“Come on down!”
How much does a vacuum cleaner cost? An oak dinette set? What about a dozen cans of beans, or a box of Ajax? If you have the prices from your grocery store aisles memorized, you should go on The Price Is Right. Instead of trivia questions, contestants guess the cost of household items ranging from the small (dish soap) to the massive (new cars or trips to Hawaii). In celebration of the show’s 46th season here are 42 Facts about The Price Is Right.
The Price Is Right Facts
42. The Greatest (Game) Show On Earth
In 2007, The Price is Right was named by TV Guide as the “the greatest game show of all time.”
On March 27, 1987, The Price Is Right became the longest-running game show on daytime network television. Since then, an additional 30 seasons of the show have aired.
40. Eligible Age
Nobody is too young for the excitement of The Price Is Right, but only those of voting age may win. Minors are welcome in the studio audience, but contestants on the show must be 18 years old or older.
By law, contestants do not need to be ticket holders for the show. Anyone who wants to register must show up three hours before showtime, but they don’t actually need to be sitting in the audience to be a contestant—they can wait in the lobby until it’s their turn to “come on down.” It’s a strange choice, as hearing Rod Roddy call your name and running down to the stage looks like half the fun.
38. Welcome Back
Prospective contestants are allowed to come to as many tapings as they want, provided they don’t win. Winners must wait one year from the date they originally won before they’re allowed to compete on the show again.
37. Come On Down
At the beginning of each show, four contestants hear their name and are invited to “Come On Down!” to participate in the One Bid game. The game, known as Contestant’s Row, has each contestant guess the retail cost of a prize item; whoever has the closest guess without going over is the winner. The winner of One Bid gets to compete in a pricing game for another set of prizes, and then in the Showcase Showdown.
36. The Big Wheel
Each show has two Showcase Showdowns, to determine who goes on to bid on The Showcase. Contestants must spin the Big Wheel, which displays different values from five cents to $1. If the wheel does not go all the way around, the contestant must spin again. In two spins, whoever has the highest total value (provided that they don’t go over $1) gets to compete for the Showcase.
35. Failure to Spin
In 2003, Bob Barker himself spun the wheel for a contestant who was in a wheelchair. The wheel did not go all the way around, and the audience booed the host himself. Barker later said that the incident was the most embarrassing moment in his game show hosting career.
34. What Happens After?
After winning on The Price Is Right, prizes are often shipped directly to contestants after they’ve won. Immediately after taping, contestants must sign paperwork committing to pay sales tax on their prizes, plus federal tax (as prizes are considered income). They’re expected to pay the tax before they receive their prize. Contestants also must sign a non-disclosure contract, promising not to reveal the results of the show before it airs.
33. Cash Value
Sometimes game shows will pay out cash value (or, half of the cash value) If a prize doesn’t appeal to the contestant who has won it. However, on The Price Is Right, they don’t have a choice of taking home cold hard cash instead. They either claim their prize or decline it. If a prizewinner has no use for the item they’ve won, they can sell the item, give it to a friend or family member, or donate the item to charity.
Occasionally, however, if the prize has not been donated by a brand in exchange for promotion, the show will just pay the contestant the cash value, with no option to claim their actual prize.
Because audience members often travel from out of state to attend tapings of The Price Is Right, the show will often substitute specific larger items. Instead of having to drive a newly-won car home to Alabama, producers will purchase an identical (or near-identical) car from a dealer near where the winner lives and return the specific car featured on the show to the dealer it came from, where it’ll be resold—and the new buyer will never know that their car was featured on TV.
31. Unfortunate Gaffe
In 2015, comedian Daniele Perez won a treadmill on The Price Is Right, but it caused a bit of awkwardness in the audience. Perez lost both her legs in an accident in 2004 and uses a wheelchair. Still, she had a good sense of humor about it: she told People Magazine, “I just thought, ‘Oh this is perfect, you cannot write this, you cannot make this up.’ It’s not even that I’m in a wheelchair, it’s that I literally don’t have feet.” Her appearance on the show went viral, giving lots of exposure to the LA-based stand-up comic, which was surely worth something.
30. A Perfect Bid
In 2010, contestant Terry Kniess made history by being the first in the show’s then 38-year history to correctly guess the value of the Showcase right to the last dollar. His guess of $23,743 won him both showcases. Kniess, a longtime fan of the show, later said his devotion to The Price Is Right is what helped him, as prizes are often repeated and he’d memorized the values. Still, when his correct guess was announced, the taping paused for 45 minutes while it was determined whether or not he was cheating (he wasn’t).
29. Fan Favorite
Almost immediately after debuting on the show on January 3, 1983, Plinko became the favorite game on The Price Is Right, and remains so to this day. They even did an all-Plinko episode on the game’s 30th anniversary in 2013.
28. Rare Merchandise
There only 10 Plinko chips in existence: five that are used on the show, and five backups. “They’re enormously expensive to make. They’re weighted exactly the same and made exactly the same, so that they ‘plink’”, producer Mike Richards told Buzzfeed in 2013. “They’ve been around for a long time because you don’t want to change them.”
27. Before She Was Famous
In 1980, three years before she’d flip letters on Wheel of Fortune, Vanna White took a turn as a contestant on The Price Is Right. Turns out she was more successful as a game show employee than a game show contestant: she never made it out of Contestant’s Row.
26. Beauty Standards
Bob Barker had to get approval from the head of programming when he wanted to stop dyeing his hair in 1987. He became one of the few TV hosts with gray hair—but the show received lots of letters from viewers voicing their approval, and ratings actually improved.
In 1976, when contestant Patricia Bernard was invited to “Come On Down!” by announcer Johnny Olson, she was nowhere to be found. She had just left to use the washroom, and her husband had to run and fetch her to tell her to join Contestant’s Row. Barker later cited this as one of the funniest moments in the show’s history.
24. Accident on the Job
The models who display the prize items, known as “Barker’s Beauties,” have a tougher job than it may appear. Model Janice Pennington, who was one of the original Barker Beauties and the longest-serving model on the show, ending her 29-year tenure in 2000. In 1988, she was accidentally knocked unconscious by a camera and sent flying into Contestant’s Row. Her injuries required two surgeries, which left her with one shoulder an inch shorter than the other. Due to the scars from her surgeries, she no longer wore a swimsuit on the show.
Free tickets to the show are available to anyone who wants to join the audience, but to become a contestant you have to catch the eye of one man: Stan Blits. His job is to screen each audience member and select the contestants, which he says takes about two hours. He told The New York Post, “I am looking for energy, sincerity, and potential humor. And if they can equal my energy or exceed it and maintain it, they are at the top of the list.” He takes his job very seriously: if prospective contestants show up with an awareness of who he is (or, say, his face on a t-shirt) they aren’t likely to be considered. He’s also unable and unwilling to take bribes of any kind.
22. Wardrobe Malfunction
In 1977, a contestant named Yolanda was so enthusiastic while running down to Contestant’s Row, she showed off more than she intended. As she jumped up and down and ran to her podium, her tube top slipped down, baring all. One of Barker’s Beauties alerted her to the slippage and she covered up. When the audience’s raucous laughter ceased, Barker quipped, “I’ve never had a welcome like this.”
21. Keeping It Consistent
The Price Is Right asks contestants to guess the prices of regular household items — but in reality, prices do vary by location. A can of peas might be more expensive in a dense urban center like New York, or far less expensive in a rural state like Alabama. To keep all the pricing consistent, The Price Is Right relies on information from the same group of retailers (which are mostly based in California).
20. Pure Volume
The Price Is Right goes through a LOT of prizes, and it takes a lot of work to keep them all sorted. The prizes occupy three warehouses on the CBS Television City lot. “Each show has, like, 30 prizes in it. That doesn’t include the under-$100 prizes or the grocery items. Just the pure volume, when you do 190 episodes…” producer Mike Richards told Buzzfeed. In another interview, he said: “Much more goes into this than anyone thinks… that hot tub you see, and the other six you don’t, are sitting in a warehouse and then we bring it over and put the trees around it.”
19. Plenty to Choose From
According to producer Mike Richards, The Price Is Right has between 37 and 45 brand new cars on the CBS lot at any moment. “We do six shows a week, and each episode, for the most part, has three cars in it,” Richards told Buzzfeed. “So we’re through 18 cars in a week. And then the next week, I don’t want to see the same car, and I don’t think our viewers do either. So then you’ve got to have a whole other set of cars. And then rotate out the ones you saw before, so they don’t see them again.”
18. Well-Earned Retirement
Bob Barker hosted the first episode of The Price Is Right on September 4th, 1972, and remained at the helm of the show until his retirement in 2007—that’s 35 years. Drew Carey was selected as his successor, beating out other hopefuls such as Mario Lopez, George Hamilton, and Rosie O’Donnell.
17. Popularity Contest
Producer Roger Dobkowitz confessed that when Drew Carey took over, the prizes got a little better and games got a little easier in an attempt to win over the audiences. Bob Barker left pretty big shoes to fill, and so to sway the audiences in Carey’s favor, Dobkowitz sweetened the deal by ignoring prize budgets and scheduling easier games with easy combinations. “It was extremely important for the first couple of months of the show to have plenty of winners,” Dobkowitz wrote in a blog post. It may have worked a little too well… Carey’s hosting was praised, but the show came in $700,000 over budget.
16. A Lot to Remember
There are almost 75 different pricing games on The Price Is Right. It’s impossible for the audience or contestants to predict which games they’ll be playing in any given show, but producers start planning each show months in advance.
15. Ease Into It
With 75 games—and 75 sets of rules to remember—producers tried to keep it simple when host Drew Carey took over in 2007. The show, which tapes five shows per week, made it easy for Carey by only featuring six different games per week (that’s the same game every show but in a different order). They introduced a different set of six games every week and pushed the airdate back one month, so they could air the shows in random order, making it appear that each weekday different games were being played.
14. Step on the Gas
“Gas Money”, the 103rd pricing game to debut on the show, became the first new game introduced since Bob Barker left the show. The new host, Drew Carey, introduced the game in Season 37, his second season as host.
13. Guest Appearance
In April of 2009, two years after passing the hosting torch to Drew Carey, Bob Barker returned to his old stomping grounds to host the Showcase Showdown as a guest host. The appearance was promotional: the two showcases were themed on places one could read about in Barker’s newly-released memoir, Priceless Memories.
12. April Fools’!
On April 1st, 2013, The Price Is Right switched things up with a special April Fools’ Day Special. Drew Carey and announcer George Grey modeled the products and prizes, while the models hosted and announced. The 2014 April Fools’ Day Special featured guest host Craig Ferguson, a former colleague of Carey’s from The Drew Carey Show. Carey had swapped places with Ferguson and had guest hosted The Late Late Show the previous night.
11. More Like “Plink-man”
Another viral video of The Price Is Right shows actor Aaron Paul’s appearance in 2000, years before he’d rise to stardom by playing Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad, making him perhaps the most famous celebrity to ever appear on the show. Unfortunately, Paul lost the Showcase Showdown.
10. Another Return
Bob Barker returned once again December 12, 2013, to co-host the show as part of Pet Adoption Week. Barker slipped right back into his old rhythm, not showing his age despite the show coinciding with his 90th birthday. He also returned to host the One Bid (aka Contestants’ Row) portion of the show during the April Fools Day show in 2015.
9. An Important Message
In the 1980s, Bob Barker began signing off by telling the viewers, “Have your pets spayed or neutered.” Barker was a passionate advocate for animals, even threatening to pull out of hosting the Miss USA pageant in 1987 if the contestants wore real fur. Barker has donated almost $4 million to PETA and to Columbia University to fund the study of animal rights. When Drew Carey took over hosting the show, he continued to end the show with Barker’s signature message.
8. High Brow
A scientific paper titled “To Spin or Not to Spin: Natural and Laboratory Results from The Price Is Right,” published by the Royal Economic Society, looked into the statistics of the Big Wheel game. They described differing contestant-winning percentages and the calculated decisions contestants make while spinning The Wheel, and found that the majority of the time, contestants disregarded what would be advantageous mathematical statistics. However, the paper failed to note that taking a risk is half the fun.
7. The Sweetest Sound
It’s every Price is Right audience member’s dream, to hear their name called out by the announcer, with an invitation to “come on doowwwwwwn”—but even those chosen to join Contestant’s Row may never hear it: in the studio, the roar of the audience is so loud that it drowns out the announcer. Production Assistants wave giant cue cards with contestant’s names on them to let the audience know who’s being invited up.
6. Now That’s Value
Many of the prizes on The Price Is Right are household items, but once in a while, the show will feature something really stupendous. Unfortunately, nobody won the 458 Ferrari Spider (valued at $285,716) but Sheree Heil of Tacoma, WA took home an Audi R8 V-8 Spyder (worth $157,300) in 2013, the most valuable single prize in the show’s history.
5. Big Money
Sheree Heil wasn’t the biggest winner of all time: that distinction goes to Adam Rose of Los Osos, California. He won a total of $1,153,908 during the first-ever Price Is Right Million Dollar Week in 2008. He became the show’s first million-dollar winner ever.
4. Not Just for Show
The skinny microphone has become iconic for game show hosts—a long, skinny rod with a tiny ball at the top. But it’s not just for looks, as the microphone’s design serves a purpose: the long rod means the host can hold their hand much lower, which looks better on TV than having his hand held up by their mouth. And as most contestants do not have TV experience, the microphone is a bit less intimidating. Contestants and the host are fitted with lapel microphones as well.
3. Original Style
A lot has change since 1974 when The Price Is Right debuted, but they’ve tried to keep the changes as subtle as possible. Where once a painted picture of Hawaii might have been displayed to advertise the prize of a trip, now a screen will show a short video. Some of The Price Is Right games have been updated with digital screens during actual gameplay, but the majority of the games are still mechanical with cranks, wheels, and pulleys. Sometimes Drew Carey will even introduce the game operator to the audience.
2. Universal Appeal
In a 1990 interview with The Los Angeles times, Bob Barker revealed what he thought was the secret to the show’s success: the universal reliability of prices. “The reason it was so popular originally and why it is still popular is because of the powerful basic premise of the show… Everyone identifies with prices. The minute we put something up for bid and the contestant makes a bid, the viewer is involved.”
1. Long Legacy
The Price Is Right debuted on CBS on September 4th, 1972. The show has aired nonstop since then, producing over 8,000 episodes. The show entered its 46th season in September of 2017. It’s the longest-running series of any kind on network television in the USA.