5.24.2007

Things you probably didn’t know about “The Price Is Right”

* There are people who camp out all night on the filthy sidewalks of Fairfax Avenue just to be assured of a seat. Tents, sleeping bags, ice chests... it's like a Yosemite campground out there. Rumor has it that the line can sometimes be 20 people long at 8pm the night before. At 2:00am, it can be 180 people long.

* The studio (Studio 33, a.k.a. the Bob Barker Studio) seats about 350 people. And yes, it looks much smaller than it does on television. Tiny, in fact. Part of the reason is that the studio's seating is so flat rather than raked. It's like a shoe box.

* Show announcer Rich Fields waves his left arm as he's reading the plugs, urging the audience to clap for the "items up for bid" and the pricing game prizes. He'll also walk out on stage during a pricing game and make an exaggarated "what do you think?" gesture to encourage everyone to start shouting help to the contestants.

* Your hands will get tired from all the clapping. And then you realize you're clapping for an ugly wall clock.

* Each contestant is indeed "interviewed" in the loosest sense of the word prior to show taping. To work through 300 people like this takes about 2 hours. You're set up police line-up style in groups of 12 or so and forced to chat with an unctious contestant coordinator who's equal parts used car salesman and standup comic. After working down the line saying hello and asking a couple of questions, you're dismissed and he confers with his cohort about who made the cut. But with 300 people and only 9 possible slots, the odds ain't so good.

* You know how the contestants on stage will always bend over and peer out at the audience for help like some kind of mental patient? They're trying to see around all the cameras and crew. That stage is tiny enough as it is, but during the show it's crammed full of three big video cameras and maybe 10 crew people. The only empty space is what's in the shot. From the audience you can sometimes barely see the game being played.

* Once a prize is shown on camera and the camera cuts away, stagehands are already wheeling it off. That includes the pricing games. This is probably why the contestants sometimes ask "What kind of car is it?" The doors have already closed on the car in question so the stagehands can start setting up the next game.

* If you're sitting on the left side of the audience, can’t see the showcase turntable where the two final contestants stand and Bob wraps up the show with his "spayed and neutered" line.

* Because the audience is going so nuts at the top of the show - it's hard to even know for sure that the show's started they've got everyone whipped up into such a noisy frenzy - as Rich Fields calls the first four contestants' name, they also hold up with signs with the names spelled out so you can see it if you don't hear it. By the way, during this part of the show, you don't stand up unless your name is called. That's apparently an official rule.

* Before the showcase, Rich and Bob specifically ask the audience to "ooh" and "ahh" over the showcase prizes, rather than simply clap. Weird.

* Between games, when the taping's paused and Bob's talking to the audience and taking questions, a big curtain drops down right in front of contestants' row so no one can see the next game being set up on stage.

* The studio seats aren’t bad – worn red canvas, like what you’d find in an old movie theater.

* A sample of the Barker wit during the commerical "stop downs." Question: "What kind of drink do you like?" Bob: "What have you got?" Question: "What will you miss most when you retire?" Bob: "My money." Question: "Will you sign my shirt?" Bob: "I can't sign your shirt - I’m working here!"

* It's a long and complicated process to sit in the audience. At around 6am, they start handing out pink "Order of Arrival" paper tickets, which are numbered. Then at 7:30am you bring those tickets with you inside CBS to a big holding pen outside the studio. It's covered like a shed. Long benches. Once you're in the shed, they line you up in order of your pink tickets. 1-1-50 over there, 51-100 over here... And slowly now the pages work their way through those lines and, using a black marker, write a number on your actual CBS "Price Is Right" ticket. When this happens you turn in your pink ticket. (The pink ticket seems to be a needless element in the process - why not write on the actual ticket to begin with out on Fairfax?) Now you're free again to leave, but you must come back to the shed at 10:30am. At that point you cannot leave the CBS lot. You're stuck. Speeches are given about the rules and procedures. And then the pages start working their way down the long lines again - everyone's still lined up in order - giving out blue cards with a number and a space to write your name. Then the pages come through again a half hour later and hand out the yellow price tag name badge sticker. By now it's 12:30pm. And then the interviews begin (see above).

* CBS refuses to ever guarantee you a seat. That said, the pages will tell you that getting the iconic yellow price tag name sticker just about “seals the deal.”

* The CBS gift shop - available in the shed to contestants while they wait - is lame. It's just about as lame as the three shelves and two clothes racks that make up the NBC gift shop available to audience members of "The Tonight Show." The networks are missing a prime market here.

* You really do have to witness for yourself the intense cult of Bob Barker to truly appreciate the devotion middle Americans have for this guy.

* Yes, they have one of those old-school applause signs hanging in front of the stage.

* For a moment before someone turns up the sound effect, the Big Wheel's arrow just click-clacks in a very plastic and uninspiring way. But the "dings" of a bid popping up come through loud and clear every time.

* You have to provide a picture ID and a Social Security number to be eligible to be a contestant. And if you actually win a prize, you have 30 days to produce a copy of your actual Social Security card.

* Some enterprising character rents plastic chairs to the all-nighters lined up on Fairfax. Five bucks a chair. Their stack of chairs is about 12 feet tall. Do the math.

* Contestants must use the left-hand stairs to get up on stage because that's the direction the cameras are pointing.

3 comments:

  1. tina riddell9:27 AM

    Can't wait to see you two on tv!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Tasha Riddell6:34 PM

    Very interesting facts! I enjoyed reading them and as much as I would love to go on the show, I don't think I would sleep on the sidewalk.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous4:33 PM

    Back in the day before Rod Roddy died, wearing a big horny toad on your shirt upped the odds of making the cut...

    ReplyDelete