Pyramid (game show)

Pyramid (game show)
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)
Steve O'Brien (1979–1982)
Jack Clark (1982–1985)
Johnny Gilbert (1982–1988, 1991)
John Cramer (2002–2004)
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 26
No. of episodes The $10,000/$20,000 Pyramid: 1,808 (CBS: 226 [1], ABC: 1,582)
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
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 The $10,000 Pyramid
CBS 1973–1974
ABC 1974–1976
The $20,000 Pyramid
ABC 1976–1980
The $25,000 Pyramid
Weekly syndication
The $50,000 Pyramid
Daily syndication 1981
The (New) $25,000 Pyramid
CBS 1982–1987, 1988
The $100,000 Pyramid
Daily syndication
1985–1988, 1991
Daily syndication 2002–2004
Original run March 26, 1973 (1973-03-26) – September 10, 2004 (2004-09-10)

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 featured 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 version of The $100,000 Pyramid. The most recent version (simply titled Pyramid) ran from 2002–2004 with Donny Osmond as host.



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 liked only the second part of the proposed program's format, and suggested that Stewart rework it 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 (then with 10 subjects instead of 6) and a $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

Dick Clark as host of the first version of the show.

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 for good beginning with the 1982 revival.)

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); also, and Pyramid historian William Padron had said 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. It was the final edition of the program to originate in New York City. 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) and remained there for the entire run and the brief 1988 return[1]. The new Pyramid debuted at 10:00 AM and for its entire run on CBS served as the leadoff program for the network's morning game show block, being paired with three different series as part of the lead-in hour for The Price Is Right. The first series to share the hour with The $25,000 Pyramid was Child's Play, which was hosted by former Pyramid host Bill Cullen and debuted the same day. In September 1983 that was replaced by Press Your Luck, which was replaced by a new version of Card Sharks in January 1986.

The word "New" was added to the title on November 8, 1982 (#0036). Clark explained that this was to differentiate between the current series and reruns of Cullen's $25,000 Pyramid that were still airing on certain stations. On January 28, 1985, "New" was dropped from the show's title. Later that year, in September 1985, a concurrent syndicated series premiered on local stations. This series was called The $100,000 Pyramid and featured a tournament format similar to that employed by The $50,000 Pyramid. Like its network counterpart, The $100,000 Pyramid quickly became a hit.

The $25,000 Pyramid ended its original run on December 31, 1987 and made way for a previously planned game show, the Bob Goen-hosted Blackout. However, after the new show went off the air after thirteen weeks, The $25,000 Pyramid returned on April 4, 1988 to serve as a fill-in until a new version of Family Feud starring Ray Combs was ready to premiere on CBS. Both the network and syndicated Pyramid series ended their runs shortly thereafter, with The $25,000 Pyramid ending on July 1, 1988 and The $100,000 Pyramid following it off the air on September 2, 1988.

Another series titled The $100,000 Pyramid, hosted by John Davidson, appeared in 1991, and Pyramid, hosted by Donny Osmond, 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 that version.

Later developments

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.[citation needed] This was announced following CBS's cancellation of Guiding Light in April 2009. Pyramid was one of three potential 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 of that year, the top prize was raised to a potential $1,000,000.[citation needed]

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 was among the series being considered as a potential replacement.[2] CBS ordered a third pilot on April 9, 2010.[3] Andy Richter was identified as a potential host.[4][5] Three pilots were taped on June 22 and 23. CBS once again passed on the series and made an announcement on July 21 that The Talk, a program hosted by Julie Chen (wife of CBS president Les Moonves) and similar in format to The View, instead took the time slot in October 2010.

On May 18, 2011, TBS announced development of a possible new version of Pyramid, again to be hosted by Andy Richter.[6]


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/prize 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. 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 or her opponent before the opponent has had his or her 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.[7][8]

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 front games, 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 the next tiebreaker was played, though this rarely happened).

Bonus cards

A number of bonus cards 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. 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 ($1,000 to $4,000 during the 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). However, one notable difference 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. In 1991, the Mystery 7 was used in the second game on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday shows, and in the first game on Tuesday and Thursday shows.
  • 7-11: Debuting on April 11, 1983 (#0144) the 7-11 was played in game one each day for a 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 22 to November 28 (#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 a prize 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. 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 first $100,000 version. On the aforementioned all-celebrity weeks, the team who won the money split it between their charities. This bonus was not in effect on either the 1991 or 2002–2004 versions.
  • 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 and 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, rhymes 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. Prepositional phrases (excluding general use of the word "of"), forms of a key word, saying a key word, definitions and overly descriptive clues 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 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 was played for $10,000. If the same player won the second main game, his/her second attempt in the Winner's Circle was 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, 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-seven 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 (including $10,000 wins), 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 starting on March 23, 1981 and the second starting on May 25, 1981. For the front game there were no bonus cards. The $50,000 Pyramid was unusual in that the clock in its main game counted up, from 00 to 30, to facilitate "The Player of the Week" scoring.

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 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 or four 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
1 Richard Mahaffey Shelley Smith November 22, 1985 (#055; 1st round) $119,450
2 Andy Culpepper Brian Mitchell February 6, 1986 (#099; 2nd round) $113,250
3 Patty Geiger Mary Cadorette May 9, 1986 (#145; 2nd round) $122,800
4 Cheryl Reinwand Audrey Landers September 18, 1986 (#199; 2nd round) $150,800
5 Denise Bumbliss Shelley Smith November 6, 1986 (#234; 2nd round) $118,600
6 Mary Monte Lauri Hendler January 26, 1987 (#281; 1st round) $123,600
7 Marilyn Evans Linda Kelsey May 5, 1987 (#332; 2nd round) $147,600
8 M.G. McCormick Barry Jenner September 11, 1987 (#375; 2nd round) $133,650
9 Debbie Seppien Markie Post November 5, 1987 (#414; 2nd round) $129,400
10 Keefe Ferrandini Nathan Cook January 19, 1988 (#457; 1st round) $122,450
11 Tracy Trench David Garrison March 29, 1988 (#507; 1st round) $121,100
12 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
1 Teresa Mueller Adrienne Barbeau February 21, 1991 (#034; 1st round) $114,600
2 Kris McDermott Robin Riker April 12, 1991 (#070; 1st round) $147,750
3 Peggy Belski Barry Jenner May 30, 1991 (#104; 2nd round) $115,700
4 Melia Kline Stuart Damon October 17, 1991 (#134; 1st round) $127,800
5 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.

Unlike the 1980s and 1990s syndicated versions, the Super Six remained in play during the tournaments, and offered considerably bigger prizes than regular episodes (such as a plasma screen TV or a trip to Paris).


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

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.

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.

Several contestants later returned to the show after becoming celebrities. These include Constance McCashin (who appeared as a contestant on the Cullen version), Richard Kline (contestant in July 1974), Mel Harris (contestant in 1979 on the ABC version and again in 1985 on the syndicated version), Joel Brooks (contestant in 1976), Kathy Najimy (contestant in 1985), and Diane Amos (contestant in March 1986). Additionally, David Graf won $10,000 with his partner Patty Duke in 1979, and when the two were reunited as celebrities for a week in 1985, a clip of the big win was shown.


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 weeks on CBS in 1973. Alan Kalter, Fred Foy, John Causier, Dick Heatherton, Ed Jordan, and Scott Vincent all substituted for Bob Clayton whenever he was absent. 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 back to CBS Television City in Los Angeles in 1982, Jack Clark returned as primary announcer. He remained in that position until 1985, with Rod Roddy, Johnny Gilbert, Jerry Bishop, and Charlie Tuna serving as substitutes. After that Gilbert shared the announcing duties with Tuna, Bob Hilton, Charlie O'Donnell, and Dean Goss on both the daytime series, and The $100,000 Pyramid.

When John Davidson took over in 1991 Johnny Gilbert returned as primary announcer. Dean Goss returned to substitute on occasion, and frequent panelist Henry Polic II also announced. John Cramer announced for the 2002 Pyramid series' entire run.

International versions

Versions have been also produced in countries outside of the United States:

Country Name Host Channel Air Dates
 Australia Pyramid Shura Taft Nine Network September 1, 2009
 Canada (French) Pyramide Sébastien Benoit Radio-Canada April 28, 2008–April 22, 2011
 Chile Contrareloj Esperanza Silva
Coco Legrand
Canal 13
 Egypt الهرم
El Haram
Moufida Sheeha ERT 2 May 16, 2009
 Estonia Püramiid Teet Margna TV3 March 4, 2006
 France Pyramide Patrice Laffont France 2 1991–2003
 Germany Die Pyramide Dieter Thomas Heck ZDF 1978–1994
Hast Du Worte? Jörg Pilawa
Thomas Koschwitz
Sat.1 1996–1998
 Indonesia Kuis Piramida Ronnie Sianturi RCTI
 Israel שחק אותה
Sahek Otah
Yigal Shilon
Dudu Topaz
Channel 1 1983–1984
Ha Pyramida
Channel 2 2002
 Italy Pyramid Enrico Brignano Rai Due December 3, 2007
 Poland Piramida Hubert Urbański Polsat
 Russia Пирамида
Ivan Urgant Russia 1 May 16, 2004–March 20, 2005
 Singapore The Pyramid Game Samuel Chong
Benedict Goh
Darryl David
Channel 5 late 1990s
 Turkey Piramit aTV 1994–1995
 United Kingdom The Pyramid Game Steve Jones ITV 1981–1984
Donny's Pyramid Game Donny Osmond Challenge 2007
 Venezuela Match 4 Juan Manuel Montesinos Venevision 1980s
 Vietnam Kim tự tháp Chi Bảo HTV7 April 30, 2005–2008

Episode status

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 (1973–1974) 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 version hosted by Bill Cullen, and television distribution rights to the John Davidson version (whose ancillary rights are owned by 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 DirecTV.


External links

Daytime Emmy Award history

Awards and achievements
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
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
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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