Producer Jose Diaz Talks 100,000 Dollar Pyramid

The $100,000 Pyramid. Image courtesy ABC
The $100,000 Pyramid. Image courtesy ABC /

Jose Diaz produces 100,000 Dollar Pyramid, a game show that is continued proof that no matter how many different types of narrative TV series people jump through, there is such a thing as consistency. Game shows have been an integral part of television programming for decades, and as The 100,000 Dollar Pyramid continues success into its sixth season, Jose Diaz helps to explain what continues to bring people back for more, and why the show’s sixth season is so exciting.

Culturess: What goes into creating a game show?

Jose Diaz: So there’s a lot of moving parts. Since we’re entering into, this is our sixth season, so it’s been a fun journey. A couple of years ago, we moved it from New York to LA. For us, we have such a great team with Vin Rubino being the EP and Constance Schwartz also leading the pack so it’s making sure that the set, the contestants, the crew, we’ve been fortunate that a lot of the crew has been coming back year after year. It’s a lot of preparation and this season we filmed everything in about two weeks, and we did thirty-plus episodes so it’s a lot of logistics. But it’s well worth it in the end.

Culturess: How is building a game show different from a scripted series?

Jose Diaz: To be fully transparent, I primarily have worked on unscripted here at SMAC so I don’t know too much about the scripted side. But for us, the best part is the excitement of not knowing the outcome. We root for every single contestant that comes on because they can truly win 100,000 dollars and trips and more. So the most exciting part for me about that is we’re rooting for them. We want them to win.

They all have a backstory. They’ve all prepared. Being at the edge of our seats watching them play you just want them to succeed, and I think that’s what differentiates a game show from a scripted is really not knowing what can happen but really wanting them to walk away with 100,000 dollars.

Culturess: How do you work toward creating the best show possible?

Jose Diaz: I think it starts with our host. We’re fortunate to have Michael Strahan come back for the sixth season. He is part of our production team as an EP as well. So it starts from the top, I think, from him walking into set every single day saying hi to every single person, knowing who they are, saying hello, I think that’s what make it a success.

We see it from the top, we see it from our EPs, from Ben, from Constance, and then even our executive in charge, Jim Tomlinson. It’s just studying the tone. It’s a fun week. It’s a long week trying to jam all these episodes in. But it’s exciting, and it’s fun for us, and as the team puts it on together, that’s what really drives it.

Culturess: How is The 100,000 Dollar Pyramid unique from other game shows?

Jose Diaz: Well you have to go back, and it was such an iconic show started by Dick Clark, and being able to be here for so long and have different iterations of it, it has stayed in power. There’s an intrigue-ness to it, there’s an exciting factor. I talked about the excitement of wanting these contestants to win.

Everyone’s really invested, and I think just the format of that show has proven to be successful with audiences. That’s what keeps everyone coming back. That’s what keeps everyone tuning in every week, and we want them to, and I think this is why this has proven to be such a success.

Culturess: What goes into picking and choosing the contestants that appear on the show?

Jose Diaz: It’s careful deliberation. We are fortunate to work with our talent team, and we all get together, we brainstorm different ideas. We really do want the contestants to win the money so we wanna make sure that contestants, they’re paired with celebrity contestants, that know the game, that can play a game. We want to set everyone up for success so we want to give the best opportunity to our contestants so that is a big factor.

We want to make sure that our celebs are familiar with the game. They know how to play the game. They can practice a little bit as much as they want. We want everyone to be successful at this so part of that is ensuring that they are able to play the game.

Culturess: Were you a fan of game shows?

Jose Diaz: I love game shows. I think even today Celebrity Family Feud or Family Feud, Press Your Luck, those are all so exciting and it’s just another thing I like to do with friends. I have game nights.

Every couple of weeks with some friends we come together and pick a board game or two, and we just have fun. So going from my own living room to seeing it on TV, it’s just exciting, it’s entertaining, it’s light-hearted, and it’s a nice escape from the craziness that we all have, I believe.

Culturess: When it comes to game shows, there are so many of them. They’ve existed for so long. Why do you think that a game show is the type of series that has stood the test of time?

Jose Diaz: You always want to root for people. Whether you know the contestant personally or not, you want them to walk out of there happy and excited. I can tell you from just watching it on the sidelines, as the game is going on, I’m at the edge of my seat. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve jumped up and screamed when someone won 100,000 dollars.

You just get so invested, and people love to see other people succeed and win, and the ability to do so. I think that’s why being chosen. That’s why game shows really attract viewers because you’re rooting for these individuals and they might not know them, but they want them to win.

Culturess: What role do you play in creating the show?

Jose Diaz: So I work really closely with our talent team and our EPs leading up to the show, producing it from Michael’s perspective. Giving ideas on talent, helping secure talent, and then the week of, I am essentially producing the host Michael. So I am connecting with him, making sure that he’s prepped, making sure that he’s briefed, relaying any feedback notes, working real close with Vin and Jim to make sure that from Michael’s side, everything is running as smoothly as possible.

Culturess: What goes into creating the questions?

Jose Diaz: There is a whole team dedicated to that, and they keep that very tight because they do have to ensure that we follow standard practices and it’s fair play for everyone so I will leave that to that team as I don’t wanna divulge anything I’m not privy to.

But I will say they are some of the most talented writers. They are funny. They are smart. The categories they come up with, the questions, I’m blown away year after year by just how funny and witty they can be and still keep the show light and fresh and new.

Culturess: In terms of what to expect from this season, what are you excited about?

Jose Diaz: So we had some amazing guests. We had RuPaul and Loni Love just a couple weeks ago. Mario Cantone and Ken Jennings, I’m personally excited for Ribella and Ross Matthews, I think that’s coming up this Sunday. Our celebs are fun. They’re funny. More importantly, there’s a lot of money given away. I can’t stress that enough of how exciting it is to watch someone’s life change. It’s life-changing, and I think that’s the most exciting part.

Catch ABC’s The 100,000 Pyramid  on Sundays at 10/9 central.

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