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Pyramid (game show)

Pyramid is an American television game show where contestants try to guess a series of words or phrases, based on descriptions that were given to them, in the shortest amount of time.

Broadcast history

Pyramid has gone through several name changes over the years, with the title originally reflecting the top prize that contestants can win in that version.

The show debuted as The $10,000 Pyramid on March 26, 1973. It ran for one year on CBS before it was canceled. ABC picked up the show on May 6, 1974, and on January 19, 1976, the show was renamed The $20,000 Pyramid. A once-a-week nighttime syndicated version, called The $25,000 Pyramid, ran from 1974 until 1979. ABC's daytime version ended its run on June 27, 1980.

After a short-lived syndicated revival, known as The $50,000 Pyramid, failed in 1981, the show returned to CBS as The New $25,000 Pyramid on September 20, 1982 (the "New" was eventually dropped from the title). The last episode aired on December 31, 1987, but viewer demand caused CBS to bring the show back to its daytime schedule on April 4, 1988, after the game show Blackout failed in Pyramid's time slot. The revival only lasted until July 1 of that year, as CBS premiered its new version of Family Feud the following week.

Daily syndicated versions aired from 1985 to 1988, and again in 1991, as The $100,000 Pyramid.

In the fall of 2002 Pyramid -- without any dollar amount in the title -- returned in syndication.


Dick Clark hosted all network versions, the syndicated $50,000 Pyramid, and the original $100,000 Pyramid. Bill Cullen hosted the 1974-79 version of The $25,000 Pyramid, and John Davidson hosted the 1991 revival of The $100,000 Pyramid.

Donny Osmond hosts the current version of Pyramid.

Main game

Two teams, consisting of one celebrity player and one contestant, compete against each other. Six categories, each of which has a name pertaining to what that category is about, are placed on the pyramid-shaped game board. A contestant chooses one of those categories, and after the host explains the subject of that category, the contestant is given 20 seconds to guess six words, phrases, or names (30 seconds for seven in past versions of Pyramid) using clues given by his/her celebrity partner. If any descriptions were deemed illegal by the judges -- usually when all or part of the word or phrase is given -- the clue was immediately thrown out and the contestant couldn't earn any points for it.

Once time has expired or the contestant guesses all of the necessary clues (whichever comes first) the opposing team follows the same procedures.

Three rounds, with two categories per round, are played in the main game. While the celebrity gives the clues and the contestant receives them in the first round, the roles are reversed in the second round -- the celebrity receives the clues. In the third round the contestant has the option to give or receive.

The winner at the end of three rounds wins the game and has a chance to play in the Winner's Circle bonus round. If the score is tied after three rounds, tiebreaker rounds are played using words that begin with a letter of the alphabet.


One randomly-chosen category in each game contains a hidden bonus, which allows the contestant to win additional cash or prizes if all of the clues are guessed correctly.

The 1970s versions featured the "Big 7," where contestants could win $500 for seven correct answers. The 1982-88 versions featured the "7-11," where contestants won $1,100 for seven correct answers in that subject, and the "Mystery 7," where contestants won a prize for seven correct answers without receiving the subject of that category from the host. The current Pyramid features a "Super Six" in each game, where contestants win a prize for guessing all six clues correctly within the 20-second time limit.

The Winner's Circle

The Winner's Circle round, named for the circular structure around the chairs that the celebrity and contestant sat in, also features a pyramid of six subjects: three on the bottom level, two in the middle, and one at the top. Each subject, however, is revealed one at a time, and whoever gives the clues (usually the celebrity) has to give a list of objects that fits into that subject; any other descriptions or use of hand gestures results in immediate disqualification of that category. The subjects increase in difficulty toward the top of the pyramid.

The contestant has 60 seconds to get to the top of the pyramid by guessing all six subjects correctly; doing so wins the grand prize, which has changed with each incarnation of the show (the current version offers $10,000 for the first time a contestant reaches the Winner's Circle and $25,000 for the second if the contestant wins the first time). Contestants also win money for each correct subject if he or she fails to win the grand prize; the amount for each correct answer has also changed over the years, but more money is given for guessing more difficult subjects.

After the Winner's Circle is finished the contestant and opponent switch celebrity partners. A half-hour episode usually consists of two main games and two Winner's Circle rounds.

Tournaments were frequently held on The $100,000 Pyramid where the three contestants who reached the top of the pyramid in the shortest amounts of time played until someone won the Winner's Circle, where $100,000 was awarded. The current Pyramid also holds periodic tournaments where a contestant could win $100,000.

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