Behind-The-Scenes Secrets From ‘The Price Is Right’


“Come on down! You’re the next contestant on The Price Is Right!”

Five days a week, for decades, these immortal words emerged from millions of American television sets. The Price Is Right stands as the longest-running game show in US history, so it has become a regular a part of countless people’s lives: a bright and entertaining way to spend an hour of the day and an undeniable comfort in a stressful and sometimes scary world. But like any good American institution, the show saw its fair share of behind-the-scenes secrets and stories the public knows virtually nothing about.

The Price Is Right began life in 1956 in a noticeably different format. Hosted by Bill Cullen, it ran until 1965, but it was so popular that for a brief period during its initial run,creators started a weekly nighttime version. After its cancellation, the show was extensively retooled, eventually returning to the airwaves in 1972, this time with the legendary Bob Barker hosting. This second incarnation is the version everyone knows and loves today. Since its debut, The Price Is Right has given away more than a quarter of a billion dollars in cash and prizes and secured itself a permanent place in popular culture.

The CBS Television Lot Is Full Of Shiny New Cars

Photo: CBS

Pretty much everyone who comes to The Price Is Right hopes to win a car (except this guy). But just think: in any given show, a few different cars get offered as prizes, and the Showcase Showdown typically includes at least one car as well. With five shows a week, that’s a lot of cars.

You never see the same car twice, and they always happen to be the latest, shiniest models. That’s because the show keeps 37 to 45 vehicles on the studio lot at any given time, and the inventory rotates every week.

Picking A Replacement For Barker Proved Difficult

Photo: CBS

By the time Bob Barker retired from The Price Is Right in 2007, he existed as nothing short of a legend. Replacing a legend makes for a tall order, especially when said legend is the affable, silver-haired Barker.

CBS knew they needed to try, and it appears they considered practically every host in the country for the gig. Potential replacements invited to audition included George Hamilton, John O’ Hurley, and Mario Lopez. Rosie O’Donnell campaigned for the job – Barker even gave her his endorsement – but the show never even extended O’Donnell an invitation to try out.

Also left off the audition list: Marc Summers, former host of Double Dare. In the end, it went to Drew Carey.

Only One Contestant Made A Perfect Bid On The Showcase

Photo: CBS

The Showcase Showdown always contains an abundance of high-dollar prizes, and even coming close to placing a winning bid without going over or under remains a challenge. Some contestants landed in the ballpark, but only one has ever guessed the dollar amount right on the nose.

His name was Terry Kniess, a Price Is Right superfan who had meticulously studied the show beforehand. Because the show often features similar prizes, Kniess previously memorized the value of each of his Showcase items and added them up in his head before placing his bid

The show, obviously, was stunned, and they stopped taping for almost an hour while they tried to figure out just how he accomplished the feat.

You Wait A While To Claim Your Prizes

Photo: CBS

The fantasy most of people have of winning on a game show usually ends with walking out of the studio laden with our newly-acquired prizes. But it’s not quite that easy, and no one leaves The Price Is Right with their winnings, whether they won a new car or a can of baked beans.

Obviously, winners must fill out a lot of paperwork. The show’s prize department starts working with the contestants to get them their prizes after the show airs – and that may be months after taping. Non-vehicle prizes get shipped to the winner’s home. Vehicles must be picked up at local car dealerships, but the dealer may not have your winning model in stock, meaning you have to wait even longer until they do.

Bob Barker Needed To Receive Approval To Stop Dyeing His Hair

Photo: CBS

For decades, Bob Barker sported deep, chocolate-y-brown hair. It sounds a bit hard to imagine now, given that his silver mane became one of the things for which he is most known. But initially, The Price Is Right felt reluctant to let him go from brown to gray. Barker told BookPage the decision to stop dyeing his hair was a big deal to the show’s producers.

“I was the only guy on TV with gray hair,” he said. “I had to get approval from the head of daytime programming!”

The Show Once Saw An Unfortunate Wardrobe Malfunction

Video: YouTube

Oh, tube tops. Those fashion staples of the 1970s that provided the source of many a wardrobe malfunction. Once such malfunction happened during a Price Is Right taping in 1977. When a contestant was told to “come on down,” she got so excited her tube top popped off. “I’ve never had a welcome like this!” Barker quipped.

The mishap became the most talked-about moment in the show’s history. Barker told Larry King:

The most-talked about single incident in the history of the show was a young lady seated out in the audience in a tube top. And her name was called to be a contestant. And she jumped to her feet. And she began jumping up and down and out they came. She came on down and they came on out on CBS.

The Most Money Ever Won On The Show Was $1,153,908

Sure, the games make for enjoyable viewings, mostly because they’re as much about chance as they are about strategy, which makes for good entertainment. And the contestants can be a hoot. But the real draw of the show lies in getting a gander at those amazing prizes. Over the years, they’ve offered some showstoppers. Like the $285,716 Ferrari 458 Spider that no one won, and a $157,300 Audi R8 V8 Spyder that Sheree Heil won in 2013. Heil also won $10,000 in cash and a $3,045 pair of Prada shoes, beating the previous Price Is Right record of $147,517 won by a single contestant.

But the biggest winner of all time was Adam Rose, who took home $1,153,908 during The Price Is Right Million Dollar Spectacular primetime special.

Winners Pay A Price For Their Prizes

Photo: CBS

If there’s no such thing as a free lunch, then there’s certainly no such thing as a free car. For many winners, the high that comes from winning a new car quickly deflates from a hearty dose of reality in the form of taxes. Winners must file a tax return in the state in which they’ve won (California), and prizes and cash money are both considered taxable income. The winners must pay based on the full retail value of the prizes they’ve “won.” For these reasons, many end up declining the prizes.

One winner in California effectively paid half the cost of the $18,000 Chevy she won after taxes.

There Are More Than 70 Games To Choose From

Photo: CBS

As with any television show, The Price Is Right needs to keep things exciting, so they constantly rotate through more than 70 games. The most popular, of course, is Plinko, which people go so nuts over that entire Price Is Right episodes are dedicated to the game. In addition to Plinko, Cliff Hangers is also a viewer favorite. These games typically appear once every two weeks so viewer anticipation doesn’t wane.

The Big Wheel Was Inspired By ‘Wheel Of Fortune’

Video: YouTube

The Big Wheel debuted when The Price is Right expanded to an hour-long format in 1975. Former producer Roger Dobkowitz admitted it was due to the popularity of the game show Wheel of Fortune, which aired at the same time on competitor NBC. “They had a wheel and we also had to have one!” he said.

Some players truly hit the jackpot with the Big Wheel. The goal involves landing on the highest dollar amount closest to $1 without going over in order to proceed to the Showcase Showdown. But if you land on the $1 slot, you get $1,000 and the chance to go for $10,000 on the second spin. In 2017, contestants hit the $1 spot five straight times, resulting in a total cash payout of $80,000 and causing Drew Carey to go up and down in excitement.

Being A Contestant Involves A Lot Of Waiting

Photo: CBS

It’s never easy to get on a game show, but The Price Is Right boasts a unique selection process that underscores the fact that, at the end of the day, the show is all about entertainment. Outside the Bob Barker Studio at CBS Television City in Los Angeles, future contestants/audience members line up for as long as four hours in hopes of being chosen for a spot on Contestants’ Row.

Then they’re led in front of a producer, 10 at a time, who asks them each one question. In their answer, they’ve got to “Sparkle, Neely, Sparkle”, because producer Stan Blits is looking for “energy, sincerity, and potential humor.” But the most important of these is energy.

“If they can equal my energy or exceed it and maintain it, they are at the top of the list,” Blits advised.

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