The Daily Dump

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Friday, March 24

Top Five Game Shows From My Youth: #1 “The Price Is Right”

The Premise

First, you hail from the Midwest or Florida. Then you wear a big sweatshirt or any other overtly 80’s apparel. Then, when you hear your name called out by Rod Roddy, you do one of two things: you either a. jump up out of your chair like someone just jabbed you with a live wire and run down to Contestant’s Row; or b. rise from your seat as you might rise from a rocking chair on a porch on a warm Summer day and leisurely stroll down to Contestant’s Row while everyone looks on thinking, “This person has no idea what’s going on.” Either way, after that you embark on an hour long journey through what is undoubtedly the most inventive game show ever devised around guessing the price things.

The Host

Bob Barker defies definition. Sexually aggressive, egomaniacal and as old as a Giant Red Oak, Bob Barker has ruled over daytime television for over 30 years. To this day, his show still gets higher ratings than its competition, including Martha Stewart’s show “Martha” and “The View.” “THE VIEW” people!

Women want to kiss Bob Barker and men want to shake his hand. I heard a rumor once that Bob Barker turned down sex with a college girl because “she made him feel old.” OK, that’s a lie, but don’t even try to tell me that you didn’t believe it. Because at this point there’s very little you could hear about Bob Barker and not believe, unless it was something like “Bob Barker made a mistake,” or “Bob Barker’s hair was messed up.” Hell, Bob Barker sued one of the models on his show solely because she sued him! Then, when another model was subpoenaed to testify against Bob, he fired her! This man does what he wants, when he wants and no one, not even Alex Trebek, would be willing to step in his path.

The Highlights

Last year, my friend Scott decided that he wanted to go to a taping of “The Price is Right.” He and a friend flew out to L.A., waited on line, got their tickets and made it into the audience. Now if you don’t remember the show, during commercial breaks Bob Barker would chat with the audience and sometimes this would spill over into the show after the break. Well, my friend Scott, being loud and from Queens, caught Bob’s attention with his homemade t-shirt reading “NYC luvs BOB.” And when Bob singled him out of the audience and complimented him on his shirt, this conversation ensued:

Scott: “Can I have your suit?”

Bob: “What size are you?”

Scott: “42 regular.”

Bob: “That's what I am. How tall are you? 6'1"

Scott: (laughing) “Only 5'7", Bob.”

Bob: “My suit jacket would be like tails on you!”

Scott’s friend Len sitting next to him: “Bob put you in your place!”

Scott: “And that place is sadness . . .”

(commercial break ends and they start taping)

Bob: “There was a gentleman in the audience who wanted to buy my suit. Stand up . . . well what do you bid, Scott?!”

Scott: “One dollar!”

Bob: “Sit down!”

To this day, Scott says it was the most stern yet loving command he has ever received.

Why I Liked It

I could probably list about 75 things I loved about this show. But I’ll limit it to the following:

– Barker’s Beauties. Made up almost exclusively of past or future Playboy models, Bob Barker single handedly revolutionized sexual objectification in the late 70’s straight through the 80’s. His concept was simple: get hot women to wear low cut shirts and show off the prizes. I’m 100% convinced that “The Price Is Right” is the grandfather of the modern beer commercial. Also, to a 12 year old, Janice Pennington showing off a beautiful new bedroom set is like porn.

(Note: Ian Ziering’s wife, Nikki Schieler Ziering, was a model on the show until 2002 when Bob Barker had her fired, presumably because she had become too popular and taking attention away from him. Yes, you read that correctly, Ian Ziering’s wife is popular.)

– The Showcase Showdown. Whether it was a little old lady who needed Bob’s help or a hulking logger who spun it so fast it looked like a pinwheel, there is perhaps no greater game show prop than The Wheel. As far as childhood dreams go, wanting to spin The Wheel was right up there with wanting to drive KITT.

– The brilliance of the following games:

Shell Game. Six words: Overgrown walnut shell Three Card Monty.

Safe Crackers. There’s something about a model and a gigantic safe. Something . . .

Punch a Bunch. This game combined two of my favorite things: violence and cash. Punch through a paper covered hole and pull out the slip inside. Then hand the slip to Bob and, in his subtly devastating way, he reveals to you what you have won.

Pathfinder. Guess the price of a car by stepping on the correct sequence of digits on a giant light-up board. Best way to guess the price of a car ever.

Plinko. By far my favorite game. A contestant guesses the price of four small items, and with each correct answer wins a Plinko chip. Then the contestant climbs the winding staircase to the top of the Plinko board and, positioning the chips with precision (the most strategic players started at the sides) dropped the chip and watched it wind its way through the pegs to the bottom of the board and, God willing, into a big-money slot. A maximum of $25,000 could be won and, indeed, only winning the maximum amount was considered to be a “win” for Plinko. Hence, with the maximum award topping out at $23,000, Plinko, to this day, has never been won.

Hole in One. Screw the game, it’s all about Bob Barker showing you “how easy it is.”

Hit Me. This was where I formed my lifelong love affair with oversized playing cards. Seriously, the props on this show were iconic. If someone offered me all the props from “The Price is Right” or all the props from Jenna Jameson’s last movie, well I can’t end this sentence without using the term “think long and hard,” so I’ll stop right here.

Cliff Hangers. Contestants guess the price of small items (shocker!) and for every dollar they are off, a yodeling climber makes his way one step up a hill. If he takes too many steps, he falls off the edge at the top and you lose. I honestly believe the creators of the show got together and smoked opium before coming up with some of the ideas for this show.

Blank Check. THAT pen?

Bump. Four busses displaying possible prices of prizes were aligned over two prices on a shelf below. The contestant would decide which way the bus train needed to move in order to line up the correct price with the correct prize. Then, Janice and Dian would seductively swivel their hips and, with sexual authority and memorable sound effects, “bump” the cars into place. Dian later sued Bob Barker for sexual harassment.

The trench warfare that was Contestant’s Row. You’re down in a pit with three other contestants and the fighting gets dirty. I never understood how a fight didn’t start down there. While the $1 bid may just be good strategy, the “someone else’s bid plus $1” was just a nasty, dirty play. Basically you’ve taken that person out of the running to win, unless the item costs exactly what the other person bid. Honestly, if I was in Contestant’s Row and I bid $500 and the last person bid $501 and the actual price of the prize was $525, I would run over and tackle the guy on his way to the stage. Or old woman, or whoever the son of a bitch was who did it.

When a woman would guess the exact value of the Contestant’s Row prize and Bob Barker would make her take her $100 bonus directly out of his pocket. God bless the 80’s.

What Was Wrong With It

Is there any more random sign off in the history of television than Bob’s plea to have your pet spade and neutered at the end of every episode? And it’s not that I didn’t like it, I just think he could have had more fun with it. Like one week say, “And remember, shut the water off when you’re brushing your teeth,” or “Please, cover your mouth the next time you sneeze in public. I’m Bob Barker.” But no, Bob devoted all his energy and considerable fame to the cause of not propagating the unwanted pet population. Which isn’t a bad cause I guess. I’d probably put it in the Top Three, along with world hunger and cancer.


Pilnko by far would be the only reason I would go on that show because with my luck I'd win a piano or a furniture set. And who really wants that crap.

I would also go on to yell "The Price is wrong Bitch!" at Bob Barker. That would make it fun.

By Blogger Julie_Gong, at 1:37 PM  

Has anyone else noticed how big of a difference there is now in the prizes one can possibly win in the Showcase Showdown? They're so inifitely better now than they used to be back in the 80's and 90's that it's not even funny.

Also, the 2 different showcases are much more comprable. Used to be that one had a trip, a partyboat, and a set of fucking luggage, and the OTHER one had a luxery car, an airplane, $1,000,000, and all the Rice-A-Roni you could eat for the rest of your life. Now they're much more even-steven, it seems.

A few months ago, they had that special primetime Price Is Right that was playing on Saturdays, I think it was, and the bar I frequent would always have it playing on one of the t.v.'s behind the bar. The t.v. was muted, of course, but we would all have a ton of fun cheering for the people spinning the wheel, and then guessing the prices of the Showcase Showdowns. It was the best time...

By Blogger Faith, at 2:04 PM  

Side note: Price is Righ has the worst slot machine based on a game show and Wheel of Fortune, the best.

By Blogger [Disgrundled], at 2:15 PM  

Soo true about the showdowns!

I remember back in the day, they would present one showcase in such a hyped-up, fun manner; the girls would be dresed up in outfits that complimented the prizes and there was usually a theme that ran through it. They offered amazing prizes such as speed boats,trips across Europe,and new cars. You always knew to bid on that showdown becuase then they would open the curtain/wall on the second showdown and it would have such items as , the newspaper Bob read that morning and box of slightly used toothpicks.
I always felt bad for the contestants that had to bid on the crappy showdown.

P.S. I had lunch in our university's cafeteria today, and had to smile as I walked past the tray of funfetti cake!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:42 PM  

"Hit Me" was what insipired your love of oversized cards? I would have thought "Card Sharks" deserved that honor.

And I disagree with "disgrundled," the Wheel of Fortune slot machine sucks.

By Blogger Dennis!, at 2:43 PM  

This marks the third time I will have corrected a fellow blogger (whom I respect greatly) in the following manner: It's "spayed." Not "spade," and certainly not "spaded."

(I'm sorry but I have to do this or I start dying inside.)

That said, I miss Rod Roddy so much.

By Anonymous Leah, at 2:54 PM  

Faith, great point. You're absolutely right. How about you write my friggin blog from now on?

Just kidding. But I forgot about the "lifetime supply of" prizes. How the hell does that work? Do you call it in when you need more of the product? Or do they just send you more than you could ever possibly use in one shipment and leave it at that?

By Blogger the belligerent intellectual, at 2:58 PM  

The immense amount of enjoyment I receive when I watch that wheel spin is only matched with the pain I feel as I lose 30 spins in a row. But then again, life's a balance and isn't that what weel of fortune is all about?

By Blogger [Disgrundled], at 3:14 PM  

Yeah, you dropped the ball not mentioning the best part of that show in a bit more detail, man. I got your back...:P:P:P:P

The lifetime supply always boggled me as well. Do you have to pay taxes on a prize like that? And do they just assume that they need to send you a couple of boxes of Rice-A-Roni or detergent or tampons (now THAT is a prize I would gladly accept!) every month? Because I bought a couple of boxes of cous cous about 3 weeks ago, and I've only managed to get through one of them as of yet, so I'd probly be good with just one box a month, or every couple of months, at most. Hmmm...

By Blogger Faith, at 3:35 PM  

In February of 1994, my grandfather was on The Price is Right and won the whole show...the whole effin' show.

Great times. I had that Contestant's Row washer/dryer in my house for years. He played Safecracker and won (easiest game ever), spun 95 cents on the wheel and outbid the other guy at the end. Read all about it in that link I just posted...

Yeah, I'm poaching readers, Dan, you heard me.

By Blogger Ace Cowboy, at 3:56 PM  

i was watching an episode of Mad TV and I think they were doing a sketch on of them said, "Well just hold your spayed & neutered horses there, Bob!"

holy crap, i laughed so hard. i still use that line, but not too many people laugh along with me.

and i knew a girl that went on that show...must have been a few years back by now. anyway, she was in her early twenties then and won BOTH showcases. swear to god. i even saw the tape.

By Blogger kristine, at 4:03 PM  

Jesus Kristine, that's practically unfathomable - because after 1998 they lowered the range from "within $250 of the actual value of the showcase" to "within $100 of the actual value of the showcase." Is your friend a mensa? Or a Scientologist? And did she win a lifetime supply of anything so we can have some questions answered here?

By Blogger the belligerent intellectual, at 4:09 PM  

Plinko and Cliff Hangers were my favorite games-- I guess I'm just a sucker for the yodeling. Send that little jerk over the cliff!

I would love it if someone reported on how that "lifetime supply" deal works. It seems like we all want to know. Could you work on that?

By Blogger mysterygirl!, at 4:17 PM  

Now I've got the themesong stuck in my head. And I want to punch Bob like Adam Sandler did. Awesome.

By Blogger Momentary Academic, at 4:19 PM  

I saw an episode when I was little (snow day? sick day?) where an old woman won both showcases and promptly fainted dead away. That was awesome.

By Blogger MonkeyPants, at 4:45 PM  

I have to also say Cliffhangers was my favorite, if only for the yodeling.

Man, I would get pissed when someone bid a dollar over the last person on contestant's row. And also, I would have been one pissed off contestant if I won some ugly-ass dining room set and water bed while the next person had a shot at winning a car. Might as well not win anything at all.

By Blogger Hope, at 4:50 PM  

Well on the website for the Price Is Right they have an area for questions and answers. No answer on the lifetime prizes though. If your bored it answers a lot of the questions that were brought up here.

By Blogger Hunny, at 4:54 PM  

I used to love whenever a wussy guy couldn't get the wheel all the way around. Plinko and the game where you played poker were by far my favorite games. And as if you need further proof that Bob Barker is the man, look here...

By Anonymous Johnson 3:16, at 5:35 PM  

Great post again, Belig.

Did Bob really make women fish money out of his pockets? How about Bob Barker and Richard Dawson in a pervert/sleaze off to the death!

By Blogger Dr. Kenneth Noisewater, at 8:43 PM  

You know, I've always been curious why people fail at "Hit Me." The idea is to get 21, right? The value of each card (X) is based upon only the most elementary of algebraic equations:

Price Shown = Actual Retail Price of Product * X


So why is it that 90% of the contestants playing this game never pick the product that has the highest price ending in zero? If a bar of soap costs $23.60, its value has probably been multiplied by ten. Why is it that these same individuals lack the ability to associate a $1.35 price tag with an individual serving of peanuts?

Seriously, some people probably don't need to be getting behind the wheel of that "brand new car."

By Blogger Tom Jensen, at 4:26 AM  

I can't get over the fact that Ian Zeiring's wife is popular. What the hell?!?

By Blogger Heather B., at 12:01 PM  

i'm still not in your blogroll. :(

By Blogger Vesper, at 1:42 PM  

Unrelated to this post, but related to an earlier comment... I have Funfetti-esque cake mix in my house now. Maybe they don't call it funfetti in Canada though. My wife couldn't find anything called funfetti, but she did find the white cake with colours in it... I'm SO making that cake tonight.

By Blogger scum, at 3:49 PM  

My theory is the pleas for spaying and neutering were related to a relationship with Betty White. I guess not a sexual one since he had a bevy of young fillies. But at least a friendship.

By Anonymous amanda, at 11:39 AM  

Firstly, to Ace grandfather would have been so damn proud of your grandfather. He watched Price Is Right every damn day.

But what I really wanted to say is that Plinko, while fun to watch, is not really deserving of its status as Everyone's Favourite Game, because it's quite hard to win. If I were on Price Is Right, I'd actually hope that I ended up with the game were you get three turns to roll the oversized novelty dice during which you need to get a total of three car icons to win "...a new CAR!". By far the best game, because your chances of winning are so much higher, even if I have absolutely no idea what it's called

By Blogger alana, at 5:13 PM  

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