For 42 years, generations of daytime TV watchers — the ill and house-bound, the college students, the unemployed, the stay-at-home parents, the lucky so-and-sos who can watch TV at their job — have enjoyed countless hours watching The Price is Right. CBS's perennial game show is a television institution, but it also still holds a host of nagging mysteries, like, where do all those cars come from, how do they determine the "actual retail price," and what are the producers looking for in a contestant?
With the show's 42nd season premiering this week — including an unprecedented all-Plinko episode on Friday — BuzzFeed spoke with executive producer Mike Richards about how he puts the show on the air every day. (For one thing, they shoot the show twice a day, Monday through Wednesday, three weeks out of every month, and they spend the rest of their time preparing each episode.)
Here is what we learned:
1. Contestants should be excited to be there, but they shouldn't force it.
2. They have the finding-contestants-in-the-audience thing down cold.
3. The show's producers begin planning each episode months in advance, and they start at the end, with the showcases.
4. There are actually four subsets of prizes on The Price is Right. They are:
5. And if that wasn't complicated enough, there are over 70 games to choose from, and more new ones in the planning stages.
6. Speaking of Plinko, there are only 10 — yes, 10 — Plinko chips in existence (five for the show, and five as backup).
"They're enormously expensive to make," says Richards. "They're weighted exactly the same and made exactly the same, so they 'plink.' They came out on a towel, and they're put into little boxes and very protected. They've been around for a long time because you don't want to change them."
7. The "actual retail price" comes from actual retailers — and the same retailers each time.
8. At least deciding which cars to showcase is easy, because at any time, The Price is Right has between 37 and 45 cars on the CBS Television City lot.
Why so many? "We do six shows a week, and each episode, for the most part, has three cars in it," say Richards. "So we're through 18 cars in a week. And then the next week, I don't want to see the same car, and I don't think our viewers do either. So then you've got to have a whole other set of cars. And then rotate out the ones you saw before, so they don't see them again."
That is just a mere fraction of how many prizes are at Richards' disposal, however. "It's insane," he says. "Each show has, like, 30 prizes in it. That doesn't include the under-$100 prizes or the grocery items. Just the pure volume, when you do 190 episodes, if you saw the amount of things that go through there TV-wise, motorcycle-wise, computer-wise... We call it 'The Firehose of Prizes.'" And that hose draws from three separate warehouses on the CBS Television City lot. Richards says that essentially, "It's a Walmart!"