|Dick Clark (1973–1988)|
Bill Cullen (1974–1979, nighttime)
John Davidson (1991)
Donny Osmond (2000 pilot, 2002–2004)
Mike Richards (2012)
Michael Strahan (2016–Present)
|Bob Clayton (1973–1979)|
Steve O'Brien (1979–1981)
Alan Kalter (1980–1981)
Jack Clark (Fall 1973, 1982–1985)
Johnny Gilbert (1982–1988, 1991)
Charlie O'Donnell (1984–1988)
Randy West (2000 Pilots)
John Cramer (2002–2004)
JD Roberto (2012)
Brad Abelle (2016–Present)
|Fred Foy (1974–1980)|
John Causier (1974–1980)
Scott Vincent (1974–1980)
Ed Jordan (1974–1980)
Dick Heatherton (1974–1980)
Alan Kalter (1974–1981, 2009 Pilots)
Chet Gould (1973–1980)
Jerry Bishop (1983)
Rod Roddy (1984)
Bob Hilton (1988)
Charlie Tuna (1987)
Dean Goss (1988/1991)
Henry Polic II (1991)
ABC Daytime: 5/6/1974 – 1/16/1976
|Bob Stewart Productions/Stewart Tele-Enterprises (1973–1991)|
Carolco Pictures Television (1/6/1991–5/3/1991)
Sony Pictures Television (2002–2004, 2012, 2016–Present)
SMAC Productions (2016–Present)
|Viacom Enterprises (1974–1979)|
CPM Inc. (1981)
20th Century Fox Television (1985–1988)
Orbis Communications (1/6/1991–5/3/1991)
Multimedia Entertainment (5/6/1991–12/6/1991)
Sony Pictures Television (2002–2004)
Pyramid, based loosely off Password, is a game show where you have to get your partner to say a word by describing it.
Since its inception in the 70s, the series has a plethora of incarnations:
The $10,000 Pyramid (1973–1974, 1974–1976)
The $20,000 Pyramid (1976–1980)
The (New) $25,000 Pyramid (1974–1979, 1982–1987, 1988)
The $50,000 Pyramid (1981)
The $100,000 Pyramid (1985–1988, 1991, 2016–Present)
The Pyramid (2012)
The game is played with two teams of two players (consisting of one celebrity & one contestant) in a game of word communication. Each game starts with the introduction of six categories arranged in a pyramid. In the main game, a category's position on the pyramid is not an indicator of its difficulty. The categories are usually puns hinting to the content within that subject (i.e. "I'd Like to Buy a Vowel" could contain things associated with Wheel of Fortune).
Each team in turn chooses a category, and then a subject under that category is given. Each subject has seven words/phrases/names. The team has 30 seconds to guess the seven answers that fit into the category. One player describes each item while the other player tries to guess what the words are. Each correct word is worth one point. When a word is passed, it can't be returned to, but if the guesser can guess the word already passed, the team still scores, but with no sound effect used, as to avoid any distractions. This is not possible in Donny Osmond's, GSN's, and Michael Strahan's versions, as un-guessed words have to be returned to in order to count. If at any time the clue giver gives away any part of the answer or conveys the essence of the answer, a cuckoo sounds (burble in the Donny Osmond version) and the word is thrown out.
Each team has three turns with the celebrities giving first in Round 1, the contestants giving in Round 2, and in Round 3 they decide among themselves on who's giving and who's receiving. In the event that a celebrity is paired with a visually-impaired contestant, the celebrities give clues in all of the rounds.
The team with the highest score after the three rounds wins the game.
In the 1970s, 1980s and 2016 versions, in the rare event that contestants are mathematically unable to at least tie their opponent before the opponent has had his/her last turn (or even rarer, before that point), the game ends and the remaining categories are left unplayed, unless one of them conceals a bonus.
- $10,000 Pyramid – In the beginning on CBS there were eight words, but when the show moved to ABC it was reduced to the traditional seven.
- $20,000 Pyramid – Any team who achieved a perfect score of 21 points won a $1,000 bonus (a bonus prize in the final season).
- $25,000 Pyramid – During the 1977–1978 season of the Cullen shows, any team who achieved a perfect score of 21 points won a $2,100 bonus.
- $50,000 Pyramid – The clock counted up from 00 to 30 in the front game.
- $100,000 Pyramid – During the John Davidson run, there was a triangle next to certain words. That signified that it was the last word in the list of seven.
- Pyramid – When Donny Osmond hosted the show, the number of words was lowered to six, and the time was reduced to 20 seconds. A burble signified that the giver gave an unacceptable clue. As noted above, words could be passed, but if a receiver guessed a passed word, that word had to be returned to and guessed again to count.
- The Pyramid – Every time a player got 7/7, he/she won $500 & $5,000 was added to their Winner's Circle bank.
At some point in the game, a team uncovers a special card behind one category prompting a bonus situation. To win the bonus, the team must get all the answers right. In situations where a team can win the game without needing all the answers or has won the game automatically, if the last category conceals a bonus, the team is allowed to play all the way out in order to win the bonus. The $50,000 Pyramid & GSN's The Pyramid had no such bonuses.
- Big 7 – This was the show's mainstay for the entire 70s run. It premiered in December 1974 (7 months after the show moved to ABC), and during the second season of the Cullen run. The team that exposed the Big 7 had 30 seconds to get all seven and win $500 (originally a trip). During the Cullen run it had two bonus prizes: the first was $1,000 during the second season, and the second was a new Chevrolet Chevette during the final season. On The $20,000 Pyramid, if a team had 14 points, and the final category was the "Big 7", getting all seven answers added the "Big 7" bonus to the "Perfect 21" bonus, making it worth $1,500, or $500 and a bonus prize during the final season.
- Big Money Card – This was only shown in the Cullen run from 1976 to 1978. A random cash amount between $1,000 and $5,000 ($1,000-$4,000 during the 1977-1978 season) was hidden behind a category. Whatever the amount exposed, that was the amount the contestant was playing for by getting all seven. During the 1977-1978 season, the only nighttime season to have the "Perfect 21" (for $2,100), should the team have a score of 14 points, prior to getting the "Big Money Card", getting all seven won both bonuses, worth between $3,100-$6,100.
- 7-11 – This was the show's mainstay for the entire 80s run. It premiered in April 1983 on CBS and was always played in the first game. The team that exposed the 7-11 had 30 seconds to get all seven and win a cash bonus of $1,100. When it first premiered, the contestant had a choice between going for the $1,100 or play it safe and play for $50 a correct answer (for a max total of $350); this rule lasted until 1/18/85. It existed on the John Davidson version as well, but on April 12, it was scrapped in favor of Gamble for a Grand.
- Mystery 7 – Like the 7-11, this was the show's mainstay for the entire 80s run. It was always played in the second game. The team that found the Mystery 7 had a chance to win a special prize. It's called the Mystery 7 because the category was not told until after it was done. The team had the usual 30 seconds to get all seven words. In its early existence, the Mystery 7 was in plain sight as the last category on the main game Pyramid board; it was mostly chosen first by the contestant who lost the first game, which mostly led to having the Mystery 7 be hidden away. It existed on the John Davidson version as well, except that with Double Trouble involved, this could be played in either game. The Gamble for a Trip replaced the Mystery 7 on the Tuesday and Thursday shows. The Mystery 7 continued to be used on the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday shows in the meantime. The Mystery 7 returned in the current version, played in the second game and always for a trip.
- Double Trouble – This was only played in the Davidson version and was played in either game. It premiered on January 8, 1991. This category had its seven answers be two words long. The team had 45 seconds instead of 30 to get all seven two word answers. Getting all seven answers won $500. There were two Double Trouble categories in the game whenever it appeared; each team only gets one giving both teams a chance at $500.
- Gamble for a Grand/Trip – This was the Davidson version's replacement for the 7-11 and the Mystery 7 (on the Tuesday & Thursday shows only). This was where the team that found it can decide to give up five seconds of time (making the time 25 seconds) for a chance to win $1,000 or a trip.
- Super Six – This was only shown on the Donny Osmond version since all categories required six words in 20 seconds and it was always played in both games. The team that exposed the Super Six had 20 seconds to get all six and win a prize. In the second season, a home viewer contest was in play; viewers registered at the Pyramid website, and if the prize was won, a home viewer would win it as well.
Player of the Week
In The $50,000 Pyramid and for three weeks in 1983 on The New $25,000 Pyramid the player who had the fastest time of the week won a trip (in the $50,000 Pyramid it was a European getaway; in 1983 it was a trip to Greece).
If the game ended in a tie, the game shifts into a tie-breaker situation. The team that causes the tie has a choice between two letters leaving the other for the other team. Both teams have 30 seconds to get as many of the seven items beginning with their letter(s) as they can. The team that gets the most out of seven wind the game.
1970s and 2002 Versions
The teams continued building on their scores using the tie-breaker categories. This caused an achievement of very rare high scores. Extra ties kept the game going, and as soon as the tie was broken, the game was over. In the Osmond version, the team that scored six points in the fastest time won the game.
In the Cullen version, if the tiebreakers precluded playing a second Winner's Circle, the one who won the tiebreaker earned $2,500. By the end of the run, the later rules had been established.
1980s, 1990s, and 2016 Versions
The teams' scores were erased and each team played their 30 second round of seven answers each. The team that got the most out of seven won the game. If both teams got the same amount of answers, but they failed to give seven, the tiebreaker was replayed. If both teams got seven, the team with the fastest time was declared the winner. If the first team got seven, the time remaining on the clock was subtracted from 30 to give the time that the other team needed to get seven. If the game ended in a 21-21 tie, the team that broke the tie won $5,000 (originally a car) to the contestant. The Davidson and Strahan versions don't have that rule.
On many occasions in the 1980s versions, the first word in a tiebreaker list is usually an easy word to identify, designed to give the team a head start. That first word could be a body part, an common country, a number, a month, or a common animal.
Ties in the current version are broken by determining which team got that score in the fastest time. That team advances to the Winner's Circle. If both teams achieve the same score in the same amount of time, the tiebreaker round is played with the 80s & 90s rules.
There were more than seven words in each category. High score was the winner. Earlier tapings used the 1980s & 1990s rules.
The winning team goes over to the Winner's Circle for a grand cash prize. Starting with the move to ABC in 1974, the contestant on the winning team even had a choice as to who would give and who would receive.
The giver of the winning team faces a larger pyramid board of six subjects with the guesser having his/her back to the board. The winning team has 60 seconds to climb up to the top of the pyramid by getting all six. On each subject, the giver gives a list of items that fit the subject while the guesser tries to guess what they all have in common. As soon as the guesser gets the right subject or passes, they move on to the next subject to the right. Upon a pass, the team can come back to it if there's time leftover though the guesser can still get the subject without going back to it (not possible in the Donny Osmond version). If at any time the giver gives an illegal clue (giving away part of the answer, conveying the essence of the answer, descriptions of the category, a synonym or gives a clue that is not related to the subject) a buzzer sounds (a double buzz in the 1991 and 2012 versions; the same burble from the main game in Donny Osmond's version), the subject is re-concealed and the team forfeits their chance at the big money. Starting in the ABC version, the giver was discouraged from using his/her hands which is why they were strapped into the chair, and starting in the 2nd CBS version prepositional phrases were also outlawed. Even though the big money is forfeited, the team can still go for the other subjects, because when time runs out, the contestant still wins money attached to the subjects guessed; of course, getting all six in 60 seconds without illegal clues wins the grand cash prize.
- In the Bill Cullen version, he gives them the option to give or receive from their chair.
- The cue from the "Winner's Circle" bonus round was also used for the "Speed Round" in the 1983-1989 version of Sale of the Century hosted by Jim Perry.
- A cue that sounded similar to the "Winner's Circle" bonus round (and the "Speed Round" from Sale of the Century) was used for the unsold pilot called Body Talk (hosted by Vicki Lawrence) in 1990.
Here are the amounts for each subject according to the versions:
|The $10,000/$20,000/$50,000 Pyramid||$50||$100||$200||$500|
|The $20,000 Pyramid tournament from January 1978||$25||$50||$75||$100||$150||$200||$575|
|The $25,000 Pyramid||$100||$200||$300||$900|
|The (New) $25,000/$100,000 Pyramid||$50||$100||$150||$200||$250||$300||$1,000|
|Pyramid, regular gameplay||$200||$300||$500||$1,500|
|Pyramid, six-player tournament/four-player semifinals||$500||$1,000||$2,500||$5,500|
|Pyramid, finals match of a four-player tournament||$1,000||$2,500||$5,000||$12,000|
|The $100,000 Pyramid (2016)||$1,000||$1,500||$2,000||$3,000||$4,000||$5,000||$15,500|
Grand Cash Prizes
Here are the grand cash prizes for going up to the top of the Pyramid in the series:
- The $10,000 Pyramid – All trips to the Winner's circle were worth $10,000.
- The $20,000 Pyramid – The first trip was worth $10,000, the second was worth $15,000, and the third and all future trips were worth $20,000. Winning here at any point augmented the player's prior winnings to the grand prize.
- The (New) $25,000 Pyramid – The first trip was worth $10,000, and the second trip was worth a total of $25,000 ($10,000 win in the first WC means the second is worth $15,000). During the Cullen version, if a player won a bonus, then won both bonus rounds, they would be absorbed into the $25,000 (IOW, if someone won a car, the value of the car would be removed from the cash winnings).
- The $50,000 Pyramid – The first trip was worth $5,000, and the second trip was worth a total of $10,000. In the finals of tournament games, all trips were worth $50,000.
- The $100,000 Pyramid – Same as the (New) $25,000 Pyramid except in tournament games where all trips were worth $100,000.
- Pyramid – The first trip was worth $10,000, and should they win the first bonus round, the second was worth $15,000 for a total of $25,000; otherwise, it was played for an additional $10,000.
- The Pyramid – Each 7/7 added $5,000 to the WC prize, which started at $10,000, and could reach as much as $25,000. Thus, the maximum total for winning both games was $50,000.
- The $100,000 Pyramid (2016) – The first trip is worth $50,000, and the second trip is worth $100,000. Unlike previous versions, these amounts are cumulative, meaning if a player wins both WC's, they win a total of $150,000.
In the 1970s daytime version, contestants who didn't make it to the top returned to play the next game. If they did make it to the top and won the grand cash prize, they retired from the show. Also games straddled at that time, so whenever there was no time for the second Winner's Circle on that day's show, the second Winner's Circle would be played at the top of the next show. On Friday shows, if the second game ended in a tie but there was no time for one more Winner's Circle round, the celebrities of the week would team up to play the Winner's Circle themselves. Any money won by the celebrities was split between the contestants, and if they won, their contestant partners would split $5,000 between them.
In all versions thereafter, each episode was made self-contained for it had the contestants play two games every show. During the CBS version & $100,000 versions, any money won from the Winner's Circle was used as score money (not counting bonuses). The player with the most money or who won both games returned to play the next show. If the show ended in a tie both contestants returned to play the next show (Except on The $100,000 Pyramid during the tournament when a coin toss determined who would come back). Contestants retired after five wins, but in the CBS version they also retired after winning the $25,000 since it was the network's winnings limit; when the limit was raised to $50,000 in 1984 and $75,000 in 1986, contestants were required to stay a little while longer until they got enough $25,000 wins to retire or won the usual five games, and were allowed to keep a maximum of $25,000 in excess of the limit.
On The $50,000 Pyramid, the player with the fastest time for all seven answers in a single category 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. This explained why the clock counted up (00 to 30) instead of down (30 to 00). If there was a tie (both players got seven in less time than the current POTW during a given show), a standard tiebreaker was played. There were two tournaments. The first was held starting on March 23, 1981 and the other beginning on May 25, 1981. The quarterfinals were played on Monday and Tuesday. The winner of each game would advance to the semifinals after playing the Pyramid for $5,000. On Wednesday and Thursday, each match would have two semifinalists playing two games against each other with players winning one game playing for $5,000, and players winning both games in the same show playing for a total of $10,000. Whoever won the most money would compete in the finals. The losing players from the semifinals competed in a 'wild card' match. Starting the following Monday, two finalists played one game and the winner played the Winner's Circle for $50,000. If the grand prize was not won, that player played the next game against the finalist who sat out the previous game. When playing for $50,000, an illegal clue ended the round, and there was no money awarded for each individual category.
In the 1980s and 1990s 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 (usually 13 weeks) returned on later episodes to compete in a tournament. The players alternated in a round-robin format, 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 a $100,000 win happened in the first game of the show, the two remaining players played the second game for a possible $10,000. No bonus cards were in play during a tournament, although the $5,000 bonus for a 21-21 tie remained intact on the 1980s version.
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 would have 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 1 and the other two semifinalists on Day 2. 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. A tournament sweep would be worth $150,000.
In addition, unlike the previous tournament format, the Super Six was still in play, this time offering more expensive prizes.
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November 19, 1996
- Ted Henning: He played Guard #2 on an episode of Babylon 5.
- J. Karen Thomas: She played Jamie's mom in Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood along with about 30 other roles.
- Kevin Anthony Cole: Played Simmons in the direct-to-video Asylum.
- Heather Marie (Mardsen): Was a semi-regular on The Army Show.
- Dar Rollins: Only credit is One Sung Hero. Now an agent, he's married to Sabrina, The Teenage Witch semi-regular Lindsay Sloane.
- Sherl Kay: Never appeared in anything. Not even in Google. Must have been a seat filler when somebody didn't show up. Apparently is now a motivational speaker.
Round 1: Standard Pyramid, with each celebrity being assigned a category.
Round 2: A contestant would have 60 seconds to give classic "things in a list" clues to the "celebrities" while they tried to guess the category one at a time. If you got all six, you just started up again at the bottom. You got five points and $100 per correct category.
Round 3: Each contestant selected one "celebrity", and they alternated giver-receiver roles for 60 seconds trying to do as many words as possible in 60 seconds. Ten points per word in this round.
Final Pyramid: Same as the Winner's Circle, but there was no appreciable difference in difficulty from one box to the next, and each one was a flat $200. If you got all six, it was worth $25,000.
November 16, 1997
As before, each celebrity represented a category. Other then that, classic Pyramid rules applied.
Final Pyramid remained, but regardless of player, first trip was for $10,000, second $25,000.
This was called Pyramid Rocks, taped for VH1, hosted by Bil Dwyer. A return to using two celebrities, in this case, Ellen Cleghorne & Riki Rachtman.
All clues pertained to music, including lyrics (which, to avoid royalties, couldn't be sung).
A perfect 21 earned a bonus prize, and the Winner's Circle returned, worth $5,000.
December 6, 2000
Hosted by Donny Osmond. Two versions were filmed.
The $100,000 Pyramid
Taped for Syndication. In this version, getting 7/7 rewarded $500.
In the Winner's Circle, the first trip was worth $10,000; each trip thereafter was worth $5,000 more, up to $30,000 for the 5th.
Here were the amounts for each subject:
Champs were to remain until winning $100,000.
The $1,000,000 Pyramid
Taped for NBC. In the front game, each point earned was worth $1,000.
The first Winner's Circle was worth $125,000. Each subsequent one doubled the money, up to $1,000,000 for the fourth. However, once a Winner's Circle was won, the player had the option to leave the show, or return for the next game. If they played on, and lost the front game, or won the front game but lost the WC, their endgame winnings were forfeited; main game winnings and WC consolations were safe.
Here were the amounts for each subject:
Taped for CBS. Hosted by Tim Vincent & Dean Cain.
A 7-11 was offered in the first game of one of the pilots, now offering $11,000 with a $500/answer option.
In the Winner's Circle, the first trip was for $25,000, and the second was for a total of $75,000.
Here were the amounts for each subject:
The top four money winners and top four WC times were to be entered in a "League of Champions" for $1,000,000.
June 23, 2010
Taped for TBS, hosted by Andy Richter.
This time, the show was an hour long: two games for $10,000, then the winners played for a shot at a total of $25,000.
The third and fourth categories awarded bonuses for 7/7.
Here were the amounts in the WC:
In addition, there was an option called "Double Down", which allowed a team to play one category for Double Points.
While never confirmed, it could be assumed that there was supposed to be a tournament format for the $500,000.
1973–1981, 2009 (Dean Cain pilot) - "Tuning Up" by Ken Aldin
1982–1992, 2009 (Tim Vincent pilot) - by Bob Cobert
2002 by Barry Baylock & John Coffing
Ed Sullivan Theater, New York City, NY (1973–1974)
Elysee Theater, New York City, NY (1974–1981)
CBS Television City, Hollywood, CA (Fall 1973, 1982–1992)
Sony Pictures Studios, Culver City, CA (2002–2004)
CBS Studio Center, Studio City, CA (2012)
ABC Television Center, New York City, NY (2016–Present)
In the 1973 pilot, the Winner's Circle round required 10 subjects (with the four on the bottom worth $25) instead of six to be guessed, but producer Bob Stewart realized how extremely difficult it would be to achieve, so a large piece of plywood was added to the giant pyramid to cover up the four on the bottom. Future versions had no covering seeing that they all have six boxes on their pyramids.
Early in the show's run, in the Winner's Circle, clue givers were allowed to use their hands, and could give prepositional phrases (e.g., "the shirt off your back") as clues. (Direct synonyms and saying all or part of the clue were never allowed.) By 1974, clue-giving rules became increasingly strict and more precision was needed to accomplish a win.
The fastest celebrity to make it to the top of the pyramid was Billy Crystal at 26 seconds.
The theme song "Tuning Up" for the early versions of Pyramid was used on a 1995 Saturday Night Live game show parody sketch entitled "You Think You're Better Than Me?"
The highest total given away in the history of Pyramid was $150,800.
Former host Donny Osmond not only hosted Pyramid in the states, but he also hosted an equally short-lived British version called Donny's Pyramid Game for Challenge TV (UK's GSN) in 2007. In addition, its gameplay was very similar to that of the original 70s/80s American counterpart.
The correct answer bell, buzzer, cuckoo, and the Winner's Circle clock sound from the 80s versions were recycled into the GSN version. There was even a revamped version of the 80s version’s theme song.
The Barack Obama/Osama bin Laden Incident
On a August 12, 2018 episode of The $100,000 Pyramid (Strahan), a contestant named Evan Kaufman was teamed up with former SNL cast member Tim Meadows at the Winner's Circle as he made the mistake by mixing up former al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden with former president Barack Obama.
As Kaufman's round began, starting with the easiest topics at the bottom of the pyramid, the hint in the question was "People Whose Last Name is Obama" Instead of citing the former president or his wife Michelle, Kaufman first said "bin Laden" before offering the name Barack after a pause. Meadows quickly offered the correct answer after Kaufman provided the former president's first name.
Kaufman's flub was mocked on Twitter by viewers of the episode. On Monday, August 13, 2018; Kaufman posted a series of tweets about the incident.
Spin-Offs & Similar Shows
Countries that have previously aired their versions of Pyramid include:
- Canada (French-language only)
- United Kingdom
- ↑ Pyramid '96
- ↑ Pyramid '97
- ↑ The $100,000/Million Dollar Pyramid
- ↑ '$100,000 Pyramid Contestant Addresses Barack Obama-Osama bin Laden Snafu
- ↑ Evan Kaufman on Twitter
Official Website of The $100,000 Pyramid (2016 Version)
Xanfan's Pyramid Page
Xanfan's older Pyramid Page
Information on the 70s Pyramid
The $10,000 Pyramid fan page (via Internet Archive)
Josh Rebich's Pyramid Rulesheets
A blog about The $25,000 Pyramid board game
The $1,000,000 Pyramid Review (2000) via Internet Archives