|Pilot, November 19, 1956
NBC Daytime, November 26, 1956 – September 6, 1963
|Don Pardo 1956-1963|
Johnny Gilbert 1963-1965
|Hudson Theater, New York City, New York (NBC)|
Colonial Theater, New York City, New York (NBC)
Ziegfeld Theatre, New York City, New York (NBC)
Century Theatre, New York City, New York (NBC)
Ritz Theatre, New York City, New York (ABC)
The Price Is Right is the original successful game show based on pricing and values before the equally ultra successful 1972 Reboot on CBS that we all know and love to this day.
On the original version of The Price Is Right, four contestants (one a returning champion, the other three chosen from the studio audience) bid on items or ensembles of items in an auction-style format.
A prize was presented for the contestants to bid on with a minimum bid specified. After the opening bid was made, contestants bid on the item in turn with each successive bid a certain amount higher than the previous bid. Instead of increasing their bid, a contestant could freeze their current bid on their turn if he/she believed his/her bid was close enough to win. A later rule added allowed contestants, on their opening bid only, to "underbid" the other bids, but this automatically froze their bid and prevented them from later increasing the original bid. Also, some rounds were one-bid rounds, where only one round of bidding was held, and sometimes the minimum bid and higher bid threshold rules were also waived.
The bidding process continued until a time's up buzzer sounded, at which point each contestant who had not yet "frozen" was given one final bid, or at least three of the contestants had frozen. The fourth contestant was allowed one final bid, unless he/she already had the high bid. Cullen then read the actual retail price of the prize; the contestant whose bid was closest without going over won the item. If everyone overbid, the prize was not won; however, Cullen sometimes had the overbids erased and instructed everyone to give lower bids prior to reading the actual price.
Frequently, a bell rang after the winner was revealed, indicating a bonus prize accompanied the item up for bids. While this was frequently simply an additional prize, a bonus game often accompanied the prize (e.g., a tune-matching game, where a clip of a well-known song was played and the contestant matched it with a face for a cash bonus).
After a set number of rounds (four on the nighttime version, six on the daytime), the contestant who accumulated the most money in cash and prizes became the champion and returned on the next show.
During the ABC run of the show, Celebrities came on as contestants and played against the three civilian contestants (one a returning champion) while trying to win prizes for a home viewer or studio audience member.
Even if they win the game, celebrities can only play for one day/night although they can come back for a future appearance. So if the celebrity did manage to win the most, then the contestant with the highest total of all the civilians came back as the champion.
Home Viewer "Showcases"
The Price Is Right frequently featured a home viewer "Showcase," a multi-prize package for which home viewers were invited to submit their bids via postcard. The viewer who was closest to the actual retail price without going over won everything in the Showcase, but one item was sometimes handmade so the viewer could not check the price of all the items. The term "Showcase" would, in time, be replaced by "sweepstakes."
Very often, home viewers were stunningly accurate with their bids, including several viewers who guessed the price correct down to the penny. In such a case, the tied contestants were informed and asked to give the price of a stated item; this continued until one of the contestants broke the tie (re-ties and all-overbids were thrown out).
The Showcases remain in today's CBS version (including the phrase "This Showcase can be yours if The Price is Right"), while Home Viewer Showcases were done for a time in the 1980s (including to-the-penny guesses).
While many of the prizes on the original Price Is Right were normal, standard game show fare (e.g., furniture, appliances, home electronics, furs, trips and cars), there were many instances of outlandish prizes being offered. This was particularly true of the nighttime version, which had a larger prize budget.
- A 1926 Rolls-Royce with chauffeur
- A Ferris wheel
- Shares of corporate stock
- An island in the St. Lawrence Seaway
Sometimes, large amounts of food (such as a mile of hot dogs along with buns and enough condiments (perhaps to go with a barbecue pit)) were offered as the bonus.
Some other examples of outlandish or "exceptionally unique" bonus prizes:
- Accompanying a color TV, a live peacock (a play on the NBC logo) to serve as a "color guide."
- Accompanying a barbecue pit and the usual accessories, a live Angus steer.
- Accompanying a prize package of items needed to throw a backyard party, big band legend Woody Herman and His Orchestra.
- Accompanying a raccoon coat worth $29.95, a sable coat valued at $23,000.
- A bonus prize of a 16x32' in-ground swimming pool, installed in the winner's back yard in one day's time.
- A bonus prize of a trip to Israel to appear as an extra in the 1960 film Exodus. (Both offered on the January 13, 1960 airing.)
In the early 1960s, the dynamic of the national economy was such that the nighttime show could offer homes in new subdivisions (sometimes fully furnished) as prizes, sometimes with truly suspenseful bidding among the contestants.
In the last two seasons of the nighttime run, the series gave away small business franchises (like a take-out fried chicken establishment or a mobile dry-cleaning operation).
In some events, the outlandish prizes were merely for show; for instance, contestants may bid on the original retail price for a 1920's car, but would instead win a more contemporary model.
- Host: Bill Cullen
- Substitute Hosts: Jack Clark, Bob Kennedy, Johnny Gilbert, Sonny Fox, Sam Levenson, Merv Griffin, Robert Q. Lewis, Jack Narz, Arlene Francis, Don Pardo
- Announcer: Don Pardo, Johnny Gilbert
- Substitute Announcers: Roger Tuttle, Dick Dudley, Ed Jordan, Jack Clark, Vic Roby, Edward Harffor
- Models: Beverly Bentley, Toni Wallace, June Ferguson, Carolyn Stroupe, Maryann James, Gail Sheldon
- Producers: Bob Stewart, Willie Stein, Beth Hollinger, Michael Graham
- Directors: Max Miller, Don Bohl, Lou Tedesco, Paul Alter, Michael Graham
- Set Designers: Frank Schneider, Richard Senie, Willis Connor, Hjalmar Hermanson
- Music Director: Bob Cobert
This was Bill Cullen's longest running game show.
The tote machines were provided by The American Totalizer Company.
In Popular Culture
The Price is Right (1956) has been spoofed, referenced or parodied in the following:
The Garry Moore Show (1961) (TV Episode) - spoofed as Name the Right Price which also features a special cameo appearance by Bill Cullen.
The Flintstones: Divided We Sail (1962) (TV Episode) - spoofed as The Prize is Priced.
Main Article: The Price is Right/International
Main Article: The Price is Right (1956)/Merchandise
Main Article: The Price is Right/Photos
Although, the original 1956 series of The Price is Right became Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions's first regularly aired game show to be telecast in Color on September 23, 1957, no full-color kinescopes or videotapes exist from the nighttime run currently.
Many monochrome episodes from the NBC Nighttime series (plus at least one ABC episode) aired on Game Show Network from 1996-2000, which at the time that its contract to air the series ended; it has not been renewed since.
The February 1, 1961 episode hosted by Arlene Francis, aired on BUZZR in March 8, 2019 as an homage to International Women's Day. Later after that, BUZZR had added the series to its weekend lineup in September 2019, featuring its package including the episodes hosted by the late Merv Griffin.
Most of the daytime series is believed to be wiped, the UCLA Film & Television Archive lists the first and third episodes from 1956 among other holdings. A few daytime episodes with the original commercials intact, originally broadcast in the late spring/early summer of 1957, had been around the "collector's circuit". They are now available on YouTube.
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