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This is the $20,000 Pyramid!
For the page about pyramidal buildings, see Build Like an Egyptian.

"Describe for your partner these things associated with Pyramid. These are things associated with Pyramid. Ready? Go."

Pyramid is a game show format that began on March 26, 1973 as The $10,000 Pyramid. It was created by Bob Stewart, also the mind behind Password. Unlike Password, however, the Pyramid franchise was largely produced by Stewart himself (with assistance from son Sande in the 1980s). It has a format similar to Password in that a contestant is trying to describe a word to a celebrity partner, but instead of being a one-word clue, the contestant has to give several clues to a set number of words (usually seven) within a time limit, and using virtually any form of verbal clue-giving. Whoever got more points in six rounds moved on to the Bonus Round, called the "Winner's Circle", in which the game was essentially reversed. In the Winner's Circle, the clue giver is shown six categories, and has to give a list of objects that fit each category.

The show lasted in several forms in every year from 1973 to 1988, generally increasing the dollar amount in the title with each new version. What started as $10,000 became $20,000, $25,000, $50,000, and even $100,000 over time. Dick Clark hosted most of the 197388 versions, except for the original $25,000 version which was hosted from 1974-79 by Bill Cullen. A $100,000 revival was syndicated in 1991 with John Davidson as host. What's currently Sony Pictures Television acquired Stewart's company shortly afterwards, and after failed pilots during the 1996-2000 period (one of which, Pyramid Rocks, had a rock music theme), the show returned from 2002 to 2004 as just Pyramid, with Donny Osmond as host. (For this reason, it's more commonly known as Donnymid.) This new version introduced several rule changes that many fans of the show disliked, lax writing and judging, often-clueless celebrities, and a hyperactive host.

Two $1,000,000 pilots were taped in New York in 2009 (one with Tim Vincent as host, the other with Dean Cain) for CBS; they passed it up for a revival of Let's Make a Deal. They tried to pitch it again in 2010, but lost out again, this time in favor of The Talk, a mother-oriented talk show fronted by (among others) Big Brother host Julie Chen.note  Three more pilots, now back to $25,000 (with a $500,000 tournament planned) and with Andy Richter as host, were taped for TBS on June 22 and 23, 2010.

After having been trapped in Development Hell for eight years, GSN finally raised the curtain on a new edition, now simply titled The Pyramid, on September 3, 2012, with Mike Richards (not Kramer, but the executive producer of The Price Is Right and future executive producer of Jeopardy!) as host. This version (much like the $1,000,000 pilots) served as a back-to-basics refresh after the massive changes with Donnymid, and included a unique way of determining the Winner's Circle prize (see below). The series lasted only 40 episodes before being cancelled due to low ratings.

A revival of the $100,000 format premiered on ABC on June 26, 2016, hosted by Michael Strahan, offering top prizes of $50,000 and $100,000 in the Winner's Circle. Due to his commitments to Good Morning America, the show returned not only to ABC, but also to New York, having taped there from 1973 until 1982note  and for the 2009 CBS pilots. The revival is part of ABC's "Sunday Fun and Games" block alongside the returning Celebrity Family Feud and an also-NY-based reboot of Match Game hosted by Alec Baldwin; all three shows, plus the revival of To Tell the Truth, have been renewed by ABC for summer 2017 (also joined by a revival of The Gong Show).

In 2022, the series relocated back to Los Angeles, though Strahan continues to host. (Strahan also works on the "NFL on Fox" during football season in Los Angeles).

Not to be confused with the 1988 documentary of the same name.

These are your subjects, we have...

  • Affectionate Parody:
    • Comcast did a commercial during their "It's Comcastic!" campaign using the Winner's Circle of a $20,000 episode with the categories digitally altered, presumably to say "Hey, we have GSN!" Two versions of the commercial were made a 30-second one that skips the fourth category, and a 60-second one that features Dick Clark in a cameo.
    • Family Guy parodied the Let's Just See What WOULD Have Happened moments described above (during Peter's attempts to become a full US citizen) complete with fade out to commercial and the New $25,000 era theme music.
  • The Announcer: Bob Clayton announced from 1973 until his 1979 death. A rotation of sub-announcers followed until Steve O'Brien took over in 1980; Alan Kalter replaced him midway through $50,000, and also voiced the 2009 $1,000,000 pilots. Jack Clark succeeded him in 1982, and Johnny Gilbert in 1985 until the end of the Davidson version. John Cramer announced the Osmond version, JD Roberto handled The Pyramid, and Brad Abelle announces the current $100,000 revival. Both Clark and Gilbert had large numbers of substitutes.
  • April Fools' Day:
    • On a $10,000-era April Fools' show, William Shatner was faced with the impossible Winner's Circle subject "Things That Taste Like Lima Beans". Dick Clark later framed the category slide and displayed it in his office.
    • At the start of the second game on April 1, 1983, the categories were loaded in backwards!
  • Ascended Extra: Kathy Najimy first appeared on New $25,000 in 1985 as a civilian contestant; she then appeared as a celebrity partner in the 1997 Chuck Woolery pilots (with the 6-celebrity setup), Donnymid, one of the 2009 $1,000,000 pilots, and most recently ABC $100,000.
  • Berserk Button: Happens with some frequency to varying degrees to various celebrities (often when they almost make it or give an illegal clue), but the greatest Button-hitter has to be William Shatner (his example is listed on the show's Funny Moments tab).
  • Big "YES!": Dick Clark sometimes let one out to announce Winner's Circle wins on $10,000.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Donnymid, if both of the day's contestants won $10,000. Yes, you each won $10,000, but you both failed to get into the Tournament and nobody comes back tomorrow!
  • *Bleep*-dammit!: Subverted. Vicki Lawrence said "asshole" twice on the 80s versions, and the entire word was censored on both instances.
  • Blinking Lights of Victory:
    • Classic Era: If a player won the The Winner's Circle, lights inside the dollar amounts on the pyramid board blink, and the lights around the board form a chasing pattern. For $100,000 tournament wins, the trilons holding the categories and dollar amounts move around.
    • Modern Era: If a player won the The Winner's Circle, lights on the walls and arches blink, with a digital Confetti Drop on the category board.
  • Bonus Round: The Winner's Circle, present in all versions: 60 seconds to convey six categories to your teammate, giving only a list.
  • Bonus Space:
    • The first bonus space was "Big 7", debuting on December 23, 1974 and offering the contestant a bonus if they got seven points in that round. The bonus was worth $500 on the daytime show, $1,000 for Season 2 of the Cullen version, and a new car in the final Cullen season.
    • On Junior Partner Pyramid, each team had a "Bonus 7" that they could apply to any category in the game of their choice, with a $500 bonus if they got all 7 words in that category.
    • Seasons 3-4 of the Cullen version replaced Big 7 with the similar "Big Money Card", which awarded a random amount from $1,000-$5,000. For Season 4, the highest amount was decreased to $4,000.
    • On the Cullen version, getting a perfect score of 21 awarded $2,100.
    • $20,000 also offered a 21-related bonus (the only daytime version to do so); originally it was $1,000, but by 1980 it was a color TV.
    • The most recognizable pair on the 80s versions were "7-11" ($1,100 bonus for guessing all seven words correctly) and "Mystery 7" (the theme of the category is not revealed until after the fact, and guessing all seven correctly awards a prize).
    • The 21-21 Tiebreaker, which awarded a car (quickly changed to $5,000) for whichever team broke the tie.
    • In 1991, Tuesdays and Thursdays saw Mystery 7 move to Game 1 and 7-11 get replaced by "Double Trouble 1 & 2" (45 seconds to guess seven two-word phrases). On April 15, 7-11 was completely ousted in favor of "Gamble for a Grand/Gamble for a Trip" (the team could opt to take five seconds off the clock and win $1,000 or a trip, respectively, if all seven words were correctly guessed). From October 22 onward, Gamble replaced Mystery 7 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
    • "Super Six", used only on Donnymid, which was a combination of 7-11 and Mystery 7 (played for a prize, but the category was given before it was played). Donny's Pyramid Game, this version's Transatlantic Equivalent, actually used the Mystery 7.)
    • The 2009 pilots returned to 7-11/Mystery 7, with the former now awarding $11,000.
    • The 2010 pilots used the third and fourth categories of each maingame as the bonuses, with a prize awarded for getting all seven.
    • GSN's The Pyramid threw out the behind-the-category bonuses in exchange for a bonus $500 if all seven words out of seven were correctly guessed. It also added $5,000 to the potential big jackpot in the Winner's Circle, which started at $10,000.
    • The ABC $100,000 revival also features no behind-the-category bonuses for the first round, but uses the Mystery 7 for the second.
  • Bookends: The first male celebrity on The $20,000 Pyramid (January 19-23, 1976) was Bill Cullen. The last male celebrity on that version of the show (June 23-27, 1980) was... Bill Cullen.
  • Celebrity Edition: In the later seasons of the CBS $25,000 version of the show, all celebrity teams would compete during special weeks for charity.
  • Complacent Gaming Syndrome:invoked Both 7-11 and Mystery 7 underwent some changes following their introductions due to contestants invoking this:
    • Mystery 7 was originally its own category (always in the bottom-right slot, using the same font as the others), but teams almost always chose it first. On October 31, 1983, it was given its own unique logo, and on April 23, 1984 it was changed to being a "behind-the-category" bonus (like the 7-11).
    • 7-11 (debuted April 11, 1983) originally had two options try for all seven words and $1,100, or "play it safe" for $50 per word. Not many people took the latter, and the option was dropped on January 21, 1985; the choice returned, giving $500 per word, in the 2009 pilots.
  • Continuity Nod: Surprisingly, the intro to the 2001 $100,000 PC game is the original $10,000 intro ("Keep your eye on this spot...", minus the flat). Keep in mind this was 2001, when hardly anyone outside of die-hard game show fans were even aware of this intro, and the whereabouts of that period of $10,000's run were still unknown.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Dick Clark was a celebrity partner on the Cullen and Osmond versions. He had a perfect record on the Cullen version; he won every main game and Winner's Circle.note  Several other people have played as both a civilian and a celebrity.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Dick Clark was quite the snarker when things went awry.
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: Dynasty's Leann Hunley's partner gave her the clue "You lift" for the answer "Your spirits." While she did get the correct answer, her first guess was "your skirts." Afterwards, she could barely face the camera and could only say, "Not that I would." Dick, ever the professional, said, "Moving on."
  • Double Unlock: Getting into the $100,000 Tournament on Donnymid. Contestants had to win both Winner's Circle rounds to get a spot in the Tournament if the first Winner's Circle was lost, or each contestant won the main game, the chance was forfeit. This, the Moon Logic Puzzles, the idiotic judging, and the lack of returning champs all meant that some players had absolutely zero chance of getting into the Tournament. Then, to actually win the $100,000, you again had to be victorious in both Winner's Circle rounds in a single episode (paying out at $25,000/$75,000). If nobody did so by the end of the Tournament (which spanned just three shows), the person who won the most in the Winner's Circle during the "week" had their total winnings augmented to $100,000.
  • Do Well, But Not Perfect: As explained above, this was the only way to win the full amount on $20,000 - since your first attempt was for $10,000, your second for $15,000, and your third on for $20,000 - and a win meant retirement - you had to lose in the Winners' Circle twice to play for $20,000.
  • Downer Ending:
    • Countless times, a team has thought they won the big money in the Winner's Circle, only for the judge to overturn it during the celebration or after a commercial break. In this example from $25,000, Howard Morton gave "An incoming plane" for "Things that arrive." After a break, Dick hauled out the dictionary and pointed out that, since "incoming" and "arriving" are listed as synonyms, the win had to be overturned.
    • Other times, the receiving contestant gave the correct answer to the last box on the buzzer the ruling in such a case is that if the "essence" of the answer came before the buzzer, it's a win. It resulted in a win on "Things made of flannel" in one episode, but didn't pan out on "Things with a strap" or "Things made of aluminum" (which had the bonus of them even playing back the tape to demonstrate).
    • Subverted during one John Davidson-era tournament. Hillary Bailey Smith thought she won $100,000 for her contestant when she guessed "Things That Stick"... but since they were looking for "Things That Stick Out", she wasn't credited with the win. However, that same contestant later made it back to the Winner's Circle where she won $100,000 with Barry Jenner giving the clues.
    • ABC $100,000 Pyramid, July 24, 2016. The Winner's Circle round was not going so well, and Natasha Lyonne (this version had the contestant give the clues) was struggling throughout the whole round. When they went back to "Things You Hit", things went from okay to bad to worse with these clues: A Baseball, A Person, Your Wife. That last clue had the whole audience turn against the player, the first time in Pyramid history this has happened. Not helping his case was how he tried to justify that clue.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Typically of the genre, whenever a new format comes up, the gameplay's going to be a little rocky at first. Some early rounds had entire phrases instead of one- or two-word answers. There were also eight words per round, later cut down to seven. Once the players became more familiar with the format, 7/7 rounds became increasingly common; by $100,000, it was rare not to see a 7/7. However, in recent incarnations, the level of play has slipped backwards as teams rarely got 7/7 (6/6 for Donnymid, although that could be attributed to only having 20 seconds).
    • Judging in the Winner's Circle wasn't as strict at first. Some prepositional phrases slipped by, as did hand gestures. One team even got credit for saying "Things You Iron" when the box said "Things You Press", which certainly wouldn't have gotten by in the mid-1980s.
    • For the first few weeks (the "keep your eye on this spot" intro), there was a "flat" that would raise and expose the Winner's Circle board at the top of the show as the theme music kicked in. It was removed by mid-June as they often had difficulty raising it on cue, and replaced shortly after that with the familiar "montage of past winners" open.
    • During the first year or so, the lights dimmed during the Winner's Circle round, something that wouldn't return until the Television City era.
    • It took a while to figure out how to signal a Winner's Circle win. On the earliest $10,000 episodes, the camera pulled back from the Circle to show the flashing $10,000 sign. During early episodes of the ABC run (and early Cullen $25,000 episodes), there were brief cuts to a close-up of the flashing sign. After the grand prize was increased to $20,000, they began to use a flashing on-screen graphic of the amount won. This remained the standard for the rest of the classic era.
    • In Season 1 of the Strahan version, an additional, but unplanned game was taped on the fly, meaning that there was one extra game than the season allotted. Said game later aired as part of Season 2, after which many aesthetic changes had been implemented. The leftover game stuck out like a sore thumb with its darker lighting and the lack of a visible clock in the Winner's Circle.
  • End-of-Series Awareness: The last Winner's Circle box on the last episode of $20,000 was "Things That Come to an End". Bill Cullen gave the clue "This show".
  • Every Episode Ending:
    • During his run on the program, Dick would always end each episode with his trademark Sign Off Catch Phrase, "For now, Dick Clark... So long." When $10,000 and $20,000 aired on ABC, Clark would add "Join me tomorrow for the Bandstand..." before the phrase on Friday shows, as ABC was also the home of his hit series American Bandstand.
    • On one episode, celebrity contestant Dick Cavett asked the host just as he was about to deliver his sign off, "Who are you for now?" which at first just slightly confused him, and then, as he attempted to go forward (the show was ending after all), completely broke him up as the Brick Joke hit him.
  • Game-Breaking Bug:
    • In the event of a tie, the teams originally played extra rounds until one outscored the other. One game had three tiebreaker rounds because the teams kept getting 7/7 in the tiebreakers at the very last second. Finally, the tiebreaker was changed so that whichever team got its seven words faster won. Still, New $25,000 once got a double tiebreaker due to both teams getting their seventh tiebreaker word on the buzzer.
    • On one episode of New $25,000 from 1984, the first game had three tiebreakers due to the first two both ending after only six words. Cue a ton of editing in the opening segment; the third tiebreaker being played in the same segment as the first Winner's Circle; and a mad dash to finish the rest of the game (made worse by the second half also requiring a tiebreaker round). The punchline? Because they were both 21/21 games, the same contestant got two Dodge Omnis out of the deal!
  • Game Show Host: Dick Clark, most prominently. Bill Cullen, John Davidson, Donny Osmond, Mike Richards, and Michael Strahan have all hosted versions. Mark L. Walberg, Chuck Woolery, Bil Dwyer, Tim Vincent, Dean Cain, and Andy Richter all hosted unsold pilots.
  • Game Show Winnings Cap: It depended on the dollar amount in the title. No, seriously.
    • On $10,000 and $20,000, you were retired immediately upon victory in the Winner's Circle.
    • On New $25,000, champions could stay for five days or until they surpassed CBS' winnings cap of $25,000 (later $50,000, then $75,000).
    • The first two versions of $100,000 had a five-day limit; the current version has no returning champions.
    • $50,000, Cullen $25,000, Donnymid, and The Pyramid had no returning champions.
  • The Ghost: The judge, who would occasionally respond to Dick's (or occasionally the contestant's) questions with a bell or buzzer for "yes" or "no", respectively. Most commonly, said questions would be after-the-fact suggestions ("Would x have been an acceptable clue?") or the host asking if the correct answer came before the time's-up buzzer (even on Donnymid). Other times, the dings and buzzes were for the sake of being funny, such as Tony Randall getting a buzzer for "Millions of people do want to know [where I'm touring next]" or Lynn Herring getting a bell for asking "Can I come back next week?"
    • This, after Dick Cavett suggested that the Winner's Circle start at the top and work down to the lower three squares and Clark said that it's always had to be bottom to top:
    Cavett: Well, it's such an arbitrary rule, so why follow it?
    Cavett: OH, COME ON!!
  • Guess The Verb: The sixth category in the Winners' Circle usually ends up being this (and sometimes the fifth one as well).
  • Guest Announcer: There were quite a lot of them.
    • Alan Kalter, Fred Foy, John Causier, Dick Heatherton, Ed Jordan, and Scott Vincent all filled in for Bob Clayton. Kalter also filled in for Steve O'Brien.
    • Rod Roddy, Johnny Gilbert, Jerry Bishop, and Charlie Tuna all filled in for Jack Clark.
    • Fill-ins for Gilbert included Charlie O'Donnell, Bob Hilton, and Dean Goss; Goss and Henry Polic II filled in for Gilbert on New $100,000.
  • Home Game:
    • Eight versions were published by Milton Bradley from 1974-81. The third edition was originally published as $10,000 but quickly redone as $20,000, while the final one was based on $50,000...although the Winner's Circle wasn't actually replicated in these games.
    • A version based on New $25,000 was released by Cardinal in 1986. Despite getting the Winner's Circle right, the game board awkwardly refers to it as The $25,000/$100,000 Pyramid.
    • Video games were released for Commodore 64 in 1987 ($100,000) and on PC in 2001 (also $100,000). A DVD game, also called $100,000, was released in 2006. The $1,000,000 Pyramid was released by developer Ludia/Ubisoft in early 2011 for Wii and PC...but despite its logo being in the 198291 style, the game itself uses Donnymid's set and rules.
    • Facebook has a $100,000-themed game, complete with a Suspiciously Similar Song of the theme music. There are three categories in the main game, with six clues for each category (similar to Donnymid) and a new bonus space, the "Big Six" (a cross between "Big 7" and "Super Six", above), behind one of the three categories. There are also now three subjects in the Winner's Circle and, as on the show pre-1996, only the "essence" is required to correctly claim them.
  • Hurricane of Puns: The main-game category titles had lots of them, though moreso on Donnymid ("Going to Israel? Tel Aviv I said hi.").
  • In-Series Nickname: According to frequent player Dick Cavett, the stage crew nicknamed the top Bonus Round category "The Money Saving Box" as it contained the hardest topic.
  • The Klutz:
    • Dick Clark, as professional as he was, had his moments, in particular when he transposed the numbers of new cars offered on the program multiple times (calling one a 1958 model, instead of 1985, for example).
    • Once while closing the show, Dick Clark got tongue tied while describing the total winnings for the contestants. To play into it, he continued babbling incoherently all the way through his traditional sign off.
  • Large Ham: Donny Osmond and (to a lesser degree) John Davidson.
  • Last Note Nightmare: The in-game music cues on Donnymid ended with a whoosh followed by a synth hit to denote time expiring. This combo was also used if a main game round or a Winner's Circle ended early due to an illegal clue.
  • Laugh Track:
    • The Clark, Cullen and Davidson versions used an applause track whenever a contestant correctly guessed a category in the Winner's Circle.
    • Donnymid used a common stock sound effect of a cheering crowd for sweetening.
  • Leitmotif: Believe it or not, the "plonk" timer sound in the Winner's Circle is considered part of the music package, composed by Bob Cobert. Justified, in that the host always asks for silence before the Winner's Circle begins, and the "plonk" is the only background sound constantly heard.
  • Let's Just See What WOULD Have Happened:
    • Dick often came out and tried to give clues on missed Winner's Circle boxes. Quite often, he gave the perfect clue due to having plenty of time to think about it and hindsight regarding what clues didn't work, leaving the actual celebrity dumbfounded (and, in the case of Vicki Lawrence, visibly pissed). Just about every other host has followed suit except for Osmond, who preferred to sprint onstage and scream "OH! OH! OH! OH! OH! OH!" before prompting the audience to shout out the missed box.
    • On an episode of $20,000, Debralee Scott and her partner had a disastrous Winner's Circle where they got only the second box right and didn't get past the fourth. After time ran out, Dick gave her more time to play the (rather tough) first box "Things on a Hat" to see if the contestant would get it eventually.
    • In this game from 1983, Harry Anderson breezed through the first five boxes of the Winner's Circle, but instantly got buzzed on the last box with nearly 30 seconds to spare. As a consolation, Dick let him play the box anyway.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • In one Winner's Circle, Adrienne Barbeau tried to flicker her eyelashes while giving a clue for "Things That Flicker", causing Dick to chuckle and say, "You dirty dog." This caused an awkward situation when both Dick and Adrienne swore they heard the contestant say "flicker"; when they came back from commercial, it was revealed that he said "flutter", and that even if he had said "flicker" they wouldn't have accepted it because physical clues aren't allowednote .
    • In the front game, it has always been legal to give a clue for a homophone of the word, or for a portion of the word. Many contestants have exploited either when stuck.
  • Moon Logic Puzzle:
    • Present in the fifth episode from 1973. "Famous Last Words" was Exactly What It Says on the Tin. It started out easily enough with "Amen", "That's all folks", and "You're out", but once it got to "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn", "My kingdom for a horse", "From sea to shining sea" (the latter two of which were immediately skipped) and "shall not perish from this earth"...let's just say answers longer than two words rarely showed up afterward.
    • A $20,000 Winner's Circle (week of December 11, 1978) had quite a few near-impossible boxes, particularly "People Who Use A Baton".
    • The $20,000 Grand Finale lampshaded how difficult Winner's Circle categories could be in an effort "to save money". One such category was "Oil Companies in Bankruptcy".
    • Subverted on $100,000 with the really tough box "Things That Are Enshrined"; given the clue "hall of fame books", Nathan Cook (the celebrity; they swapped positions) ended up getting it right for $100,000 with less than 10 seconds to spare. It helps that Keefe Ferrandini (the clue-giver) quickly corrected herself, as "Hall of Fame" would have been deemed illegal.note  The funny thing is that Nathan Cook gave that exact same clue on an earlier episode.
    • The Donnymid Winner's Circle was the biggest example, being full of absolutely arcane boxes such as "Why Your Soufflé Falls", "What Regis' Coffee Cup Might Say", "What Tom Cruise's Dentist Might Say", "Things on a Cave Wall", and "Colors in the Olympic Rings". Keep in mind that you're allowed to give only a list of items on each box (unless it's "What x Might Say" or "Why You x", where nearly any word except x is allowed).
  • Must Make Amends: On many occasions, the judge would overturn a ruling after the fact. One of the first known examples comes from June 1973: Richard Deacon is faced with "Things You Wrap" in the Winner's Circle, and the judge decides not to accept the contestant's responses of "Things You Unwrap" or "Things You Put Wrapping Paper On". After the commercial break, the judge overturns the ruling and has Richard play a new box in the same amount of time he had left when "Things You Wrap" was first revealed. He successfully conveys the new category, "Things at a Party", and his contestant wins the $10,000.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Previews of the $100,000 Tournament episodes of Donnymid referred to the show as The $100,000 Pyramid.
    • At least once, Mike Richards used Dick Clark's Sign Off Catch Phrase to end an episode of The Pyramid (Clark had died earlier in the year).
    • Early promos for ABC $100,000 referred to it as The New $100,000 Pyramid; this was what the John Davidson version was called.
    • Season 2 of ABC $100,000 brought back the past winners montage in the intro (albeit far shorter).
  • Network Sideswipe: On the final telecast of The $20,000 Pyramid, a series of joke subjects were presented on the Pyramid board if, in Dick Clark's words, the show wanted to save a little money. One of them was "Hit Shows on NBC-TV."
  • Nintendo Hard: The final two boxes in the Winner's Circle of $100,000 tournaments during the 80s could be very, very tough. They made you earn that 100 grand.
  • No Indoor Voice: Donny, particularly if someone lost the Winner's Circle.
  • Non Standard Game Over:
    • Some games could be lost as early as the fifth or even the fourth category if one team had enough trouble scoring points (again, unless one of the remaining boxes was the 7-11 or Mystery 7, in which case it would be played anyway for a chance at the corresponding bonus).
    • Giving an illegal clue on at least one category in the Winner's Circle but getting the rest before time runs out. It's over but since you got buzzed on one category, you don't win the large bonus.
  • Obvious Rule Patch:
    • Tiebreaker rounds. Originally, they would be played until one team outscored the other, but as the game became more familiar, this often led to both teams getting 7/7 and having to play more tiebreaker rounds. The rules were then patched in the 1980s versions so that, if the first team went 7/7 on their tiebreaker, their opponents had to beat that time in order to win (measured by having their timer count down from the first team's time instead of :30). Should neither team get a 7-7, then the tie was again broken by whoever got a higher score. However, this still wasn't 100% foolproof, as occasionally, a tiebreaker would end up something like 6-6, or have the second team give the last word directly on the buzzer. Still, this rule change greatly cut down the number of redundant tiebreaker rounds.
      • The GSN revival further patched tiebreakers. Rather than having both teams racing to identify seven words as quickly as possible, both teams were given a full 30 seconds in an effort to identify as many words as possible.
      • The ABC revival, instead of playing a tiebreaker round, decides the winner by whichever team got to their point total in the fastest time.
    • Originally, contestants stayed on the show until one Winner's Circle win or until losing one game. When The $50,000 Pyramid started, the format was tweaked so that both contestants stayed on for both halves of the same episode, switching celebrity partners between games. The latter has become the de facto format for all Pyramid revivals to this day.
    • On the Strahan version, the option is no longer given to contestants whether to give or receive during the Winner's Circle. Civilian contestants give clues to the celebrities every time, likely to lessen the chances of a contestant losing the bonus round due to a celebrity error.
  • Opening Narration:
    • 1973: "Keep your eye on this spot. You are about to see one celebrity and one contestant step into this circle for the chance to win $10,000 in less than a minute. Ladies and gentlemen, this is The $10,000 Pyramid! (divider behind Winner's Circle raises to reveal large pyramid) Today's special guests are [female guest] and [male guest]! And here is your host, Dick Clark!"
    • 1973-80 (daytime, following a montage of previous winners): "This is The $10,000/$20,000 Pyramid! Today's special guests are [female guest] and [male guest]! And here is your host, Dick Clark!"note 
    • 1974-79 (nighttime, following the montage): "This is The $25,000 Pyramid! Today's special guests are [female guest] and [male guest]! And here is your host, Bill Cullen!"
    • 1981: "This is The $50,000 Pyramid! Today's special guests are [female guest] and [male guest]! Your host is Dick Clark!"note 
    • 1982-88 (from 1983 onward, following the montage): "From Television City in Hollywood, this is The (New) $25,000 Pyramid! Today's special guests are [female guest] and [male guest]! Your host is Dick Clark!"note 
    • 1991: "This is the Winner's Circle. This is where someone is guaranteed to win $100,000! From Television City in Hollywood, this is The $100,000 Pyramid! Today's special guests are [female guest] and [male guest]! And now here is your host, John Davidson!"note 
    • 1999: "This is Pyramid Rocks! Today's special guests are Saturday Night Live alumnus/comedienne Ellen Cleghorne, and from MTV/World Championship Wrestling, radio and TV personality Riki Rachtman! And here's your host, Bil Dwyer!"
    • 2002-04: "[Guest] and [other guest], today on Pyramid! And now here's the host of Pyramid, Donny Osmond!"
    • 2012: "From Studio City in Hollywood, this is The Pyramid! Today's special guests are [guest] and [other guest]! And now, here's your host, Mike Richards!"
    • 2016-2021: "From the ABC Studios in New York, this is The $100,000 Pyramid! Tonight's celebrity guests are [guest] and [other guest]! And now, here's your host, Michael Strahan!"
    • 2022-: "From Hollywood, this is The $100,000 Pyramid! Tonight's celebrity guests are [guest] and [other guest]! And now, here's your host, Michael Strahan!"
  • Popcultural Osmosis Failure: This episode has LeVar Burton giving "smoothie" for "Things that blend", which confused both the contestant and Dick as neither of them knew what a smoothie was.
  • Portmanteau: On many episodes, the show was copyrighted to "BASADA". BASADA represented the first two letters of the names of Pyramid creator Bob Stewart's three sons: Barry, Sande, and Dave.
  • Press X to Die:
    • Giving the word itself as a cluenote  automatically disqualified it; this would be signified by a "cuckoo" sound (or a "burble" on Donnymid). As on Password, this has been hard to do for some players due to the word being right in front of them. In one August 2018 instance, a contestant, playing with Andy Richter and for $100,000, had "Pizza Chains (Restaurants)" as her second subject and immediately gave "Pizza Hut" as her first clue, ending her attempt at $100K after just ten secondsnote .
    • If a civilian contestant got a bad celebrity partner and had them give the clues, and the celebrity partner messed up at any point in giving clues, the contestant would be disqualified from winning the top amount. No replacement categories were played if time was left on the clock. This also prevented some contestants as being crowned champion of the day and returning to the next show.
  • Progressive Jackpot:
    • $20,000 had a rather odd form of this, which was arguably a major design flaw in the prize structure. The first attempt at the Winner's Circle was for $10,000; a second attempt by the same player was worth $15,000, and a third (or later) attempt was for $20,000. (Kind of a weird example, since players were retired on a Winner's Circle win, so the only way to win the full $20,000 was to lose the Circle at least twice.)
    • The Pyramid based your jackpot on how many perfect 7s you had in the game ($10,000 base, another $5,000 for each perfect 7. Get the maximum 21 points, and you're playing for $25,000.)
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes: Dick Clark had quite the Puppy Dog look after the crew had accidentally "broken the Pyramid."
  • Rage Quit: In a notorious incident, William Shatner screamed and threw his chair out of the Winner's Circle after accidentally giving an illegal clue on the last box, "Things That Are Blessed".
  • Recycled Soundtrack: The "plonk" timer in the Winner's Circle was also heard on Go and Sale of the Century, despite the latter being owned by Reg Grundy.
  • Retraux: Several of the recent revival attempts have had modernized versions of the 80s set, format and look, most notably The Pyramid; the current ABC version refined that version's look and amped it up.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: On one episode of New $25,000, a Winner's Circle box read "Anthing with a collar". Dick even pointed out the blooper and awarded the misspelled slide to the contestant. The same misspelling was used during the week of October 11, 1982, although it was not noticed.
  • Running Gag:
    • An unintentional one- during the early days of $100,000, the audience would be so excited whenever someone won the grand prize during the tournament, they would rush out and swamp the set, they would be hugging and congratulating the contestant, mugging for the camera, often to the point where Dick would have to push his way through to find the winner. This eventually died down, though.
    • Jokes involving Dick Clark's trouble with adding Winner's Circle scores are among the show's most well-known gags, especially during the '80s.
    • Dick Clark's banter with the judge. In one episode, he brought her out to introduce her to the audience.
    • Dick Clark's back rubs with female contestants who make it to the Winner's Circle.
  • Scenery Porn: The ABC $100,000 set is very cool and slick looking. Monitors are now integrated into the desks for the words and score counters, the backdrop is mainly made of glass panels with small neon pyramid shapes within, and the monitor trilons (see below). The walls and panels color change with each part, and when the Winner's Circle begins, everything turns red and black (including the space around the Winner's Circle boxes, now a video wall) and a set of spotlights swirl around onto the Circle before dimming.
  • Schizo Tech: ABC $100,000 has an interesting case: trilons are back, but now use flatscreen monitors instead of slides. Similarly, the 1991 $100,000 had the front-game trilons replaced with monitors early on, and the 2009 pilots had pure trilons again.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Vicki Lawrence did this after a particularly bad round in which she spent nearly the entire 30 seconds failing to get "whiskers".
  • Serious Business: The Dick Clark era had some witty banter and small talk, sure, but when Dick asked for silence and the lights went down (especially during tournaments), you knew what it was. The tight bursts of applause (which weren't even solicited), the pained "Oh, I'm so sorry" after a loss; Dick even told them to "hurry over" to the Circle sometimes. His whole demeanor, even in the main game, says "This is a game, but barely."
  • Shout-Out: "Shows hosted by Dick Clark" was a Winner's Circle subject at least twice (once on $25,000, and again on Donnymid).
  • The Show Must Go On: On the Dick Clark and John Davidson ''$100,000" version of the show, the tournament would be played for as long as it took to find a winner. Sometimes that would only be one day, other times it could go on for weeks. If a contestant won the Winner's Circle in the first half of a tournament episode, the other two contestants would play the second half of the episode for a chance at an additional $10,000 in the Winner's Circle.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Dick, quite often. A few celebrity guests took the game seriously but loved to ham it up between rounds... especially Tony Randall:
    Dick: It is indeed The $50,000 Pyramid, and we welcome you, and I ask for your support, your sympathy, your help, because it isn't when [our other celebrity guest this week] Elaine Joyce is here that I don't look forward to it, but when they tell me that Tony Randall is going to be here, it is a terrifying experience!
    Elaine: I know exactly what you mean. (laughs)
    Tony: Why do you say that?
    (audience laughs)
    Dick: ...You're difficult.
    Tony: (with a straight face) Don't give me that [censored]!
    (audience is in an uproar)
    Dick: HE-L-L-L-P!
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: The second Theme Tune (1982-91) invoked this. Although large pieces of it sound like the 1973-81 theme "Tuning Up", said original theme was a piece of stock music composed by Bob Cobert and arranged by Ken Aldin, while the replacement was Bob Cobert's own composition and arrangement. They allegedly cut the sheet music into segments of two bars each, then turned each segment upside-down.
  • Take That!:
    • Dick sometimes did this to Vicki Lawrence: "Describe for your partner these things that people try to avoid. Vicki Lawrence is one of them."
    • The 1980 Grand Finale featured an "impossible" Winner's Circle with such categories as "Used Car Dealers You Can Trust", "Hit Shows on NBC-TV"note , "Things Kissinger Did Not Foul Up", "Famous Japanese Rabbis", "Oil Companies in Bankruptcy", and "Famous Italian TV Directors".
    • On a later $50,000 episode: "Describe for your partner these things that make life difficult. Things that make life difficult. First answer is Tony Randall."
  • Tantrum Throwing: William Shatner's chair-throwing incident on a 1977 episode.
  • That One Level:invoked Recurring celebrity guests grew to hate categories that involved naming people, especially if the full name was required. This hatred later became a Running Gag, and was lampshaded in the category "I Hope It's Not Names", which led to the list of "Things a Pyramid contestant might think about."
    • Nipsey Russell would do a limerick about it after getting hung out to dry with a name category:
    The $25,000 Pyramid,
    The best of all the games,
    But it makes me sick
    When I have to pick
    A category that's all names!
  • Think Music:
    • The "plonk" timer in the Winner's Circle, in the loosest sense of the word.
    • Played more straight with the Osmond era, which used actual music in the Winner's Circle.
    • The 2009 pilot, The Pyramid, and the ABC $100,000 all have actual think music for the front game, but revert to the "plonk" for the Winner's Circle.
    • The ABC $100,000 Pyramid added a subtle bass bed to the plonk timer for the Winner's Circle.
  • Tiebreaker Round:
    • Ties are broken by playing a round of words, with the team who created the tie getting a choice between two letters, which would be found at the beginning of each word in the tiebreaker round. As mentioned above, this got an Obvious Rule Patch.
    • In the 2012 version, each team got 30 seconds, and kept going until the time was up. Whichever team got the higher score in the 30 seconds won.
    • In the 2016 version, if there was a tie, the winner was determined by the total time the team got to the tying score. The first time it came around, the winning team won by 0.5 seconds.
  • Transatlantic Equivalent:
    • The United Kingdom's The Pyramid Game. Subverted with the most recent version, as it was presented by Donny Osmond.
    • There's also versions in France and Quebec (both in French, naturally), as well as a German version (Die Pyramide).
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: Clue-givers can accidentally render the Winner's Circle unwinnable with an illegal clue (although they can still rack up money from individual subjects), but the subjects themselves have on occasion fallen into this trope. One example in 1985 had the final Winner's Circle subject written as "You Pay Interest On It", only for the judges to immediately invalidate the first clue of "a loan". During the commercial break, the judges reviewed it and decided that virtually any clue given would've violated the spirit of the illegal-wording rule. After an apology from Dick Clark, they restarted Winner's Circle with the time remaining when the contestant reached the final subject and with a new topic ("Things That Have A Pattern"); happily, the contestant won after the first clue.
  • Urban Legend:
    • For years it was said that Shatner, a Stewart mainstay, wasn't invited back after his chair-throwing incident on September 14, 1977, and the subsequent two episodes. He in fact appeared on two fourth-season Cullen shows (done before his chair throw), the last week of '77 with Barbara Feldon, and two fifth-season Cullen episodes (one with Loretta Swit) as well as fellow Stewart series The Love Experts. By the end of June 1978, though, Shatner was barred from Pyramid a ruling which seems to have stuck, as he hasn't appeared on any of the revivals or revival attempts.
    • In interviews, Dick Cavett relates a story that one week he and Jamie Farr were guests. Dick Clark chatted with Cavett for a minute or so when they realized Farr hadn't said anything, and asked him about it. Farr reportedly replied, "I'm just realizing how fortunate I am to be in the presence of two of the biggest Dicks in show business." resulting in both Cavett and Clark laughing for another minute. This is false, though Farr's handful of appearances are well-documented, and he never had a male celebrity opponent. Also see the Password "doe/knob" story, for which Jamie claims to have been present.
  • Verbal Tic:
    • Many contestants, especially in the front game, throw in lots of ands and ums before giving clues to the next word.
    • One contestant on New $25,000 was the giver for the Winner's Circle, and she constantly said, "And this is..." before giving a list, probably mixing up the gameplay of the two rounds.

"I thank you for joining us here on the Pyramid; for now, Dick Clark... [salutes] long."