Price is Right, The


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

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About

The Price Is Right (sometimes called The New Price Is Right), a game show in which audience members compete for prizes by guessing the retail prices of consumer products, is one of the rare programs to have endured for most of the history of American television. It has the distinction of being television’s longest-running game show and has won many Emmys. Created by Bob Stewart for Mark Goodson-Bill Todman productions, to be broadcast on NBC in 1956 with Bill Cullen as host in daytime and primetime, it aired in different versions on all three of the commercial networks in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. In its early years, it was programmed in both daytime and primetime. In 1972, CBS began to produce The Price Is Right for daytime, with Bob Barker (previously of Truth or Consequences) as the host, and that version has aired five days a week ever since, continuing as the comedian and sitcom star Drew Carey took over from Barker in 2007. The Price Is Right made famous the phrase “Come on down!” as spoken by announcer Johnny Olson from 1972 until his death in 1995, as he called exuberant, surprised audience members to “Contestants’ Row.” Its brand identity has been licensed for board games, casino gambling machines, and lottery tickets, and has penetrated deep into American popular culture.

The hour-long CBS daytime version follows a familiar format: the four studio audience members called down compete to quote the most accurate price of some consumer product without going over. The winner comes onstage to banter briefly with the host (“Where are you from?”) and play a more elaborate game related to determining the actual retail price of one or more products unveiled to studio audience applause. Audience members scream suggestions to the stage and cheer volubly. Each of the contestants called down later has the chance to spin a giant number wheel, and the two who pass this contest compete in the culminating event of the episode, a “Showcase Showdown” in which contestants may win a large package of prizes such as exotic vacations, furniture sets, or automobiles. Throughout the episode, the prizes are presented by models (female “Barker’s beauties” for much of the show’s run), some of whom, like the hosts, have become celebrities.

Having aired for many decades, The Price Is Right became a fixture of the American daytime television schedule, having given away hundreds of millions of dollars worth of prizes to tens of thousands of contestants. It is unique for having endured for decades on a network as game shows were increasingly syndicated. The Price Is Right is among the many successful productions of Mark Goodson, the prolific game show pioneer who also made Family Feud, To Tell the Truth, and What’s My Line. Bob Stewart, who came up with the idea for The Price Is Right in the 1950s, was also the creator of other hit shows of the genre including To Tell the Truth, Password, and the Pyramid series.

The Price Is Right is known for its studio’s carnival atmosphere, with loud brassy music, ringing bells, flashing lights, riotous set design with colorful shapes and groovy flowers, and the opportunity to play to win something of high value. Like an old-time traveling show, The Price Is Right thrives on audience participation, and the studio audience is encouraged to wave, scream, shout, and cheer, or else knows to do so from years of watching television. Audience members lucky enough to make it up to the stage hug the host and express their excitement, jumping and waving. Regardless of whether they win a prize, they get to appear on TV standing next to a celebrity and say hi over the air to friends and family. The audience at home gets to see itself on the screen and to play along with the contestants, guessing prices and advising about game strategy. As the show’s creator, Bob Stewart, has said, "Once you cause somebody at home to talk to the television set aloud, even by himself or herself, then you've got a good game show."

The show’s pricing games reward viewers’ everyday knowledge gained from a lifetime of consumer experience at the supermarket or reading circulars and catalogs. The show itself functions as a commercial for the products seen on air, whose value is ultimately the secret revealed by the various games. In contrast to the worldly knowledge of facts rewarded by quiz shows like Jeopardy!, the knowledge required to do well on The Price Is Right is rather more democratic, appealing to anyone who regularly shops, or who watches enough of The Price Is Right.

-Michael Z. Newman, May 2019

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

NBC daytime   November 1956-September 1963
NBC primetime   September 1957-September 1963
ABC daytime   September 1963-September 1965
ABC primetime   September 1963-September 1964
CBS daytime   September 1972-
Syndicated   September 1972-September 1979; September 1985-September 1986; September 1994-January 1995
CBS primetime   August 1986-September 1986

SOURCES

Fiske, J. Television Culture. London: Routledge, 1987.

Hoerschelmann, O. Rules of the Game: Quiz Shows and American Culture. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006.

Holbrook, M.B. Daytime Television Game Shows and the Celebration of Merchandise: The Price is Right. Bowling Green: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1993.

Schwartz, D., S. Ryan, and F. Wostbrock. The Encyclopedia of Television Game Shows, 2nd ed. New York: Facts on File, 1995.

Highlights
Bob Barker on the origin and premise of the game show The Price is Right
Bob Stewart on how The Price is Right almost never got on the air
Don Pardo on appearing on-camera on The Price is Right to fill in for host Bill Cullen
Bob Barker on the secret to The Price is Right's longevity
Bob Barker on the success and inclusiveness of The Price is Right
Bob Stewart on the prizes featured on The Price is Right
Who talked about this show

Bob Barker

View Interview
Bob Barker on the origin and premise of the game show The Price is Right
Bob Barker on the many aspects of The Price is Right
Bob Barker on the secret to The Price is Right's longevity
Bob Barker on the success and inclusiveness of The Price is Right
Bob Barker on his animal activism and the origin of his closing line "have your pets spayed or neutered"
Bob Barker in a publicity photo taken for The Price is Right
Bob Barker on the origin and premise of the game show The Price is Right

Tom Bergeron

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Tom Bergeron on being approached as the host for The Price is Right

Sonny Fox

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Sonny Fox on guest-hosting The Price is Right

Don Pardo

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Don Pardo on working with Fred Allen on The Price is Right and how he got the job announcing on that show
Don Pardo on The Price is Right; on a typical day and his duties as announcer and appearing on-camera
Don Pardo on appearing on-camera on The Price is Right to fill in for host Bill Cullen
Don Pardo on The Price is Right moving to ABC; on the original format of the show
Don Pardo on blowing the surprise of a contestant winning a trip to "Rooooooome" on an early Price is Right episode

Bob Stewart

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Bob Stewart on the genesis of The Price is Right
Bob Stewart on his work as an uncredited writer on Stand Up and Be Counted
Bob Stewart on asserting his control on The Price is Right
Bob Stewart on the basic concepts of his game show The Price is Right
Bob Stewart on how The Price is Right almost never got on the air
Bob Stewart on the prizes featured on The Price is Right
Bob Stewart on the first host of The Price is Right, Bill Cullen
Bob Stewart on his relationship with game show host Bill Cullen 
Producer Bob Stewart on announcer Don Pardo's nervousness when he had to fill in for ill host Bill Cullen on The Price is Right
Producer Bob Stewart on a concept he had for The Price is Right that never materialized
Bob Stewart on a photo of Price is Right host Bill Cullen from 1956

Vanna White

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Vanna White on appearing as a contestant on The Price is Right

Ben Wolf

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Ben Wolf on shooting various game shows including The Price is Right

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