OPENING SPIEL #1: "Today, every wrong step could bring disaster, as our players attempt to cross this bridge, and win a prize package worth over $2,500/$5,000. So watch now, as they brave the dangers to win a fortune, on PITFALL!"
OPENING SPIEL #2: "Today, all it takes is one wrong step and, SHOOT! You're in big trouble. Our players attempt to cross this bridge, and win a prize package worth $2,500. Watch now, as they brave the dangers to win thousands of dollars, on PITFALL!"
And now, here's the man who guides you to all the pitfalls,/here comes the man who will help you get across all the pitfalls today, ALEX TREBEK!
Pitfall was a Canadian game show that aired in American and Canadian syndication from September 14, 1981 to September 1982. The host was Alex Trebek and the announcer was John Barton (who also served as co-producer). The show was filmed at Panorama Studios in Vancouver and produced by Catalena Productions, with distribution provided by Rhodes Productions.
Alex Trebek asked the studio audience a question with four possible answer choices. Each member of the audience voted with a keypad for the answers they believed were correct. Trebek asked one of two contestants to choose one of the four responses as the most common response from the audience. The second contestant chose from the remaining three. Choosing the answer that a plurality of the audience members selected won a point. If neither contestant did so, no points were awarded. Contestants also won a "Pit Pass" on the first, third, and fifth points earned. The first contestant to five points (or the contestant with the highest score after five minutes of game play) won the round and advanced to the Pitfall round.
The object of the "Pitfall" bonus round was for a contestant to cross a bridge in less than 100 seconds.
The bridge consisted of eight sections, three of which were pitfalls. At the beginning of the round the contestant watched a "light show," during which each safe section was lit once and each Pitfall was lit twice. Contestants who correctly remembered the light show could choose the Pit Passes to pass over the Pitfalls upon reaching them.
Once the player selected his/her Pit Passes, Trebek and the contestant rode an elevator to the top of the bridge and the countdown from 100 seconds began. Trebek asked general knowledge questions which had to be answered correctly before passing to the next zone. Each correct answer also earned the player $100.
As a player was about to step into a zone, and if they had a Pit Pass for that zone, they could hand the pass to Trebek and continue to the subsequent zone. Contestants who stepped onto a Pitfall and didn't have a Pit Pass for it rode that zone's elevator down to the stage level. To get back up contestants had to answer one question correctly. The clock did not stop while the elevator sunk to the lower level, effectively causing a 10-second time penalty. After a correct answer, however, the clock stopped as the elevator rose back to the main level. From there, the contestant needed to answer a second question in order to advance to the next section. Early in the series Trebek would not prompt a contestant if they had a Pit Pass for the appropriate section, causing several contestants to get trapped in a Pitfall because they did not offer a pass they were holding to Trebek. Later in the series, Trebek would ask for the Pit Passes at the appropriate times.
Crossing all 8 bridge zones in under 100 seconds won the contestant a $5,000 prize package. Later in the run, the $100 won for passing each section was eliminated; a small prize was won after passing the fifth zone and a $2,500 prize package was won for crossing all 8 zones.
Alex Trebek commuted between Los Angeles and Vancouver to host Pitfall and Battlestars between October 1981 and mid-1982, the second emcee in recent game show history to helm a game show on both sides of the U.S./Canadian border at the same time.
He joined Jim Perry (who hosted Card Sharks in the US and Definition and Headline Hunters in Canada simultaneously between 1978 and 1981 as well as hosting Sale of the Century and Definition simultaneously between 1983 and 1989).
Catalena Productions, which also produced the short-lived 1980-1981 syndicated revival of Let's Make a Deal, went bankrupt before the end of Pitfall's run. As a result, several contestants did not receive their winnings (a problem that also affected winners on the original 1987-88 Lingo, the American game show Yahtzee, and The Reel to Reel Picture Show in the 1990s), nor was Alex ever paid for his hosting duties. Because of this, Alex has called the show "one of the great tragedies of [his] life" and still has the bounced check for his salary framed on a wall in his home office. Alex has also commented that he finds it ironic that the only time he has ever been stiffed was by his fellow Canadians.
About two years after Pitfall was cancelled, Alex went on to host the syndicated revival of Jeopardy!, a position he holds to this day.
- David's Pitfall Page
- Michael Tiller's Pitfall Page
- Chuck Donegan's Pitfall page
- Interview with former contestant Eileen Mintz
- Josh Rebich's Pitfall Rule Sheet
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