Pyramid & Dick Clark: Perfect Together
Originally posted: April 20, 2012
By Jim Williams
He was best known for changing the landscape of
music forever on "American Bandstand" and "New Year's Rockin' Eve".
However, for those under the age of 30, Dick Clark might be best
remembered for overseeing civilians win life changing amounts of money
in front of a pyramid.
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By 1973, "Bandstand" was already an American institution. Dick was already involved with producing various projects for television and radio, so his plate was already sizable. Then, comes news of Bob Stewart, still looking for a breakout show of his own since leaving Goodson-Todman, creating a game show called "The $10,000 Pyramid". Naturally, Stewart needed a credible, well-liked broadcaster to emcee the game. Having hosted game shows like "Missing Links" and "The Object Is" in the past and not being one to let an opportunity pass him by, Clark jumped at the opportunity. And, the rest, as they say, is game show history.
One might call it a match made in heaven: a frenetic word association game with big cash prizes emceed by a calm, cool, and collected professional who had a knack for bringing the best out in people. Dick Clark was a big reason why "Pyramid" was on the air in some form or fashion for 15 consecutive years in the 1970s and 1980s.
What made Dick the perfect emcee for "Pyramid?" Several things come to mind. First of all, he had something that very few emcees today possess...control. He knew how and when to banter with the celebrity and civilian contestants, but he also knew when to let the tension and drama of the game unfold. Moreover, Dick had an inherited penchant for making moments that much more important. The best example of this is how he opened every "Winner's Circle" end game. "For $XX,000...here is your first subject...GO!" And, Dick was arguably the most intelligent emcee in the business in his day. His post-mortem dialogues after an unsuccessful "Winner's Circle" were legendary. He seemingly always had the perfect clue for a subject.
But, perhaps the greatest trait that Dick Clark possessed behind the podium on "Pyramid" is the greatest trait anyone of us could possess in our own lives, humility. Though the wattage of Dick Clark's star was as bright as ever, he made sure the show's contestants and format would shine brightest of all. When someone won the big money, Dick never jumped into the fray immediately. He always let the winning contestant have their moment in the spotlight. Future “Pyramid” hosts John Davidson and Donny Osmond should have taken a cue from the master on how to help "celebrate" a successful "Pyramid" climb.
The truest testament to how important Dick Clark was to "Pyramid" is seeing just how well the show has done since the last episode he hosted in 1988. In January 1991, "The $100,000 Pyramid" was revived in syndication as a midseason replacement for affiliates. With Clark busy at the helm of "The Challengers", the producers tapped John Davidson to host. While Dick Clark fit "Pyramid" like a perfect pair of shoes, John Davidson fit "Pyramid" like a pair of shoes about 5 sizes too small...and perhaps with two left feet. His ill-at-ease style and uncomfortable hosting doomed the show and by September 1992 "Pyramid" was off the air again. Ten years later, "Pyramid" was in the hands of Donny Osmond. Despite being more adept at the rules and flow of the game, Osmond's over-the-top energy and semi-robotic delivery didn't click with viewers (and the change in format, judging and controversial tournament formats didn't help either) and "Pyramid" met its demise in 2004.
Simply put, there were two reasons why "Pyramid" was such a great show: Dick Clark and the game itself. Revivals of the show have been pitched on a number of occasions over the last few years. Dean Cain, Tim Vincent, and Andy Richter are among those who have attempted to bring "Pyramid" back to life. And all have been unsuccessful. Some may cite the ever changing television landscape as the main reason for "Pyramid" not being on the air. I would say it all comes down to the person behind the podium. You can have the greatest format in the world, but if you don't have a great host to execute that format, what do you have? Nothing.
Thanks for the memories, Mr. Clark. And, for now, from all of us, so long.
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