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"The $10,000 Pyramid" Debut - 35 Years Ago 3/26/1973.

Posted by William A. Padron on Mon Mar 24 10:23:42 2008

Well, thirty-five years ago this week on Monday, March 26, 1973, "The $10,000 Pyramid" made its glorious debut at 10:30am Eastern/9:30am Central & Pacific on CBS-TV daytime. This soon-to-be iconic game show was created and produced by Bob Stewart, and hosted by Dick Clark featuring celebrity guests on that premiere week were June Lockhart and Rob Reiner.

The show's voice-over announcer was Bob Clayton, who had just hosted his last episode of "Concentration" the previous Friday (March 23, 1973). The last rebus puzzle featured on that finale was "You've Been More Than Kind", but luckily for Bob that he was able to sign up with BASADA, Inc. to continue working, but in his new role on "Pyramid".

There were other shows that debuted on that red letter day, including "Baffle" on NBC-TV, which replaced the long-running "Concentration" and in the same time slot opposite "Pyramid", with host Dick Enberg, CBS-TV's "Hollywood's Talking" with host Geoff Edwards (his first national game show emcee gig) and the daytime serial drama "The Young and The Restless", which is still broadcasting to this day. In a programming shuffle move, CBS-TV places "The New Price Is Right" to a 3:00pm Eastern/2:00pm Central & Pacific time slot.

CBS-TV gave the go-ahead in putting "The $10,000 Pyramid" on its daytime schedule, after a few tweaks in the game play and format revisions from the original "Cash On The Line" pilot and another run-through presentation. The agreed concept of answering ten subjects on the new giant pyramid bonus round, using a celebrity partner giving clues in the form of listing common items to a category, and winning the top cash prize of $10,000 in sixty seconds (one minute) was all about to be set.

However, there was a problem with that new idea during some rehearsal run-throughs conducted by Bob Stewart and some of his staff members. It turned out eventually that no one could answer ten subjects in that short amount of time, and win. So, two days before the start of taping the new show, Stewart contacts the chief of CBS daytime programming Bud Grant and tells him of this problem.

In the phone discussion, Stewart and Grant both agreed on a plan by reducing the amount of categories needed win from ten to just six. Instead of building a new giant pyramid, which was part of the Jim Ryan-design set now built, it was suggested to *dummy* and cover up the bottom four categories with plywood painted to match the gold lame paneling on the board.

According to him during a 1997 interview conducted for the Emmy Award organization, Stewart said that if the Winner's Circle round's game play was becoming too easy to win, then the plywood could be removed and make the full use of ten categories to be answered instead. Of course, the plywood (seen in a two-section form with a split down in the middle) stayed up for basically one year, until the show relocated to ABC-TV and its Studio TV-15 on West 58th Street in June 1974, with a brand new set duplicating much of Jim Ryan's design. That new giant pyramid board there would now have six categories, but no provisions for a bottom set of four as such.

So, the first week of "The $10,000 Pyramid" had celebrity guests Lockhart and Reiner doing pretty well in this new word-association game, and Reiner was the first one to enter the first Winner's Circle round on the debut episode. As luck would have it, he wins at the first shot getting $10,000 playing with his civilian partner, a 25-year old female secretary (reportedly named Diane Toomes).

During the middle of that week, Reiner does it again with his partner Bob Lyons on the top category "Things With A Hole", which would be later be used in an opening clip montage for the show beginning in the fall of 1973. Towards the end of the debut week, it has been said that Lockhart wins $10,000 for her partner too as well.

[Note to all: I stand corrected after all these years that the first $10,000 subject win was not with "Things With A Hole" as I originally thought. My apologies though if I may have misled anyone who read my original web essay "The Pyramid's Years In New York City" as written and uploaded in 1999 on Kris Lane's webpage].

Meanwhile, CBS president Fred Silverman is watching this very first historic taping session of Pyramid via the closed-circuit transmission in his office on West 52nd Street in Manhattan. Unknown to Bob Stewart until he was told many years later after the fact, it has been said that after he had seen the first (or second perhaps) $10,000 win, Silverman actually wanted to give the orders to stop production of the show at once, because he feared it was rigged! Well, it did not happened, perhaps after a reassurance from someone in the network's hierarchy that it was not the case.

Back at the Ed Sullivan Theater (where the show originally taped at first), and during a taping break while host Dick Clark and guest Rob Reiner were riding in an elevator going up in the building, Reiner tells Clark that he thought that the game was too easy to play, and that he believed the show would be cancelled in thirteen weeks. That particular story came from Clark himself a few years later when he appeared on one of the daytime syndicated talk shows.

Well, Happy 35th Anniversary to "The $10,000 Pyramid", and to all the updated dollar amount versions of the program that came and went over its long and fantastic life span via network, syndication and cable broadcasts, and as hosted particularly during its formative and most productive years by Dick Clark and Bill Cullen. From this longtime loyal fan of the show, where I able to see in first-run TV and in person as a studio audience regular between February 1975 and January 1981 at ABC Studio TV-15 on West 58th Street in Manhattan, it was the most influential and profound game show in my own personal life. Cheers, and always remember to "Make A List Of...".

-William A. Padron
["For now, Dick Clark...so long!"]

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