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The Price is Right

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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. An Australian variant has Larry Emdur as the well recognized host of the game.

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 Summary and Analysis 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. It has also aired in Australia, Mexico (Diga lo que Vale and Atinale al Precio), and Spain (El precio justo).

Overview

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 aired its 6,000th episode on March 1, 2004. Notably, it is also the only daytime game show which has regularly aired on United States network television since January, 1994.

(Incidentally, the 6,000th show was *supposed* to air on March 9...but for some reason, CBS wanted it broadcast on the 1st, so its airdate was swapped with that of episode 5,994. Episode 6,001 aired on March 10. This is noted just in case anyone is actually trying to keep track of episode numbers.)

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. After several announcers -- including Burton Richardson, who announced the 1994 syndicated version, and Randy West -- auditioned for the role, Rich Fields was named the show's permanent announcer on April 8, 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.

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.

Contestants' Row

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 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 Contestants' 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 Contestants' 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 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 (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 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. Eight nighttime "Million-Dollar Spectaculars" aired during 2003 with more planned for 2004; on these specials, a $1 on the bonus spin in the Showcase Showdown gives the contestant $1 million instead of the usual $10,000 (as of this writing, the top prize has never been won).

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).

Summary and Analysis of Selected Games

Contestants' Row

The four potential players are presented 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

See Showcase Showdown section above

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

Any Number

The first game ever played on the show. The first number of the price of a car is shown, with the other four covered up, as well as the price of a three-digit prize, as well as the "piggy bank". Each of the digits 0-9 is used on the board once, including another instance of the first digit in the car. The contestant calls digits, and they are revealed wherever they are. The contestant wins the first prize that he uncovers all the digits of.

Check Game

For some reason, the rules of this game baffle many contestants, although it's really quite simple. The contestant writes a check for a certain amount. If the value of his check plus the price of the prize ends up between $5,000 and $6,000, he wins.

Cliff Hangers

This game features a large scoreboard of sorts featuring a stylized "mountain" slope ticked off from $0 on the base to $25 at the peak, as well as a cartoon "mountain climber" with an arrow below him, starting at the base ($0). The contestant is shown three products, and is asked to bid on them. For every dollar of the disparity between the contestant's bid and the actual price, the mountain climber moves up one tick mark; i.e., if the contestant bid $33, and the price was $40, the disparity is $7, so the mountain climber climbs 7 steps. This continues for the other two products. If the mountain climber has not fallen off the cliff (i.e., gone over the $25 mark), the contestant wins. In other words, if the sum of the disparities between the contestant's bids and the actual prices of the products is less than or equal to $25, the contestant wins. This game is probably best known for the yodeling record that is played as the mountain climber is scaling the cliff.

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". 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. Any contestant who knows binary search will win easily; as such, this is the only game on the show in which skill guarantees a win. In recent years, a win on Clock Game also scores the contestant a $1000 bonus.

Coming or Going

A contestant is presented with a prize, such as a trip or furniture set. He is presented with a string of four numbers, such that he has a choice. He may either set the numbers 'coming' (to get, say, $6,523), or going (to get $3,256). Note that the only difference between these two numbers is whether the first or last number is read first. A correct guess wins the prize. Odds of winning: 1:2.

Dice Game

This game is played for a car. The first digit of the car is given for free, but the contestant must roll dice to get the remaining four digits. After each roll, the contestant has to determine if the correct number was higher or lower than the number rolled if that number was not in the price. The price is revealed after the fourth roll, but the contestant loses with even one incorrect guess. Prices in the Dice Game do not contain zeroes or any numbers higher than six; however, this rule was not in place when the game debuted in 1976. There were only four numbers and four dice, and no free number was given. It was also difficult because numbers could range from 0-9 even though the dice has 1-6. The 1-6 numbers rule was put in effect shortly after the debut of the game. During the 1980s, if they played for a car with five digits, they played "Deluxe Dice Game" with 5 numbers and the first number given free.

Double Prices

One of the five original pricing games. Two prices are shown for a prize; pick the right one, and you win.

Flip Flop

A contestant is presented with a prize, such as a trip or furniture set. He is presented with a string of four numbers -- a "wrong price" -- divided into two sets of two numbers. If, in an example, the numbers given are $42-03, he may: 'Flip', giving a prize of $2,403 'Flop', giving a prize of $4,230 or 'Flip-Flop', giving a prize of $2,430 A correct guess wins the prize. Odds of winning: 1:3.

Golden Road

Golden Road, one of the show's most popular games, begins with a grocery item that is priced under $1. The two digits in that price are used to guess the concealed digit of a three-digit prize, giving the contestant a 50-50 chance. If the contestant guesses it correctly, that price is used to guess the concealed digit of a four-digit prize (1-3 odds). If that guess is correct, those four digits are used to guess the concealed digit of the five-digit prize at the end of the Golden Road (1-4 odds). That five-digit prize is usually the most expensive prize that's given on the show, such as a recreational vehicle or a luxury/sports car like a Cadillac or Dodge Viper with a price of at least $50,000. An incorrect guess at any time ends the game.

Grand Game

Six grocery items are shown, and the contestant has to determine which four items are priced below a certain "target price." The contestant starts with $1 in the bank, and a zero is added to the end of the bank with each correct guess. If the contestant finds all four items that are priced below the "target price," he or she wins $10,000. The game ends if an item priced above the "target" is chosen, but the contestant only loses his money if the game is lost on the last item.

Grocery Game

One of the five original pricing games. Five grocery items are shown; the contestant must choose quantities of items to total between $6.75 to $7.00 (now $20 to $21). The running total is displayed on a manually operated cash register.

Hi Lo

The contestant is shown six grocery items; he must pick the three highest-priced ones out of the group to win. There is no room for error, however; if chosen blindly, the odds of winning are 57:1.

Hole in One

Always played for a car or other large prize, Hole in One begins with the announcer describing six grocery items. A contestant will try to guess the prices of these items from lowest to highest, and his choices will be placed on corresponding lines closer and closer to a golf hole. As long as an item is higher in price than the previous, the contestant is allowed to advance (and if the contestant gets ALL the items right, he gets a $500 bonus for doing so). When either an incorrect guess is made, or the $500 bonus is collected, it's time for the putting portion of the game. Bob Barker always attempts an 'inspiration putt' from the line furthest away from the hole, usually to the delight of the audience. Then the contestant, from whatever line he's earned, tries a putt as well. If he makes the putt, he wins the car. If not, Bob reveals that the game is, in fact, 'Hole in One...or Two!', and the contestant gets one last putt from his earned line to win. If neither put is made, the game is over.

It's in the Bag

This game involving grocery items is played for a cash prize of up to $16,000. Six grocery items are shown, as are five grocery bags with prices on them. The contestant has to match the product with the price shown on the bag (one product is never used). If the contestant correctly matches the first item with the first price, he or she wins $1,000 and has the option of doubling his or her money with each bag after that. The contestant can quit at any time before reaching the $16,000 top prize, but he or she loses everything with one incorrect guess.

Let 'em Roll

This game is played for a car. The contestant is given one roll of five special dice at the beginning of the game and could earn up to two more rolls by correctly guessing if a grocery item had a higher or lower price than the item before it (think Card Sharks with prices instead of cards). Each die that the contestant rolls has six sides: three of them have car pictures, and the other three sides have cash values of $500; $1,000; and $1,500. After each turn, the contestant has the option to keep the cash that was rolled or roll the non-car dice again (if he or she has earned any additional rolls). The contestant wins the car if the car picture appears on all five dice by the end of his or her last roll.

Lucky $even

A contestant is given seven one-dollar bills and after receiving the first digit of the price of the car, he or she has to guess the remaining four. If the guess is incorrect, the contestant loses one dollar for each number that the guess is off by (e.g., if the contestant guesses "5" but the correct answer is "7," the contestant loses two dollars). The contestant needs to have at least one dollar left at the end of the game to win the car.

Money Game

Nine cards with two-digit numbers appear on the board. The object is to find the two cards that make up the first two and last two digits of the price of the car (the middle digit of a five-digit price is given for free). The remaining seven cards are money values. The contestant wins the car if he chooses the two car price cards before revealing four money values; otherwise, he wins the total amount of money he drew.

Often, the two winning combinations are located adjacently on the game board.

Most Expensive

The contestant is shown three prizes, and he or she has to determine which one is the most expensive of the three. If successful, he/she wins all three prizes.

One Away

The contestant is given the incorrect price of a car in this game. However, each digit in that price is either one number above or one number below the correct digit; it is up to the contestant to determine which way to change the number. Once all the digits are changed, the contestant asks if he or she has at least one number right. If he or she hears a car horn, the game continues; if not, the game ends. The contestant keeps asking how many numbers are right until he or she has every digit right (thus winning the car) or gets no response. If that happens, the contestant changes the appropriate number of digits that are incorrect. The price is revealed after the changes are made, and the contestant must have every digit correct to win the car.

1 Right Price

The contestant is shown two prizes and one price tag; he or she has to determine which prize the price belongs to. If correct, he or she wins both prizes.

Pick-a-Pair

The contestant is shown six grocery items; each has the same price as exactly one of the other items. The contestant has two chances to pick two that have the same price.

This game is notable for enduring the most radical set change of any pricing game: The first Pick-a-Pair setup from the early 1980s had the products rotating around on a carousel. While fun to watch, it slowed the game up greatly, so a new setup was designed around 1990 where the products sat on an elongated table.

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.

Punch a Bunch

In this game, the contestant earns punches on a 50-hole "Punchboard" by correctly guessing if the prices of four small prizes were higher or lower than the prices that were given. The contestant then punches out the number of holes on the board -- each of which has a cash value -- that he or she has earned. Bob Barker then pulls out the slip in the first hole and shows the contestant how much he or she has won. The contestant can either take the money or leave it and move on to the next punched hole (as they often do with lower cash amounts). The contestant must take the money from the last earned punch if he or she passes on the others.

The values on the Punchboard are $50, $100, $250, and $500 (10 holes apiece); $1,000 (5 holes), $5,000 (3 holes), and $10,000 (2 holes). Four holes -- one each of the four lowest values -- contain a "second chance," which allows the contestant to punch out another hole and add the values of the two holes together. Thus, a win of over $10,000 is possible, and has in fact happened more than once; for example, a contestant on the March 24, 2004, episode won $10,050.

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.

Shell Game

After winning up to four chips by guessing whether the prices of small products are higher or lower than the displayed wrong prices, 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. If he wins all four chips, he of course wins automatically; in this case, he is offered $500 if he can correctly choose which shell holds the ball in one guess.

Squeeze Play

A five-digit string of numbers is shown (say, "51892"); the contestant must remove one of the three middle numbers to form the price of the prize (so if he thinks the price is $5892, he'd remove the "1").

On the very, very rare occasions that Squeeze Play is played for a car, the contestant has four digits that he can remove instead of three.

Temptation

One of The Price is Right's classic games, and always played for a car, a contestant is given four prizes outright. The prices of each of the prizes contain within them a number in the price of the car. The contestant must use the prices of each of the four prices to build the price that he believes the car is. At the end of the four choices, the contestant must choose to either keep the four prizes given to him, or to 'go for the car' - but all numbers in the price of the car must be right. If they are, the contestant wins both the car and the four prizes; if not, everything is lost.

Ten 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. (The two- and three-digit prizes each have a dummy number included in the jumble. The car's jumble has 5 digits, but it too contained a dummy number in the days of 4-digit car prices.)

There is an unwritten "zero rule" in this game, which says that if a zero is one of the digits (which almost always is the case nowadays), the zero is the last number. In the rare cases in which 0 is not one of the digits, the last number is always 5. 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.

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).

Originally, there were three separate strike discs placed into the bag that were removed as they were drawn; the current format was introduced in 1998 after a long string of losses.

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

Triple Play

This game is played for three cars. The contestant is given a choice of two prices for the first car, three prices for the second, and four prices for the third. None of them are the actual retail prices, though; the object of the game is to find the price that is closest to the real price without going over. Triple Play is an all-or-nothing game; the contestant loses everything if he/she makes one incorrect guess.

Other Games

Feel free to add more info.

External Links