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.
Two contestants attempted to predict how the studio audience answered questions about lifestyle and personal preference. For each question, the contestants and audience were shown four possible answers. Using a keypad, each audience member chose one of the responses, after which Trebek asked each contestant to choose the answer they thought had received the highest percentage of votes. Contestants could not choose the same answer. The champion chose first on the opening question, and control alternated between the contestants on every subsequent one.
One point was scored for choosing the most popular answer to a question. Contestants could also earn "Pit Passes," which would come into play in the Pitfall round. One pass was awarded for a contestant's first, third, and fifth points, for a maximum of three per game.
Play continued for a maximum of five minutes. The first contestant to reach five points, or the one who was in the lead when time ran out, won the game and advanced to the bonus round, known as the Pitfall round.
The champion attempted to cross a bridge composed of eight numbered sections in under 100 seconds by answering general knowledge trivia questions. Three of the eight sections contained pitfalls, and stepping on one caused the champion to descend via elevator to the floor below the bridge. Before the round began, the champion watched a sequence of flashing lights on the bridge sections in random order; safe sections lit up once, while pitfalls lit up twice. He or she then selected the appropriate number of Pit Passes from a rack of eight numbered cards.
Trebek and the champion rode an elevator up to the left end of the bridge, and the clock began to count down as soon as Trebek started to read the first question. The champion could advance from one section to the next only by correctly answering a question; if he or she answered incorrectly or passed, Trebek gave the answer and read a new one. Handing Trebek a Pit Pass enabled the champion to bypass a section entirely, whether or not it was a pitfall, but the champion had to give the corresponding pass to Trebek before stepping into the section for it to count.
If the champion stepped onto a pitfall without either having the proper pass or giving it to Trebek in time, an elevator took the contestant down to the stage floor as the clock continued to run. Trebek waited to continue asking questions until the champion was at floor level. Giving a correct answer would cause the elevator to ascend again, with the clock temporarily stopped during the ascent, and he/she would have to answer another question in order to advance.
The contestant received $100 for each section reached or bypassed within the time limit, and a prize package totaling approximately $5,000 for reaching the right end of the bridge. Later, a prize was awarded for reaching the fifth section and a prize package of approximately $2,500 was awarded for crossing the bridge.
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 1980–1981 syndicated revival of Let's Make a Deal, went bankrupt in early 1982. As a result, most contestants who appeared near the end of the show's run did not receive their winnings, nor was Trebek ever paid for his hosting duties. Because of this, Trebek commented that the show was an unfavorable experience, as the lack of payment came at a time when he "could have used the money". Trebek has also stated that he has the bounced check from the production company framed in his office.
Trebek continues to refer to the show as "one of the great tragedies of his life."
- 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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