While most of us remember watching The Price is Right with Bob Barker as the emcee, the show actually began in 1956. It was created by Bob Stewart and produced by Mark Goodson and Bill Todman. Bill Cullen was the original host. From 1956-1965 the show aired on NBC. Four contestants bid on a variety of items. Whoever came closest to the actual cost of the item, without exceeding the cost, won the prize. The contestants continued to try to win prizes, and the contestant who won the most came back for the next episode to compete again.
There was also a home viewer component where fans could guess prize totals by sending in a postcard; these prize packages often included a new car or a luxury vacation.
The show was on during the day, and in 1957 a second version was created for prime time. It aired weekly and was the first game show to be filmed in color. It was in the top ten for years, but when the ratings began to decline in 1963 NBC canceled it, and ABC picked it up. ABC aired the prime-time version for a year and then ended it in 1964. NBC’s daytime version was canceled in 1965.
In 1972, the show most of us are familiar with, began with host Bob Barker. Bob would host the long-running show until 2007 when Drew Carey took over the emcee duties. Barker won a lot of awards and honors during his time with the show including 19 Daytime Emmys and a Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 1972 the show was called The New Price is Right which changed to The Price is Right in 1973.
In this version of the show, four contestants are called up to the stage where they try to guess the suggested retail price of a product. Whoever wins gets the prize and is able to play another game for a more expensive prize. The two top winners of the day face off in the showcase. The showcase had a theme of prizes and whoever guessed the cost of all the items without going over the total value won their showcase.
In 1975 the show was expanded from thirty minutes to an hour. The Showcase Showdown was added at this time. For this part of the show, the first three players spun a roulette wheel with spaces from 5 to $1. Players spun once and could stay with that spin or spin a second time and add their two numbers together. Whoever was closest to $1 without going over $1 advanced to the showcase. The last three players of the day went through the same process and the winners went to the Showcase to compete.
The show is the longest-running game show in television history. Another fun history fact is that on September 22, 2008, contestant Terry Kneiss guessed his showcase to be worth $23,743 and it was to the penny. The taping was halted to determine if cheating had taken place. However, some detective work revealed that a fan, Ted Slauson, was in the audience sitting next to Terry’s wife Linda. Slauson had legitimately determined the exact prices of a lot of items but since he was not picked to be on the show, he gave the information to Linda.
Another first in television history was one the show did not want to see happen. One day a young woman was called to “Come on down” and not only did she come down but so did her tube top, revealing more than her name to the studio audience.
Talk show host Jenny Jones and Wheel of Fortune letter turner Vanna White were both contestants on the show before they became famous for their own television work.
There are 34 retired games and 74 current games. Some of the ones that were played in the early years that are still around include Bullseye, Cliff Hangers, Cover Up, Danger Price, Grocery Game, Hi-Lo, Hole in One (or Two), Plinko, Safe Crackers, Shell Game, Squeeze Play, Switcheroo, Take Two, and 3 Strikes.
After Carey took over, there have been some special editions of the daily shows including Celebrity Week when stars appear to help contestants win their games and the stars win the amount of money equal to the contestants’ prizes to give to a charity of their choice. The other special is The Price is Right Salutes when the show has honored firefighters, policemen, teachers, firefighters and branches of the military.
With all the game shows that have been on the air, it is pretty amazing that Jeopardy, The Price is Right, and Wheel of Fortune have been able to gain new viewers through the decades, providing generations of viewers with special memories of watching the show.