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For the page about pyramidal buildings, click here.

Describe for your partner these things associated with Pyramid. These are things associated with Pyramid. Ready? Go.

Pyramid is a game show format that began on March 26, 1973 as The $10,000 Pyramid. It was created by Bob Stewart, also the mind behind Password. Unlike Password, however, the Pyramid franchise was largely produced by Stewart himself. It has a format similar to Password in that a contestant is trying to describe a word to a celebrity partner, but instead of being a one-word clue, the contestant has to give several clues to a set number of words (usually seven) within a time limit, and using virtually any form of verbal clue-giving. Whoever got more points in six rounds moved on to the Bonus Round, or "Winner's Circle", in which the game was essentially reversed. In the Winner's Circle, the clue giver is shown six categories, and has to give a list of objects that fit each category.

The show lasted in several forms in every year from 1973-88, generally increasing the dollar amount in the title with each new version. What started as $10,000 became $20,000, $25,000, $50,000, and even $100,000 over time. Dick Clark hosted most of the 1973-88 versions, except for the first $25,000 version which was hosted by Bill Cullen. A $100,000 revival was syndicated in 1991 with John Davidson as host. After failed pilots during the 1996-2000 period (one of which, Pyramid Rocks, had a rock music theme), the show returned from 2002-04 as just Pyramid, with Donny Osmond as host. (For this reason, it's more commonly known as Donnymid.) This new version introduced several rule changes that many fans of the show disliked, lax writing and judging, often-clueless celebrities, and a hyperactive host.

The most recent trio of pilots for CBS were taped on June 22 and 23, 2010, with Andy Richter as host. These were passed upon in favor of The Talk, a mother-oriented talk show fronted by (among others) Big Brother host Julie Chen... who is also the wife of CBS executive Les Moonves, leading to fans suggesting that Nepotism was the cause. Richter was also slated to host a pilot for TBS in 2011.

May be coming to GSN for the Fall 2012 season.


Game Show Tropes in use:

  • Bonus Round: The Winner's Circle, present in all versions.
  • Bonus Space: Many.
    • The first bonus space was "Big 7", debuting on December 23, 1974 and offering the contestant a bonus if they got seven points in that round. The bonus was worth $500 on the daytime show, $1,000 for Season 2 of the Cullen version, and a new car in the final Cullen season.
    • Seasons 3-4 of the Cullen version replaced Big 7 with the similar "Big Money Card", which awarded a random amount from $1,000-$5,000. For Season 4, the highest amount was decreased to $4,000.
    • On the Cullen version, getting a perfect score of 21 awarded $2,100.
    • The most recognizable pair, "7-11" [1] and "Mystery 7" [2].
    • The 21-21 Tiebreaker, which awarded a car (quickly changed to $5,000) for whichever team broke the tie.
    • In 1991, Tuesdays and Thursdays saw Mystery 7 move to Game 1 and 7-11 get replaced by "Double Trouble 1 & 2" [3]. On April 15, 7-11 was completely ousted in favor of "Gamble For A Grand/Gamble For A Trip" [4]. From October 22 onward, Gamble replaced Mystery 7 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
    • "Super Six", used only on Donnymid, which was a combination of 7-11 and Mystery 7 (played for a prize, but the category was given before it was played).
    • The 2009 pilots returned to 7-11/Mystery 7, with the former now awarding $11,000.
    • The 2010 pilots used the third and fourth categories of each maingame as the bonuses, with a prize awarded for getting all seven.
  • Complacent Gaming Syndrome: Both 7-11 and Mystery 7 underwent some changes following their introductions.
    • Mystery 7 was originally its own category (always in the bottom-right slot, using the same font as the others), but teams almost always chose it first. On April 23, 1984 it was changed to being a "behind-the-category" bonus (like the 7-11) and given its own unique logo.
    • 7-11 (debuted April 11, 1983) originally had two options — try for all seven words and $1,100, or "play it safe" for $50 per word. Not many people took the latter, and the option was dropped on January 21, 1985; the choice returned, giving $500 per word, in the 2009 pilots.
  • Game Show Appearance: Several, the most notable of which is probably the February 5, 2004 episode of Friends ("The One Where The Stripper Cries"), where Joey Tribbiani was a guest on Donnymid. Although Joey is' usually a clueless guy with a different train of thought, his performance only seemed to magnify Donnymids genuine attraction to less-than-stellar celebrities.
  • Game Show Winnings Cap: Depended on the dollar amount in the title. No, seriously.
    • On $10,000 and $20,000, you were retired immediately upon victory in the Winner's Circle.
    • On New $25,000, champions could stay for five days or until they surpassed CBS' winnings cap of $25,000 (later $50,000, then $75,000).
    • Both versions of $100,000 had a five-day limit.
    • $50,000, Cullen $25,000, and Donnymid had no returning champions.
  • Home Game: Many.
    • Eight versions were published by Milton-Bradley from 1974-81. The third edition was published as both $10,000 and $20,000, while the final one was based on $50,000... although the Winner's Circle was not actually replicated in these games.
    • A version based on New $25,000 was released by Cardinal in 1986. Despite getting the Winner's Circle right, the game board awkwardly refers to it as The $25,000/$100,000 Pyramid.
    • Video games were released for Commodore 64 in 1987 ($100,000) and on PC in 2001 (also $100,000). A DVD game, also called $100,000, was released in 2006.
      • The $1,000,000 Pyramid was released by Ludia/Ubisoft in early 2011 for Wii and PC...but despite its logo being in the 1982-91 style, the game itself uses Donnymid's set and rules.
    • Facebook now has a $100,000-themed game, complete with a Suspiciously Similar Song of the theme music. There are three categories in the main game, with six clues for each category (similar to Donnymid), and a new bonus space, the "Big Six" (a cross between "Big 7" and "Super Six", above), behind one of the three categories. There are also now three subjects in the Winner's Circle and, as on the show pre-Donnymid, only the "essence" is required to correctly claim them.
  • Let's Just See What Would Have Happened:
    • Dick often came out and tried to give clues on missed Winner's Circle boxes. Quite often, he gave the perfect clue due to having plenty of time to think about it and hindsight regarding what clues didn't work, leaving the actual celebrity dumbfounded (and, in the case of Vicki Lawrence, visibly pissed). Occasionally, even he whiffed.
    • Donny, on the other hand, subverted this as hard as he could, instead running onstage screaming "OH! OH! OH! OH!" and having the audience yell out what the missed category was. Considering how hard some of said categories were, this might have been on purpose.
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer: A very large number over time. Bob Clayton announced from 1973 until his 1979 death. A rotation of sub-announcers followed until Steve O'Brien took over in 1980. Jack Clark succeeded him in 1982, and Johnny Gilbert in 1985 until the end of the Davidson version. John Cramer announced the 2000s version. Both Clark and Gilbert had large numbers of substitutes.
    • Game Show Host: Dick Clark, most prominently. Bill Cullen, John Davidson and Donny Osmond all hosted versions. Mark L. Walberg, Chuck Woolery, Bil Dwyer, Tim Vincent, Dean Cain and Andy Richter all hosted unsold pilots.
    • Studio Audience
  • Think Music: The "plonk" timer in the Winner's Circle, in the loosest sense of the word. Played more straight with the Osmond era, which used actual music in the Winner's Circle.
  • Unexpectedly Obscure Answer:
    • Present in the fifth episode from 1973. "Famous Last Words" was Exactly What It Says on the Tin. It started out easily enough with "Amen", but once it got to "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn", "From sea to shining sea", and "shall not perish from this earth"... let's just say answers longer than two words rarely showed up afterward.
    • A $20,000 Winner's Circle (week of December 11, 1978) had quite a few near-impossible boxes, particularly "People Who Use A Baton".
    • Subverted on the Clark $100,000 with the really tough box "Things That Are Enshrined"; given the clue "hall of fame books", the celebrity (they swapped positions) ended up getting it right for $100,000 with less than 10 seconds to spare.
    • The Winner's Circle on Donnymid was the biggest example, being full of absolutely arcane boxes such as "Why Your Soufflé Falls", "What Regis' Coffee Cup Might Say", "What Tom Cruise's Dentist Might Say", and "Things On A Cave Wall". Keep in mind that you're allowed to give only a list of items on each box (unless it's "What x Might Say" or "Why You x", where nearly any word except x is allowed).
      • Oh, and "Colors In The Olympic Rings". No, seriously.
Tropes used in Pyramid include:
  • Affectionate Parody: Comcast did a commercial during their "It's Comcastic!" campaign using this segment from a $20,000 episode with the categories digitally altered, presumably to say "Hey, we have GSN!" Two versions of the commercial were made — a 30-second one that skips the fourth category, and a 60-second one that features Dick Clark in a cameo.
  • And Now for Something Completely Different: During the Clark era, various weeks of both versions were set aside for blind players. During these weeks, the celebrities did all clue giving, and both players won a trip on top of the other winnings.
  • April Fools' Day: At the start of the second game of the April 1, 1983 episode, the categories were loaded in backwards!
  • Berserk Button: Happens with some frequency to varying degrees to various celebrities (often when they almost make it or give an illegal clue), but the greatest Button-hitter has to be William Shatner (his example is listed on the show's Funny Moments page).
  • Continuity Nod: Surprisingly, the intro to the 2001 $100,000 PC game is the original' $10,000 intro ("Keep your eye on this spot...", minus the flat). Keep in mind this was 2001, when hardly anyone outside of die-hard game show fans were even aware of this intro, and the whereabouts of that period of $10,000s run were still unknown.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Dick Clark was a celebrity partner on both the Cullen and Osmond versions. Several people have played as both a civilian and a celebrity.
  • Double Unlock: Getting into the $100,000 Tournament on Donnymid. Contestants had to win both Winner's Circle rounds to get a spot in the Tournament — if the first Winner's Circle was lost, or each contestant won the main game, the chance was forfeit. This, the Unexpectedly Obscure Answers, the idiotic judging, and the lack of returning champions all meant that some players had absolutely zero chance of getting into the Tournament.
    • Then, to actually win the $100,000, you again had to be victorious in both Winner's Circle rounds in a single episode (paying out at $25,000/$75,000). If nobody did so by the end of the Tournament (which spanned just three shows), the person who won the most in the Winner's Circle during the "week" had their total winnings augmented to $100,000.
    • Averted in Ludia's $1,000,000 game, where you only have to win the Winner's Circle once to get the top prize. Replay value? What's that?
  • Downer Ending: More than once, a big win was negated after all the celebration because the judge discovered that at least one clue was illegal. Inverted, when a team was given a buzzer on only one box but got the other five right, then discovered after the commercial break that the buzzed clue was acceptable after all, thus leading to a win.
    • Other times, the receiving contestant gave the correct answer to the last box on the buzzer — the ruling in such a case is that if the "essence" of the answer (with "Things Made of Flannel", "flannel" is the essence) came before the buzzer, it's a win. One time, it was; another time, it wasn't.
    • Donnymid, if both of the day's contestants won $10,000. Yes, you each won $10,000, but you failed to get into the Tournament and nobody comes back tomorrow!
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • Typically of the genre, whenever a "new" format comes up, the gameplay's going to be a little rocky at first. As mentioned above, some early rounds had entire phrases instead of one- or two-word answers. Very early on, there were also 8 words per round, later cut down to 7. Once the players became more familiar with the format, 7/7 rounds became increasingly common; by $100,000, it was rare not to see a 7/7.
    • Winner's Circle judging wasn't as strict at first. Some prepositional phrases slipped by, as did hand gestures. One team even got credit for saying "Things You Iron" when the box said "Things You Press", which certainly wouldn't have gotten by in the 1980s.
    • For the first few weeks (the "keep your eye on this spot" intro), there was a "flat" that would raise and expose the Winner's Circle board at the top of the show as the theme music kicked in. It was removed by mid-June as they often had difficulty raising it on cue, and replaced shortly after that with the familiar "montage of past winners" open.
  • Epic Fail:
    • More than once, a team lagged so far behind that the game ended after the fifth category (unless the sixth was a bonus). At least twice (May 25, 1985 and during the week of April 28-May 2, 1986), the game ended after four.
    • 1988 ($100,000): David Graf and his contestant partner breezed through the first five boxes, looking like they might match or beat Billy Crystal's record. They then managed to spend nearly 40 seconds failing to get the top box, "Things You Plan".
    • More than once, the second half of a tiebreaker round ended because the contestants cuckooed on the first word.
    • On at least three occasions (one on New $25,000, one on Davidson's $100,000 and one on Pyramid), a team got $0 in the Winner's Circle. The one on New $25,000 was also one of the only times the contestant gave clues.
  • Game Breaking Bug: In the event of a tie, the teams originally played extra rounds until one outscored the other. One game had three tiebreaker rounds because the teams kept getting 7/7 in the tiebreakers. Finally, the tiebreaker was changed so that whichever team got its seven words faster won. Still, New $25,000 once got a double tiebreaker due to both teams getting their seventh tiebreaker word on the buzzer.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Although played serious most of the time, there were a few clues and/or answers that brought howling laughter from the audience. None moreso than one clue given by Sandy Duncan to the Winner's Circle category "Things That Are Stiff". In desperate search of a clue when her contestant partner was unable to deduce the category, Duncan blurted out "An erect penis!"
  • The Ghost: The judge, who would occasionally respond to Dick's (or occasionally the contestant's) questions with a bell or buzzer for "yes" or "no", respectively. Most commonly, said questions would be after-the-fact suggestions ("Would x have been an acceptable clue?") or Dick asking if the correct answer came before the time's-up buzzer. Other times, the dings and buzzes were for the sake of being funny:

 Lynn Herring: Can I come back next week?

(ding)

  • Guest Announcer: Boy howdy.
    • Alan Kalter, Fred Foy, John Causier, Dick Heatherton, Ed Jordan, and Scott Vincent all filled in for Bob Clayton. Kalter also filled in for Steve O'Brien.
    • Rod Roddy, Johnny Gilbert, Jerry Bishop, and Charlie Tuna all filled in for Jack Clark.
    • Gilbert then took over (so Jack could free up his schedule for Wheel of Fortune), but since Gilbert's own plate was pretty full at the time, Charlie O'Donnell, Bob Hilton, and Dean Goss all filled in for him. Goss and Henry Polic II filled in for Gilbert on New $100,000.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Many of the main-game category titles, moreso on Donnymid ("Going to Israel? Tel Aviv I said hi.")
  • In-Series Nickname: According to frequent player Dick Cavett, the stage crew nicknamed the top Bonus Round category 'The Money Saving Box' as it contained the hardest topic.
  • Leitmotif: Believe it or not, the "plonk" timer sound in the Winner's Circle is considered part of the music package, composed by Bob Cobert. Justified, in that the host always asks for silence before the Winner's Circle begins, and the "plonk" is the only background sound constantly heard.
  • Long Runner: Every year from 1973-88 featured at least one version in first-run, fifteen years total. 1974-79 and 1985-88 featured two versions — a daytime version, and a big-money nighttime version.
  • Loophole Abuse: In one Winner's Circle, Adrienne Barbeau tried to flicker her eyelashes while giving a clue for "Things That Flicker", causing Dick to chuckle and say "You dirty dog." This caused an awkward situation when both Dick and Adrienne swore they heard the contestant say "flicker"; when they came back from commercial, it's revealed that he said "flutter", and that even if he had said "flicker" they wouldn't have taken it because physical clues aren't allowed (beyond nodding if a contestant's close to the right answer).
    • The judges accepted homophones as correct answers (in other words, if the word was "flour", you could legally give clues for "flower"). Many contestants exploited this.
  • Mythology Gag: Previews of the $100,000 Tournament episodes of Donnymid referred to the show as The $100,000 Pyramid.
  • No Indoor Voice: Donny, particularly if someone lost the Winner's Circle.
  • Opening Narration: Several.
    • 1973: "Keep your eye on this spot. You are about to see one celebrity and one contestant step into this circle for the chance to win $10,000 in less than a minute. Ladies and gentlemen, this is The $10,000 Pyramid! (divider behind Winner's Circle raises to reveal large pyramid) Today's special guests are [female guest] and [male guest]! And here is your host, Dick Clark!"
    • 1973-80 (daytime, following a montage of previous winners): "This is The $10,000/$20,000 Pyramid! Today's special guests are [female guest] and [male guest]! And here is your host, Dick Clark!" [5]
    • 1974-79 (nighttime, following the montage): "This is The $25,000 Pyramid! Today's special guests are [female guest] and [male guest]! And here is your host, Bill Cullen!"
    • 1981: "This is The $50,000 Pyramid! Today's special guests are [female guest] and [male guest]! Your host is Dick Clark!" [6]
    • 1982-88 (from 1983 onward, following the montage): "From Television City in Hollywood, this is The (New) $25,000 Pyramid! Today's special guests are [female guest] and [male guest]! Your host is Dick Clark!" [7]
    • 1991: "This is the Winner's Circle. This is where someone is guaranteed to win $100,000! From Television City in Hollywood, this is The $100,000 Pyramid! Today's special guests are [female guest] and [male guest]! And now here is your host, John Davidson!" [8]
    • 1999: "This is Pyramid Rocks! Today's special guests are Saturday Night Live alumnus/comedienne Ellen Cleghorne, and from MTV/WorldChampionshipWrestling, radio and TV personality Riki Rachtman! And here's your host, Bil Dwyer!"
    • 2002-04: "[Guest] and [Other Guest], today on Pyramid! And now here's the host of Pyramid, Donny Osmond!"
  • Out of Order: Donnymid usually took the weeks they made and aired the individual episodes at various points. An aired week could have as many as five different sets of celebrities.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: The "plonk" timer in the Winner's Circle was also heard on Go and Sale of the Century, despite the latter being owned by Reg Grundy.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: On one episode of New $25,000, a Winner's Circle box read "Anthing with a collar". Dick even pointed out the blooper and awarded the misspelled slide to the contestant.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Vicki Lawrence did it here after a particularly bad round.
  • Serious Business: The Dick Clark era had some witty banter and small talk, sure, but when Dick asked for silence and the lights went down (especially during tournaments), you knew what it was. The tight bursts of applause (which weren't even solicited), the pained "Oh, I'm so sorry" after a loss; Dick even told them to "hurry over" to the Circle sometimes. His whole demeanor, even in the main game, says "This is a game, but barely."
  • Sophisticated As Hell: Dick, quite often. A few celebrity guests took the game seriously but loved to ham it up between rounds... especially Tony Randall:

 Dick: It is indeed The $50,000 Pyramid, and we welcome you, and I ask for your support, your sympathy, your help, because it isn't when [our other celebrity guest this week] Elaine Joyce is here that I don't look forward to it, but when they tell me that Tony Randall is going to be here, it is a terrifying experience!

Elaine: I know exactly what you mean. (laughs)

Tony: Why do you say that?

(audience laughs)

Dick: ...You're difficult.

Tony (with a straight face): Don't give me that [censored]!

(audience is in an uproar)

Dick: HE-L-L-L-P!

  • Suspiciously Similar Song: The second Theme Tune (1982-91) invoked this. Although large pieces of it sound like the 1973-81 theme "Tuning Up", said original theme was a piece of stock music that Bob Cobert arranged while the replacement was his own composition.
  • Take That:
    • Dick sometimes did this to Vicki Lawrence: "Describe for your partner these things that people try to avoid. Vicki Lawrence is one of them."
    • As mentioned above, the fake "Hit Shows On NBC-TV" Winner's Circle box on the 1980 Grand Finale.
    • On a later $50k episode: "Describe for your partner these things that make life difficult. Things that make life difficult. First answer is Tony Randall."
  • That One Level: Recurring celebrity guests grew to hate categories that involved naming people, especially if the full name was required. This hatred later became a Running Gag, and was lampshaded in the category "I Hope It's Not Names", which led to the list of "Things a Pyramid contestant might think about."
  • Trans Atlantic Equivalent:
    • The UK's The Pyramid Game. Subverted with the most recent version, as it was presented by Donny Osmond.
    • There's also versions in France and Quebec (both in French, naturally).
  • Urban Legend: For years it was said that Shatner, a Stewart mainstay, wasn't invited back following his chair-throwing incident on September 14, 1977 and the subsequent two episodes. He in fact appeared on two fourth-season Cullen shows (done prior to his chair throw), the last week of '77 with Barbara Feldon, and two fifth-season Cullen episodes (one with Loretta Swit) as well as fellow Stewart series The Love Experts. By the end of June 1978, Shatner was barred from Pyramid.
    • There's a story that one week Jamie Farr and Dick Cavett were guests. Dick Clark chatted with Cavett for a minute or so when they realized Farr hadn't said anything, and asked him about it. Farr reportedly replied "I'm just realizing how fortunate I am to be in the presence of two of the biggest Dicks in show business." resulting in both Cavett and Clark laughing for another minute.

Notes

  1. (get all seven for $1,100)
  2. (bonus prize attached to the category; category's theme is not revealed until after the round ends)
  3. ($500 for guessing seven two-word phrases in 45 seconds)
  4. (the team could opt to play the category in 25 seconds for either $1,000 or a trip)
  5. (The 1973 episodes from Television City, with Jack Clark announcing, use "Your host is Dick Clark!" Beginning in 1977 the word "now" was added to the last sentence, but reverted to the Television City version by late 1979 or early 1980.)
  6. (A different intro was used for Tournaments.)
  7. (Johnny Gilbert used "And (now) here is your host...", while Dean Goss used "Your host — Dick Clark!" $100,000 episodes used a slightly different narration and no clip montage.)
  8. (Much like $50,000, there were three intros: this one, one when there were three people in the Tournament queue, and one used for the Tournaments themselves.)
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