04)
Paul Overacker (2012)
Presented by Dick Clark (1973–88)
Bill Cullen (1974–79, syndicated)
John Davidson (1991)
Donny Osmond (2002–04)
Mike Richards (2012)
Michael Strahan (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)[2]
Theme music composer Ken Aldin (1973–81)
Bob Cobert (1982–92)[1]
Barry Coffing, John Blaylock (2002–04)
Alan Ett, Scott Liggett (2012)[3]
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Executive producer(s) Bob Stewart
Producer(s) Anne Marie Schmidt (1973–88)
Sande Stewart (1981–88)
Francine Bergman (1982–88)
David Michaels (1982–92)
Erin Perry (1991–92)[1]
Stephen Brown, Cathy Cotter (2002–04)
John Ricci Jr., Jonathan Bourne (2012)
Running time approx. 20–22 minutes
Production company(s) Bob Stewart Productions (1973–88)
Basada, Inc. (1973–74, 1978–81, 1986–88)
Stewart Tele Enterprises (1991)
Sony Pictures Television (2002–04, 2012)
Embassy Row (2012)
GSN Originals (2012)
Distributor Viacom Enterprises (1974–79)
CPM, Inc., Chicago (1981)
20th Century Fox Television (1985–88)
Orbis Communications (1991)
Multimedia Entertainment (1991)
Columbia TriStar Television (2002)
Sony Pictures Television (2002–04, 2012)
Original network The $10,000 Pyramid
CBS 1973–74
ABC 1974–76
The $20,000 Pyramid
ABC 1976–80
The $25,000 Pyramid
Weekly syndication
The $50,000 Pyramid
Daily syndication 1981
The (New) $25,000 Pyramid
CBS 1982–87, 1988
The $100,000 Pyramid
Daily syndication
1985–88, 1991
Daily syndication 2002–04
The Pyramid
GSN 2012
The $100,000 Pyramid
ABC 2016
Original release Original daytime series:
March 26, 1973 (1973-03-26)–74 (CBS)
1974–80 (ABC)
Weekly syndicated series:
Revived daytime series:
September 20, 1982 (1982-09-20)–January 1, 1988 (1988-01-01);
April 4, 1988 (1988-04-04)–July 1, 1988 (1988-07-01)
First daily syndicated series:
Second daily syndicated series:
Third daily syndicated series:
GSN revived series:
September 3, 2012 (2012-09-03) – October 26, 2012 (2012-10-26)

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 featured two contestants, each paired with a celebrity. Players 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 won a total of nine Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Game Show, second only to Jeopardy!, which has won thirteen.

Dick Clark is the host most commonly associated with the show, having hosted every incarnation from 1973–88 with the exception of the original version of The $25,000 Pyramid, which aired in 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 Pyramid with Donny Osmond hosting for two seasons. The most recent edition of the series, GSN's The Pyramid, was hosted by Mike Richards and aired for a single forty-episode season before it was cancelled in 2012. A revival of The $100,000 Pyramid is slated for Summer 2016 on ABC with Michael Strahan as host.

Re-runs of The (New) $25,000 Pyramid and The Pyramid are currently shown on GSN.


Broadcast history[edit]

Dick Clark as host of "The $10,000 Pyramid".

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.[4] 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.[5]

Title card of the 1980s (New) $25,000 Pyramid.

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.[6] 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.

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.[4] 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.

Later developments[edit]

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, the top prize was raised to a potential $1,000,000.[7]

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.[8] CBS ordered a third pilot on April 9, 2010.[9] Andy Richter was identified as a potential host.[10][11]

On May 18, 2011, TBS announced development of a possible new version of Pyramid, again to be hosted by Andy Richter.[12] It was later announced[citation needed] that the show was not picked up.

Another pilot, titled The Pyramid, was taped on June 16, 2012.[13] 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.[14] 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 greenlit and is set to air during the summer of 2016. The first season will comprise ten episodes with Michael Strahan serving as host. In Addition, this will be the second incarnation of Pyramid to air in Prime time on the network (the first was the All-Star Junior Pyramid in 1979).[15][16]

Other personnel[edit]

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 would substiute 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.[1] 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.[1]

The original theme tune was "Tuning Up" by Ken Aldin. In 1982, it was replaced by an original composition by Bob Cobert, which was also used on the 1991 revival.[1] Barry Coffing and John Blaylock composed the theme of the 2002–04 version, and Alan Ett composed for The Pyramid.


Front game[edit]

The Pyramid's gameboards, both in the main game and in the Winner's Circle bonus round, featured six categories arranged in 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 was not an indicator of its difficulty. In the Winner's Circle, categories became progressively more difficult the higher they were on the board.

The game featured two teams, each composed of a celebrity and a regular contestant. At the beginning of the game, the teams were 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 was 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 player conveyed to the other clues to a series of items belonging to a category. One point was scored for each item correctly guessed. 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 a point (no sound effect was played, in order to avoid a distraction). On the Osmond version, a team that passed on any words could return to them if time permitted, but if a word was guessed correctly after it had been passed, it would 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. Pyramid used categories with six subjects, with 20 seconds given to guess all six. Illegal clues, such as using part of the subject word in the description, resulted in the subject being thrown out with.

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 Winner's Circle. In the 1970s and 1980s versions, in the rare event that players were mathematically unable to at least tie their opponent before the opponent has had his or her last turn (or even rarer, before that point), the game ended and the remaining categories were left unplayed. However, the eliminated player returned on the next game.[citation needed]

Winner's Circle[edit]

The winner of the front game played "The Winner's Circle," whereby the goal was for the team to communicate six categories of increasing difficulty within 60 seconds, using only a list of words or phrases that fit the given category. One player was the clue-giver while the other had to guess what was being described. Successfully guessing all six categories won the contestant the top announced prize; otherwise, the contestant won cash depending on the amounts the correctly guessed categories were worth.[17][18][19] Clue-givers could pass on a category and then return to it if time allowed.

Returning champions and winnings limits[edit]

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

During the 1970s syndicated version, if a player 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 front-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 player who won one of the two games on the episode played the Winner's Circle for $10,000. A player who won both games played the second Winner's Circle for a total of $25,000 (thus earning for example, $750 in the first Winner's Circle means the second was worth an additional $24,250 to the player). On all versions from 1982–91, a player who won both games of an episode became the champion and returned on the next show. If each player won one game, the player with the higher total in the Winner's Circle became champion (winnings from the various front-game bonuses did not count). If the two players won equal amounts of money in the Winner's Circle (including $10,000 wins), both returned on the next show.

Contestants from 1982–91 were allowed to remain on the show until defeated, up to a maximum of five shows. 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). Players were allowed to keep a maximum of $25,000 in excess of the limit. 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 player to get to and win the Winner's Circle twice. If the player made a second trip without having won the first, he/she was given another chance at $10,000. If the player managed to win both, he/she won the $25,000 and automatically qualified for the $100,000 tournament.

On The Pyramid, each Winner's Circle was played for a base of $10,000. For each category that the player and celebrity swept, an additional $5,000 was added to the potential prize, with the maximum prize for a trip to the Winner's Circle being $25,000 for each contestant.[20]

International versions[edit]

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 on ZDFneo in 2012, and was co-hosted by Micky Beisenherz and Joachim Llambi.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Schwartz, David; Ryan, Steve; Wostbrock, Fred (1999). The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows (3 ed.). Facts on File, Inc. pp. 220–221. ISBN 0-8160-3846-5. 
  2. ^ "News". JD Roberto. Retrieved 2014-01-02. 
  3. ^ "The Pyramid cast and crew". IMDb. Retrieved 19 January 2015. 
  4. ^ a b "Shows". CBS Television City. 1954-09-07. Retrieved 2014-01-02. 
  5. ^ "Elysee Theatre". 
  6. ^ "Shows–CBS Television City". Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  7. ^ "Set Report from "The $1,000,000 Pyramid"". Buzzerblog. 25 June 2009. Retrieved 15 June 2012. 
  8. ^ "—New York Times—Will We Get Pyramid Back After All?". Retrieved 2014-01-02. 
  9. ^ "CBS orders 'Pyramid' pilot". Retrieved 20 September 2013. 
  10. ^ "Andy Richter wrapping deal to host new version of 'Pyramid' for CBS". Los Angeles Times. 
  11. ^ [1] Archived September 30, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "TNT and TBS Announce Extensive Slate of New Projects from Top Talents". The Futon Critic. 18 May 2011. Retrieved 25 May 2011. 
  13. ^ "buzzerblog (buzzerblog) on Twitter". 12 May 2012. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  14. ^ "GSN Announces Premiere of The Pyramid on Monday, September 3". GSN Corporate. July 12, 2012. Retrieved December 31, 2014. 
  15. ^ "ABC is Reviving Game-Show Classic $100,000 Pyramid". January 8, 2016. Retrieved January 8, 2016. 
  16. ^ Wagmeister, Elizabeth (January 9, 2016). "ABC Bringing Back 'Pyramid' Game Show with Host Michael Strahan". Variety. Retrieved January 10, 2016. 
  17. ^ Graham, Jefferson, "The Game Show Book", Abbeville Press, 1988, pg. 181–182. ISBN 0-89659-794-6
  18. ^ Schwartz, David; Ryan, Steve; and Wostbrock, Fred, "The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows" (third edition), Checkmark Press, 1999, pg. 220–221. ISBN 0-8160-3847-3.
  19. ^ Fabe, Maxene, "TV Game Shows," Doubleday & Co., 1979, pg. 255–259. ISBN 9780385130523.
  20. ^ "BUZZERBLOG Exclusive Info on 2012 GSN Revival". Retrieved 2014-01-02. 

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Hollywood Squares
Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show
as The $20,000 Pyramid
Succeeded by
Family Feud
Preceded by
Hollywood Squares
Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show
as The $20,000 Pyramid
tie with Hollywood Squares in 1980
Succeeded by
Password Plus
Preceded by
Password Plus
Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show
as The $25,000 Pyramid
Succeeded by
The Price Is Right
Preceded by
The Price Is Right
Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show
as The $25,000 Pyramid
Succeeded by