Doug Dissects…

…the debut of Pyramid. If the show hasn’t aired in your city as yet — or if you haven’t had a chance to watch through the miracle of video tape — please refrain from further reading. There are some spoilers here.

First and foremost, when watching Pyramid, you must leave any pre-conceived notions you have about Donny Osmond at the door. Donny’s cool as a cucumber in this show and is putting on a solid first effort as a game show host.

Here’s proof. In the first winner’s circle game, contestant Kathy Najimy and her partner, John, nailed the last five categories of the pyramid. The one that stumped John was the first one — “things you slice” — her only pass. After she game hints such as “bread”, “pie”, “American cheese” and “Thanksgiving turkey”, the 60-second time limit ran out. Here comes Donny with the great Dick Clark-esque post-endgame clue of “pizza”.

Further proof. I recently finished reading Peter Marshall’s book on his days hosting the original Hollywood Squares. He noted he had been in show business for about 20 years before his first game show hosting assignment. I remember in an ABC News interview, he said he had know idea what a game show was. But, the experience in front of an audience and on camera paid off to the tune of a legendary 15 year run as “the master of the squares”. Experience in the form of years of singing and dancing with Marie plus recent concert performances are paying off for Donny.

This I wasn’t so sure of. Playing six clues/words/items in 20 seconds in the front game as opposed to seven in 30. If that was an effort to speed up the game, the producers certainly succeeded in that. But, between that and the fact space-like think music plays in the background during those 20 seconds makes for a frenetic game. In other words, they’ve sped up the game too much.

I also like having the audience be silent throughout the winner’s circle game. (Donny: “Everybody as quiet as possible.”) They’re being asked not to applaud when a contestant correctly identifies a subject from the given clues. That way, no one’s rhythm is thrown off.

Now, someone might have to clue me in as to whether or not they have returning champions. After Kathy helped contestant Ann win $10,000 in the second winner’s circle game (just like the Pyramids of before, the celebrity partners trade places; frequent ’80s Pyramid guest Ed Begley, Jr. teamed up with John for the second half of the show), there was no obvious mention that Ann might come back on the next show having won more money in the winner’s circle than her opponent (John got $1500 for his first half effort). Plus, my tape’s missing the first two minutes (the opening and even the first game’s first round gameplay). And Donny closed with “Join us next time on Pyramid” (as opposed to “tune in tomorrow” or “have a great weekend, we’ll see you on Monday” or something like that).

I sense this is a throwback to the Bill Cullen-hosted weekly syndication version of Pyramid — where two civilian contestants play the entire half-hour and, regardless of their outcome, two new civilians come on the next show.

But, no matter. Donny’s solid as host and Harry Friedman is serving as an executive consultant for Pyramid in addition to his executive producer duties on Wheel and Jeopardy! I wish this Pyramid a long life.

Doug’s rating…

(insert three Wheel of Fortune bells here)

…three and a half vowels out of five. Slow down the pace of the front game a bit, turn off the think music, bring back the classic “ticking” of the old Pyramid clock and you’ll get at least four full vowels from me. If you absolutely have to use think music, do something like the soft drumbeats during the fast money round from this new season of Family Feud.

Speaking of “the feud”, some quick takes on said show. Richard Karn’s now hosting — replacing Louie Anderson. He’s got a good first name for this quarter-century-plus-old show — but he’s no Richard Dawson. Then again, Dawson’s a tough act to follow (Anderson admitted that during a recent E! True Hollywood Story).

Despite a long and successful run as a supporting actor on the sitcom Home Improvement, he’s probably the least comedic of the four men who’ve hosted “the feud” (Dawson and Ray Combs came up with lots of one-liners over the years…virtually none from Karn). But, Karn makes up for that by just being a down to earth, regular guy. It showed when he congratulated the Klopfenstein family for winning the game and then said, “That’s the first time I’ve said it (the family’s last name) right.”

About the only problem I have with Karn is he points to the board a lot when calling an answer (Anderson also did lots of pointing). At least Karn doesn’t constantly ask, “Is it up there?”

It’s also good “the feud” now has a returning champions format. If only they could fix the scoring system that’s been part of this version since it debuted with Anderson in ’98. Three questions at even stakes and then a triple question with the leading team winning? Please! Go back to the days of “first family to reach 300 points” — or some other set goal.

H^2: Hollywood Squares hasn’t aired here yet. Perhaps some quick takes later. The syndicated Who Wants To Be A Millionaire doesn’t air here (closest market’s New Orleans). Perhaps a road trip to see relatives on the gulf coast is in order.

Sheesh! My first entry in a week. I told you it’s been busy around Doug’s Place.

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