It’s hard to imagine a time when quiz shows didn’t populate the airwaves. One program that helped to establish the golden formula is The Price is Right. It raised the bar with its big-money prizes, multitude of games, and lavish production values. When its legendary host Bob Parker passed away in August 2023, it marked the end of an era. So come on and join us as we count down the very best factoids about the longest-running game show in U.S. television history.
Bob Barker didn’t want to do the show initially
Hard as it is to believe now, Bob Barker was actually cautious about doing The Price is Right at first, fearing that the series may be a flop. In fact, he already had his eye on two other quiz shows: Gambit and The Joker’s Wild. However, some persuasion from the network’s executives finally made Barker see the light, and boy are we glad about it.
Janice Pennington was once in the wrong place at the wrong time
The last thing you should be worrying about at work is being knocked out cold. Unfortunately, this was the fate that befell model Janice Pennington. She has some bad memories of her time on The Price is Right – most notably the instance that saw her knocked out by one of the cameras. In fact, the force was so strong that it sent the hapless beauty flying into the contestants’ row!
Fighting for the rights of animals
Once Bob Barker did come on board, he made sure to make reference to an issue that was close to his heart: animal rights. It was this that inspired his famous sign-off, “Have your pets spayed or neutered.” What’s more, the passionate animal lover even denounced the fur coats that were initially up for grabs as prizes on the show. What a guy!
The chips used in the Plinko game are incredibly rare
Thought those Plinko chips were easy to get hold of? Think again. Surprisingly, there are only ten such chips in existence, which have to be locked in a special box after the game has concluded. On a related note, the Plinko game got its name from the “plink, plink” noise that the chips made when scooting around the machine.
Brace yourselves; this one’s pretty cringe-worthy! One of Barker’s Beauties on The Price is Right, Rachel Reynolds, is probably still having nightmares about an ill-fated episode in 2004 — the night she crashed one of the luxurious cars on set! Unfortunately, while attempting to manoeuver the vehicle for one of the games, Reynolds inadvertently crashed into a door. That’s a big whoops!
To dye, or not to dye, that is the question
Bob Barker had a tough old time figuring out what to do with his hair on the show. As a prematurely gray man, he was one of very few TV hosts of the time to sport a silver fox hairdo. In fact, he only decided to go all natural after several failed attempts to dye and tint his hair. But in a bizarre twist, the new look actually helped to bolster the ratings!
Contestants are advised not to wear a certain color
Did you know that audience members looking to attend the show need to think hard about what they’re wearing, because if it’s green, chances are they’ll stick out in all the wrong ways. Yep, the producers advise against donning the color green at all as it can sometimes blend in with the chroma key screens that are present in some of the games.
The microphone is long and skinny for a reason
Ever wondered why the microphone Drew Carey holds is so long and skinny? Well, it’s actually more than just an aesthetic choice. Not all of the contestants taking part run down like lunatics, and the bizarre mic shape is designed with such shy individuals in mind. The idea is that they won’t feel too scared or nervous when talking into it.
Bob Barker’s sudden departure remains a mystery
Despite the fact that he was 83 years old at the time, many fans were still surprised by the abrupt nature of Bob Barker’s exit. In fact, Barker had signed a five-year contract just 12 months prior to his surprise announcement in 2007 that he was leaving the show. And there are plenty of unsubstantiated rumors claiming to explain his sudden retirement. More on that later...
Conquering the Showcase Showdown
Fans of the show will know just how unlikely it is for a contestant to guess the exact value of the Showcase Showdown. However, in 2010 Terry Kniess outsmarted them all. Indeed, he correctly guessed the value of the prize thanks to his incredible memory of the show’s previous rewards. What’s more, presenter Drew Carey was so taken aback that he had the taping stopped in order to investigate whether Kniess was cheating.
Come on down! But watch the step...
Sometimes the excitement of being picked on the show can lead to unexpected injuries. Take contestant Michael Lerner, for example. After being asked to “come on down,” Lerner sprinted towards the stage, only to take a nasty bump that caused his Achilles tendon to tear. Scott Schmidt also suffered a similar fate when he went over on his ankle, forcing him to stay seated for the duration of the game.
It was originally hosted by Bill Cullen
Bob Barker made a name for himself as the host of The Price is Right, but he wasn’t the first presenter who got the gig. In fact, that honor goes to Bill Cullen, who hosted the show during its first year in 1956. Unfortunately, the young upstart had to leave the position due to his ongoing battle with polio.
The audience is hand-picked by one crew member
You’d be mistaken for thinking that the audience is chosen at random, because that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Indeed, it’s an arduous process that involves a member of the production team screening hundreds of potential candidates. Oh, and if you’re not lively enough, you’re basically shown the door. Charming...
A very embarrassing bathroom break
If you’re going to appear as an audience member on The Price is Right, you should probably make sure you don’t need to use the bathroom while the taping’s in progress. Well, try telling that to Patricia Bernard. The contestant was called to “come on down,” but was in the restroom, leaving her husband with the task of running to get her. Let’s just hope she had enough time to wash her hands before she shook presenter Bob Barker’s hand...
Missing out on all the fun
Annoyingly for viewers at home, the funniest part of the show doesn’t actually appear on television. In fact, it takes place during the commercials. While the laborious task of replacing games for upcoming segments takes place, Drew Carey likes to keep the energy levels up by dancing, joking and whipping the crowd into a frenzy.
The Price is a tax fright
Receiving prizes on the show isn’t quite as straightforward as you might believe, as there’s also the small print to consider. For instance, winners still have to pay taxes on every item won on the show, which can come as quite a shock. Indeed, contestants in the past have scooped up prizes unawares, before being made to fill out paperwork to seal the sometimes unwanted deal.
Drew Carey’s the gift that keeps on giving
The appointment of Drew Carey as host turned out to be a blessing in disguise for would-be contestants. After his hiring, producers upped the amount of winners on the show to keep ratings up and make players feel more at ease with the new presenter. On top of that, they also introduced a new game entitled Drew Carey’s Million Dollar Spectacular, which was won in 2008 by Cynthia Azevedo.
Major wardrobe malfunction
We’ve touched on just how excitable the audiences are, but not on arguably the biggest blooper in the show’s history – the flashing incident. Yes, as dear Yolanda Bowsley bolted excitedly towards the stage, her top fell down, presumably leaving viewers aghast. Bob Barker subsequently referred to it in an interview with Larry King as “the most talked about single incident in the history of the show.”
As alluded to earlier, if the rumors are to be believed, Barker’s departure was due to multiple lawsuits brought against the seasoned presenter. Many of the models who appeared on the show alleged that they had been sexually assaulted, unfairly dismissed, or discriminated against on the grounds of their age and weight. So, did CBS finally tire of the presenter’s legal problems? Perhaps we’ll never know.
Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul was a contestant on the show
The Price is Right has a history of featuring celebrity figures on the show — but rarely before they’ve hit it big. However, in 2000 future Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul appeared as a contestant. The then unknown actor was so excited to be on that he exclaimed, “I’m touching Bob Barker!”
A contestant misjudged the price of a hammock
During one memorable episode of The Price is Right, the contestants were asked to guess the cost of a hammock. It started quite sensibly. Players suggested $750, $1,200 and $755. Then a man named Corey jumped in with $7,000. Even the woman next to him asked in surprise, “Seven thousand?!”
The usually loud audience went silent on hearing the massively odd guess. After all, the hammock’s price was a mere $880… For it to have costed Corey’s suggested price, it would’ve needed to have been a magnificent example of suspended relaxation – perhaps made of gold. Some fans of The Price is Right have since suggested that maybe Corey just really didn’t want it and threw the game.
One contestant won a massive prize
In December 2013 contestant Sheree Heil won what was then The Price is Right’s largest ever prize. During the episode, you see, Heil bagged an Audi R8 sports car worth at least $157,000. Her thrilled reaction said it all! And although the record she set was broken three years later, it’s still a moment we imagine Heil will never forget.
After Heil’s win, she told MyNorthwest.com, “My whole family loves The Price is Right, and it’s been a dream of mine to go to that show. I just acted a little bit crazy, and the next thing you know, they call my name. I didn’t care if I won or lost. I just wanted to spin the big wheel.” She added, “My adrenaline was flowing so high. I was pretty much oblivious. It was like a fog.”
Drew Carey got trolled
Drew Carey has always taken issue with a specific aspect of The Price is Right. It seems he has a problem with the game Cover-Up and how it was designed with random numbers at the bottom. At one point he lamented, “All these numbers are wrong. I don’t know why they put them here.” So the set designers decided to have a bit of fun.
Carey said during another episode, “I keep trying to convince [the crew] just to put blank spaces here.” But the designers didn’t use the suggested alternative in the end. Instead, they swapped the numbers for pictures of the host’s face. And when Carey saw them, he doubled over in laughter right in front of the cameras. The sneaky set people had gotten him good!
Someone got caught cheating
Cheating on The Price is Right takes a subtle hand. In December 2018, though, a woman called Christina gave it a shot during the Three Strikes game. She tried to drop her strike chips back into the bag… But Drew Carey caught her. He told the shady contestant, “Oh no, that was a strike, come on, bring it up!” And she had to.
But when the clip made it onto the internet people weren’t very impressed. One fan of the show said on YouTube, “If I were the host and caught someone cheating this game, I would immediately rule him/her disqualified, no exceptions.” Another said, “I’m glad Drew caught her. I have to say I think he was nicer about it than Bob [Barker] would have been!”
A record-breaking moment
In 2017 Ryan Belz, a contestant on The Price is Right, set a new record for the slot game Plinko. He reacted with, shall we say, some excitement. By the time his third chip had gone into the machine, the audience was chanting his name. And they were right to because at the end of the round Belz had won a whopping $31,500.
Having won the game and set a record, Belz appeared to be totally staggered. He danced around, ecstatic with joy before shaking the hand of host Drew Carey. He then passed into The Price is Right history. Alas, he wouldn’t hold the record for very long. In 2018 he was beaten… by another man named Ryan.
A train crash
In a literal train-wreck of a moment, the show’s prize train suddenly derailed during a January 2017 episode. And to make things worse, it was carrying a coffee set, which is very easily breakable. The quick wit of a contestant named Shawn, though, made the moment unmissable. Still having to guess the price of the shattered drinkware, he deadpanned, “One dollar.”
Unfortunately, contestants have to guess the retail price of a new item, not one that’s splattered all over the floor. Drew Carey announced, “Well... Won’t be seeing the Price is Right train for a while! Nothing to see here, folks.” He also complimented the show staff for jumping in and cleaning up the mess so quickly.
Rachel Reynolds can rock a guitar
Rachel Reynolds would seem to have it all. Not only does she appear on The Price is Right as one of “Carey’s Cuties,” but she’s also popped up on TV shows and works as a successful model who’s been on several magazine covers… She can also play the guitar pretty well.
In fact, when one episode of The Price is Right featured an electric guitar as a prize, the multi-talented Reynolds walked out on stage playing it. The audience was delighted, as was Drew Carey. If the show ever goes off the air, which we know is unlikely, the model could easily carve out a new career as a musician.
Bob Barker got chased once
It seems that being a game show host can mean putting up with some unwanted attention now and again. Back when Bob Barker presented The Price is Right, he seemed genuinely unnerved after a female contestant started chasing him around the set. He even hid behind a cameraman saying, “Don’t let her get me!”
As the audience started chanting “Kiss her!” Barker shouted, “Call security!” Once the overenthusiastic fan had returned to her seat, the host said, “I was talking with her during the commercial. And you know, she wanted to take me home and… I thought she was kidding. Little did I know this woman is serious! She’s after my body!” But the crowd loved it.
Drew Carey met his doppelganger
In January 2009 The Price is Right’s host got a bit of shock when he came face to face with a contestant who looked just like him. The guy in question was named Jim, and he’d turned up in a Drew Carey-esque suit and glasses. The presenter decided that the superfan was “dressed as Drew Carey on a bender.”
When Jim stood next to Carey on stage, everyone could see the resemblance. The host announced, “Time to hit pause on your tape and snap a picture of this. Jim, I want you to do an impression of me all excited cos you’re gonna win.” The contestant rose to the challenge admirably, and it made for great television.
An important machine malfunction
The Price is Right relies heavily on machines, and sometimes they can go wrong. And when that happens, it’s the host’s job to try and work around the malfunction. During one episode, for instance, Bob Barker was forced to call out to a contestant. He said, “One right. You still have ten seconds. No, wait! Four are right! That was a mechanical mistake.”
The contestant then flung himself to the floor in joy. Barker told the audience, “I was so disappointed they got that wrong number up there… I wanted this boy to win, did you?” The audience erupted into cheers. So there may have been a blunder behind the scenes but at least it had a happy ending.
A contestant once spun the wheel backward
Now and again a player will spin the show’s Big Wheel the wrong way. Luckily, Bob Barker always seemed to take it in stride. During one such incident in June 2000, the host relayed an explanation for this behavior to the audience. Barker said, “[The contestant] told his friends back in Florida if he got on the show he would spin the wheel backward, and he did.”
But die-hard The Price is Right fans have long wondered why contestants can’t spin the wheel backward. Some think it’s because it would interfere with the workings of the machine, others think spinning it forward is simply physically easier. So if you’re ever on the show, please, use it properly. Just in case.
Danielle Atkin had a mishap
In 2003 poor Danielle Atkin suffered a wardrobe malfunction on The Price is Right. What happened? Her red dress was beautiful – but it didn’t quite fit as it should. So when she moved just a little too fast, the material fell away to reveal far more than she’d ever planned to show on television.
Atkin was welcoming host Larry Emdur onto the stage when the nip-slip happened. But you wouldn’t have seen this on the American version of the show, as it occurred on the Australian production of The Price is Right. Unfortunately for the model, though, video-sharing on the Internet was taking off – so the clip is still out there for all to see.
The contestants who won a huge amount of money
In 2017 a select group of The Price is Right contestants made history. That year, the show celebrated a decade with Drew Carey as host. And to commemorate the anniversary, every spin that would normally have netted $1,000 instead got the lucky player $10,000. So a potentially life-changing amount of money was at stake.
During that very special episode, the Big Wheel game paid out $80,000 to the contestants. The players, the audience and people live-tweeting the show on social media, unsurprisingly, went nuts. A representative of CBS confirmed afterward that this was the highest amount of money ever given away on the game.
Bob Barker was forced to intervene
Sometimes Bob Barker simply had to fix problems with the show on his own. During one round of the 1/2 Off game, he announced to the audience, “Now, we have only four boxes left.” The problem was that everyone could see there were, in fact, five. The host then declared, “Ladies and gentlemen, [box] 11 should disappear.”
Yet box 11 remained where it was, ruining the game. Barker, ever the professional, said to the expectant audience, “It’s not working. Then I shall go over and take the thing off there. Here we go… A solution for every problem on this show.” The audience cheered and clapped wildly for him.
Bob Barker had to sit and compose himself
Every so often on The Price is Right someone beats all the odds and guesses a seemingly impossible number correctly. After all, Bob Barker was present when a woman suggested “749” as her number and got it right. And as the audience cheered for her, the host was so staggered that he had to sit down.
Barker said to the audience while lowering himself to the floor, “I’m going to have to sit down and regain my composure after that… I hope you realize we are in the presence of a miracle.” The audience cheered and clapped for the contestant, and Barker remembered to congratulate her too. He told the delighted contestant, “Very good.”
A Brit set a new record
There’s a U.K. version of The Price is Right as well, and its contestants are pretty good. In January 1998 a man called Ady went on the show and racked up prize after prize. He was unstoppable. And they weren’t small prizes, either. They included holidays, artworks, cars and the like. Show host Bruce Forsyth was amazed at the contestant’s success.
At the end of the show, Forsyth gathered up Ady and his family and informed them of the contestant’s final prize total. He’d won items worth an amazing £36,889 – the best score in the history of the game. People streamed onto the stage to join in the celebration as the veteran game show host yelled in jest, “Oh, they’re all coming in now! They all want some of it!”
A contestant started undressing
Perhaps the biggest problem with a game show is that contestants can react in completely unexpected ways. And this is exactly what Bob Barker faced during one particular episode. The host presented a contestant named Anthony with the possibility of going on The Shower Game. Misunderstanding, the man then started to undress.
Barker said cheerfully, “Now look at this. You’re getting ahead of us, Anthony. He’s taking his shirt off already.” It turns out the shower game did not involve any actual water or nudity. It was all confetti. The segment wasn’t a hit, however, and no longer features on America’s version of The Price is Right.
An extremely wacky contestant
One person has the honor of being considered the weirdest The Price is Right contestant of all time: Josh Silberman. He appeared on the show wearing a purple t-shirt with the words “Neuter My Student Loans” on it, won a Ford Mustang… and then proceeded to do something rather family-unfriendly to the car.
Silberman did a weird dance around the studio, jumped on top of the car and, ahem, humped it. Bob Barker said, “He’s hugging the car!” But the host may just have been attempting to salvage some dignity, as that definitely wasn’t what the winner was doing. The contestant’s antics later earned him the title of “Most Outrageous Gameshow Contestant,” as decided by Game Show Networks.