Review: Did GSN’s “The Pyramid” Live Up to the Hype?
When GSN announced that The Pyramid was on their list of upcoming premieres, three questions went through my mind: Will this live up to the expectations of the original? Will this be a good show standing by itself? And will this be a show that I, along with the general, casual game show fan will want to tune in to repeatedly? To be fair, we did only see one episode as part of GSN’s promotional “sneak peek” of The Pyramid and there are still 39 more to go. But based on this week’s taste of game show goodness, I think all three questions can be answered with a resounding “yes!”
If you’ve missed the previous coverage on the show, here’s a brief rundown on how the show differs from its predecessors. Players begin with $10,000 in their Winner’s Circle bank at the beginning of each round. Every time they earn 7 out of 7 in 30 seconds, they add $5,000 to their bank and earn $500 in bonus cash to keep no matter their result in the rest of the program. When you pass a word in the game, it is out of play but if time remains, you are allowed to come back to it once you get through the rest of the list. If it is someone’s last turn at the game but only three are needed to tie and four to win, they will still be allowed to play up to all seven to earn another bonus and add to the Winner’s Circle bank. Everything else is as you remember it from Pyramids past and it is executed very well.
Mike Richards as host was very competent, leaning towards good. He kept the game flowing at a very speedy pace. He was engaging with the contestants, making humorous comments with their stories, making them feel at ease. My favorite part is his adoption of the post-Winner’s Circle “perfect clue” reveal that Dick Clark was famous for – he’s good at it too. Chandra Wilson and Jai Rodriguez, the celebrity contestants for this episode, were good for the most part. Jai had a habit of being too wordy with his clues but, hey, so did Ed Begley in the ’80s and he was a regularly invited player. The contestants had a great handle of how to play as well. If the other episodes follow the pattern of this one, it will be clear that the participants’ ability to play the game was a high priority as it should be.
The overall presentation of the show was good. It was reported that the theme song from the ’80s was present in this version, but instead the show chose to go with a tropical-style remake of the theme which is still not bad. The original winner’s circle clock sound effects and the buzzer came along for this one, along with the “cuckoo” for an illegal clue which we heard a couple of times. My biggest complaint with the effects is the new timer in the front game. By itself it’s a good backing track but I feel like it’s too loud and has a tendency to be more in the foreground than the actual game. Turn the dial down a couple of notches on its volume and it would be perfect.
Included in the presentation is the new set and directing of the show. The directing mixes the ’80s style (keeping a single shot during gameplay), the 2000s (coming in and out from the commercial break) and some originality (zoom into the category chosen, zoom into Mike). Some of the zooming can get annoying but other than that, the directing is what it needs to be. I wish some of the editing on the show was a little cleaner, but that seems to be the status quo on shows today. The set design is very beautiful. The desks look great changing colors depending on the team’s situation, the pyramid screens are very nice and the dramatic lights-down effect during the Winner’s Circle is great. Outside of that, the show is bright and flashy like a game show really should be. DirecTV, my provider, does not carry the program in HD but I can only imagine it’s even better like that.
My one biggest gripe with the show comes for a pretty important part: the writing. Some categories are going to be more difficult than others and that is expected. However, I think some of the phrases in a category like “jobs near an airport” are difficult to achieve. “Air traffic controller” and “baggage handler” were two consecutive phrases in the game. Probably a good rule of thumb to use is if you have to squish the on-screen font to use it, it’s probably a smidge too complicated. Also, it appears that the show will take forms of the word in the main game, something the Clark versions didn’t often do. (“Happy/happiness”, etc.) As long as that’s consistent, I don’t mind. This area could use some work, but both of the Winner’s Circle rounds were well-constructed and well-judged, so I will not complain too much.
I think, if you compare this to other revivals of older game shows that have been done in the last 15 years, this is the primer on how to do it right. It is absolutely a tough task to come near the legacy of a beloved program like Pyramid but this show absolutely does it. I really hope it gets the eyeballs it deserves and enjoys a healthy run to make many new Pyramid fans. There’s no doubt that, for me, the show passed the muster and is now appointment viewing for me. Well done GSN, Embassy Row, Michael Davies, Mike Richards and everyone else involved in the production of the show. You did it right.
Kkeep your comments coming on how you thought the show did! Don’t forget, if you really enjoyed the program, to tune in to the “real” series when it starts this Monday at 6 PM ET on GSN. As a note, any comments made before 11:40 PM ET on August 30 come from a live discussion here about the show as it aired.