Pyramid scheme

275x171_Pyramid_DefaultI’m a game show geek, having grown up in the early-to-mid-70s heyday of daytime network and early-prime-time syndicated game shows. One of my favorites was originally known as “The $10,000 Pyramid.” The dollar amount in the title increased over the years, and was different for the daytime and prime time versions. There were $20,000, $25,000 and $100,000 incarnations of the show. Most of these versions were hosted by Dick Clark. Game show legend Bill Cullen hosted the nighttime version for a while, but I don’t believe that was carried very much by any of the Nashville TV stations.

According to Wikipedia, there was a 1991 revival hosted by John Davidson, which I don’t remember. I do remember the 2002-2004 version hosted by Donny Osmond, which was simply called “Pyramid.” Dick Clark, somewhat nervously, appeared as a celebrity contestant on that one.

The show is a variation on the “Password” format, with teams comprised of one celebrity and one regular contestant. In the basic game, one team member tries to get the other to say an answer by giving clues which would suggest it. (“He was the first president …” “George Washington!”) There are seven such answers in a themed category, and you try to get your partner to say as many as possible of the answers within the 30-second time limit. Each team gets to do three such categories. The team winning the basic game goes on to the “winner’s circle,” where clue-giver lists items and the other player tries to guess what they have in common. (“The truth … rubber bands … lycra …” “Things that stretch!”) If they get all six of the categories on the pyramid-shaped board, they win the grand prize.

I used to love Game Show Network, back in the days when they showed a lot of classic game shows, but in 2004 they shortened the name to GSN and tried to attract a younger demographic with more reality shows, poker, and so on. The trouble is, there were already better places to see most of that content, and now they’ve mainly gone back to game shows, although there are a lot fewer of the classic game shows, with more reruns of game shows from the past few years, along with a smattering of original shows.

Since I no longer watch the channel that often, I had no idea they were introducing a new version of “The Pyramid” (unlike the Donny Osmond version, “The” is a part of the title) until earlier today. I watched the first episode this evening.

275x171_abouthost_PYMDIt’s a lot of fun. The set, while using modern electronics and video displays, is much more of a tribute to the original show than the set of the Donny Osmond version, and even the original theme music is used (albeit softly, almost drowned out by applause). Mike Richards is the host of the new version. I’d never heard of him. Looking online, he has hosted a few shows before, but in recent years he’s been a game show producer, working on both of CBS’s daytime shows, “The Price Is Right” and “Let’s Make A Deal.” He does an acceptable job, and will probably get better, but it’s hard to follow in the footsteps of Dick Clark. Clark also had more time for chit-chat; there are more ads per half-hour nowadays, and Richards has to keep the game moving right along.

The game play is pretty much as you remember it. The Donny Osmond version tried to save time by having only six possible answers in each category of the main game, but the new version restores that to seven. The new version does away with the “Big 7” / “Mystery 7” / “Super Six” category featured in earlier versions of the game, but replaces it with a new twist – any perfect round (with all seven answers completed in a category) adds $5,000 to the prize for which that team would be playing if they win the game. A team with three perfect rounds would go on to play for $25,000 in the winner’s circle, while a team with no perfect rounds would play for only $10,000.