‘The Price Is Right’ Secrets You Probably Never Knew
One producer has chosen nearly every contestant for 40 years—and other crazy facts.
Anyone who’s ever spent an entire day at home in front of the TV knows “The Price Is Right” is a loyal companion. For many decades and thousands of hours, the beloved game show has kept us company and given us a reason to know how much a box of Hamburger Helper costs, down to the cent.
No matter how many episodes you’ve seen — or during how many Showcase rounds you’ve screamed dollar amounts at your TV — there are still plenty of facts about the series you probably never knew. So, come on down and check it out!
It’s Been Around For More Than 60 Years
“The Price Is Right” has one of the longest histories of any show on TV today. It first started in 1956, premiering on NBC as a daytime series. The original version ran until 1965 and followed a format where contestants would bid on prizes multiple times rather than just once — more like a typical auction.
It Has Aired More Than 11,000 Episodes
The original, 1956-1965 version of “The Price Is Right” aired more than 2,200 episodes. Since the show came back in 1972, it has aired about 9,000 episodes. That makes it the longest-running game show in TV history, according to CBS.
It Benefited From A Scandal
In the 1950s, many popular American TV game shows had their legacies tarnished by investigations that revealed they had been rigged. One show that was never touched by the scandal? “The Price Is Right.” As a result, the show’s popularity grew, and it became a model for future game shows not based on trivia knowledge.
It Aired On All Of The ‘Big Three’ Networks
Before Fox debuted in 1986, there were only three TV networks — ABC, CBS and NBC, which were known as the “Big Three.” During its history, “The Price Is Right” has aired on all three of them. It began on NBC in 1956 before moving to ABC in 1963 and settling on CBS, where it has aired since 1972.
Viewers Used To Mail In Bids For A Special Prize
The original run of the show featured a collection of prizes that home viewers could win. In those days, viewers had to send postcards to the show with their bid written on it.
There Have Been Some Insane Prizes
These days, contestants can hope for a trip around the world or a new car as their top prize. But back in the day, the prizes were ridiculous. The original version of the show saw some people win a submarine, a suit of armor, a horse and even an entire island in the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Bob Barker Wasn’t The Original Host
If you ask anyone who watched “The Price Is Right” from 1972 to 2007, they’ll tell you Bob Barker was likely the host they always identify with the show. But if you ask anyone who watched it from 1956 to 1965, they’ll remember Bill Cullen. Cullen, dubbed the “dean of game shows,” hosted 35 different game shows during his long career.
Every Contestant Is Chosen By One Man
Since 1979, producer Stan Blits has held the keys to the kingdom. Blits is responsible for screening every single person in the studio audience and choosing which people get to compete on the show’s stage. He told the New York Post he’s looking for people with “energy, sincerity and potential humor.” Blits can be seen in the picture below, standing second from the right.
There Are Only 10 Plinko Chips In Existence
Who knew Plinko chips were such a rare item? In 2013, show producer Mike Richards told BuzzFeed there are only 10 Plinko chips in existence. He said the chips are “enormously expensive to make.”
Attending A Taping Can Be A Long Process
If you’ve ever thought about visiting the studio and potentially being on “The Price Is Right,” you’d be in for a long day. One former winner told AV Club that she first had to stand around for more than 4 hours at the studio’s front gate before even getting selected to be in the audience. After all that waiting, she got a few seconds to make an impression on Stan Blits, being asked a few basic questions. Finally, the actual taping took about 90 minutes.
Winning The Showcase Is A Pain
Anyone who’s watched “The Price Is Right” has likely dreamed of winning the Showcase. The same former winner who talked to AV Club said you “basically sign your life away” to collect your prizes — and that’s only if you’re able to pay the taxes on everything you’ve won. She said the $1,200 she won in Plinko was absorbed into the $2,500 she had to pay in taxes. She ended up selling all her big prizes, including the car.
The Original Board Game Is Seriously Vintage
“The Price Is Right” has been turned into multiple home games over the years, with the first board game launching in 1958. That means “The Price Is Right” is technically an older board game than “Risk.”
‘Come On Down’ Wasn’t Anything Special At First
When “The Price Is Right” came back in 1972, the now-iconic catchphrase “Come on down” made its debut. According to Bob Barker, it started out as simply “three words in a script.” He said it was announcer Johnny Olson who made it a sensation, thanks to his dramatic delivery.
Drew Carey Has Given About $200,000 Cash From His Pocket
When a contestant make a perfect initial bid, nailing the “actual retail price” exactly, Drew Carey gives them $500 in cash from his suit pocket. According to CBS, Carey had given away $187,000 that way, as of 2017.
You’ve Probably Seen George Gray Elsewhere
A Contestant Once Won $210,000
In primetime specials, there have been numerous big winners on “The Price Is Right,” but in the daytime version, the most anyone has ever walked away with was $210,000 in cash and prizes. In 2016, Christen Freeman won the ridiculous amount and became the biggest winner in daytime TV history, according to CBS.
It’s Been Shot In The Same Studio Since 1972
The original version of “The Price Is Right” was taped in New York City, but since 1972, the show has been shot at Stage 33 of CBS’s iconic Television City in Los Angeles. It’s estimated about 300 audience members fit into the studio.
They Use That Weird Microphone For A Reason
If you’ve ever watched the show, you’ve likely wondered about that long, skinny microphone used by Barker and Carey over the years. Carey told Rotten Tomatoes that mic is used because it doesn’t intimidate contestants who aren’t used to being on TV or having a mic in their face.
Aaron Paul Was A Contestant Before He Was Famous
Countless people have been contestants on “The Price Is Right” since 1956, but only one went on to star in “Breaking Bad.” Aaron Paul, who played Jesse Pinkman on the beloved TV show, was called to “Come on down” in 1999. On the show, he told Bob Barker he was his “idol” and ended up making it to the Showcase, where he overbid by just $132!
Bob Barker Lives By His Own Catchphrase
At the end of every episode of “The Price Is Right,” Barker — and now Carey — told viewers to “Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.” It’s an odd sign-off for a TV host, but Barker has been a lifelong activist for animal rights. He’s a strict vegetarian and has worked over the years to rescue animals around the world. In 2013, he was honored by Animal Defenders International with a prestigious lifetime achievement award.
Rod Roddy Got His Wacky Suits From Thailand
Rod Roddy, the beloved late announcer for the show, was known for his booming voice and colorful wardrobe. In 1997, he told AV Club he started wearing Thai silk suits from Bangkok in order to keep up with Bob Barker’s dapper outfits.
Rosie O’Donnell Could Have Been The Host
When Bob Barker retired from “The Price Is Right” in 2007, the search for his replacement lasted about a year. Several celebrities were reportedly considered as hosts for the show, including Rosie O’Donnell and John O’Hurley, before Drew Carey was chosen.
One Model Was On The Show For Nearly 30 Years
There have been many models — male and female — who have displayed the prizes on “The Price Is Right” over the years, but nobody did it longer than Janice Pennington. From 1972 to 2000, Pennington worked as a model on more than 6,000 episodes of the series. Her time there wasn’t always easy. She told the Los Angeles Times she once was knocked off the stage and that her off-camera relationship with Barker wasn’t as amicable as it appeared to be on-camera.
An Announcing Mistake Led To A Winner
On one episode during Drew Carey’s tenure as host, a mistake by then-announcer Rich Fields led a contestant to win a new computer and desk. During the game, Fields said the prize the man was playing for was “a computer desk and a Dell computer” — but the computer was really an HP. The show’s producers decided to give the contestant both prizes after realizing the mistake, even though the man had overbid by more than $5,000.
A Plinko Mistake Led To An Even Bigger Winner
In 2008, a mistake by the show’s producers led a contestant to be awarded more than $30,000 from a game of Plinko. The Plinko game board had been rigged so that all chips would hit the $10,000 slot for the production of a commercial. Producers forgot to remove the rigging, leading a contestant to drop three chips in, which all hit the $10,000 mark! Producers then realized what happened and reset the board but decided to give the contestant the ill-gotten winnings.
Plenty Of Games Have Been Killed Off
They can’t all be Cliff Hangers. In the course of the show, dozens of pricing games have been axed from “The Price Is Right.” One failed game, Bullseye, was cut for being too difficult. According to Mental Floss, it appeared on the show five times and nobody ever won it.
Three People Once Won $80,000 Combined On The Wheel
The Showcase Showdown — aka the giant wheel — is one of the most iconic parts of the show. In 2017, three contestants set a record by winning a combined $80,000 in one round! In an unprecedented turn of events, all three people spun the $1 mark and two of the three spun to that jackpot a second time.
The Show Once Offered A Ferrari
In 2013, producer Mike Richards lived his dream of having a Ferrari available as a prize on “The Price Is Right.” The Ferrari 458 Spider, a $285,000 ride, was rented by the show but would’ve been paid for in full if someone had won it. Alas, the contestant lost their pricing game and the car went back to its lot. Since then, the show has offered other dream cars, including Porsches, Jaguars and Mercedes Benzes.
Relatability Has Ensured The Show’s Popularity
Why has “The Price Is Right” outlasted so many other game shows? Bob Barker has said it’s because it’s relatable. Whereas not everyone knows trivia, “everyone identifies with prices,” Barker told the Los Angeles Times in 1990.
You Probably Know Other Songs By The Guy Who Wrote The Theme Song
Composer Edd Kalehoff, who wrote the iconic theme song for “The Price Is Right,” has written a lot of music you’ve heard if you are a TV lover. He also wrote the theme songs for Nickelodeon’s “Double Dare,” ABC’s “Monday Night Football” and “PBS NewsHour.”