"The Pyramid" Has Never Looked Better
Originally posted: September 8th, 2012

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 back, but...

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 years earlier.

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 But, they've been replaced by the 7 for 7 bonus which may truthfully be the best bonus a "Pyramid" front game has ever had.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 future episodes.

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 remastered.

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.

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