Vintage Television

Vintage TV: The New Price is Right

Astonishingly, the game show The Price is Right is in its 50th season on CBS. It’s a true survivor from the heyday of daytime television game shows — only it and a reboot of Let’s Make A Deal remain on daytime television today.

I remember watching Price as a kid when I was home sick from school. It debuted right as I started Kindergarten in 1972. It was called The New Price is Right then, because there had been a show called The Price is Right in the 1950s and 1960s, hosted by Bill Cullen. The New Price is Right was loosely based on the older show.

In its early days, Price was only 30 minutes long! Rather than having two Showcase Showdowns to determine who went on to the Showcase bonus game, the top two winners appeared in the Showcase. Also, the original set was very brown. And in the very first week of the show, they brought the first four contestants to Contestant’s Row a little differently.

Here, check it out — the first episode of The New Price is Right, from September 4, 1972.

Incredibly, Price stayed a 30-minute show until November of 1975. Other than expanding to an hour, little has changed on Price in its 50 years on the air. Four people from the studio audience have always been called down to Contestant’s Row to bid on prizes; the most accurate bidders have always been brought on stage to play games for even better prizes.

But all the elements of fun were there from the start, making Price a show that endured. I still laugh and enjoy it as much as I did when the show was brand new, and I was five years old.

I bought an exercise bike recently to help me stay in shape. It’s pretty boring sitting there pedaling, so I set up the bike in our bedroom in front of a TV. There’s a channel on my Roku that plays episodes of The Price is Right with Bob Barker back to back, 24x7x365. It’s what I usually watch. The show is just the right kind of dumb fun to make the time pass quickly.

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21 thoughts on “Vintage TV: The New Price is Right

  1. I remember that show too and the same way: when I was home sick from school. There were also the days of summer when our TV really got a workout.

    If I had known that the show went to an hour I had forgotten, as I had a job by then and went to college that fall. By that age my interests had moved on from daytime TV (except for David Letterman’s short lived daytime show.)

    • Rush Rox says:

      Oh, my! How I loved David Letterman’s live daytime show! I was about 15 at the time, but related well to his humor, a wry, but eddy, mixture of nerdy and faux cool. That show introduced many of us to Chris Elliot and Edie McClurg, whom we would get to know later as their own careers developed. Thank you for the reminder about Dave’s daytime show.

  2. DougD says:

    I watched Price a bit, but wasn’t much interested. My guesses were waaaay off and I couldn’t much identify with a world of glitzy new stuff.

    We had to be REALLY sick to stay home from school, I remember lying on the couch watching Bill Alexander make paintings on PBS.

  3. tbm3fan says:

    Being a generation earlier at a minimum what was on my TV was a bit different. One there was only B&W and only three channels in the 50s. TV signed off at midnight and put up a test pattern. I recall the original Price is Right along with What’s my Line, and You bet your Life. Moving into the 60s I recall The Dating Game, Let’s Make a Deal, and The Match Game right of the bat. However, I never got sick, still don’t, so never spent days at home from school to watch them. Yet, there is one game show I definitely watched back then and still watch as a loyal viewer…Jeopardy.

    • Lots of the Dating Game, LMAD, and WML remain, kinescopes and videotape — but most of The Match Game was lost, presumably as the videotapes were reused for other shows. It’s a shame.

  4. Thanks for the flashback, Jim! It’s interesting to notice in that first 1972 how many of the men wore suits–by the time I started watching in the late-late 1970s game show attire was much more casual.

    I did watch a fair bit of The Price Is Right as a kid, whether it be at grandmas, or the snow/sick day, or the boring stretches of summer. The Price Is Right had more appeal to a kid then say the $25,00 Pyramid (which I also watched)–there was something about the silly/funky graphics and the fact that there were so many “sub games” that could change at any time.

    And it was on a snow day in January 1986 when CBS News broke into the regular airing of The Price Is Right to announce the Challenger disaster.

    And Bob Barker is still with us. He’ll be 100 next year…

  5. When I lived in LA, I went on that show as a crowd member once it was kinda fun to see how they do it! A lot of Los Angelinos go at least once, it’s kind of like a rite of passage :)

  6. I remember it from my sick days too. Even today if I’m under the weather I may tune in for the nostalgia and comfort. A girl at work always times her lunch so she can watch it in the break room.

  7. I’m reading Bob Barker’s bio right now. He has interesting stories and views the show as an audience participation show rather than the standard game/quiz show fare. Game shows were my favorite genre as a kid and I just loved the elaborate sets and the variety of the games.

    There’s an interesting video from CBS Sunday Morning that shows backstage from the 50th anniversary show. It looks like they’re running an Amazon warehouse back there. Also a funny blooper reel where they crashed one of the cars.

  8. Jim Susky says:

    I too was rarely sick – so must have watched game shows in the summer.

    Hollywood Squares – with that “grownup” innuendo.

    Dating Game, Let’s Make a Deal – the latter had some “living” prizes. Come to think of it, so did the former.

    Password, Match Game.

    The Price is Right – an early exposure to how poorly some people could play.

    Bob Barker is 98!


      • Jim Susky says:

        I like Jeopardy. If I can access (slowly) half of them – it’s a good day. Like many, some topics I get 5/5 (non-obscure sports, science). AS a kid I liked how intuitive Password was. With the right “Groucho” You Bet Your Life (see Youtube) could be good.

      • From what I understand, game shows were dominant on daytime TV up through the 80’s because they were cheap to produce, esp. since the prizes were usually donated by sponsors. Then the daytime talk show format started by Donahue and popularized by Sally/Maury/Geraldo took off, and I think those were even cheaper to produce–boring set design, all they needed to do was fly in guests and put them up for a few days. So that’s why we’ve seen more of that than game shows.

        I also heard that The Price Is Right was/is one of the few game shows to actually buy outright the prizes vs. being given to them for free. That may be another reason for its longevity–once sponsorship dried up for other game shows, they got cancelled.

        Ironically enough: I just got a haircut and the barber was playing The Price Is Right!

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