Pyramid (game show): Wikis


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Title card from The $20,000 Pyramid.
Genre Game show
Created by Bob Stewart
Presented by Dick Clark (1973-1988)
Bill Cullen (1974-1979, syndicated)
John Davidson (1991)
Donny Osmond (2002-2004)
Narrated by Bob Clayton (1973-1979)
Various substitutes (1979-1988, 1991)
Jack Clark (1982-1985)
Johnny Gilbert (1982-1988, 1991)
John Cramer (2002-2004)
Country of origin  United States
No. of seasons 26
No. of episodes The $10,000/$20,000 Pyramid: 1,808 (CBS: 225, ABC: 1,582 + 1 primetime special)
The $25,000 Pyramid (Cullen): 150
The $50,000 Pyramid: 95
The (New) $25,000 Pyramid (Clark): 1,404
The $100,000 Pyramid (Clark): 550
The (New) $100,000 Pyramid (Davidson): 170
Pyramid (Osmond): 315
Executive producer(s) Bob Stewart
Location(s) CBS Television City
Hollywood, California (1973, 1982-1988, 1991)
Ed Sullivan Theater
New York City (1973-1974)
ABC Studios TV-15
New York City (1974-1981)
Sony Pictures Studios
Culver City, California (2002-2004)
Running time 22-26 minutes
Production company(s) Bob Stewart Productions (1973-1988)
Basada, Inc. (1973-1974, 1978-1981, 1986-1988)
Stewart Tele Enterprises (1991)
Columbia TriStar Television (2002)
Sony Pictures Television (2002-2004)
Distributor Viacom (1974-1979)
CPM, Inc., Chicago (1981)
20th Century Fox Television (1985-1988)
Orbis Communications (1991)
Multimedia Entertainment (1991)
Columbia TriStar Television (2002)
Sony Pictures Television (2002-2004)
Original channel CBS (1973-1974, 1982-1988)
ABC (1974-1980 daytime)
Syndicated (1974-1979, 1981, 1985-1988, 1991, 2002-2004)
Original run March 26, 1973 – September 10, 2004

Pyramid is an American television game show which has aired several versions. 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 to $100,000 over the years). The game features two contestants each paired with a celebrity. Players attempt to guess a series of words of 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 11.

Dick Clark is the host most commonly associated with the show, having hosted most incarnations of it from 1973-1988; Bill Cullen hosted a 1974-1979 syndicated version of The $25,000 Pyramid, while John Davidson hosted a 1991 revival of The $100,000 Pyramid and the most recent revival (simply titled Pyramid) ran from 2002-2004 with Donny Osmond as host.

In 2009, two pilots for a new version of the game, one hosted by Dean Cain and the other by Tim Vincent, were taped in New York. This came after CBS announced the cancellation of Guiding Light in April 2009, and the potential Pyramid revival was one of three 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 which took place in June 2009, the top prize was raised to a potential $1,000,000.

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 is among the series being considered as a potential replacement.[1]



The original concept presented to CBS by creator Bob Stewart was a rough pilot presentation titled Cash on the Line taped at CBS' Ed Sullivan Theater on February 2, 1973. It was said the programming executives at the network only liked the second part of the proposed program's format, and suggested that Stewart rework that part into another game. This eventually became the main game portion of Pyramid, featuring two civilian contestants each partnered with a celebrity.

Stewart then reworked the game and presented another version to CBS, with a bonus round that featured a giant pyramid board and a top $10,000 cash prize which could be won in one minute. He made the point that offering such a large amount of money in such a quick fashion had not been done before on television. There was no second pilot episode taped, but a run-through presentation was made in front of the network executives, with Peggy Cass and Bill Cullen as the celebrities demonstrating the new Pyramid game format.


Broadcast history

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 and CBS canceled it. The show was quickly picked up by ABC, and began airing 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. Pyramid returned to California in 1982.

The first thirty episodes (six weeks) which aired on ABC were taped at CBS' Ed Sullivan Theater while a replica set was built at ABC's smaller Elysee Theater, known also as Studio TV-15. One reason may have been the size of the set (including the giant Pyramid board itself), and Pyramid historian William Padron also states that the CBS union staff objected to seeing their creations moved to an ABC studio. The first episode taped at ABC was broadcast on June 17, 1974 with June Lockhart and William Shatner.

A weekly syndicated nighttime version, known as The $25,000 Pyramid and hosted by Bill Cullen, made its debut in September 1974, seen mostly on network-affiliated stations during the prime access time slot. This edition lasted until September 1979.

The network daytime version was a ratings success for ABC, usually ranked #3 among daytime game shows. On January 19, 1976, the show increased its top prize and was renamed The $20,000 Pyramid. However, ratings later began to slide, and ABC canceled the show on June 27, 1980.

For a six-week period from October 1 to November 9, 1979, the series became Junior Partner Pyramid, with the traditional celebrity-contestant pairings scrapped in favor of children teamed with their parents or other adult relatives.

From January 26 to September 4, 1981, the program returned to daily first-run syndication as The $50,000 Pyramid, with Clark as host. This version included the first tournament structure and was later integrated into The $100,000 Pyramid.

Title card of the 1980s $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 at CBS Television City's Studio 33 (currently known as the Bob Barker Studio). The word "New" was added to the title on November 8, 1982 (#0036) so viewers would not think the shows were reruns of Cullen's version, as that series was still airing in certain markets. "New" was eventually dropped from the title on January 28, 1985. It quickly became a hit, and a new nightly syndicated version, The $100,000 Pyramid, also with Clark, was added in 1985. CBS canceled the daytime version on December 31, 1987 but returned it for an additional 13 weeks on April 4, 1988 when its replacement, Blackout, failed. The $25,000 version ended first-run episodes on July 1 of that year and the $100,000 version ended first-run episodes on September 2.

The $25,000 Pyramid was part of a two-hour block of game shows and paired with another CBS game show as a lead-in to The Price Is Right. It was paired with Child's Play (hosted by Cullen) from 1982-1983, Press Your Luck from 1983-1986, and Card Sharks from 1986-1988.

Later versions included a short-lived 1991 revival of The $100,000 Pyramid, hosted by John Davidson, and a 21st century version, the first to be simply titled Pyramid, hosted by Donny Osmond, which ran from 2002-2004.

Even on versions where he didn't host, Dick Clark was still involved. He appeared on the Cullen and Osmond versions as a celebrity player, and offered pre-taped well wishes to Davidson on his version's premiere episode. At the time, Clark was hosting The Challengers, which prevented him from returning for this version.


Front game

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 "civilian" 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 the 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 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. 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.

Originally, on the CBS version, there were eight possible items in a category. This was reduced to seven when the show moved to ABC, and reduced again to six (in 20 seconds) for the Osmond-hosted version (the 2009 CBS pilot returned to the seven in 30 seconds format). The short-lived Junior Partner Pyramid format kept the seven words, but increased the time limit to 35 seconds. Using any part of the answer in giving a clue resulting in the item being disqualified with a "cuckoo" (or a "burble" on the Osmond version) sound effect. Originally, the celebrity gave the clues in the first and third rounds, and the contestant in the second round. Eventually, the team was given the opportunity to choose which player would give the clues 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 a player was mathematically unable to at least tie his opponent before the opponent has had his 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.[2][3]

From 1976 to 1980, any player who scored a perfect 21 points received a $1,000 bonus on the daytime $20,000 Pyramid and a $2,100 bonus on the nighttime $25,000 Pyramid during the 1977-1978 season. Towards the end of the daytime edition, 21 points won a bonus prize (a color TV on the final episode).

If there was a tie score at the end of the third round, a tie breaking round was played. The team that caused the tie was given a choice between two categories, each containing seven answers beginning with a certain letter of the alphabet. The other team played with whichever letter the first team did not pick. In the 1970s, the objective was to score as many words as possible within 30 seconds, with the score added onto the team's initial main game score and play continuing until the tie was broken, leading to rare occasions when a team's score passed the 40-point mark. In the 2002-2004 version, the score was also added onto the team's initial main game score, though each team had only 20 seconds to get as many words as possible (regardless of how much time the first team took to communicate all the words within their category).

Later in the 1970s syndicated version and on all subsequent versions, a "best of seven" tiebreaker was used. The earlier main game score was erased, and if the first team guessed all seven words within their allotted time, the opposing team had to guess seven words within the time it took the first team to get all seven, which meant tiebreakers almost always took just one round to complete (if both teams tied with less than 7, or if both teams took the same amount of time to complete, the score was again wiped clean and a new tiebreaker was played, though this rarely happened). Beginning on January 16, 1984, if the teams tied with a perfect score of 21-21, whoever broke the tie won a new car. On October 22, this bonus was changed to $5,000 cash, which also carried over to the first syndicated $100,000 Pyramid. This bonus was not in effect on the 1991 or 2002-2004 version.

Bonus cards

A number of bonus games were used during the front games, offering cash or a prize if the team correctly guessed all of the answers in a particular category.

  • Big 7: Debuting on December 23, 1974 (but in the second season of the Cullen version), the Big 7 was originally worth a trip but soon changed to $500 on ABC. The Cullen version originally used the Big 7 with a payoff of $1,000; it was soon replaced (see below), but returned in the final season and was played for a new car.
  • Big Money Card: Used only during the third and fourth seasons of the Cullen version, the Big Money Card replaced the Big 7, but gameplay remained the same. Big Money Cards were worth a random amount from $1,000 to $5,000 (1976-1977 season); $1,000 to $4,000 (1977-1978 season).
  • Bonus 7: During the short-lived Junior Partner Pyramid format, each team chose one category during either of the day's two games to designate as their Bonus 7, which otherwise worked the same way as the Big 7 (including the $500 payoff). One notable difference, however, was that the bonus money counted towards a team's final total for the day, the only time in Pyramid history this occurred.
  • Mystery 7: Debuting with the CBS revival in 1982, the Mystery 7 was played in game two and awarded the contestant a bonus prize for guessing all seven words in a category whose exact meaning was not explained until gameplay was over. It was used as a category title for the first two years, but starting on April 23, 1984 (#0412), it was concealed behind one of the categories and only revealed when that category was chosen.
  • 7-11: Debuting on April 11, 1983 (#0144) the 7-11 was played in game one each day for a cash bonus of $1,100; originally, contestants could either go for the money or "play it safe" and take $50 per word, but few teams chose the latter option and it was dropped on January 21, 1985 (#0604). Both the 7-11 and Mystery 7 were carried over into The $100,000 Pyramid, except that they were not featured during tournament play. During the four all-celebrity weeks that aired in 1987, the 7-11 was played in both rounds. In 1991, the 7-11 was used in the first game on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday shows.
  • Double Trouble: Debuting on January 8, 1991 (#002, always played on Tuesday and Thursday shows), contestants won $500 for guessing seven two-word phrases in 45 seconds. When it appeared, there were two such categories in one game (always appearing on the second row) and each team was required to play one of them.
  • Gamble for a Grand/Trip: Debuting on April 15, 1991 (#071) and replacing the 7-11, a contestant could choose to give up time in one round to guess all seven answers in only 25 seconds to win a $1,000 bonus or a vacation. From October 21 to November 29 (#136-#165, the last six weeks before the final tournament), it replaced the Mystery 7 on Tuesday and Thursday shows.
  • Super Six: Debuting in 2002 and replacing all previous bonuses, the Super Six appeared in both games on every show with either a trip for two or an electronic product from Sony awarded for getting all six. For the second season (minus tournaments and all-celebrity weeks), the Super Six in game two usually featured a home viewer sweepstakes. A home viewer who logged on to the show's website to enter was chosen at random, and some of these players were heard live via telephone. If the studio players finding the Super Six got all six answers, the player at home won the same prize (always Sony electronics items). If not, the home player got the Pyramid home game that was in stores at the time.

Other bonus elements

  • 21-21 Tiebreaker: Although 21-21 ties were common by 1984, beginning on January 16 (#0342) of that year the contestant who broke the 21-21 tie received a new car, theirs to keep regardless of whether they won or lost that day. This was changed on October 22, 1984 (#0542) to $5,000. In addition, the 21-21 tiebreaker was the only bonus used during tournament play on the $100,000 versions. On the aforementioned all-celebrity weeks, the team who won the money split it between their charities.
  • Player of the Week: On The $50,000 Pyramid and from February 7 to 25, 1983 (#0099-#0113) on The New $25,000 Pyramid, a trip for two to Europe was given to the player who achieved the fastest main game time during the course of the week (plus a qualifying spot in the $50,000 tournament during 1981); in 1983, this was a trip to Greece. The bonus was retired in 1983 when it was realized that a champion would have to be disqualified if their reign carried over from one week to another.

Winner's Circle

The Winner's Circle included a larger pyramid, also composed of six boxes. Each box contained a category, such as "Things You Plan" or "Why You Exercise", and were revealed one at a time. One player (usually the celebrity, though the contestant always had the option to give or receive except in the first season of Donny Osmond's version) gave a list of items to the other player, who attempted to guess the category to which all of the described items belonged. Each category was worth a small amount of money. Correctly guessing all six categories in 60 seconds won the top prize.

An illegal clue disqualified the category and ended the player's chance to win the large bonus. If other categories remained in the game, the smaller amounts could still be won and play continued until time ran out or until all the remaining categories had been guessed, at which point the smaller amounts accumulated and were added to the player's cash total. Illegal clues included giving a clue that was "the essence of the category" (i.e., the category itself or a direct synonym), describing the category itself rather than listing or naming items, clues that did not fit the category and made-up expressions. When The $10,000 Pyramid moved to ABC, hand gestures became illegal (the clue giver had arm straps attached to his/her chair to discourage this). Clues in the Winner's Circle must also be concise, as prepositional phrases, a form of the word, blurting out the word, as well as overly descriptive sentences were also illegal.

Each category on the Pyramid paid as follows:

Version 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
The $10,000/$20,000/$50,000/Junior Pyramid $50 $100 $200
The $25,000 Pyramid (1970s) $100 $200 $300
All-Star Junior Pyramid Special $100 $250 $500
Junior Partner Pyramid (1979) $100 $125 $150 $175 $200 $250
The (New) $25,000/$100,000 Pyramid $50 $100 $150 $200 $250 $300
Pyramid (2002-2004), regular gameplay $200 $300 $500
Pyramid, six-player tournament/four-player semifinals $500 $1,000 $2,500
Pyramid, finals match of a four-player tournament $1,000 $2,500 $5,000

The award for a successful trip to the Winner's Circle varied on different versions of the show. On The $10,000 Pyramid, a successful player won that amount of money and retired from the game. For ABC's The $20,000 Pyramid, a player's first Winner's Circle was played for $10,000; however, this prize increased by $5,000 upon each successive trip to the Winner's Circle by that same contestant (up to ABC's maximum of $20,000) until won, at which point the contestant retired. Unlike the two-game format which became standard in later Pyramid versions, a player who lost one main game departed the show, and a new contestant was introduced following the winning contestant's attempt at the cash prize in the Winner's Circle.

During the Junior Partner Pyramid format, two teams competed in two games each day, with $2,500 awarded for winning the day's first Winner's Circle, and if the same team made it to the second one, it was worth $5,000. The team with the highest total, including $500 for a successful Bonus 7 category, returned the next day. The All-Star Junior Pyramid special awarded $10,000 for clearing the Pyramid.

On both versions of The $25,000 Pyramid, as well as The $100,000 Pyramid (during non-tournament play), a player's first trip to the Winner's Circle in a two-game episode is played for $10,000. If the same player wins the second main game, his/her second attempt in the Winner's Circle is for a total of $25,000, regardless if their first attempt was successful.

On The $50,000 Pyramid, two contestants also competed in a two-game format for the entire show. The first Winner's Circle was worth $5,000, and similar to the $25,000 Pyramid, the player's second attempt in the same episode was worth a total of $10,000.

Originally, if there was no time for the second Winner's Circle, it would be played at the top of the next show. On the week-ending Friday episode, if the second game ended in a tie and time was running short, the celebrities played the Winner's Circle and if won, their contestant partners split $5,000 between them. This procedure may have been instituted following a Monday show that started with a Winner's Circle in which the previous week's celebrity, Nipsey Russell, returned just to play that round and then left. By the 1980s, games no longer straddled and every episode contained two main games and two Winner's Circles.

On The $25,000 Pyramid from the 1970s, if time was running short after the second game the winning contestant received an additional $2,500. By the final season, the aforementioned "best of 7" main game tiebreaker had been instituted, eliminating the need for this rule.

Returning champions and winnings limits

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 1982-1991, 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, both returned on the next show.

Contestants from 1982-1991 were allowed to remain on the show until defeated, lasting the maximum of five shows. Champions on the CBS revival also retired after exceeding the network's winnings limit. This was originally $25,000, but was increased to $50,000 on October 22, 1984 (#0542) and to $75,000 on September 29, 1986 (#1041). Players were allowed to keep a maximum of $25,000 in excess of the limit.

The Osmond version featured no returning champions. Contestants played the Winner's Circle for $10,000, with a second trip in the same show worth a total of $25,000 plus a berth in the $100,000 tournament. However, unlike earlier versions, both Winner's Circle rounds had to be won for the $25,000 and tournament spot.


The $50,000 Pyramid

On The $50,000 Pyramid, the player with the fastest time in the front game during that week was called "The Player of the Week", won two round-trip tickets to Europe, and qualified for the $50,000 tournament. There were two such tournaments held during the run – the first was held starting on March 23, 1981 and the other beginning on May 25, 1981. For the front game there were no bonus cards, and the clock counted up to determine the fastest time as mentioned above.

The tournament started on a Monday, with four of the eight players competing, two against each other in the first game, and two more in the second. The winners of those games played for $5,000 in the Winner's Circle, with the losers being eliminated from further competition (and receiving a trip for two to Paris just for participating in the tournament).

On Tuesday, the remaining four qualifying contestants competed, with the winners again playing for $5,000 in the Winner's Circle and the losers eliminated.

On Wednesday, the two winners from Monday were brought back to play both games on that program. If one player won both games, that player would play for $5,000 in the Winner's Circle after his or her first win, and for $10,000 after his or her second win, and qualify to play in the first game on the Monday show of the second week of the tournament.

If the two players split their games, each played for $5,000 in the Winner's Circle after their respective wins, and the player who won the most money in the Winner's Circle advanced to the next round of competition. If they tied, they played a tie-breaker in which one player selected either the top three subjects on the big pyramid or the bottom three, and tried to identify them from their partners' clues in a maximum of 30 seconds, with the fastest time winning.

On Thursday, the two winners from Tuesday competed in this manner to determine the second player for the first game on the following Monday.

On Friday, the two losing players from Wednesday and Thursday were brought back, and they played in the above manner to determine one of the two players who played in the second game on the following Monday. (The loser on this program was eliminated from further play in the tournament.)

On the Monday show of the next week, the winner of the Wednesday show from the preceding week played in the first game against the winner from the Thursday show. The winner of this game went to the Winner's Circle and attempt to win $50,000 by getting all six subjects in 60 seconds – however, no consolation money was awarded if the attempt failed, and as such, an illegal clue ended the game immediately.

If the winner of this first game on Monday failed to win the $50,000 in the Winner's Circle, he or she returned to the main game area to play the day's second game against the Friday winner of the preceding week.

If the winner of that game failed to win the $50,000, the competition continued in this manner until someone finally won the grand prize.

$50,000 winners

$50,000 Winner # Contestant Celebrity Partner Original Air Date
1st Colleen Messina Soupy Sales April 3, 1981 (#50; 2nd round)
2nd Tony Reitano Anita Gillette June 4, 1981 (#94; 2nd round)

The $100,000 Pyramid

On both versions of The $100,000 Pyramid, the three players who won the Winner's Circle in the shortest time during a given period of shows (7 to 10 weeks on the Dick Clark version, and 6 or 7 weeks on the John Davidson version) returned on later episodes to compete in a tournament. The players alternated in a round-robin, with two players competing each day and the third player replacing the loser of that episode in the next one, if neither player won the Winner's Circle that day (in the event of a tie, a coin toss was used to determine who returned on the next show).

The first player to win the Winner's Circle won $100,000 and ended the tournament. If this happened in the first game of the show, the two remaining players played the second game for a chance at $10,000. No bonus cards were in play during the tournaments, although the $5,000 bonus for a 21-21 tie remained in the 1980s version.

1980s winners

$100,000 Winner # Contestant Celebrity Partner Original Air Date Total Winnings
1st Richard Mahaffey Shelley Smith November 22, 1985 (#055; 1st round) $119,450
2nd Andy Culpepper Brian Mitchell February 6, 1986 (#099; 2nd round) $113,250
3rd Patty Geiger Mary Cadorette May 9, 1986 (#145; 2nd round) $122,800
4th Cheryl Reinwand Audrey Landers September 18, 1986 (#199; 2nd round) $150,800
5th Denise Bumbliss Shelley Smith November 6, 1986 (#234; 2nd round) $118,600
6th Mary Monte Lauri Hendler January 26, 1987 (#281; 1st round) $123,600
7th Marilyn Evans Linda Kelsey May 6, 1987 (#332; 2nd round) $147,600
8th M.G. McCormick Barry Jenner September 11, 1987 (#375; 2nd round) $133,650
9th Debbie Seppien Markie Post November 5, 1987 (#414; 2nd round) $129,400
10th Keif Ferrendini Nathan Cook January 19, 1988 (#457; 1st round) $122,450
11th Tracy Trench David Garrison March 29, 1988 (#507; 1st round) $121,100
12th Carrie Etheridge Teresa Ganzel August 31, 1988 (#548; 2nd round) $119,100

1991 winners

$100,000 Winner # Contestant Celebrity Partner Original Air Date Total Winnings
1st Teresa Mueller Adrienne Barbeau February 21, 1991 (#034; 1st round) $114,600
2nd Kris McDermott Robin Riker April 12, 1991 (#070; 1st round) $147,750
3rd Peggy Belski Barry Jenner May 30, 1991 (#104; 2nd round) $115,700
4th Melia Kline Stuart Damon October 17, 1991 (#134; 1st round) $127,800
5th Baron Harris Adrienne Barbeau December 6, 1991 (#170; 1st round) $124,800


On the Osmond version, the rules were changed drastically to being played between either four or six players who won $25,000 in their initial appearance (which, due to the above requirements and a lack of returning champions, made qualification difficult), with two tournaments played each season. During a six-player tournament, each contestant's first attempt at the Winner's Circle was worth $25,000. If $25,000 was won in the first half and the 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 no players able to win both Winner's Circles in one show, either the contestant who won $25,000 in the fastest time or the player who won the most money had his or her tournament winnings augmented to $100,000.

In a four-player tournament, contestants competed in single elimination with the first two semifinalists competing on day one and the other two semifinalists on day two. Each attempt at the Winner's Circle was worth $25,000. The top two winners then returned to compete in the finals, where each Winner's Circle victory that day was worth an additional $50,000.

Clock and score displays

The $50,000 Pyramid was unusual in that the clock in its main game 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 Solari board display. During regular game play, 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 "60").

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, the players and host saw an eggcrate-display clock to indicate how much time is left. In the Osmond version, all scores and times were computer generated.


The focal point of the set was a large pyramid at center stage. As the name of the show and top prize evolved through 1988 and 1991, the flashing amount at the top of the pyramid changed from $10,000 to $20,000, $25,000, $50,000, and $100,000.

In front of the pyramid at center stage was the Winner's Circle. The host's podium and a smaller pyramid with each round's categories was located stage right. The contestants' desks were located stage left on a raised platform (the floor on the Osmond version).


June Lockhart and Rob Reiner were the celebrity guests on the debut week of The $10,000 Pyramid in 1973. On the premiere, Reiner won his contestant $10,000 in the very first playing of the Winner's Circle, but a clip used of the show's second win (also done by Reiner) from the first week was seen in opening montages thereafter. Lockhart was frequently seen as a guest during the 1970s, and Reiner appeared on two episodes of Cullen's show during its first season.

Several game show hosts and future hosts appeared as panelists, including Bill Cullen, Geoff Edwards, Nipsey Russell, Betty White, and Henry Polic II. Clark and Cullen appeared as celebrity guests on each other's shows, and Clark also appeared on three episodes of the Osmond version.

Lois Nettleton and Bill Cullen were the celebrities on the final week of the ABC version on June 23-27, 1980.

Billy Crystal holds the record for the fastest Winner's Circle win at 26 seconds on December 2, 1977. Though the episode itself was later destroyed, a clip of Crystal's entire record-breaking round was later shown on a 1979 episode that featured him and Sal Viscuso. The second-fastest time was 27 seconds, held by two celebrities: Barry Jenner on September 11, 1987 (resulting in a $100,000 win and the fastest time during that era) and Kelly Packard in 2002 (the fastest win of the Osmond era).[citation needed]

On the April 25, 1986 episode (#0931) of the CBS version, Tom Poston and contestant Kris Mallory were the only team to win no money in the Winner's Circle.

Several contestants later returned to the show after becoming celebrities. These include David Graf of the Police Academy film series, who won $10,000 with his partner, Patty Duke, in 1979. When the two were reunited as celebrities for a week in 1985, a clip of the big win was shown.

Constance McCashin appeared as a contestant on the Cullen version. She later made frequent appearances on the series as a celebrity in the 1980s, including the first week of the CBS $25,000 revival in 1982 with Robert Mandan.

Three's Company co-star Richard Kline appeared in July 1974 and won $10,000 with Steve Allen, then became a frequent guest in the 1980s.

Mel Harris appeared as a contestant in 1979 on the ABC version, and again in 1985 on the syndicated version, before finding success as an actress. She later appeared as a celebrity on the third week of the Davidson version, with a clip of a big win in 1985 shown on the January 21 episode.

Joel Brooks of My Sister Sam appeared as a contestant in 1976, and won $10,000 in the Winner's Circle with Lucie Arnaz. Arnaz and Brooks appeared as the two celebs on the CBS version for the week of May 9-13, 1988. (#1365-#1369)

Kathy Najimy appeared as a contestant in 1985 and later returned as a celebrity on the Osmond version. In a similar fashion, Diane Amos was also a contestant in 1985 and returned as a celebrity on a special "Commercial Stars" episode of the Osmond version.


Bob Clayton was the show's main announcer until he died of cardiac arrest in 1979, although Jack Clark announced the special Los Angeles-based week on CBS in 1973. Other New York-based announcers, usually filling in on occasion whenever Clayton was absent, were Alan Kalter, Fred Foy, John Causier, Dick Heatherton, Ed Jordan, and Scott Vincent. By 1980, Steve O'Brien was hired as the show's principal announcer for the ABC network daytime edition (as The $20,000 Pyramid), and O'Brien and Kalter then rotated announcing duties until 1981 when the last New York broadcast was produced and aired in syndication (as The $50,000 Pyramid).

When the show moved to Los Angeles in 1982, Clark announced until 1985, with Rod Roddy, Johnny Gilbert, Jerry Bishop, and Charlie Tuna as Clark's substitutes. From then on Gilbert, Bob Hilton, and Charlie O'Donnell served as regular announcers with Tuna and Dean Goss serving as substitutes for each announcer.

Gilbert was the regular announcer on Davidson's version, although Goss and Henry Polic II both filled in for him for several weeks during the first season. John Cramer announced for all of Osmond's version.

Versions outside the USA

Among foreign editions of the show have been:

United Kingdom

The Pyramid Game aired on ITV (originally featured on the short-lived Bruce's Big Night as The £1,000 Pyramid), produced by London Weekend Television and hosted by Steve Jones, which aired from 1981-1984 and again from 1989-1990.

Donny Osmond, who hosted the 2002-2004 version in the US, hosted a new version called Donny's Pyramid Game on Challenge in 2007.


Pyramide, hosted by Patrice Laffont, aired on France 2 from 1991-2003. An adaptation of the similar Password airs successfully on France 2 on Saturday nights (7.00 PM) .


Die Pyramide aired on ZDF from 1978-1994. Two years later, it returned as Hast Du Worte? on Sat.1 from 1996-1998. Dieter Thomas Heck hosted the ZDF version. The Sat.1 version was hosted by Jörg Pilawa, then Thomas Koschwitz.


A version aired on Channel 5 in the late 1990s and hosted at various times by Samuel Chong, Benedict Goh, and Darryl David. It had the same name as the UK version.

It also had a spin-off Malay version, Piramid, which aired on Suria.


Püramiid began airing on TV3 in March 2006.


A local version called Kim tự tháp aired on HTV7 from April 30, 2005 to late 2007 or early 2008.


Called Piramida.


A local version called Kuis Piramida aired for several years.


Contrareloj, with a set very close to that of the Osmond version, currently airs on Canal 13. It is the only version known to be hosted by a female – Esperanza Silva and the popular comedian Coco Legrand.


A version called Pyramid has aired on Rai Due since December 3, 2007.


Piramit, airing on The Turkish channel aTV, ran from 1994-1995.


Pyramide, hosted by Sébastien Benoit, began airing on the French-language network Radio-Canada April 28, 2008. The set looks very similar to the Osmond version (likely because the show is also co-produced by Sony Pictures), while game play resembles that of the Dick Clark versions.


Called 'Al Haram' airing on the Egyptian Channel 1, started in 2009.


Called "Match 4" and was aired on Venevision Channel 4 hosted by Juan Manuel Montesinos, during the 1980s.


Pyramid, hosted by Shura Taft, premiered on September 1, 2009 on the Nine Network.[4][5] This largely differed from the U.S. version as this features two teams each with one child paired with a celebrity. Produced by Sony's subsidiary 2waytraffic.

Home versions

Milton Bradley made eight editions of the CBS/ABC versions starting in 1974. The dollar values in the MB editions changed over the years as the TV show did (even releasing the 3rd edition in both $10,000 and $20,000 versions), with the eighth edition titled The $50,000 Pyramid, which is now rare.

The "Winner's Circle" portion of the Milton Bradley home versions was totally unlike that of the TV show. In the home version, the "Winner's Circle" was almost exactly like the previous round, where one player described a single word to the other rather than the more familiar list of listing items in a category. Bob Stewart later said that this was because there were a limited number of possible "Winner's Circle" categories – indeed, there were repeated categories in "Winner's Circle" games throughout the various versions of Pyramid – and they didn't want potential contestants to practice with the home game and then see the same categories on the real show.

Cardinal Games created the first $25,000 Pyramid game in 1986, with a picture of Dick Clark on the box. The game had the correct version of the "Winner's Circle" round in the game and also had the option of playing it as The $100,000 Pyramid.

Endless Games created a similar (to the Cardinal edition) version in 2000, still calling it The $25,000 Pyramid with a second edition based on Osmond's Pyramid in 2003. A third edition, released as part of their Quick Picks travel game series, titled The $1,000,000 Pyramid, was released in 2008. This version came packaged in a small tin with no gameboard; only cards with the categories, a red-film viewer and a sand timer. The tin's graphics were modeled after their first $25,000 edition rather than mirroring those for the Osmond-based edition.

The first computer version of The $100,000 Pyramid was released in 1987 for MS-DOS, Commodore 64 and Apple II computers by Box Office Software. Sierra Entertainment released a version in 2001 for the PC, which was mostly based on the 1985 version with some elements of the 1991 version. In 2006, MGA Games released a DVD game of The $100,000 Pyramid with gameplay somewhat different from the 80s version.

Episode status and rights

ABC wiped most, if not all, of the tapes from the daytime Pyramid between 1974 and early 1978, with all episodes afterward existing. Three episodes from 1976, a full week of shows from October 1977 with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, and three early 1978 episodes circulate among private collectors. The status of the show's first season on CBS (1973 to 1974) is unknown, since CBS did not wipe game shows. One 1973 episode circulates among collectors.

Three episodes of the original CBS version exist in the UCLA Film and Television Archive (including the third episode), and 14 episodes taped in the fall of 1973 originating from CBS Television City in Hollywood have aired on GSN. GSN has also aired The $20,000 Pyramid (various episodes from 1978 and 1979), the CBS $25,000 Pyramid, and the $100,000 Pyramid. Both 1980s versions currently air on the network.

CBS Television Distribution (originally Viacom) owns the rights to the versions hosted by Bill Cullen and John Davidson, the latter in partnership with StudioCanal via the latter's acquisition of syndicator Orbis Communications. Reruns of The $50,000 Pyramid aired in 1982 on the CBN Cable Network, shortly before the premiere of the CBS revival. None of these versions have aired on GSN. The 2000s revival is intact, and has aired on GSN.

Sony, which controls the rest of the Pyramid library, also jointly owns GSN with Liberty Media.


External links

Daytime Emmy Award history

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
1980 – 1981
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
1983 – 1987
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


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