The original version of The Price Is Right aired from 1956 to 1965 and was hosted by Bill Cullen. While retaining some elements of the earlier generation show, the 1972 revival added many new distinctive gameplay elements, and now has the distinction of being the longest continuously running game show in North American television history, with more than 6,900 episodes aired.
The show began its 37th season on September 22, 2008 and is broadcasting exclusively in High-Definition.
One Bid is a qualifying game, played with four contestants standing at the foot of the stage ("Contestants' Row"). A prize is shown, and each player bids a price. The contestant who bids closest to the actual retail price of the prize, without going over, wins it and advances on to the stage for an individual pricing game. A contestant that bids the exact price (a "Perfect Bid") also receives a cash bonus - $500 on the daytime episodes (originally $100), and $1,000 on the prime time shows. If all four contestants overbid, they all must bid again. Four initial contestants are chosen from the audience at the start of the show to play the first One Bid round; before each subsequent One Bid round, a new contestant is chosen from the audience to replace the previous winner.
Regardless of whether or not the pricing games are won, all One Bid winners advance automatically to the Showcase Showdown, which occurs twice in each show.
Each contestant spins a large wheel which is segmented and marked with the values from five cents to a dollar, in increments of five cents, in random order. The winner of each Showdown is the contestant who spins the highest value in one spin or the total of two spins without exceeding a dollar. A total of exactly one dollar wins $1,000 and another spin for a bonus cash prize of either $10,000 or $25,000. In the event of a tie, a spin-off is held in which each of the tied contestants is given one spin with the highest value winning. The two Showdown winners in each show compete in the Showcase following the second Showdown.
One Bid prizes generally range in value from $400 to $3,000 in the daytime show. The prizes offered in pricing games vary significantly, ranging from under $3,000 (Clock Game) to the more rare prizes worth $50,000 or more (Plinko, Triple Play or Golden Road). Most games are played for prizes worth between $4,000 and $9,999, or a new automobile. Showcases typically award a prize package worth between $15,000 and $40,000 in most daytime episodes, resulting in the typical top prize for a person who wins both a pricing game and a showcase to be around $30,000 to $50,000. Ceremonial episodes, such as a major Season Premiere or Finale, or a milestone episode (such as the "5,000th" and "6,000th"), will see the budget increased to values similar to the primetime series.
Many of the show's prizes and grocery items are provided through product placement.
From 1991-2008, almost all automobiles offered on the show were made by companies based in the United States, specifically the Big Three automobile manufacturers (although cars made by these companies' foreign subsidiaries were also eligible to be offered). The move was made by executive producer Bob Barker as a sign of patriotism during the first Iraq war in 1991. Since Barker's retirement, cars made by foreign companies have been offered, most notably Hondas, especially since American Honda is based in Ohio, the home state of Drew Carey and Rich Fields.
Carey's libertarian views have influenced the show to lift other Barker-imposed prohibitions such as references to leather seats in furniture and automobiles, displaying simulated meat props on barbecue grills and restrictions on meat-based grocery products used in pricing games.
Bob Barker began hosting The Price Is Right in 1972 and completed a 35-year tenure in 2007. Barker was hired as host while still hosting the long-running stunt comedy show Truth or Consequences, and his retirement coincided with his 50th year as a television host. His final show aired on Friday, June 15, 2007, and was repeated in prime time, leading into the network's coverage of the Daytime Emmy Awards. In addition to hosting, Barker also served as executive producer from 1988 until his retirement, and was responsible for creating several of the show's pricing games and launching the prime-time spinoff. Barker had significant creative control over the series, particularly after 2000.
Reruns of the Barker version ran throughout the summer until his June 15 final episode was once again aired on October 12, 2007.
After he became a noted animal rights advocate in the early 1980s, Barker signed off of each broadcast with a public-service message to "help control the pet population; have your pets spayed or neutered". Carey carried on the tradition upon becoming the new host, although he says it in a slightly different way.
Roger Dobkowitz was the program's producer, having worked with the program as a production staffer since the current version's debut after graduating from San Francisco State University in 1972. Occasionally, Dobkowitz appeared on camera when answering a question posed by the host - usually relating to the show's history or records. FremantleMedia and Dobkowitz parted ways at the end of season 36. Variety reported that it was unclear whether Dobkowitz was retiring or was fired.
Kathy Greco, who has been with the show since 1975, is the current producer of the show. Stan Blits (who joined the show in 1980), Sue MacIntyre, and Adam Sandler (not to be confused with the actor; was associate producer prior to 2008) are the three co-producers.
Frank Wayne, a Goodson–Todman staffer since the 1950s, was the original executive producer of the show's current version; Barker assumed that role after Wayne's death in 1988. Previous producers have included Jay Wolpert, Barbara Hunter, and Phil Wayne Rossi (Wayne's son). Bart Eskander is the current director; Marc Breslow and Paul Alter each served long stints as director previously.
Aside from Barker, the show's production staff remained intact after Carey became host; FremantleMedia executive Syd Vinnedge was named the program's new executive producer, with Mike Richards becoming co-executive producer after Dobkowitz's departure; Richards was a candidate to replace Bob Barker as host in 2007, before Carey was ultimately chosen.
In addition, the show discourages contestants from wearing green shirts because some game props and trip prizes use Chroma key effects, which can blend into a contestant's shirt. The show began using this effect for trips as a result of switching to 1080i in 2008.
Occasionally shows are taped with special audience restrictions. In 1991, an episode was taped restricting the audience to those who had served in the Armed Forces for a Memorial Day episode. This practice is slated to appear again at a September 10, 2008 taping restricting the audience to those who served in the Armed Forces for a Veteran's Day episode. Similar rules were in play restricting the audience to featured branch of the Armed Forces or public safety departments and their family members during the 2002 primetime series.
For the sake of tradition, and through special permission from RTL's subsidiary FremantleMedia North America, the show continued to use the Mark Goodson Productions name, logo, and announcement at the end of each episode until Barker's retirement, even after Fremantle purchased and merged with the Goodson company. The show is now credited as a FremantleMedia production in association with CBS.
Except for the 2002 Las Vegas special, The Price Is Right has been taped at Studio 33 in CBS Television City for its entire run. The studio, which is also used for other television productions, was renamed the Bob Barker Studio in the host's honor on the ceremonial 5,000th episode in 1998. Since Carey became host, there has been talk of the show traveling in the future.
Contestants' Row is placed at the front of the audience, with the scoring displays located on the edge of the stage deck. On stage are three sets of large, paneled, sliding doors, as well as a platform with a rotating wall (the Turntable). Pricing games and prizes are typically placed in these areas. There are also a "Giant Price Tag" prop, a large fly curtain, and other covers used to conceal prizes, games and other staging elements.
The set had remained almost unchanged throughout Barker's tenure, although the turntable walls have consistently changed. Until those changes, older shows could be rerun without seeming dated. In 2002, the turntable walls were changed featuring a Hollywood mural and the Big Doors received a new design. The turntable mural was removed midway through the season, but various murals were continuously used for primetime episodes until 2004. For 2006, the Big Doors were repainted with a new design.
An overhaul of the set was made in 2007, when Carey took over as host. The predominant earth tone colors were brightened to project a modern look, although the set props largely remained as they were for Barker's shows.
Further changes on the set were added late in Season 36, as June 2008 tapings were the first with the new transition into full HDTV broadcasts in daytime for Season 37. The production crew is now concealed behind doors that may be closed to prevent this area of the stage from being seen in the 16:9 broadcasts; during the July 2, 2008 broadcast, Kathy Greco was shown closing the new door that conceals the production section.
The set used for prime time specials during Season 36 (sans the black floor) was adopted for daytime episodes taped in Season 37.
During the week of September 8, 1975 CBS experimented with a one-hour version of the show in order to celebrate its third anniversary. The ratings for the week were strong enough to convince the network that the arrangement would work well permanently. CBS made the move on November 3, fitting the show to its current six pricing game/two Showcase Showdown format.
The show has since remained virtually unchanged. New pricing games are generally added each year, while games that have become unpopular or confusing are removed. In addition, prizes and pricing games have kept pace with inflation, resulting in some of the original pricing games that were designed for four-digit cars to be adjusted to allow for five-digit prizes. Apart from minor aesthetics, the current show otherwise maintains a nearly identical appearance to a show produced in the 1970s.
In Season 36 the show began a transition to high definition, first with the prime time series, then taping the last three weeks of the show (but not yet broadcast) in high definition. Starting with Season 37 the show began broadcasting exclusively in high definition.
Three syndicated versions of The Price Is Right have aired, with the first two being carbon copies of their daytime counterparts.
This version retained the 1972 half-hour format for its entire run, and did not add the daytime show's Showcase Showdown or (seemingly) the Double Showcase Rule. In most of the U.S., stations carried the syndicated Price as one of five different programs every night of the week in one of the available timeslots created by the 1971 FCC Prime Time Access Rule. Usually, the time slots were one of the two half-hours between 7–8 p.m. in the Eastern and Pacific time zones, and 6–7 p.m. in the Central Time Zone (Mountain Time Zone stations' practices varied).
James' contract expired in 1977, and Barker took over the nighttime version that fall (after Truth or Consequences ended its run). The series was cancelled after 300 episodes in 1980 (the last episode taped on March 12), after weekly syndicated game shows had fallen out of popularity in favor of daily offerings. Having a run of eight seasons, it was one of the longest running weekly syndicated game shows of the era and the longest-running version of Price in primetime (beating out the 1957-1964 run by one season).
Kennedy's version was the first to extensively adjust the show's pricing games to accommodate five-digit prizes (the daytime series had only done so sporadically until this point), a pattern followed by CBS' primetime specials that would air during the Summer repeats.
The series failed to earn prime access slots as its predecessor did, due to increased competition from shows such as Wheel Of Fortune and Jeopardy!, and often found itself in late night slots.
This version produced 170 episodes with repeats airing for four weeks during the season and from June 2 to September 5, 1986; to date, this is the only one of the three syndicated versions to be reran (GSN aired it in the 1990s).
On August 23, 1996, CBS aired an hour-long 25th Anniversary Special, using the half-hour gameplay format and featuring a number of retrospective clips. The 30th Anniversary Special was recorded at Harrah's Rio in Las Vegas and aired on January 31, 2002. This one-time road trip enticed 5,000 potential contestants to line up for 900 available tickets, causing an incident that left one person injured.
A second primetime series was a six-show series saluting various branches of the United States armed forces, police officers, and firefighters aired during the summer of 2002, as a tribute to the heroes of the terrorist attacks of 2001. During The Price Is Right Salutes, a $1.00 on the bonus spin in the Showcase Showdown was worth $100,000 instead of the usual $10,000; this prize went unclaimed.
The success of the prime time series, which aired mostly in the summer, along with the rise of big-money "million dollar" game shows, led to CBS launching the current prime time series in 2003, The Price Is Right $1,000,000 Spectacular, which has aired 26 episodes.
In the first sixteen $1,000,000 Spectaculars, the bonus spin payoff for the Showcase Showdown was again increased, this time to $1 million. Beginning on the fourth $1,000,000 Spectacular, the winner of the Showcase (or a random audience member in case of a double overbid, which happened on one occasion) earned a million-dollar spin if there was no bonus spin during either Showcase Showdown; during these post-Showcase spins, hitting a green section did not earn any money. The million-dollar spin was eliminated for Season 36 and was replaced with two other methods of winning the prize: One pricing game per episode was selected as a "million-dollar game" with an additional requirement that the contestant needed to fulfill to win the money; and in the Showcase round, the double showcase win rule was adjusted to include the million dollar prize if the winning contestant came within $1,000 (later $500) of the actual retail price of their showcase.
On the prime time series, larger and more expensive prizes are generally offered than on the daytime show. Contestants' Row frequently offers prizes usually seen in pricing games, and many pricing games, including those played for money, offer larger prizes than on the daytime show. The Showcase frequently offers multiple or very expensive cars.
The 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike led CBS to commission another six-episode (and later expanded to ten episodes based on the success in the Nielsen ratings) prime time series. This prime time series featured Drew Carey in a tuxedo, like the 1986 series, and featured massive set changes as the show was broadcast in high definition television for the first time. The set used for these shows was moved to the daytime show in 2008. A contestant on the first episode won $1,000,000 with a winning Showcase bid that was less than $1,000 below his actual showcase price; another $1,000,000 win was recorded at the end of the third show. A third $1,000,000 win was recorded on the fifth airing April 4 in a pricing game. That led to the prize indemnity insurance provider ordering the million-dollar showcase range be changed from $1,000 to $500 for the second series of tapings.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, the program production company—and in some cases, Barker, as executive producer—was sued by seven women. A majority of the lawsuits involved Barker's Beauties and other staff members in cases of sexual harassment, wrongful termination and racial discrimination. Allegations of sexual harassment brought by model Dian Parkinson led to Barker calling a press conference to admit a past consensual sexual relationship with her, while denying any harassment and alleging instead that she was only angry with him for calling off the relationship. Barker was widowed in 1981 following the death of his wife, Dorothy Jo. It has also been alleged that Barker and senior staff created a hostile work environment, particularly to those who would testify for the plaintiffs suing Barker. Responding to the controversy just before his retirement, Barker told an interviewer, "They've been such a problem. I don't want to say anything about them. They're disgusting; I don't want to mention them."
All the lawsuits, except for one, were settled out of court at the production company's insistence.
Both daily syndicated versions, the Kennedy version of the mid-80's and The New Price Is Right of the 1990s exist in their entirety; the Kennedy version aired in reruns on Game Show Network in the 1990s while The New Price is Right has not been seen since its cancellation.
The 1972-1980 series is also believed to exist in its entirety, although it hasn't been reran since September 14, 1980; only five episodes are in the trading circuit (including the Finale) along with the original February 11, 1972 pitchfilm featuring Dennis James and Mark Goodson demonstrating two potential pricing games (which eventually became Take Two and Ten Chances, respectively - the latter called "Cut Price" by James during the pitch) and a clip of James sub-hosting an episode of Let's Make a Deal from 1971 or 1972.
Additionally, James' Christmas Day substitute episode was reran by GSN in 1997 as a tribute after he died, and two clips from episodes not in the trading circuit (a contestant in Clock Game who can't seem to understand "Lower" and a contestant causing James to trip on one of the Turntable steps) were used in Game Show Moments Gone Bananas.
The Price is Right library is held separately from other FremantleMedia programs, due in part to CBS' part ownership of the series. The 1994 New Price is Right was, for many years, further held separately from the rest of the library, as it was owned by Paramount Domestic Television; after the reorganization of CBS Corporation and Viacom (Viacom was Paramount's parent company), this unit is now part of CBS Television Distribution. The separate ownership is part of the reason why Price is no longer shown on Game Show Network.
CBS controls online video of Carey-hosted episodes and posts select clips on YouTube as well as certain full episodes on AOL Video.
Three games were produced during the 1970s, by Milton Bradley, with Contestants' Row; a small number of pricing games; and, in the case of the third version, a spinner for the Big Wheel, albeit with the numbers in the wrong order. In the first two versions, decks of cards had various grocery items, small prizes and larger prizes; the third version simply had cards for each game that included ten sets of "right" answers, all using the same price choices. The instruction book would tell the "host" for the round what color cards would be necessary.
The 1986 version, again by Milton Bradley, was similar in scope to the earlier version, with new prizes and more games, but strangely lacking the Big Wheel. The instruction book refers to Contestants' Row as the "Qualifying Round", and the pricing games as "Solo Games". The book also instructs players to use items priced under $100 as IUFB's. The 1998 version of the game, this time by Endless Games, was virtually identical to the 1986 release, with the same games, the same prizes, and even the same prices; the only changes were the number tiles being changed to cardboard bits and the cars from the deck of 4-digit prizes being removed.
The 2004 edition, again by Endless Games, was a complete departure. Instead of different prize cards and background games, the game consisted of everything you would need to play over 40 pricing games, and enough materials to create all the games not technically included if the "host" wished to and knew their rules; the Big Wheel spinner was also restored, this time with the numbers in the correct order. Additionally, the prices, instead of being random numbers that could change each time the game was played, were actual prices taken from episodes of the TV show. To fit everything in the box, grocery items and prizes were listed in the instruction book, and games were played on dry erase boards. A spinner would determine what game would be played next, although its use was not necessarily required if the "host" wished to build his own game lineup.
A hand-held Tiger game was made in 1998 with four pricing games. A DVD game with 12 pricing games, live casino show host Todd Newton, and video of prizes taken directly from the show was produced by Endless Games in 2005, with a second DVD edition (featuring current host Carey) with a new game assortment in 2008.
An online edition of the game was available from Gamesville during the early 2000s but has since been discontinued.
On March 26, 2008, Ludia Inc (in connection with Ubisoft) launched The Price Is Right video game for PC. A version for the Wii and Nintendo DS platforms was released in September 2008. The virtual set in the game resembles the set used in Seasons 31 through 34 rather than the current set. During the taping of this promotion the Plinko board was rigged so that all chips dropped landed in the highest value slot on the board. After production wrapped, the wires used to rig the board were mistakenly left in place, leading to an incident during a taping of the daytime show which had to be edited and re-shot.
Irwin Toys released an electronic tabletop version, featuring Contestants' Row, the big wheel, showcases, and 7 pricing games in 2008.
The most common machines recreate the Showcase Showdown as a bonus feature, with a wheel built into the game above the main video screen. At least four different versions of this machine exist as of 2006, each featuring additional bonus rounds based on popular pricing games: Plinko, Cliff Hangers, Punch a Bunch, and Dice Game. The Cliff Hangers game also exists as a mechanical reel slot machine, with a video screen positioned above the reels for the bonus.
In addition, a Money Game slot machine exists, albeit in limited release. This game has a potential top prize of a new car, and has a different bonus round than the other The Price Is Right slot machines in service.
Another slot machine called The Price Is Right Fishing Game has been created by IGT. The game features a fishing-themed bonus and is not based on any pricing game featured on the program. IGT has also released a game called The Price Is Right Fort Knox Progressives, but there are no elements of the television program evident in its gameplay.
After the 2002 one-off Las Vegas episode, Harrah's and RTL Group have agreed to do live licensed shows (dubbed The Price Is Right Live!) at their venues, with several performers, including Roger Lodge (Blind Date) and Todd Newton (Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck) hosting and Randy West, Daniel Rosen, or Dave Walls announcing.
The casino show was used often during the 2006-07 season to try out new hosts, and in the 2003-04 season was used to try out show announcers.