The YouTube Files – The Pyramid Game USA.

The $100,000 Pyramid (1985-1988)

This is a game show that started out in America in 1973, before coming to the UK and running for about a decade. When reviewing American versions of game shows, two fairly obvious differences have stood out to me in just about all of them. Firstly, there were often many more editions made, and of course there was much more money on offer. This is another one that follows that trend.

There were several variations on this format in America, but this piece will concentrate on the one shown in the mid-80s. This was The $100,000 Pyramid (when the show came to the UK it was originally called The £1,000 Pyramid Game, so contestants could win up to 100 times more for essentially doing the same thing). They really do everything bigger over there. The host was Dick Clark, another one who had a very long and popular career in TV and radio. vlcsnap-00057

The format was just about the same as the version in the UK. Two teams of two took part, where a contestant would be paired with a celebrity. Who could it be? Maybe it was someone who was in a soap, or maybe even someone in a sitcom, how exciting. There are six categories on the board, with a vague clue about what they could be. The category is picked, and look out because a bonus prize could be hidden behind one. vlcsnap-00059

One contestant then has to describe seven words associated with that category to the other in 30 seconds, with one point for every correct answer. Each team does this three times, meaning that the maximum score is 21. If they get all seven right in the bonus category, they win a prize which could be money, or even a holiday. The highest-scoring team then very quickly goes over to the Winners’ Circle. vlcsnap-00058

The celebrity has to describe six categories of increasing difficulty in 60 seconds, with various cash amounts won for every correct answer. If they get them all right in time, then they win a rather large cash amount. The contestants then swap celebrities and do this all over again, essentially meaning that two games are played in one show. If the contestant can make the Winners’ Circle again, they play for higher money amounts. vlcsnap-00060

Occasionally, the best performers in the Winners’ Circle round are invited back to play in a special tournament, which is where they can win the top prize of $100,000, a little like what Name That Tune (that I reviewed recently) did around the same time. Although this version ended in the late-80s, there have been several more versions (along with a computer game and board game), there was even a revival in this country that was shown on Challenge, and there have been versions in many other countries around the world too.

Game Show Memories – The Pyramid Game.

The Pyramid Game (ITV, 1978-1984, 1989-1990) pyramid0001The entertaining game that was based on an American format which was hosted by Steve Jones and his glasses who has also had a long career in radio and voiceover work as he has a great voice. “It’s fun and exciting” said Steve in one of the trails for the show, so let’s see if he was right as I review what actually happened. vlcsnap-01089Every day two teams of two took part consisting of one contestant and one celebrity, and lots of famous faces turned up to take part including Kenny Everett, Andrew O’Connor and many others who brightened up the show. There were six categories arranged in a pyramid shape on the board and one was picked. There were 30 seconds on the clock and one player had to describe to the other seven word clues, with one point scored for each one correctly guessed. Some of the descriptions were very amusing. They couldn’t use any words similar to the one that they were describing though, if they did there would be a loud “honk” noise and they’d have to move on to the next clue. vlcsnap-01093Then in the next round they swapped over, with also a “Lucky 7” bonus prize on offer for anyone who got all seven clues right in one particular category. After three rounds the highest-scoring team go through to the final called the Winners’ Circle to play for the money. There would be six categories which increased in difficulty and 60 seconds on the clock. The categories would have to be described by the celebrity and the more clues the contestant guessed right, the higher they worked their way up the pyramid and the more money they won. vlcsnap-01095The scheduling of The Pyramid Game was rather curious. It first appeared on ITV in 1978 as part of the unsuccessful Saturday showbiz spectacular Bruce Forsyth’s Big Night. It then returned in 1979 as part of The Steve Jones Games Show as one of three games played during the show. It finally became a primetime standalone show in 1981 (at which point it was renamed The £1,000 Pyramid Game as that was the star prize on offer which was rather impressive at the time). This version was produced by LWT and came to an end in 1984 and that seemed to be it. vlcsnap-01092Then curiously five years later in 1989 The Pyramid Game returned to ITV, still hosted by Steve Jones but now produced by TVS and shown in the weekday 9:25 slot which is where I remember watching it. The reason I remember so many 9:25 shows by the way isn’t because I never went to school or anything like that but because I always tried to watch the slot whenever possible when I was at home such as during the half-term holiday and so on. The final series was in 1990. vlcsnap-01090The Pyramid Game has not been repeated on Challenge in recent years partly presumably due to the TVS archive situation, but they did attempt a revival in 2007 which was hosted by Donny Osmond and carried on in the same style of the original version of the show but with lots of money on offer.