When you think of the game show “The Price Is Right” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? To some, it may be the flashing lights or overzealous crowds. To others, it’s the well-dressed hosts like Bob Barker and Drew Carey giving away hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars. Regardless of how you view the show, “The Price Is Right” has been cherished by many viewers for over five decades. For the 15th anniversary of Carey’s arrival, let’s learn more about one of the most acclaimed game shows of all time.
Before we delve into the show, it’s worth noting that “The Price Is Right” would be nothing without the creative input of Bob Stewart, Mark Goodson and Bill Todman. These individuals heavily influenced the modern game show formula. Stewart created the “Pyramid” series, “To Tell The Truth” and “Password.” Goodson-Todman Productions produced “Family Feud,” “Match Game” and “I’ve Got a Secret.” And these are just a select sample of the game shows they worked on.
“The Price Is Right” that we know and love premiered in September 1972. However, some fans may not know that the show originally aired in November 1956 and was hosted by Bill Cullen. Although it featured familiar concepts such as minigames and non-exceeding bids, the show was surprisingly different from the modern format. A returning champion would compete against three new contestants from the audience. The players would bid in an auction for four to six rounds, depending on when the show aired. At the end, the contestant with the largest prize value won the game.
The show avoided the plague that was the 1959 quiz show scandal: a controversy that exposed game show producers for assisting the contestants to make their shows appear “fair” for increased television ratings. This led to Congress amending the Communications Act of 1934, which prohibited showrunners from secretly providing assistance. Luckily, “The Price Is Right” avoided this scandal, as its creators established a low-stakes environment. Because the scandal brought an end to many other popular quiz shows, “The Price Is Right” gradually became one of the most-watched game shows of the era.
After almost nine years on the air, the original version ended in 1965. It would not be long before the newest and most iconic version of “The Price Is Right” aired in 1972. Barker was selected to be the host, and it wasn’t his first rodeo; at the time he had been hosting “Truth or Consequences” for over a decade. When he wasn’t hosting game shows, Barker appeared on countless televised events, he hosted “Miss Universe” pageants and played himself in Adam Sandler’s comedy, “Happy Gilmore.”
Barker is one of the most acclaimed hosts of all time. He earned a lifetime achievement award at the 1999 Daytime Emmys, and Time dubbed him the “Greatest Game Show Host of All-Time.” Not to mention, a studio at CBS Television City is named after Barker. He hosted “The Price Is Right” from 1972 up until his retirement in June 2007, commemorating his 50th anniversary of working as a game show host.
While the original series was more formal and routine, the current version adopted an energetic tone with more craze and pop. An ecstatic audience greets the stage at the start of each episode. The bidding row is randomized with four selected individuals summoned to “come on down.” The winner of the bidding row moves on to play a minigame to win more money. After enough contestants are brought on, the iconic wheel spinning commences. The two contestants closest to the “1.00” mark get to bid on grand prizes of vacations and pleasures galore.
This quick summary of the modified version of “The Price Is Right” seems chaotic enough, but Barker’s effortless class helped to keep the show grounded. His witty remarks and confident, yet soothing voice set the classy tone of “The Price Is Right.” Once Barker retired, the show faced the enormous challenge of finding his replacement. Reruns of his last season aired throughout the following summer until Carey took on the position in October 2007.
Carey was not given an easy task when he chose to host the nationally syndicated game show. While he was best known for hosting “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and “The Drew Carey Show,” his only prior experience as a game show host was for the short-lived “Power of 10.” Although he had big shoes to fill, he went on to host the show for an outstanding 15 years.
It comes as no shock that “The Price Is Right” is wildly successful in every sense of the word. The show has aired a whopping 9,000 episodes since its debut, making it the longest-running game show in the United States. In 2007, TV Guide ranked “The Price Is Right” 5th on their list of “The 60 Greatest Game Shows of All Time.” The show has won over 40 awards, most of which are Daytime Emmys.
The American syndication of game shows would not be the same without “The Price Is Right.” The 1959 quiz show scandal ruined many game shows and their respective networks, but the fact that “The Price Is Right” survived demonstrates the show’s enduring authenticity.
The iconic minigames, the prizes and the smartly dressed hosts have engaged American audiences for over half a century. However, the show’s success cannot be attributed to just Barker or Carey alone; more notice must be given to everyone else involved. Stewart, Goodson and Todman should be equally credited for establishing our television traditions and giving us game shows we can enjoy in perpetuity.