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More than a decade after its last run ended, "Pyramid" saw new life as a syndicated entry hosted by one-time teen heartthrob Donny Osmond. The basic premise was identical to the 1973 classic word association game: Two teams of two (a contestant and a celebrity partner) each try to convey words and/or phrases in any one of six categories. This time, they had just 20 seconds to guess six words correctly. As before the cluegiver could do anything short of saying the word itself to get his/her partner to say the word; the word can be passed on (and scored if they thought of it later), but if the cluegiver blurts out the essence of the word, the word is thrown out and the contestant can't score on it. One of the categories hid a "Super Six" card, which gave the contestant a bonus prize if all six words were guessed. Three go-arounds were played (the celebrity giving the clues the first time, the contestant the next time through and a choice of cluegivers in the final round). The contestant... Written by
Brian Rathjen <email@example.com>
Pyramid's syndicator has opted not to run a third season. Instead, the first two seasons will air in reruns during 2004-05.
In the present era where there's a dearth of first-run game shows, it's a shame we have to lose this one. This was a nice remake of a classic, tweaked a little to fit into the 75-channel world, but solid in its format. Still, there were a few things that departed from the classic a bit too much, and that may have caused its demise:
*No returning champions. Bringing back returning champs gives the viewers a sense of continuity, and it makes things more interesting when there's a champion to be dethroned. Instead, Pyramid opted for the cheap way out, which is taping the programs at will and showing them in any order they want.
*Winners circle judging. If the category were "Cities in Europe," and the contestant said "Places/Things in Europe," the contestant would get credit under the old rules of the '80s. The important thing was the KEY WORD(S) of the category. The most frustrating thing about the latest Pyramid was that the entire category had to be said VERBATIM to get credit. This really turned me off, and I turned the show off often, as it wasn't in the spirit of the game.
*No real theme music. A minor detail, you say? The melody of the Pyramid themes of the '70s and '80s were recognizable and identified themselves well with the show. While the 2002-04 Pyramid music fit in well with the modern, purple & scaffolding set, it still sounded like background music and no one would recognize it if it were on its own.
*No true $100,000 tournament. Sure, they had such tournaments, but 2002-04 big money format was such that it was possible that there would be no $100K winner (and it even happened once). The spirit of the $100K tournament in its original, successful format was: We're going to throw tough categories at you, make you earn the big money, and this tournament won't end until SOMEONE wins the big prize, no matter how long it takes. This format had some of the best drama in game show lore, and the new version again opted the cheap way out, risking a fall-flat conclusion. That's what they got, too, and it hurt the show badly.
That's not to say there weren't some improvements this time around. Flat screens have replaced outdated trilons on the finely-tuned set, and the nice effect with the six coming into view in the winners circle was a sweet, dramatic touch. Having different celebrities every day, instead of every week, was also proven experiment. Finally, Donny Osmond also did a solid job as host. He was there to present the game, move it along, add a little personality to it, but not get it the way. That's what the best hosts do.
I'm sure this show will be back in another life form. The format is too strong not to rekindle. Still, I hope producers learn from this version's mistakes, and create a better version one day of the show we knew and enjoyed well.
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