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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 hosted by Bob Barker until June, 2004, still airs today on CBS. The original 1956 version of the show was hosted by Bill Cullen.

Unless otherwise specified, this article focuses on the 1972 CBS daytime format of The Price is Right. For extended information about the 1956 version, please see The Price is Right (1956)''.

Table of contents
1 Versions of the show
2 Overview
3 Game Description
4 Analysis and Strategy of Selected Games
5 External Links

Versions of the show

Several television shows bearing the name The Price is Right have aired over the years. The first Price is Right aired in the late 1950s and lasted until the mid 1960s. Hosted by Bill Cullen in the black and white television era, it was extremely popular. See The Price is Right (1956).

The most recognized version of the show was started in 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 after its start simply renamed The Price is Right), and still airs today.

Other short-lived versions of the show have aired as well. A weekly 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 syndicated versions were attempted: in 1986 with host Tom Kennedy (The Nighttime Price is Right), and in 1994 with host Doug Davidson (The New Price is Right). Both of these quickly died out.

The Price is Right has even spread internationally; British versions have been hosted by Leslie Crowther (of Crackerjack fame) and Bruce Forsyth.

Overview

The 1972 daytime incarnation of The Price is Right (hosted by Bob Barker) has the distinguishment of being the longest airing 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 surpassed 5,000 episodes. Notably, it is also the only daytime game show which has regularly aired on United States network television since January, 1994.

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 died in 1985 and shortly afterwards, Rod Roddy replaced him. Roddy continued to do the show until two months before his death on October 27, 2003. As of this writing, no permanent replacement for Roddy has been named; Burton Richardson, the announcer of the 1994 syndicated version who previously announced The Arsenio Hall Show and currently announces Family Feud, and Randy West are among those who have substituted for him.

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.

Game Description

Contestant selection

Tickets for The Price is Right can be had by anyone who mails in a self addressed stamped envelope and a request for tickets, with a day they'd like to attend. 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. 9 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.

Contestant's Row

The show opens with the announcer calling down the first four contestants for the show, as earlier picked, with the immortal cathphrase, "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 or she gets a cash bonus of $500 (this bonus used to be $100).

Pricing games

The winner 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 will tend to get the unanimous support of the audience. After the pricing game ends, a new contestant is selected for Contestant's Row, and the process begins again.

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 Contestant's Row. The contestants, in order from the one who won the least to the top winner, spin a wheel with 20 sections marked $.05 to $1. 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/she 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" when spinning, to make it hard to aim for a specific square of the wheel.

If a contestant gets $1 in the "Showcase Showdown", he/she wins $1,000 and gets a "bonus spin". A score of $1 on the bonus spin yields a $10,000 bonus, and $.05 or $.15 (located below and above $1) yield a $5,000 bonus. The bonus spin starts with the wheel on the $.05, so that the contestant is never denied money for failing to get the wheel all the way around.

If 2 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 interesting possibility is that if the first 2 contestants in a Showcase Showdown can go over, the 3rd contestant automatically makes it to the showcase, but he gets one spin to try to get $1 and win $1,000.

The Showcase

The 2 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 several times the amount of any individual "pricing game". The goal, as in Contestant's 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 (used to be less than $100 away from) the price of his 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 own showcase. (This has happened exactly once.) 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 only 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.

Barker's Beauties

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 nighttime specials was aired in 1986, and two more series aired in 2002 and 2003 (the latter offered a $1 million prize, which was never won, for spinning $1 on the bonus spin). There have also been primetime specials for the show's 25th and 30th anniversaries.

Fremantle

Mark Goodson Productions was bought out by Pearson Television in the mid 1990s. (Pearson is now known as Fremantle Media.) Some fans associate this time as the start of a decline in the quality of the show. There are many recent changes that are disliked:

Fremantle has had many failed remakes of other Goodson shows, such as Match Game (1998), Card Sharks (2001), and To Tell The Truth (2000). Two of these have become somewhat popular: Family Feud (1999), and Whammy!: The All New Press Your Luck (2002).

Analysis and Strategy of Selected Games

Bidders' Row

The four potential players are prezented with a prize that they must all bid on once. Closest without going over wins.

The strategy for this game is interesting. Suppose the price is uniformly distributed between $1 and $1,000? What is the optimal bidding strategy?

The Showcase Showdown

The three previous pricing game winners spin a large wheel marked with values from $.05 to $1.00 in increments of $.05, the object being to try to get closest to $1.00 without going over. The one that does this wins.

The strategy here is also interesting. When should you choose to spin again? A simple computation or computer simulation will yield the answer.

Clock Game

The player is given thirty seconds to deduce the price of two prizes (One first, and then the other with leftover time). The contestant makes a guess, and the host says "higher" or "lower". Any contestant who knows binary search will win easily. Further, the contestant is allowed to take shortcuts in pronunciation. For example, saying "nine seventy-one-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine" will test all prices in the range $971-$979. The only game in which skill guarantees a win.

10 Chances

The player is shown three prizes, one two-digit, one three-digit, and one five-digit (a car). He is given ten chances total to guess the prices of the prizes using the scrambled numbers given to him.

There is the so-called "zero rule", which says that if a zero is one of the digits (which almost always is the case nowadays), the zero is the last number. Someone who watches the show regularly, and therefore knows the rule, obviously has a big advantage. Bob Barker tends to criticize contestants who don't know/forget this. This rule did not apply for all of this game's history, but it has been followed on all recent episodes.

Race Game

Four cards with prices are given to the contestant; he places the cards on the prizes he thinks matches the prices, then he pulls a lever to see how many he has right. If he has some wrong, he can make changes. All this must be accomplished in 45 seconds. Not unlike Mastermind with a time limit.

Plinko

The contestant drops large "Plinko Chips" from the top of the board; the chip bouces off numerous pegs on the way down, and the constestant is awarded the cash value of the slot the chip lands in. ([$100] [$500] [$1000] [$0] [$10,000] [$0] [$1000] [$500] [$100])

The odds of winning $20,000, assuming the board randomizes perfectly, are 1 in 59,000.

3 Strikes

Discs containing the numbers in the price of a car, and one red disc with an X, are put into a bag. The player blindly draws a disc; if it is a number, he guesses what position in the price of the car it goes in. If correct, the number lights up; if not, the chip goes back in the bag. If the X is drawn, the player is penalized with a strike, and the X goes back into the bag. Game ends when the player correctly reveals all 5 numbers (a win), or when the player gains three strikes (a loss).

3 Strikes is the one of the few games where the contestant can lose even if they know the price in advance.

Shell Game

After winning up to four chips by guessing the price of small products, the contestant then places his chips in front of whichever of four plastic "shells" he believes houses a small rubber ball. He wins the bonus prize if he places a chip in front of the one with the ball.

Other Games?

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External Links