“Come on down! You’re the next contestant on The Price Is Right!” I don’t know a single person who wouldn’t imediately know exactly what this refers to upon hearing in anywhere, anytime. I’m only 32 and I can’t remember “TPIR” ever not being there when I needed it. Every time I was home, sick from school or work or had a day off, I’d be sure to tune in and as we all do, play along.
The opening music itself is a minor instatution. I’ve heard people randomly hum it, I’ve heard it as a ring tone. I even heard it as elevator “Muzak” once, as I recall. And usually, after I hear it, it tends to stick with me for maybe the next hour or so. I always wondered if they ever wrote any words for it.
The show debuted in 1956 with host Bill Cullen. It was a half hour gameshow origionally, and ran a very similar format as the “contestants row” segment we currently see. One winner would be declared at the end of the show and they would return the next show for a chance to win more prizes against new contestants. That format ended with the origional show in 1965.
In 1972, “The New Price Is Right” made it’s network television debute, complete with a new host. One Bob Barker. And with him came “Barkers Beauties”. I’d be willing to bet that 4 out of every 5 people, on any North American street, would have no trouble identifying Mr. Barker if shown a picture. Though many would prefer pictures of his “Beauties”.
For 3 years the program was mostly in the old, origional format, with some new games and a few rule tweeks, to varying success. In 1975, the producers made a bold move and changed it all. The show went to a full hour and introduced 2 winners per episode, who would then face off at the end in what they called “The Showcase Showdown”, to decide the ultimate winner. The big wheel was also introduced and people loved it! The new format was so successfull that the prizes became even greater, often including “A new car!” This again served to add to the shows ever-growing popularity and thus cement it as a long term TV staple and bonafide pop-culture instatution.
In October of 1985, a DJ from Dallas, Texas and former announcer of “Love Connection” joined the team, first on a trial basis but within a year, the position would become permanent. Rod Roddy is THE voice of The Price Is Right, as far as I’m concerned. His “Come on down….” is the one I hear in my head every time I think of the show. And he remained the shows charismatic announcer until his passing on October 28, 2003. Rich Fields was named his replacement soon after.
Bob and Rod I believe, will likely always mark the shows golden years. But all good things must come to an end. Bob Barker retired from hosting TPIR on June 15, 2007 after 35 terrific years. His replacement was shocking to many loyal TPIR viewers. A well known comedian from Cleveland, Ohio named Drew Carey took over hosting the prestigous show on Oct 15, 2007.
Still there today, Drew Carey and Rich Fields have some mighty big shoes to fill. A legacy that will surely take years to overcome. But at the same time, an enviable postion to be in. I believe that by this point in time, 52 years after its origional inception, The Price Is Right is so engrained in our culture and memories that society will continue to hold onto it for many years to come. Maybe even decades more.