Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Price is Right
The Price is Right is a popular game show based on contestants guessing the retail prices of displayed prizes. The modern United States version, which premiered on September 4, 1972 and is hosted by Bob Barker, still airs today on CBS. The original 1956 version of the show was hosted by Bill Cullen.
The original daytime version of The Price is Right ran from November 23, 1956 to September 6, 1963, on NBC, and from September 9, 1963, to September 3, 1965, on ABC. A weekly nighttime version ran concurrently from September 23, 1957, to September 3, 1963, on NBC, and from September 18, 1963, to September 11, 1964, on ABC. For two seasons (1959-1960 and 1960-1961) the show was eighth in the Nielsen ratings, making it by far the most watched game show on television at the time. Bill Cullen hosted both the daytime and nighttime versions.
The first theme song used is called the "Sixth Finger Tune" by Charles Strouse.
Although no known color kinescopes or videotapes are known to exist from either NBC or ABC, The Price is Right became the first regularly airing game show series to be aired in color in 1957 (What's My Line? had a single episode aired in color in 1955 on CBS). It was created and produced by Bob Stewart for Goodson-Todman. Stewart already had created one hit series for G-T, To Tell the Truth, and he would later create the enormously successful Password.
The Price is Right quickly became the flagship of NBC's daytime lineup, and the reasons for its appeal were obvious: Easy, free, pleasant and fun personality Bill Cullen was the perfect choice. The prizes went from the exotic to the ridiculous (especially on the super-budget nighttime version). The game's object was simple: four contestants chosen from the studio audience bid on items or ensembles of items in an auction-style format. They could bid higher as long as they wanted or they could freeze their bids. When time ran out, the players who did not freeze had one more bid. Whoever's bid was nearest the actual retail price of the merchandise without going over won the merchandise. Depending on the item, a minimum bid increment restriction was implemented. Some rounds were one-bid rounds which were like today's Contestants' Row. The contestant who accumulated the most value in cash and prizes was the returning champion on the next show.
Sometimes when winning a prize, a bell would ring indicating that the contestant had won a bonus surprise. (On the nighttime show, some of these prizes were a 1926 Rolls-Royce with chauffeur, a Ferris wheel, shares of corporate stock, and an island in the St. Lawrence Seaway.) In later years, bonus games (not necessarily pricing games) were also added. The show was produced in New York City during the Golden Age of Television in a Broadway theatre converted for television, and the city's spontaneity only added to its appeal. Looking back at kinescopes of the show, even die-hard Price is Right fans find themselves not missing Plinko, the Showcase Showdowns, or other features of the current show, but enjoying the competition, class and fun of the original game.
In an interesting twist of fate, the daytime version of The Price is Right during its NBC years was followed by the very person who would take it over seven years after ABC cancelled it: Bob Barker, who was then hosting Truth or Consequences. Always keeping things light, Cullen liked to sometimes crack up announcers Don Pardo and Jack Clark (NBC), and Johnny Gilbert (ABC) by placing ridiculous little wind up toys on the desk during the commercial promos between show halves, or during the "tickets" announcement. Reasons for its cancellation have always been vague; after a dip, its ratings were on a sharp upswing again. One persistent school of thought was that ABC was selling the theatre and had no facility large enough in New York City to handle it. Regardless, the New York World's Fair closed in 1965 and both versions of The Price is Right followed.
Following the cancellation of The Price is Right, Bob Stewart left Goodson-Todman to strike out on his own. His follow-up to The Price is Right was Eye Guess, a delightful sight-and-memory game with Bill Cullen as host (it was loosely based on a Price is Right bonus game). Later, Stewart hit the jackpot with the popular The $10,000 Pyramid and its sucessors.
The most recognized version of the show premiered September 4, 1972, on CBS and has been hosted by Bob Barker through its entire broadcast run. The show was first called The New Price is Right (and shortly afterward simply renamed The Price is Right), and still airs today as the last network daytime game show that is still running.
Other short-lived versions of the show have aired as well. A weekly syndicated version of the show aired from 1972 through 1980. This show was hosted by Dennis James from 1972 to 1976, then Bob Barker from 1976 to 1980.
Two daily syndicated versions were attempted: in 1985 with host Tom Kennedy (The Nighttime Price is Right), and in 1994 with host Doug Davidson (The New Price is Right). Both were quickly cancelled—Kennedy's after a year, Davidson's after five months.
The Price is Right has even spread internationally; British versions have been hosted by Leslie Crowther (of Crackerjack fame) and Bruce Forsyth. It has also had several runs in Australia, as well as versions in Germany (Der Preis ist Heiß), Argentina (Diga lo que Vale), Mexico (Atinale al Precio), Spain (El Precio Justo), Italy (OK, il Prezzo e Giusto), Holland (Cash en Carlo), France (Le Juste Prix), a French-Canadian version (Misez Juste), and a version in Finland (Mita Maksaa).
The 1972 daytime incarnation of The Price is Right (hosted by Bob Barker) has the distinction of being the longest-running game show in television history. It has surpassed the previous record of 17 years and 7 months set by What's My Line?. Still airing today, it continues to extend its record, and has aired more than 6,000 episodes. Notably, it is also the only daytime game show which has regularly aired on United States network television since January, 1994. Many believe The Price is Right has lasted so long because of Bob Barker's refusal to make significant changes to the show's look or format (for example, when his microphone broke, CBS didn't have an old style microphone to replace it; so a new microphone was simply put in an old-style casing.)
Johnny Olson was the show's original announcer. Olson was the first to call contestants to "Come on down!," which became the show's catch phrase. Olson passed away in 1985, and shortly afterwards, an on-air audition of several other announcers (Gene Wood, Rod Roddy, Rich Jeffries & Bob Hilton) was held, and Rod Roddy was chosen to replace Olson. Roddy continued to do the show until two months before his passing on October 27, 2003. After another on-air announcer audition, including Burton Richardson (who announced the 1994 syndicated version and sat in for Roddy during his cancer treatment in 2001), Rich Fields was named the show's third permanent announcer on April 4, 2004.
The show experienced an unexpected garnering of younger college-age viewers in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Barker theorizes that they acquired these fans from his appearance in the Adam Sandler frat house favorite Happy Gilmore. He also suspects that these viewers remember the show from when they were children and their parents watched the show.
To quote a well-known line from the show, "If you'd like to see The Price is Right in person, send your request, including the number of tickets and the date you wish to attend, along with a self-addressed stamped envelope, to TICKETS: The Price is Right, CBS Television City, 7800 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, California, 90036."
On the day of a taping, a line begins for people who wish to see the show. The first number of people who show up who can fit in the studio are interviewed by the producers briefly, then allowed into the Bob Barker Studio. Nine contestants are chosen by the production staff per taping from among this pool of people. Thus, anyone who attends the show (over the age of 18) has the potential to become a contestant on The Price is Right as well; this fact is one of the show's attractions.
The show opens with the announcer calling down the first four contestants for the show, as earlier picked, with the immortal catchphrase, "Come on down!" They line up in "Contestants' Row", where the 4 contestants bid on the price of a small prize, like a television, bicycle, or sofa. Each contestant bids in turn, and whoever declares a bid closest to the actual retail price of the prize without going over wins. If all contestants go over, then the process begins again. If a contestant bids exactly right, he gets a cash bonus of $500. (The bonus was $100 from its inception in the late '70s through late 1998. The 1985 syndicated version carried a $500 bonus.)
See The Price is Right Pricing Games for a description of each game.
The winner of the one-bid game gets to play a "pricing game," where he or she can win a bigger prize like a car, a trip, or cash. As only one contestant is involved in a pricing game at a time, they tend to get the unanimous support of the audience. After the pricing game ends, a new contestant is selected for Contestants' Row, and the process begins again.
A total of 99 different games have been played throughout the history of the show: 73 are still in the current rotation, 23 have been retired, and 3 are in limbo (out of the rotation, but not yet retired).
The Showcase Showdown
Six pricing games are played per show. After the 3rd and 6th pricing games, there is a "Showcase Showdown," so that 1 finalist per Showdown can be determined for the Showcase from among those who won their way out of Contestants' Row. The contestants, in order from the one who won the least to the top winner, spin a wheel with 20 sections marked in random increments from 5¢ to $1.00. After the first spin, the contestant has a chance to stay or spin again. The contestant's score is the sum of the two spins (or 1 spin if he decides to stay). The goal is to have the highest score without going over $1. Any contestant who goes over $1 is immediately eliminated. There is a rule that the wheel must go all the way around at least once while spinning, to make it hard to aim for a specific square of the wheel. The audience usually "lightly admonishes" the contestant if he or she fails at this, and the player is given another chance. In the case of senior citizens and other contestants who may be too weak to spin the wheel fully, Barker usually helps spin the wheel for them.
If 2 (or very rarely all 3) contestants are tied, there is a spinoff consisting of one spin only each. The $1,000 bonus and a bonus spin can still be earned in a spinoff. If two contestants tie with $1, there is a spin that is simultaneously a bonus spin and spinoff. However, a contestant cannot win more than one $1,000 bonus. Until the late '70s, however, there was no "bonus spin", and contestants simply won a $1,000 bonus every time they spun $1 (so if two people tied at $1 and had a spinoff, they could win another $1,000 bonus by spinning $1 again). Another possibility, more common than the spinoff scenario, is that if the first 2 contestants in a Showcase Showdown go over, the 3rd contestant automatically makes it to the Showcase, and he gets one spin to try to get $1 and win $1,000.
Questions of strategy natuarlly arise from this situation: When should you choose to spin again? Probability dictates that spinning again with a score below 50¢ gives odds in your favor of emerging with a dollar or less; spinning with 50¢, the odds are even; above 50¢, the odds are against you. Historically, the show's consensus seems to be that 60¢-65¢ is a score that a contestant should give serious thought to staying on with a single spin. Spinning on 70¢ or above when it is not necessary is likely to get a bad reaction from the audience.
The two winners of the Showcase Showdowns in each episode make it to the Showcase. The Showcase usually involves several prizes connected by a little story, and tend to be worth between $12,000 and $40,000, although they occasionally exceed $55,000. The goal, as in Contestants' Row, is to be the closest without going over. One showcase is shown, and the contestant with greatest winnings so far has the option to "bid or pass". After the bid is placed, the 2nd showcase is shown and bid upon by the remaining contestant.
If both contestants go over, nobody wins the Showcase. If the winner is within $250 of (or prior to Season 27, less than $100 away from) the price of his/her own showcase, he wins both showcases. If the two contestants are exactly the same distance from the actual prices (in other words, if there is a tie), each wins his/her own showcase; this has happened exactly once in the show's history. If there is a tie where the difference is within $250, both contestants win both showcases; this has never happened.
The old half-hour version
From 1972 to 1975, The Price is Right was one half hour long. It featured 3 pricing games rather than 6. There was no Showcase Showdown; the top 2 winners of the day participated in the Showcase. This was changed in 1975 to the hour-long version which is described above.
The daily show featured models who became known as Barker's Beauties. From the mid-70s through most of the 80s these were Dian Parkinson, Holly Hallstrom and Janice Pennington . Controversy erupted in 1993 when Parkinson sued host Bob Barker for sexual harassment. Barker admitted to sexual involvement with Parkinson in the late 80s. In 1995, Hallstrom was dismissed from the show. When she subsequently complained that she had been fired for failing to lose weight, Barker sued her for libel and slander. Hallstrom replied with a countersuit. Pennington was fired shortly after having been subpoenaed to give testimony during Hallstrom's lawsuit.
New life in prime time
A series of six nighttime specials aired during the summer of 1986. Six nighttime specials saluting various branches of the United States armed forces aired during the summer of 2002. A dozen nighttime "Million-Dollar Spectaculars" aired during 2003 and 2004 with more planned for 2005.
During the Military Specials, a $1 on the bonus spin in the Showcase Showdown gave the contestant $100,000 instead of the usual $10,000. On the Million Dollar Spectaculars, the bonus was again increased to $1,000,000 (as of this writing, the top prize has never been won), with the winner of the Showcase earning a chance if there was no bonus spin during the Showcase Showdowns.
While no one has won The Price is Right's Million Dollar Spectacular's $1,000,000 grand prize, seven contestants (as of this writing) have had the wheel stop on .05 (Which is right below the 1.00, and on the daytime show, would be worth a $5,000 bonus). Two of which have had the wheel stop on the peg that seperates .05 from the 1.00 necessary to win the million. These events are usually met with loud groans from the audience, and Bob doing an "Oh! Oh! Oh!"
There have also been primetime specials for the show's 25th and 30th anniversaries, with the 30th anniversary special being held at Harrah's Rio in Las Vegas. The situation with potential audience members before the show started with confusion, then quickly degraded almost to chaos; as such, another road trip is unlikely.
The current version of the series was originally a Mark Goodson/Bill Todman production in association with CBS. Although CBS still has a hand in the production of the show, the Goodson/Todman unit has changed ownership over the years. After Todman passed away in 1979, the unit became known as simply Mark Goodson Productions. In the mid 1990s, the Goodson company was bought out by All-American Television, which was later itself bought out by Pearson Television . In 2000, Pearson plc. sold their television division to RTL Group, whose North American arm is known as FremantleMedia North America. The series is now produced by The Price is Right Productions, a joint venture of RTL and CBS. Some fans associate this time as the start of a decline in the quality of the show. There are several recent changes that are disliked, including:
- The frequent turnover in models. Longtime models, such as Janice Pennington, who was with the Barker version since day one, have been fired to make the show more appealing to younger viewers.
- The announcer no longer appears on camera; traditionally, the late Johnny Olson and Rod Roddy made at least one on-air appearance per episode. Recently, though, this policy has been relaxed; Rich Fields has begun to appear at the end of the show alongside the rest of the cast with the Showcase winner.
Fremantle has done many remakes of other Goodson-Todman shows, such as Match Game (1998), Family Feud (1999), To Tell The Truth (2000), and Card Sharks (2001). Of these, only Feud was still in production at the beginning of 2005.
- Rich Fields: The Price is Right
- Behind The Microphone (a fanlisting/fan site for current announcer Rich Fields)
- The Fabulous 60-Minute Price is Right Site (a TPiR fan-site)
- CBS Daytime: The Price is Right (the US show's official website)
- Golden-Road.net (an extensive Price is Right site with forums and a show FAQ)
- A Salute to Price is Right Pricing Games
- The Price is Right Swimsuit Central (a website "showcasing" the many models TPiR has/had)
- The Price is Right Update Message Board (a previous version of Golden-Road.net's message boards, now closed)
- UK Gameshows Page: The Price is Right
- The nighttime version Starring Tom Kennedy (a page about the mid 80s nighttime version of The Price is Right starring Tom Kennedy
- The original version starring Bill Cullen (a page about the original version of the show, hosted by Bill Cullen)
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