"The Pyramid" Has Never Looked Better
Originally posted: September 8, 2012
Text by: Jim Williams
Earlier this summer I wrote a commentary asking
fans of the Bill Cullen & Dick Clark versions of "Pyramid" to give the
show a chance. In that article I also said that despite cosmetic
differences, "The Pyramid" will still be the same show you knew and
loved properly updated for the new millennium. Not to pat myself on the
Thanks, Stephen. The crew at Embassy Row and the folks at GSN should be
commended for bringing the classic word association game back while
keeping the classic game play intact. Is it perfect? That's a flawed
question. No game show is perfect, but GSN's "Pyramid" is a top
contender for the best revival of a classic game show in recent memory.
In the paragraphs below I'll break down various aspects of the show,
fittingly, in a couple of categories. So, here's the first subject.
First impressions say a lot. The first impression I had when viewing the
set was, "Now, THIS is 'Pyramid'!" It's a perfect update to the decades
old look that is familiar to fans of the format. Gone are physical
trilons, but in their place are virtual trilons on a pyramid shaped
monitor...classic look with modern technology. The theme used is an
update of Bob Cobert's 1982 composition with a bit of an island or dance
mix feel. It has a nice beat, you can dance to it, and so I give it a
75. Hey. anything is better than the Moby-esque techno crap we heard 10
One of the many complaints about "Donnymid" was how cold & callous the
show came off as on the air. GSN's "The Pyramid" almost goes out of its
way to be a warm and inviting program. We get to meet the celebrities
and contestants and learn things about them for a couple of minutes at
the start of the show, and I love that. It's something that was sorely
missing in the 2002-2004 effort put forth by Sony, and they have
rectified that in this new iteration.
The old saying goes "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Guess what? 7
words in 30 seconds worked in 1973, and it still works in 2012. Yes, the
7-11 and the Mystery 7 are gone. But, they've been replaced by the 7 for
7 bonus which may truthfully be the best bonus a "Pyramid" front game
has ever had. Why? It adds importance to the format's front game while
still rewarding some side cash to a good front game player. Another nice
part of the front game is that no matter what the circumstances, all
categories get played for the sake of trying to achieve a perfect score.
The drama of trying to play a perfect game for a chance to earn an
additional $15,000 for your Winner's Circle Bank makes an already
dramatic game that much more suspenseful.
Speaking of the Winner's Circle, the questionable end game judging from
"Donnymid" seems to be a thing of the past. As long as the key word(s)
of a category are said, you get credit for the box. Contestants have the
choice to give or receive which is a nice carryover from years gone by.
The category placement is similar to the original runs of the show which
is a positive and only the sharpest players will win the big money,
which again is a positive. Simply put from the dimming of the lights to
the classic flute clock, the Winner's Circle remains the most intense 60
seconds in game show television.
Another positive would be the hosting of Mike Richards. He definitely
studied tapes of Dick Clark because he does take after the master.
Though he occasionally gets a zinger in here or there when socializing
with the players during the start of the show, he wisely knows to take a
step back and let the game shine. Richards also has his own spin on
explaining nuances. He referenced "continuation" a la the NBA for how an
answer at the buzzer counts and refers to the "cuckoo" as a "hoo-hoo" or
"woo-hoo". His post mortems after an unsuccessful Winner's Circle are
also Clark-esque in that he has a knack for coming up with a great clue.
Those of you who worried about how Mike Richards would do as host, rest
assured, he's fine.
As you can see, there are a lot of good things about "The Pyramid".
Let's see the next subject.
As opposed to saying that things are outright wrong, I'd like to think
that certain things can be improved upon. Some of these things fall
under the category of nitpicking, but hey who among us isn't a
nitpicker? These are just some observations I've noticed from the
episodes I've seen, and are all things that can be easily addressed in
The first thing that comes to mind involves minor issues I have with the
show's presentation. At various times, the director gets zoom happy with
various cameras. Furthermore, the show at times looks like it's edited
by a chainsaw. In the preview episode, one second Mike Richards is
leaning against the railing of the Winner's Circle and the next he's 6
feet away from it as the winning contestant celebrates. I know it’s
2012, and you have to fit things into tighter time constraints, but at
least make it look a little more seamless. And then, there are the sound
effects. It seems as though the producers were torn between new sound
effects and the show's classic sound effects, so they decided to use
both. I don't mind the new sound effects (i.e. the main game clock);
however, most of the older sound effects sound like they need to be
I know this is a cable show. And, I know that while they say they can
possibly give away $50,000 per show, they probably never will. That
doesn't mean we necessarily have to have difficult categories requiring
people's names 2 or 3 times a show does it? Back in the 1980s you might
get a name category in a front game 2 or 3 times in a week. I don't
dislike name categories. They add a certain challenge which I
appreciate, but they can scale it back a little bit, in my opinion.
Staying in the front game, one of the main games in the debut week had a
category where a contestant had to describe things relating to "super
model Giselle Bundchen". Lo and behold the word "model" came up as the
very first answer. That just seems a little lazy of the writing staff to
include part of the subject's description as a possible answer. It's the
exception rather than the rule, though.
The judging in the front game is by no means bad, but it leaves me with
the occasional query. Going back to name categories, apparently last
names will suffice in most cases. Granted, in the past the host would
specify whether a full name was needed. It's occurred only a couple of
times in the opening week, so it's really unfair to make a full judgment
on the judging until more shows have aired.
Speaking of the host, I guess because it's a new series, Mike Richards
is forced to explain how the main game and Winner's Circle work each and
every time. In time, hopefully, this will be eliminated or abbreviated a
little bit more as the series continues.
Don't let my nitpicking mislead you; if you love watching "The $25,000
Pyramid" or "The $100,000 Pyramid" weekday mornings on GSN, then you'll
probably love watching "The Pyramid" weeknights at 6pm on GSN. It's the
closest we'll ever get to going back in time to the show's glory days of
the 1970s and 1980s. I hope the show gets renewed for a new season soon
for two reasons: it's a great show and I want to be a contestant.
Be sure to listen to our live commentary of the debut of "The Pyramid"
on the CLW83 Network at