Things about ‘The Price Is Right’ people watching don’t get to see on TV
Not only has ‘The Price is Right’ been on the air since 1956, but it has been dubbed “the greatest game show of all time” by ‘TV Guide’ — and for good reason. It’s a game show for literally everyone – unlike ‘Jeopardy,’ for example, no prior knowledge or skills are required whatsoever, just an ability to pick the correct series of numbers to match the prices of various household items, along with a lot of enthusiasm. Read on to learn the secrets behind the iconic show. Rest assured, not many people have any idea what really goes on behind the screen.
1. Longest running game show in history
The Price is Right debuted in 1956 and initially ran for almost ten years, making it the longest-running game show in television history. That’s right, the original show boasts more than 11,000 episodes, beating Wheel of Fortune and even the iconic Jeopardy. And the ratings stalwart hasn’t ended yet.
With a constant flow of contestants, the series continues to run strong to this day, with no indication that fact will change anytime soon. The show was first aired on NBC between 1956 and 1965, and later on ABC. And there are things about The Price is Right that aren’t ever aired. Keep reading to learn about them.
2. Bob Barker’s gray hair boosted ratings
Bob Barker, who took over for Bill Cullen as The Price is Right‘s host in 1972 when the show was revived after being canceled in ’65, eventually became iconic in his role. In 1987, Barker decided he wanted to stop dyeing his hair after people complimented his gray locks while he was on vacation.
He got approval from the head of daytime programming at NBC, becoming one of the first few television hosts with gray hair. When the next episode aired and Barker appeared as a silver fox, viewers were in for a surprise. One sent Barker a letter saying “Bob, you must have had one hell of a night.” Indeed, ratings improved since that episode.
3. Winners have to pay taxes
Of course, any contestant in The Price is Right is on the show with the sole purpose of winning. But what viewers might not always take into account is that the prizes won on the show are treated as taxable income. And considering winners are usually paying in the state of California, the price of victory can be quite hefty.
The state treats the prizes won on the show as taxable income, and as such, winners have to pay based on the retail value of the prize. It’s so burdensome that some winners decide not to accept their prize at all! One contestant interviewed by ABC News claimed to have turned down his $10,000 because he didn’t want to give half to his ex-wife.
4. PETA named a building after Bob Barker
It turns out The Price is Right‘s longtime host has an unlikely admirer due to his fondness for animals. Starting in the 1980s, Bob Barker began signing off the show with the call to action of “Have your pets spayed or neutered” – a tradition which Drew Carey, who succeeded Barker, continued.
Barker threatened to leave production of the 1987 Miss USA pageant, which he was set to host, if contestants wouldn’t swap their real fur for fake fur. He even donated $2.5 million to convert a building in Los Angeles into PETA’s west coast hub after he retired. It is called the Bob Barker Building.
5. Someone won due to a mistake
Words are important. That’s especially true for an announcer on a game show as big as The Price is Right. It’s always unfortunate when producers learn that fact the hard way. During one episode, announcer Rich Fields introduced a prize as a computer desk, along with a brand new Dell computer.
The problem was the computer that was available was actually an HP. It turns out the mistake wasn’t Fields’ – he was fed the wrong information on air. As such, it was decided that the contestant would be given the entire prize despite overbidding by more than $5,000. Hopefully, that contestant didn’t have a strong preference for Dell computers.
6. There have been some pretty insane prizes on the show
Considering The Price is Right is a game show, it’s not necessarily surprising that it would dish out some pretty neat prizes. But some of the prizes over the years have been a little more than just cool. Case in point: Carl Slater. The barber “struck it rich,” as he put it, when he won a diverse set of prizes in 1958.
His spoils included a dining room set, a young horse, a suit of armor and a trip to Scotland to visit the castle where the armor came from. Other contestants have won a peacock (yes, really!), a submarine, a Ferris wheel and even an entire island located in the St. Lawrence Seaway.
7. The game got easier when Drew Carey became host
After the legendary Bob Barker left the show, The Price is Right producers worried about ratings. Barker’s star power undoubtedly attracted loyal fans – producers had to do something to make sure people were still stoked about the show. So they switched it up a little, making the games a little easier to win.
It was an incentive to ensure people would remain involved so the legacy series would survive and thrive. “It was extremely important for the first couple of months of the show to have plenty of winners,” producer Roger Dobkowitz wrote in a blog post. There’s no question the strategy worked.
8. ‘The Price is Right’ has a board game and it’s older than ‘Risk’
As such a massively popular, long-running show, The Price is Right has inspired memorabilia over the years, including various board and video games. The very first Price is Right card game, which was shipped to stores in 1958, is by far the most iconic. The rules of the game are similar to the game show itself.
Put simply, the game involves players trying to outbid each other, just like contestants on the show. The Price is Right game has been around longer than even Risk, which was released by the Parker Brothers a year later. No, it’s not possible to win a Jacuzzi or an airplane in the card game version of the game.
9. The ‘actual retail price’ is legit
The Price is Right claims to get the “actual retail price” of the prizes on the show from actual retailers. Some might wonder what exactly that means, considering retail prices vary between regions and states. Producers’ way of tackling that? Going off the same state.
“We’re not shopping in Alabama for peas one day, then Florida, then Maine, then Nevada,” executive producer Mike Richards has said. Prices are taken from the same retailers based in California. As for the specific retailers? They haven’t been identified by name so as to avoid their establishments being bombarded by fans. Keep reading to learn more about how The Price is Right operates.
10. Contestants have to wait a while for their prizes
We’ve established that The Price is Right winners have to pay taxes on their prizes. But even after that, it takes a while until they can enjoy the fruits of their success on the show. According to producers, contestants don’t get any of their prizes until after their episodes are aired – meaning sometimes months after they were taped.
As a game show, each episode has to come as a surprise to viewers. And producers don’t want to risk contestants spoiling anything for the folks watching at home. “We don’t want a brand new car with a Price is Right license plate frame sitting in the front yard a month before the show airs,” Richards said.
11. Free of cheating scandals
This one is a big deal. At a time when shows with game and quiz formats were coming under scrutiny for allegedly rigging their results – a concept that has tarnished many shows’ reputations to this day – The Price is Right remained untouched by cheating scandals. To this day, the show has a reputation for having real contestants and real winners.
It all began on the quiz-show Twenty-One, when one contestant claimed to have been coached by a producer on the show to defeat his opponents. The claim sparked outcry across the game show landscape. One thing is clear: that contestant certainly did the right thing.
12. Do you have what it takes to be on the show?
Being selected to be a member of the Price is Right audience isn’t the easiest thing in the world, to begin with. But even once you’re selected to be on the show, it isn’t quite smooth sailing from there – unless you have the patience of a saint. One former winner provided insight into the process in 2013.
When she was on the show, the audience had to wait outside of the studio for a whole four-and-a-half hours. And that was before the show even started filming! The actual shoot took about an hour and a half. That means, in total, vying for a prize in the show is a six-hour ordeal!
13. Ever wonder about the host’s skinny mic?
It’s safe to say that most people who play The Price is Right aren’t television pros by any means. In fact, most contestants who arrive on the set in hopes of getting lucky have probably never appeared on television before. The show’s producers had that in mind the entire time.
In fact, that’s exactly the logic behind the host’s skinny microphone, which was designed to look quaint and harmless. It serves the purpose of setting a fun atmosphere so contestants don’t feel like they are being interviewed for a news report. A common reaction of these contestants is to reach out to hold it. However, the long, skinny microphone doesn’t appear as grabbable, thus making it more obvious to the contestants to let the host handle the mic-work.
14. Drew Carey is quite generous
People who have watched The Price is Right have surely seen what happens when a contestant nails the initial bid right on its head with the “actual retail price.” Host Drew Carey (left) whips out $500 in cash, taken right out of his suit pocket, as a reward.
Viewers at home are likely to assume this is money given to him by the show – just another prop, so to speak. But, actually, it’s Carey’s own money that he’s handing out. According to CBS, he gave away at least $187,000 of his own salary on the show in total as of 2017.
15. Vanna White once appeared on the show
Actress Vanna White is known best as the longtime hostess of Wheel of Fortune since 1982, but her first time appearing on a game show was actually two years earlier as a contestant on The Price is Right. White was admittedly not very great at the game.
As White herself recalled of her time on the show, she didn’t win “a… thing.” Bob Barker even called her out for looking at herself in the monitor for too long. It wasn’t all bad, though, considering her appearance on the show was an introduction to a format in which she would be very successful.
16. The Price is Right has male models
Part of the fun on The Price is Right is the models who pose with the often insane prizes available on any given episode. Those models had always been women until 2012 when the show’s producers doubled their field of possible candidates for the positions.
It started when producers hired their first male model, a Boston-native named Rob Wilson. And he was a model with a passion for the show. According to his Price is Right bio, he used to fake being sick as a kid just to stay home and watch the game show. Other men have followed suit, effectively revolutionizing the popular show’s dynamics.
17. There is a man who screens every potential audience member
Ever wonder how you can join the audience of The Price is Right? Well, it turns out you have to chat with a man named Stan Blits, whose job it is to interview every person who wants to participate in the show in studio. Blits has a very specific list of qualifications he looks for.
“I am looking for energy, sincerity, and potential humor,” he told the New York Post. “And if they can equal my energy or exceed it and maintain it, they are at the top of the list.” Blits stressed that energy in candidates is of the utmost importance. He also warned that he doesn’t take bribes.
18. Bob Barker has fought Adam Sandler
OK, not really. But iconic The Price is Right host Bob Barker has made a few guest appearances on the big screen over the years, one of which happened to be in the 1996 Adam Sandler comedy Happy Gilmore. Barker, who appeared as himself in the movie, gets into a bit of a ruffle with Sandler’s character in which he beats him to a pulp.
Barker and Sandler recreated the moment 20 years later during an autism fundraiser called “Night of Too Many Stars” – when Barker was 91. Again, the elderly Barker taunts Sandler and proceeds to knock him out, for old time’s sake. Barker has also had cameos in Bonanza and How I Met Your Mother.
19. A contestant took a bathroom break at the wrong time
Bladders aren’t always predictable, and Patricia Bernard’s betrayed her at the wrong time. Just when the Price is Right announcer was about to call down another round of contestants – one of whom was her – producers noticed she was missing. Cameras scanned the room in search of her. She was nowhere to be found.
Eventually, everyone noticed a man – presumably her husband – darting for the exit in search of her. Barker quickly caught on to what was happening. “This had to happen, did it not?” he said. “Patricia is in the ‘little girls’ room! A man I assume is her husband is out to look for her, and everyone in America is asking, ‘How long can they wait for Patricia?’”
20. The show has a lot with dozens of new cars
One of The Price is Right‘s big prizes is usually a car. Many contestants go on there with the hope and dream of winning a sweet new ride. As such, the show’s producers always have a selection of between 37 and 45 luxury cars on deck. According to the show’s executive producer, most episodes have three cars in them.
Now, as much as everyone likes nice cars, a game show can’t repeatedly show the same vehicles for fear of boring the audience. So producers have a variety of different cars to switch it up every episode. “(We) rotate out the ones you saw before, so they don’t see them again,” Richards said.
21. One contestant missed out on a Ferrari
It’s safe to say The Price is Right executive producer Mike Richards has a favorite car brand. That car brand is none other than Ferrari. And he had always dreamt that the show would someday offer it up, in all its glory, so that maybe a lucky contestant would get a chance to give it a ride.
Richards’ dream came true in 2013, when a Ferrari 458 Spider – which was worth about $285,000, was put up as a prize for one contestant. The Ferrari was only rented for the show, but Richards said they would have bought it if the woman had won. Unfortunately for her, she didn’t.
22. Jesse Pinkman appeared on the show
Jesse Pinkman is a fictional character on AMC’s hit series Breaking Bad, so he himself, of course, was never a contestant on The Price is Right. But the actor who plays him, Aaron Paul was once a member in the game show’s audience, waiting for a chance to win big.
It was in 1999 and Paul was a young man, just starting his acting career. Aaron doesn’t come out of the show a big winner, but he displayed his affection for Bob Barker, shouting to him, “You’re the man!” while he was on. He even referred to Barker as his “idol.”
23. Only one contestant has actually nailed the Showcase Showdown
The Showcase Showdown on The Price is Right is almost like hitting a jackpot in the PowerBall – almost impossible. That was until 2010, when a 60-year-old retiree named Terry Kniess nailed the exact value of a Showcase Showdown price. That price was $23,743 – the last three digits of which had sentimental value for him. The number “74” represented his anniversary (the 7th of April) and the last digit, 3, represented his wife’s birth month of March.
Indeed, the chances of Kniess getting it right were so slim that producers were suspicious of foul play. They even stopped taping for 45 minutes to investigate whether he was cheating. Although it turned out that he wasn’t, Drew Carey seemed to have had his doubts.
24. Bob Barker is a popular man – to say the least
Being a television or movie star – or any celebrity, for that matter – often has the effect of making someone insanely popular. The same doesn’t necessarily hold true for game show hosts – unless we’re talking about The Price is Right‘s Bob Barker, that is. And love for the beloved host was made clear on-screen.
It was often signaled in a physical way, as Barker has received a lot of kisses from female contestants over the years. Though it’s unclear how many exactly, CBS has estimated the number to be a whopping 22,000 kisses. That fact alone is incredible, but keep reading. There are more.
25. Contestants might want to wear earplugs on the show
The Price is Right studio can get pretty wild when filming a show. How wild exactly? Well, apparently the hype when someone is invited to “come on down” is so loud that it causes some potential contestants to not be able to hear their names over the noise of the crowd.
The crowd’s roars and cheers are so out of control that a solution has been devised to indicate to the audience who is being invited onto the stage in another way: cue cards. So, for anyone planning to take a stab at winning big on the game show, it might be a good idea to take some earplugs into the studio.
26. One contestant got so excited she had a wardrobe malfunction
This was one for the books – it was a hilarious wardrobe malfunction on air, long before the term even existed. It was 1977, and a female contestant on The Price is Right must have been a little excited about her time in the limelight, because it certainly showed.
When the woman, whose name was Yolanda, was told to come onto the stage, she began running toward her podium, jumping up and down in excitement. Her top slipped – for just a second – before she fixed her outfit. When Yolanda finally reached her podium, Bob Barker said, “I’ve never had a welcome like this.” Read on, there are more secrets to discover.
27. The audience even claps during commercials
It has been mentioned that one of the first things producers look for in aspiring Price is Right audience members is enthusiasm. But when they say enthusiasm, they really, really mean it. In fact, audience members are expected to clap and cheer almost nonstop for hours on end.
What’s more, audience members are expected to keep up the performance even during commercial breaks, as one writer who attended a taping has revealed. The show keeps the music on and expects audience members to continue clapping. That same writer put it this way: By the time the show is finally over, “your palms are like two hamburger patties.”
28. Producers made a mistake and it was one contestant’s lucky day
Plinko is one of The Price is Right‘s more popular games. And during a commercial shoot for the show in 2008, producers rigged the chips on a Plinko game so they’d hit the $10,000 slot. This was just to demonstrate the potential of that actually happening during an episode and the excitement it could bring.
The problem was they forgot to fix the chips before the next episode was taped and the commercial came to life, and then some. One contestant won $30,000 on that episode! Because the contestant didn’t actually cheat, considering he had no idea producers forgot to fix the chips, he walked away with all the money.
29. The Price is Right wheel has been studied by scientists
The Big Wheel on The Price is Right has literally been the subject of intense scientific study. The Royal Economic Society devoted research money into figuring out how it works. They researched the relationship between the types of calculated decisions made by contestants and their winning percentages.
The Society published its findings titled, “To Spin or Not to Spin?” in 2002. Yes, that was actually the name of the study. The study itself isn’t as simple as its title, though. Its counclusion was, in short, that “contestants frequently deviate from the USPN (unique subgame perfect Nash equilibrium) when the decisions are difficult.” Good luck understanding that.
30. Mrs. Brady crashed her car during filming
Sometimes, guests on The Price is Right can have a wild ride – literally – when participating in the show. Florence Henderson, who formerly played Mrs. Brady on The Brady Bunch, was to make a guest appearance on a Mother’s Day episode in 2012. Henderson had one job: to sit on the passenger’s side of the SUV that was to be a prize on the set for its big reveal.
Unfortunately, with all the excitement going on, the driver of the car drove it into the wall. It was luckily going only two miles an hour and no one was hurt, so mainly the event was the source of a good laugh for the audience. Now, the prize was a used SUV! The announcer declared.
31. TV presenter suffers a wardrobe malfunction
Danielle Atkin, an Australian Price is Right model and TV presenter, accidentally gave the live audience a little more than they bargained for as she welcomed viewers to the show. We bet you didn’t know that there was an Australian version of the show, but in 2003, this on-screen blooper made headlines.
Danielle appeared to not notice her embarrassing moment as the crowd behind her continued their applause for the start of the show. She was simply extending her left arm to welcome the Price is Right host, Larry Emdur, as he made his entrance onto the live set.
32. Contestants used to bid by postcard
The show’s original run was back in the ’50s but producers were still forward-thinking enough to involve the viewer at home. They encouraged home-viewers to mail in their price estimates via postcard. It seems like such a new thing for shows to involve fans at home through mobile apps, but as it turns out, this was preceded by a similar concept.
If anyone would guess the featured item’s price down to the penny, then they would win everything showcased. Surprisingly, there was such a large outpouring of postcards that they had to hire hundreds of people to go through all of them.
33. One awkward prize
In 2015, Comedian Daniele Perez won her very own treadmill. There was just one big problem. Perez was wheelchair-bound, having lost both of her legs in an accident in 2004. The audience was visibly uncomfortable as were many viewers at home.
However, she wasn’t offended by the inappropriate prize. In an interview, she would go on to say, “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.”