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Pyramid (1996)

Producer: Sony
Host: Mark L. Wahlberg (billed without the 'L' here)
"Celebrities": Sherl Kay, Dar Rollins, Heather Marie, Ted Henning, J. Karen Thomas, Kevin Anthony Cole
Taping Info: November 19, 1996 at CBS Studio 56
Made it to Air: This version, no. Three pilots (one of which is profiled here later it finally made the air in 2002 for a two year syndication run. By the time it made it to air, there was little resemblance to this version and much more resemblance to the classic 70s and 80s version.

If you want to bring back one of the classics of game show past into the present, you have two options. You can either clone the past show with minor tweaks, or you can entirely revamp the show. If you choose the former, sometimes it works (Hollywood Squares) and sometimes it doesn't (Let's Make a Deal). If you choose the latter, sometimes it works (Price is Right) and sometimes it doesn't (You Don't Say). Pyramid chose option two, and received result number two both figuratively and scatalogicaly.

The classic game had two celebrities. This pilot had six. And, as a bonus, they weren't celebrities. They were the "Pyramid Players" and occupied six little desks arranged like a pyramid in the rear part of the center of the stage. Extensive research (at least 15 minutes on Google) brought up their key roles in their storied careers:

  • Ted Henning: He played Guard #2 on an episode of Babylon 5.
  • J. Karen Thomas: She played Jamie's mom in Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood along with about 30 other roles.
  • Kevin Anthony Cole: Played Simmons in the direct-to-video Asylum.
  • Heather Marie (Mardsen): Was a semi-regular on The Army Show.
  • Dar Rollins: Only credit is One Sung Hero. Now an agent, he's married to Sabrina, The Teenage Witch semi-regular Lindsay Sloane.
  • Sherl Kay: Never appeared in anything. Not even in Google. Must have been a seat filler when somebody didn't show up. Apparently is now a motivational speaker.

This version of Pyramid was played in four rounds. The first round had a passing resemblance to the main game of the classic version of Pyramid, except that each celebrity was assigned a category. And they had the cutesy Win Ben Stein's Money-inspired names such as "Love Shaq", "Let Me Be On Top For a Change" and "I'm OK, You're Mary Kay". The two contestants alternated picking a celebrity/category, upon which the celebrity came down from their little desk in the rear of the stage and came to the center and played the category. Same scoring, with one point per correct word up to seven, with a bonus prize for any sweep. Also, there was no chyron of the word on the screen, I guess to enhance home play, but since that's been around forever, it seemed a little bit too much of "different to be different".

Round 2 could best be described as the "Human Winner's Circle". A contestant would have 60 seconds to give classic "things in a list" clues to the "celebrities" while they tried to guess the category one at a time. If you got all six, you just started up again at the bottom. You got 5 points and $100 per correct category (this is how the losing contestant got some money).

Round 3 I will call "The Ping Pong Round". Each contestant selected one "celebrity", and they alternated giver-receiver roles for 60 seconds trying to do as many words as possible in 60 seconds. Ten points per word in this round, and the player with the most points after the third round went on to the Winners. . .

Alcove, er, Corner, um, Nook. It ain't no Circle, that's for sure. Located off to the side stage left, it played pretty much like the "Winner's Circle" we all knew, loved and wished would be back into our everyday lives. However, for the nit-pickers in the world, the clues were given boustrophedon-style (I finally get to use that word I learned in that Biblical history class), meaning you went left-to-right on the bottom row but right-to-left on the middle. Each correct box (monitors instead of manual trilons) was worth $200 and had no appreciable difference in difficulty from one box to the next. If you got all six, it was worth $25,000.

Well, they tried. Not one thing was a glaring mistake, but "different for the sake of being different" just went too far. Most egregious was probably the tone of the game, since the atmosphere was party-like rather than a serious game. The original version had its light moments, but that was more because of unintentional game play moments then forced fun. And the "Pyramid Players" just screamed of being cheap rather than trying to enhance the game. Mark L. Wahlberg showed promise as a host, but he was struggling to get any presence on the show with six semi-professionals and two hyper contestants.

A Pilot Light Bonus:
A first person account of the taping from the late Randy Amasia.

This pilot has been viewed 9437 times since October 6, 2008 and was last modified on Dec 12, 2009 14:46 ET
Feedback? Contact me at usgs-pilot at the usgameshows dot net domain