'Pyramid,' 'Match Game' more game shows to return to TV

Are you old enough to remember TV host Gene Rayburn and his skinny microphone on the old "Match Game" show?

"There are two things that sell around the world: talent shows and game shows," said one expert.

How about Dick Clark and his "10,000 Pyramid," a game show that found popularity in 1970s and kept upping its title to match the economy -- $25,000, $50,000, and more -- through the years?

They're back -- in an updated reincarnation.

On Sunday, ABC unveils a lineup of new and improved game show programming, starting with "Celebrity Family Feud" hosted by Steve Harvey, followed by a new "100,000 Pyramid" with Michael Strahan and the updated "Match Game," hosted by Alec Baldwin.

The two new shows are piggybacking on the success the network found success last summer with "Celebrity Family Feud," where Harvey had already been turning up the laughs within the confines of that show's simple concept with non-celebrities.

Why is ABC doing this now? Maybe because with the presidential race being so down-and-dirty, plus recent events that are even more difficult to stomach, game shows are the perfect distraction from real life -- we all need some fun family fare devoid of bloodshed and scandal.

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Plus, the formats are all relatively easy and cheap to produce. With "Pyramid," there are contestants in teams of two. The goal of the game is to help your partner guess an answer, by listing items that would be included in said answer, or are synonymous with it.

For instance, if the answer is "Things That Fly," clues would be "bird," "airplanes," kites," etc. To add to the challenge, the contestant who is giving the clues has their hands strapped to their chair, so they're unable to gesture in order to help the guessing process.

Classic Game Shows
"Jeopardy," 1964
"Wheel of Fortune," 1975
"The Price is Right," 1956
"Password," 1961
"Let's Make a Deal," 1963
"The Dating Game," 1965

Source: IMDB

ABC began looking at a "Pyramid" revival last year. The plan was to produce a 10-episode first season for the reboot, and bring in a fairly major star to host. Enter Strahan, former pro football player. Since retiring from the NFL, Strahan has gone on to appear as a co-host on "Live! with Kelly and Michael," as well as Fox NFL Sundays and "Good Morning America."

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Perhaps he could do for "Pyramid" what Steve Harvey has done for "Family Feud," ABC likely hopes. It is doubtful former co-host Ripa will guest-star any time soon.

As for "Match Game," ABC scored a much more sizable host there in controversial "30 Rock" alum (and multiple Emmy winner) Alec Baldwin, who also serves as an executive producer on the show.

As part of his deal to host what Baldwin is calling a "limited series," the actor will donate his appearance fee to arts-related organizations via the Hilaria and Alec Baldwin Foundation.

Like the original, the new "Match Game" format will feature contestants trying to guess how a panel of six celebrities will answer comically tinged fill-in-the-blank questions. (To wit: "Mary has gotten very lonely. Just the other day her sister visited her unannounced and found her in bed with blank.")

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Baldwin, sporting that same skinny microphone held way back when, will endeavor to volley zingers with a collection of celebrity cut-ups -- with Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan showing up, say, one month in.

"Match Game" is set to air at 10 p.m. as part of what the network has described as a three-hour game-show block for the summer. Interestingly, last year at this time, ABC's morbidly intense whodunit "Secrets & Lies" aired on Sunday nights, generating good ratings. Despite that, the network is banking on fluff -- a refuge, perhaps, from the overwrought drama and reality TV plaguing the dial.

But let's not forget that the game show world is littered with plenty of flashes in the pan. And ABC is the network that went so nuts over smash hit "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" that it ran it on the air five times a week and ran it into the ground, unseating it from its throne as the most-watched network in the country.

"There are two things that sell around the world: talent shows and game shows," Mike Darnell, who oversaw reality development at Fox for more than a decade, told The Guardian last summer.

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The whole thing is dubbed ABC's "Sunday Fun & Games." Fairly reminiscent of the network's old "TGIF" lineup. Just without Mr. Belvedere. Can "The Newlywed Game" be far behind?