"Come on down!"
This famous line, used by Rod Roddy when introducing a new contestant on The Price Is Right, is well known by all fans of American game shows. The Price Is Right is the king of that genre, entering its 30th season in 2001 and taping its 5,000th episode in 1998. The show has not changed very much during its whole run. Throughout its history, it has always offered price guessing games that make the audiences in the studio and at home holler suggestions to the players at the top of their lungs.
Bob Barker is the host of The Price Is Right, while the equally alliterative Rod Roddy is the show's announcer. Barker's Beauties, a group of particularly attractive young women, introduce the show's prizes. Because the show runs during the daytime, it does not have the huge budget found in shows like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? The set does not look very modern, and Barker still holds a skinny microphone in his hands. Regardless, the show offers very lucrative prizes and the studio audience is always packed.
This show's innovative style is one of the greatest reasons for its continual success. The contestants are selected at random from the members of the audience and are told to "Come on down". Each contestant must then "bid" on an item introduced by Barker and whoever comes closest to its actual retail price without going over is the winner. They go on to play another game in addition to winning the item they guessed the price of. It's not uncommon to see the last contestant to bid one dollar if they think that the other contestants have gone over. This assures that they don't overshoot, and if everyone else does go over, they automatically win. If a contestant guesses the exact retail price, they are given an extra cash bonus.
After winning the preliminary bidding game, the contestant goes on to a game where they can win more money and prizes. These games are perhaps the most famous part of The Price Is Right. In the various types of games, people will have to guess prices, sink golf shots, and display good shopping abilities in order to succeed. In Plinko, for instance, players drop chips into a huge pachinko-style machine and are rewarded for high scores. In other games, people are given a certain amount of money to spend and must buy as many items as they can. They cannot, of course, see the prices of the items before they buy them. There are six such rounds during a show, and contestants who don't win the bidding session keep trying until they win or the show ends. When a player wins and is taken out, another contestant from the audience takes their place.
Once all six winners have been determined and they have played their bonus games, it's time for more fun: the big wheel. A huge wheel with numbers in between 1 and 100 is put up on the set. Each number represents an amount of money in cents. The object is to use two spins to make it to one dollar without going over. If a contestant's first spin is high, they can elect to stop or risk spinning again and going over one dollar. The group of winners is divided into the first three and the last three, and the winner of each smaller group goes into the final round, known as the showcase showdown. Players who get one dollar exactly are rewarded with cash and more spins, giving them the opportunity to add even more to their fortunes.
The showcase showdown has great prizes. One typical prize might be a trip for two to the Bahamas, your own fishing boat, and luggage or various other smaller prizes. There are only two contestants left at this point. Whoever did better in the big wheel game is shown the first showcase and can decide to bid on that one or pass it on to their opponent. There is a second showcase that is completely different from the first. Both contestants will then guess at the total price of their respective showcases, and whoever gets the closest without going over wins theirs. If a contestant's guess is extremely close to the actual value, they win both showcases.
At the conclusion of each show, Barker reminds his viewers to have their pets spayed or neutered. He's been reminding audiences of this for years, and will probably be reminding them for years to come. The Price Is Right has enjoyed more success than any other game show in American history. Though it doesn't have the huge prizes of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and its variants, The Price Is Right and its huge fan base are sure to be around well after the prime time game show fad has disappeared.