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That Time William Shatner Went Berserk on a Game Show

Written by Mike Rickard II

Playing on a game show can be exciting (especially when you’re competing for cars, cash, and trips to exotic locations. Add in the presence of celebrity contestants and it can be quite a thrill, right? How about if your celebrity colleague goes berserk after botching a call during the bonus round? Not only have you just lost thousands of dollars in prize money, but you might be ducking for cover. Such was the case when William Shatner guest-starred on the vintage game show, The $20,000 Pyramid.

“America’s Oldest Teenager” Dick Clark, a media mogul who once hosted The $20,000 Pyramid.

The $20,000 Pyramid (which went through a number of incarnations beginning with a top prize of $10,000) was one of a multitude of game shows that aired on morning and afternoon television during the 1970s. TV legend Dick Clark (still dead) hosted the Pyramid for many years, a game show that challenged contestants in a manner different from quiz shows. A 1981 article at The Washington Post sums the game up nicely:

In the qualifying round of the game, two contestants, each teamed with a celebrity partner, try to blurt out words from a given category (“Things you see at the seashore”) on the basis of clues supplied by the partner. The winner of this round goes on to the Pyramid itself, a group of six categories arranged in pyramid formation. The object this time is to guess which category a list of things belongs to (“Things that come in pairs,” “Crispy things”) before the bell rings.

Sample clues: A football, the cat, a bad habit. Category: “Things you kick.”

Although the video is pretty beat-up, it’s still worth watching as the Shat goes ape-shit after costing the contestant some serious dough ($20 grand in this case).

Dick Clark once commented on the Shat’s warp core meltdown:

Clark says actor William Shatner — whom he considers “a very macho dude” — was indeed so passionate that on one show, when he realized he’d made a mistake that cost him the game, he became so angry with himself that “he picked up a chair and threw it across the stage. Fortunately,” Clark says, “he didn’t hit anybody.”

Watching this 1974 clip shows that while “Wild” Bill could lose it, he also knew how to have fun:

No one was injured when the Shat went into berserker mode but like several of his 1970s TV and film appearances, it wasn’t his best moment. As for the Pyramid franchise, it’s had many editions (including a recent run on prime-time TV on ABC) but nothing like that magical time when Dick Clark hosted it or when William Shatner seemed to go insane for a few seconds, but was able to come back to his senses.

The early years of the Pyramid.

About the author

Mike Rickard II

Retired bank robber and author of "Wrestling's Greatest Moments", "Laughing All the Way to the Bank Robbery, "Flunky: Pawns and Kings," and "Don't Call Me Bush Beans: The Legend of a Three-Legged Cat." Pro wrestling and hockey fan. Hired gun for several pro wrestling sites and a top 10 YouTube wrestling channel. Available in regular and extra-strength.