Dick Clark and the art of game show tension

Dick Clark passed a few days ago.  He has been on our TVs since the late 50’s and though his obituaries lead with what he is most known for (American Bandstand and New Years Eve) for us kids of the 70’s and 80’s there was the $20,000, $25,000, $50,000 and $100,000 Pyramid.  It was the first game show that I remember really getting frantic while watching.  I remember summer mornings glued in front of the TV, waiting for them to get to the winners circle.  The winners circle was like watching someone diffuse a bomb with time running out.  Part of the show’s genius was in how it handled this moment. There was the fact that the person giving the clues had hand restraints.  There was the lowering of the lights when the clock started. And then there was Dick Clark, who in the seconds before the countdown began would give reminders and tips (often in a humorless, dead serious tone) and then he would yell out as he walked away “Here is your first subject…GO!”  If time was running out you could sometimes hear a frantic Clark yell “Hurry!” If the contestant lost and happened to be stuck on one answer, Clark would often do his re-enactment bit where he would offer better clues or call out to the audience for better clues; not letting the contestant see the answer until they figured it out.  This was especially cool because as a play-along audience member at home you would be yelling a great clue out and if it got mentioned in the aftermath you felt vindicated.

Dick Clark was the Pat Boone of hosts and everyone loved him.  He was square but he was our square. It was rough catching him in the last few years on the New Years Eve bash.  He finally started looking his age (which had been a running joke for decades) and the strokes had left his speaking voice fragile and slurred. Yesterday, GSN ran a marathon of Pyramid in his honor.  I watched. It’s on every day so tune in if it’s been a while.

Here is the still-record time for the winners circle with Billy Crystal giving the clues!

RIP Dick Clark

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1 Response to Dick Clark and the art of game show tension

  1. Amy says:

    He was well respected and that says so much about a person.

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