On the air since 1956, The Price Is Right has proven to be one of America’s favorite — and most enduring — game shows. The games are fun and easy to play, and the contestants could be your grandma or the guy next door. And what could be better than watching Drew Carey crack jokes while you sip your morning coffee?
Of course, any successful TV show has its fair share of secrets producers don’t want the public to know. We’ve uncovered some rare facts about The Price Is Right that you probably never knew as a viewer at home.
The Show Has Been Around the Network Block
The Price Is Right debuted in 1956 on NBC and enjoyed success from the very beginning. During a 10-year streak, the show aired more than 11,000 episodes — more episodes than Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune in the same amount of time.
The show moved to ABC toward the end of the first decade before eventually finding a permanent home on CBS. With no shortage of contestants, it seems The Price Is Right is nowhere near the end of its lifespan. That’s a good thing, because it always signals “Fun!” when you hear Drew Carey shout, “Come on down!”
A Love Affair with Barker’s Hair
Bob Barker replaced original The Price Is Right host Bill Cullen when the show moved to CBS in 1972, and the audience loved him. In 1987, after going on vacation and letting his gray roots take over, he decided to stop coloring his hair for the show. He had gotten plenty of compliments on his natural shade of gray.
NBC gave him the okay to embrace his white locks, and Barker seemingly turned into a “silver fox” overnight. In fact, one viewer said he “must have had one hell of a night!” Interestingly, the ratings went up after his hair went natural.
Free Doesn’t Really Mean Free
A lot of viewers who watch the show don’t realize that everything a contestant wins on The Price Is Right is subject to taxation. Sure, they still get money or items they didn’t have, but the amount they keep is never as high as the amount stated on the show.
The state of California sees all the prizes as taxable income, so contestants must pay taxes on products based on the retail price of whatever they won. Apparently, some winners have turned down entire prizes just to avoid dealing with it. One man refused $10,000 because he didn’t want to relinquish half to his ex-wife.
Bob Barker’s Namesake Building
One of Bob Barker’s iconic lines from the show comes as the credits roll: “Remember to get your pets spayed and neutered, everybody!” This wasn’t the full extent of his love and support of animals, however. He threatened to leave the 1987 Miss USA Pageant if contestants didn’t agree to switch their real fur for faux fur.
After retirement, Barker donated a whopping $2.5 million to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) so they could construct a Los Angeles headquarters. PETA honored Barker by naming the building the Bob Barker Building.
A Behind-the-Scenes Mistake Could Cost a Lot
A lot goes into creating a show like The Price Is Right. For one thing, the announcer has to know which prizes are being offered. If the announcer goofs when mentioning a prize, the player could win by default — which has happened before.
Announcer Rich Fields was instructed to announce a computer desk with a Dell computer desktop as a prize. As it turned out, the computer was actually an HP. Even though the person playing overbid the prize package by about $5,000, show executives decided to give it to him anyway because false information was provided.
You Won a What?
Over the years, The Price Is Right has gotten a little creative with the prizes it offers contestants. It makes sense the show would want to switch things up and keep players on their toes — it can’t always be a brand new car, after all — but some prizes have left contestants and viewers scratching their heads.
For example, one contestant went home with a living, breathing peacock. Yes, a peacock! Other weird prizes include a submarine, a Ferris wheel and a whole island. One man received a real suit of armor and a visit to its home country — Scotland — plus a horse and a dining room set.
Drew Carey’s Arrival Shook Things Up
Given Bob Barker’s incredible popularity with fans, it’s natural that producers were a little worried when he left the show and Drew Carey took over. They wanted to make sure people kept watching, and so they modified the games.
In short, they made the games easier to win to keep viewers (and contestants) excited and hopeful of winning — and still watching. If you go back and watch episodes from Carey’s first months on the job, you might notice there are a lot of winners. In the end, it worked because viewers stuck around.
The Challenge of Competitive Guessing Game
The Price Is Right is such a success that a lot of related merchandise has been born from it. Examples include video games and board games for fans to play at home. The very first board game was actually a deck of cards released in 1958. The game involved bidding against your opponents, but it didn’t offer any trips to Europe, unfortunately.
Surprisingly, The Price Is Right card game is even older than Risk (by about a year). You can still find this game and other Price Is Right-inspired games in stores today. Grab a deck and start bidding!
The Truth About Retail Price
The prizes presented on The Price Is Right are accompanied by legitimate retail prices from retailers — no fudging the numbers to make it look like a bigger prize! But you might still wonder what “retail price” really means from the show’s perspective. After all, retail prices vary greatly in different parts of the country.
Executive producer Mike Richards claims the show determines retail price based on retailers within California. They don’t ever “shop around” in different states. So, don’t doubt the price tags, but get familiar with pricing in California if you want to win. Exact retailers remain anonymous so fans can’t harass them when the show is over.
Take-Home Prizes Aren’t a Thing
Imagine the excitement of being a winning contestant on The Price Is Right. The first thing you want to do is drive off in your new car or head to the pier to put your boat in the water. Well, contestants don’t actually get to do that. Unfortunately, they have to wait quite some time to receive their winnings.
For one thing, if winners got their prizes immediately, it wouldn’t be much of a secret what they won. The results of each episode are kept under wraps until the show airs, so that means waiting for your trip to Europe until after your episode is on TV — which could be several months!
The Ultimate Anti-Cheater
The thing about game shows is the audience has to trust in the authenticity of the games for the show to succeed. If there’s even a hint of rigging or cheating going on, viewers lose trust and stop watching. Plenty of game shows have been accused of cheating and been caught in rigging scandals, but not The Price Is Right.
For example, the game show Twenty-One was once put on blast and accused of coaching a contestant on how to win. It wasn’t much of a debate. The contestant came forward and confessed, and it destroyed their reputation.
Casting for the Show Is Fierce
It’s a long and difficult process to become an audience member on The Price Is Right, and that’s only the beginning of the ordeal. If you’re picked to be in the audience and have a shot at selection, you have to be willing to wait around a long time.
A contestant from 2013 described waiting 4.5 hours before entering the studio. You could watch two good movies in that amount of time! After the wait, the show only lasted a little more than an hour and a half. If you don’t have patience and stamina, you may not be the next contestant on The Price Is Right.
A Mic Designed with Contestants in Mind
Producers are aware that contestants on The Price Is Right probably aren’t schooled in the ways of television filming. Most people on the show have never been on TV before, and that can be an intimidating experience. For this reason, the host’s microphone is deliberately long, skinny and harmless looking to keep things relaxed.
It also discourages contestants from doing what instinct tells them to do, which is to reach out and take the mic in their hands. Instead, the host is in control of the mic, and the player doesn’t have to do anything other than speak into it.
Drew Carey and His Cash Stash
It’s an exciting moment when a contestant guesses the exact retail price of a prize. It doesn’t happen often, and if you’re a fan of the show, you know that host Drew Carey will pull a wad of money from his own pocket and give $500 to the contestant. It seems like just another mini-prize on the show, but it’s not that simple.
Apparently, Carey is forking over his own money in these moments. It’s not cash that producers hand him to do the bit. It’s actually something he does because he wants to do it. As of 2017, Carey had reportedly handed out about $187,000.
Testing the Skills of the Alphabet Queen
Of course, you know Vanna White, the tile-flipping hostess on Wheel of Fortune. She seems to have been in the game show world since 1982, but she actually popped up on The Price Is Right two years earlier, in 1980.
White wasn’t running the show. She was on the other side of things as a contestant, but she, unfortunately, didn’t win “a thing.” Bob Barker even teased that she spent most of her time looking at herself on the monitor. Even if she didn’t win a prize, she certainly won a glimpse into her future career path.
Adding Male Models to the Mix
The fabulous prizes presented on The Price Is Right are always revealed with the help of graceful, gorgeous models. Until 2012, those models were always women. Finally, producers decided it was time to give male models a shot at the job.
The first man to be offered a spot on the show as a model was Rob Wilson. He was a self-proclaimed fan who even claimed to stay home “sick” at times to watch Bob Barker handing out his many prizes. Since Wilson, other men have made their way onto the stage, and you can now find both men and women smiling in front of dining room sets.
The Man You Need to Impress
Getting on The Price Is Right is no easy endeavor. One of the most crucial steps is impressing one man: Stan Blits. It’s this guy — and this guy only — who interviews potential candidates and decides whether they are game show material or not.
According to the New York Post, Blits says he is seeking “energy, sincerity and potential humor” during these interviews. The audience needs to be engaged and excited, so he obviously looks for energetic, engaging people as guests. Don’t even think about slipping him a bill, either — Blits does not take bribes.
Taking a Swing at Adam Sandler
Okay, so Bob Barker didn’t actually punch Adam Sandler, but he did in the movies! Barker’s status as a legendary game show host has gotten him invited to appear in several films, including Adam Sandler’s Happy Gilmore released in 1996. In the movie, Barker ends up fist fighting with Sandler — and winning, of course.
This rumble between the two men was staged again at “Night of Too Many Stars,” a fundraiser for autism hosted when Barker was 90 years old. There’s no doubt this act was a crowd-pleaser. Barker also appeared in other movies and TV shows like How I Met Your Mother and Bonanza.
Oops, She’s in the Bathroom!
With audience members waiting for hours to get on the show, it’s not surprising that “the urge” could hit them at the wrong time. On one The Price Is Right episode, Bob Barker was about to call Patricia Bernard’s name when he realized she wasn’t in her seat. They looked all over the studio for her, but she had disappeared.
The woman’s husband ran out to search for her as Barker said: “This had to happen, did it not?” A bathroom break was holding up the show! Needless to say, that woman’s bladder had some fateful — and funny — timing that day.
Too Many Cars to Count
Fans have certainly heard the announcer’s voice say, “It’s a new car!” more times than they can count. That’s because each episode features, on average, three different cars as prizes. It’s the iconic Price Is Right prize, and it’s something every contestant is happy to win.
Because they go through so many cars on the show, they have to switch up makes and models to keep viewers interested. Mike Richards, an executive producer, says they shuffle cars around so they don’t reuse the same type too many times. On any given episode, the show could have between 37 and 45 cars as options.
Missing a Shot at a Ferrari
Executive producer Mike Richards doesn’t keep his favorite car brand a secret: It’s a Ferrari. Richards had a goal to present a Ferrari as a prize on the show, and that goal was finally realized in one episode.
The Ferrari 458 Spider had a value of $285,000 and was offered as a prize in 2013. Producers simply rented the vehicle for the taping, putting off an actual purchase until the contestant actually won. Sadly, the contestant didn’t lock down this dream car. When it comes down to it, you either get lucky, or you don’t.
Jesse Pinkman for the Win
Fans of Breaking Bad are probably scratching their heads. What do you mean Jesse Pinkman was on The Price Is Right? Well, the actor who played Pinkman, Aaron Paul, appeared on the show back in 1999 before making it big. He can be seen wearing glasses and his “Aaron” name tag.
Paul didn’t win anything significant in his episode, but he did profess his love for Bob Barker. “You’re the man!” he shouted, telling Barker that he was his idol. Who could have imagined the average Joe would one day become one of the most popular characters on TV?
An Impossible Guess
The famous Showcase Showdown on The Price Is Right is probably the hardest bid to make. It’s virtually impossible to make an exact guess, but strange things happen sometimes. One day, a man named Terry Kniess, 60 years old and retired, guessed the exact price for his Showdown prize.
His guess and the exact value was $23,743. Supposedly, he guessed “74” because of his April 7 wedding anniversary and “3” because his wife’s birthday was in March. This coincidental guess was so improbable that they stopped filming for 45 minutes to ensure there was no cheating. Even though he was cleared, Drew Carey appeared doubtful.
22,000 Pecks on the Cheek
Not all game show hosts reach the pinnacle of fame and admiration reached by Bob Barker. Fans absolutely adored the host, and even people who didn’t watch the show knew exactly who he was. The audience’s love for him was no secret.
Plenty of contestants took the chance to steal a kiss from Barker on screen. CBS believes the number of kisses Barker received on the show adds up to around 22,000. Can you imagine 22,000 lips brushing cheek? Barker handled it all with grace, which was part of why everyone loved him so much.
Get Ready to Plug Your Ears
People get wild on The Price Is Right. How wild? Well, sometimes the noise made by the audience makes it almost impossible to hear your name called out over the din. The amount of screaming and yelling prompts some contestants to bring a pair of earplugs to use when sitting in the audience.
Earplugs or not, you don’t have to worry about hearing your name. Producers found a solution to the noise problem by using cue cards. All you have to do is keep an eye on the names on the big pieces of cardboard.
Keep Your Clothes On!
There’s a story of a woman who got so excited that she had a wardrobe malfunction on screen. A 1977 contestant, Yolanda, was so enthusiastic that she ran up on stage and jumped by the podium, causing her blouse to slip and expose her to the audience!
The mishap was brief, but it was impossible to act like it didn’t happen. Bob Barker commented, “I’ve never had a welcome like this!” It was a funny moment, but the show quickly continued on. So, if you plan on being on The Price Is Right, be sure to dress appropriately for the occasion.
Don’t Stop Clapping!
It’s no joke that producers are looking for enthusiasm in contestants and audience members alike. They want people who aren’t afraid to yell, holler and scream throughout the entire episode. And clap — lots and lots of clapping!
The energy doesn’t drop for commercial breaks, either. A writer who sat in on an episode attested to this fact, explaining that clapping and cheering are expected continuously during breaks. They have to maintain all that Price Is Right energy, after all! Just be ready with some hand lotion, as your skin might be smarting by the end of the show.
Producer Mistakes Add Up to Big Bucks
For a Price Is Right commercial promo, producers decided to rig a game to ensure they could show it winning. The game was Plinko, a game of luck that has contestants drop chips so they fall into numbered slots. The rigging was meant to be temporary to simply demonstrate the game in action with a winner.
After the promo was complete, the producers forgot to switch the rigged Plinko game for the regular game. The next time taping rolled around for Plinko, they realized their mistake when a contestant hit the $10,000 slot three times in a row. Because the mistake wasn’t the contestant’s fault, producers handed over the money.
The Science Behind the Wheel
The Price Is Right has the iconic “Big Wheel” that contestants spin for a chance at the Showcase Showdown. Land on the right combination, and you could win a fortune. Seems simple enough, right? Scientists have actually conducted extensive studies on the wheel and the decisions made by the spinners.
The Royal Economic Society published research called “To Spin or Not to Spin?” that outlines the behavior and statistics surrounding the big wheel. They found that “contestants frequently deviate from the USPN (unique subgame perfect Nash equilibrium) when the decisions are difficult.” Hey, it makes as little sense to us as it does to you.
Mrs. Brady in a Car Crash on Stage
The famous Brady Bunch actress Florence Henderson (a.k.a. Mrs. Brady) appeared on The Price Is Right on a Mother’s Day episode in 2012. For her star appearance, she was simply instructed to sit in the passenger seat of the car that was meant to be one of the evening’s main prizes.
Henderson did her job perfectly — it was the driver who messed up. In all the commotion, he ended up driving the SUV right into the wall! Thankfully, he was moving slowly, so no real damage was done. Mostly, it served as a funny moment for the audience.