Series / Pitfall

Infamous Canadian Game Show (also syndicated into the United States) from the early 1980s hosted by Alex Trebek. The game began with a round where two contestants tried to earn Pit Passes by predicting how the audience responded to multiple choice questions. The goal was to reach five points, and a Pit Pass for the bonus round was earned on their first, third, and fifth points. The first to reach five points, or whoever had the lead after five minutes, became champion and advanced to the show's bonus game, the Pitfall Round.

There, the champion ran a gauntlet across a series of eight platforms in 100 seconds by answering trivia questions. However, three of the platforms were designated as "Pitfalls", which would lower the contestant into a pit until they answered another question correctly (the clock stopped when the contestant was raised back up). To dodge the Pitfalls, contestants were shown a light sequence where each platform flashed once (if it was safe) or twice (if it was a Pitfall); players then took as many Pit Passes as they earned to skip over what they believed were the offending platforms. In order to use a Pit Pass, the player had to hand it to Trebek immediately upon stepping to the corresponding section; he/she could then move past it, whether it was a Pitfall or not. The player won $100 for each bridge section reached or skipped, and a prize package for completing the crossing. Initially the package was worth $5,000; it was later lowered to $2,500, but the player won a smaller prize for reaching the fifth section.

The show ran for a single season from 1981-82 and was canned not due to ratings, but due to a pitfall of its own Catalena Productions (which also did the 1980-81 Let's Make a Deal) went bankrupt. Later contestants never received their prizes, and Trebek's check from Catalena bounced. Despite the low point in his career Pitfall became (made worse because Battlestars ended at the same time), Trebek made up for it in '83 with The New Battlestars (and by hosting the 1982 Starcade pilots) and far better employment on another game show in '84.

Game Show Tropes in use:

  • Audience Participation: The audience made their guesses on multiple-choice questions in the front game, and the contestants had to predict their responses.
  • Bonus Round: The "Pitfall Round", as described above cross a giant bridge of elevators in 100 seconds by answering questions. Originally worth $5,000 in prizes; later episodes cut the value in half, but awarded a smaller prize for reaching the fifth section of the bridge.
  • Consolation Prize: $100 per section reached/skipped. When the prize package was halved, the cash was ousted and a small prize was awarded for reaching the fifth section.
  • Personnel:

This show provides examples of:

  • Cosmetic Award: Due to Catalena Productions filing for bankruptcy, later winners had their "prizes" end up becoming these.
  • Funny Afro: Even in 1982, Trebek still had his afro and Porn Stache.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The set had nine elevators, including the one that Trebek and the contestant rode to begin the bonus round. Nine freaking elevators. Is it any wonder Catalena went bankrupt?
  • Obvious Rule Patch: Originally, the champion had to directly hand Alex the Pit Passes at the right moment. Contestants forgetting this rule led to them often walking into a Pitfall. Later on, Alex asked for them at the appropriate moments.
  • Timed Mission: The front game was first-to-five or best-after-five-minutes, whichever came first. The bonus round was 100 seconds.