15 Facts About The Price is Right

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

The Price is Right has been around for so long that most of us grew up with it in some capacity. Originally a black-and-white show on NBC consisting of four people bidding auction-style on items, it began airing in 1956 with Bill Cullen as host. The show was canceled in 1965, but revived in 1972 at CBS, with the now-iconic Bob Barker as host. The game show benefited from its audience participation format, and having people perform the simple task of guessing prices of everything from cars to vacations.

In 2007 Barker retired, and a few months later Drew Carey took over as host. In 2014, the show celebrated its 8000th episode and 43 seasons, and in 2015 the show hit a milestone in becoming the longest-running game show of all time. About 2.4 million people have sat in the studio audience, and the show has given away more than a quarter of a billion dollars in cash and prizes. Here are 15 more Showcase Showdown-sized facts about the game show.

1. THE SHOW’S RATINGS IMPROVED WHEN BOB BARKER WENT GRAY.

In 1987, Barker had to get approval from the head of daytime programming to stop dyeing his hair, becoming one of the few TV hosts with gray hair. “I was prematurely gray,” Barkers told the Los Angeles Times. “I began to gray at my temples, and I guess it could be that technology at that time was not what it is today, but I didn’t look good. It looked like I had no hair at my temples, so they suggested I tint it.” Barker went on vacation and stopped tinting, and people complimented his gray locks so he decided to keep the look. “We taped ahead. So let’s say on the Wednesday show I had dark hair, but when we taped the next show I had gray hair, and that show aired on Thursday. I got a letter from a fellow who said, ‘Bob, you must have had one hell of a night.’”  

2. A MAN NAMED STAN BLITS SCREENS EVERY POTENTIAL AUDIENCE MEMBER.

Stan Blits’s job is to talk to every person in line who wants to join the studio audience. He told the New York Post what he looks for in a potential contestant: “I am looking for energy, sincerity, and potential humor. And if they can equal my energy or exceed it and maintain it, they are at the top of the list.” It takes Blits about two hours to screen everybody, and the more energy you exhibit, the better. Just don’t be too aggressive, he cautions—and don’t try to bribe him with gifts.

3. JESSE PINKMAN WAS A CONTESTANT ON THE PRICE IS RIGHT.

A few years ago, a video of a pre-Breaking Bad Aaron Paul’s 2000 appearance on The Price is Right surfaced. Paul lost the Showcase Showdown, but to this day he’s probably the most famous person to have ever been a contestant.

4. WINNERS HAVE TO PAY TAXES ON THEIR PRIZES.

Sure, it seems fun to win a new car on The Price is Right, but the truth is winners have to pay taxes upfront in order to even gain access to the prizes. When contestants win any prizes, they first must file a return in the state in which they won, which is usually California. The prizes are treated as income. Winners have to pay based on the full retail value of the prize, so a lot of winners decide not to accept the prizes.

ABC News interviewed a few contestants about how much they had to pay in taxes, with one guy saying he won $57,000 in prizes but had to pay close to $20,000 in taxes. Another contestant turned down his $10,000 cash, because he didn’t want to give half to his ex-wife. In 2016, The Price is Right executive producer Mike Richards told The New York Times that the show sends a tax letter to every winner telling him or her how much in taxes they need to pay before they can receive their prizes. He said since he took over as producer in 2008, all of the Showcase Showdown winners have paid the taxes and accepted their prizes. 

5. ONE TIME A CONTESTANT GOT SO EXCITED, HER TOP FELL OFF.

In 1977, long before the term “wardrobe malfunction” was coined, a female contestant on The Price is Right had just that happen to her in the middle of an episode. When Yolanda was told to “come on down,” she got so excited that her tube top slipped off and, for a brief second, revealed way more than is appropriate for a daytime game show. “She began jumping up and down and out they came,” Barker told Larry King of “the most talked about single incident in the history of the show.” When Yolanda finally got to her podium, Barker quipped, “I’ve never had a welcome like this.”

6. A CAMERA KNOCKED MODEL JANICE PENNINGTON OUT AND RUINED HER CAREER.

While Barker Beauty Janice Pennington was taping a show in 1988, a camera accidentally hit her and knocked her into “contestants’ row.” The unconscious model was taken to the hospital where she underwent two surgeries, one of which left one of her shoulders an inch shorter than the other. Because of her scars from the surgery, she wasn’t allowed to wear a swimsuit on the show anymore. Then in October 2000, after 29 years on the show, Pennington was let go. She told the Los Angeles Times she believed she was fired because she gave a deposition in a wrongful termination suit filed against Barker and the show by former “Beauty” Holly Hallstrom. 

7. TERRY KNIESS MADE HISTORY IN 2008 WHEN HE GUESSED THE EXACT VALUE OF THE SHOWCASE SHOWDOWN.

In an intriguing Esquire piece from 2010, contestant Terry Kniess explained how during the Showcase Showdown, he managed to guess the exact value of the package—something that hadn’t occurred in the show’s entire run. He had religiously watched the game show and memorized the values of the prizes, since the show had a tendency to repeat the same prizes. “Terry says he’d seen all three prizes before,” read the article. “The karaoke machine was $1000. The pool table, depending on the model, he says, went for between $2800 and $3200. Terry went with $3000.” To round out the bid, “he picked 743 because that was the number he and Linda [his wife] had used for their PINs.”

As the article explained, Kniess was too perfect. When host Drew Carey realized that he had chosen the exact bid, the show immediately stopped taping and took 45 minutes to figure out if Kniess was cheating. The taping restarted, and Carey unenthusiastically resumed his duties.

8. WHEN DREW CAREY FIRST STARTED AS HOST, THE SHOW’S PRODUCERS MADE SURE THE GAMES WERE EASY SO THAT MORE PEOPLE COULD WIN.

Roger Dobkowitz was a Price is Right producer for decades, but was fired soon after Carey took over hosting duties. “It was extremely important for the first couple of months of the show to have plenty of winners,” Dobkowitz wrote in a blog post. “Such a situation would maintain a real positive and upbeat feel to the show and help viewers, hopefully, to accept Drew as the new host.” In order to achieve this, he ignored the prize budget and scheduled easy games with easy combinations so more people would win. “However, my plan to give away plenty of prizes went a little too well,” Dobkowitz said. “By January 2008, I was about $700,000 over budget.”

9. CAREY WASN'T THE ONLY PERSON ANGLING FOR BARKER'S JOB.

Though Carey has been running the show on The Price is Right for 10 years now, he wasn't the only person being considered to replace Barker. Among the other possible contenders? George Hamilton, Mario Lopez, and John O’ Hurley.

10. IN AN UNINTENTIONAL GAFFE, A WOMAN WITH NO LEGS WON A TREADMILL.

In 2015, an awkward hush fell over the audience when contestant Danielle Perez—a comedian who lost her legs in an accident in 2004—won a treadmill on The Price is Right. “It’s funny though, they edited out a little bit,” Perez told People. “When they revealed the prizes, the audience hesitated. There was a feeling of, ‘Oh no, they’re not really serious. They’re not gonna do this, they’re not gonna put this woman through this.'” But Perez and the show handled the incident with aplomb.

11. IT ALL COMES DOWN TO STATS.

In a scientific paper called "To Spin or Not to Spin?," the Royal Economic Society studied The Wheel on the show. “We derive the unique subgame perfect Nash equilibrium (USPNE) for The Wheel and test its predictive ability using data from both the television show and the laboratory of this game. We find that contestants frequently deviate from the USPNE when the decisions are difficult.” The manuscript lists contestant-winning percentages on The Wheel and the types of calculated decisions contestants make while spinning it.

12. A WOMAN FROM TACOMA, WASHINGTON WON THE MOST EXPENSIVE CAR TO EVER APPEAR ON THE SHOW.

Occasionally The Price is Right offers incredible prizes, such as a Ferrari 458 Spider (priced at $285,716) or an Audi R8 V-8 Spyder (priced at $157,300). A woman lost the chance to win the Ferrari, but in 2013 Sheree Heil won the Audi, beating the previous daytime record of $147,517 won by a single contestant. Heil also won $10,000 in cash and a pair of Prada shoes worth $3045. Her winnings weren’t the all-time biggest; in 2008 a man won $1,153,908 during “The Price is Right Million Dollar Spectacular” nighttime special.

13. PETA NAMED A BUILDING AFTER BARKER.

In the 1980s, Barker started signing off with, “Have your pets spayed or neutered.” (New host Drew Carey continued the tradition.) In 1987, when Barker hosted the Miss USA pageant and the contestants were supposed to wear fur, he threatened to leave the production if they didn’t change the attire to fake fur, which they did. After he retired, he donated $2.5 million to renovate a Los Angeles building to become PETA’s west coast hub. Barker wanted to help the plight of animals and have people someday look back and say, “They were still cutting up animals in laboratories? They had animals doing tricks in circuses?” he told ABC. Barker also magnanimously donated $1 million to Columbia Law School to fund the study of animal rights. 

14. BARKER MADE A RARE APPEARANCE ON THE SHOW IN 2015.

Since retiring in 2007, Barker has kept a low profile. He didn’t even appear on a special celebrating the show’s 8000th episode, but he appeared alongside Carey on an April Fool’s Day taping of the show in 2015. At 91 years old, Barker seemed like his old self.

15. THE SHOW REMAINS POPULAR BECAUSE EVERYONE CAN RELATE TO PRICES.

“The reason it was so popular originally and why it is still popular is because of the powerful basic premise of the show—everything is based on prices,” Barker told the Los Angeles Times of the secret to the game show’s success. “Everyone identifies with prices. The minute we put something up for bid and the contestant makes a bid, the viewer is involved. Once you become involved, we have accomplished what the producer of every game show wants: viewer involvement. The Price is Right has that to the nth degree.”

Rewind Time With This Blockbuster-Themed Party Game

Recapture that '90s vibe with this Blockbuster-themed movie trivia game.
Recapture that '90s vibe with this Blockbuster-themed movie trivia game.
Big Potato Games/Hot Topic

With only one Blockbuster location left in the world, the good old days of wandering video rental store aisles and getting chewed out for late fees are definitely a thing of the past—but like so many relics from the '90s, the pull of nostalgia has ensured that Blockbuster (or at least the brand) won't disappear for good. Now the video store is back in the form of a party game from Big Potato Games that is designed to test the movie knowledge of you and up to 11 friends.

Marketing itself as “a movie game for anyone who has ever seen a movie,” the Blockbuster party game consists of two parts. In part one, players from each team compete head-to-head to name as many movies as they can that fit under specific categories (e.g., movies with Tom Cruise, famous trilogies, movies with planes). In the second half, two teams face off against each other to test their skills at a game of movie-related charades. The catch? Players can only describe movies in one of three randomly chosen ways: acting out scenes, rattling off a famous quote, or describing the films with one word.

The real selling point of the whole package is that Big Potato fit all the game cards and buzzer into a box that is virtually identical to the old-school Blockbuster VHS rental cases, right down to its distinct color scheme and shape. All it's missing is the membership card. 

The Blockbuster board game costs $24 at Hot Topic. That’s a fair price for getting the chance to rewind time.

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15 Clever Breaking Bad Easter Eggs Hiding in Better Call Saul

Patrick Fabian, Rhea Seehorn, Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Michael Mando, Giancarlo Esposito, and Tony Dalton in Better Call Saul.
Patrick Fabian, Rhea Seehorn, Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Michael Mando, Giancarlo Esposito, and Tony Dalton in Better Call Saul.
James Minchin/AMC

As evidenced by Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan and his cohorts have an eye for detail that’s nearly unrivaled. If anything, Better Call Saul—which is originally set several years before the events of Breaking Bad—only proves the point. The series, which is about to kick off its fifth season, focuses on Jimmy McGill (soon to become Saul Goodman) and is full of references to its progenitor, some of which are pure fun, and some of which add a deeper meaning to what we already know. Here are 15 clever Breaking Bad Easter eggs hiding in Better Call Saul.

**Warning: Plenty of spoilers ahead for both series.**

1. Being Kevin Costner

In a throwaway moment in Breaking Bad, Saul mentions to Walt that he once convinced a woman he was Kevin Costner (“If you’re committed enough, you can make any story work”), and in the finale of the first season of Better Call Saul, we see the exact moment he was referring to. In case we thought that Saul was just making the story up for the sake of a pep talk, here’s the proof otherwise.

2. Neighborhood mainstay

If the diner where Jimmy first meets with the Kettlemans looked familiar to you, it’s for good reason. Loyola’s Diner featured in Breaking Bad as a mainstay of Mike’s—he met with Jesse there, as well as Lydia. It’s also, incidentally, a very real restaurant in Albuquerque. And while we’re on the subject of Mike and food, he’s been shown to be fond of pimento cheese sandwiches in both series.

3. Address unknown

David Costabile as Gale Boetticher in 'Breaking Bad'
Ursula Coyote, AMC

In Better Call Saul, it’s shown that Jimmy's office is at 160 Juan Tabo Boulevard (which is a real nail salon). Those of you with a head for directions might also recall that that’s the same street that the ill-fated chemist Gale Boetticher lives on, at 6353 Juan Tabo Boulevard. Breaking Bad fans were thrilled when the karaoke-loving chemist appeared in Season 4 of Better Call Saul (with hopefully more to come).

4. The Ignacio connection

Michael Mando as Nacho Varga in Better Call Saul
Michael Mando as Nacho Varga in Better Call Saul.
Michele K. Short/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

When he’s kidnapped by Walt and Jesse after refusing to help a busted Badger, Saul spits out a variety of nonsense in an attempt to stay alive. He also drops a name: Ignacio. So who is he talking about? As we learn in Better Call Saul, this refers to Nacho, who’s become one of the secondary leads on the show. “Nacho” is a nickname, short for Ignacio, which makes sense as a connection given how closely he’s been working with Jimmy/Saul.

5. Cheap tricks

Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn in 'Better Call Saul'
Michele K. Short, AMC/Sony Pictures

There’s another callback to the first time that Walt, Jesse, and Saul meet. Despite still having his hands tied behind his back, when Saul agrees to help Walt and Jesse, he tells them to each put a dollar in his pocket in order to secure attorney-client privilege. It seems that Saul got that idea from Kim, who, when she decides to help Jimmy after discovering he’s falsified evidence, tells him to give her a dollar for exactly the same reason.

6. Old afflictions

Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill and Mel Rodriguez as Marco Pasternak in 'Better Call Saul'
Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill and Mel Rodriguez as Marco Pasternak in Better Call Saul.
Michele K. Short/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

In yet another reference to that fateful first meeting, we learn that Saul isn’t bluffing when he tells Walt and Jesse that he has bad knees. He says the same thing when cops apprehend him in the first season of Better Call Saul. As to why he’s got bad knees to begin with, it all comes from his time as “Slippin’ Jimmy,” when he used to stage falls in order to earn a little bit of money.

7. Car talk

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in 'Breaking Bad'
Ursula Coyote, AMC

Saul Goodman drives a white 1997 Cadillac DeVille with the vanity plate “LWYRUP.” Jimmy McGill’s ride is much more modest: a yellow Suzuki Esteem with a red door. That said, in the pilot of Better Call Saul, we very briefly see a white Cadillac DeVille—Jimmy parks his car next to it, in a truly blink-and-you-miss-it allusion to what’s to come. (Gus, notably, is driving the same blue Volvo in both shows.)

8. Home sweet home

In Better Call Saul, one of the retirement homes that Jimmy visits in his quest to find new clients for his growing elder law business is Casa Tranquila. If it sounds familiar, that's because it's a key location in Breaking Bad as the home of Hector Salamanca, and the place where he kills his longtime nemesis Gus Fring. It’s a nice touch to revisit the location, especially given the fact that Better Call Saul gives us the story as to how Hector wound up in a wheelchair in the first place.

9. What's your poison?

There’s also a nice bit of brand continuity with the made-up tequila Zafiro Añejo. Gus poisons a bottle to get back at Don Eladio in Breaking Bad, and we see the same blue bottle pop up in Better Call Saul when Jimmy and Kim scam a cocky stock broker named Ken. Ken, for his part, seems to be reaping a constant stream of bad karma, as he’s also in Breaking Bad as a victim of Heisenberg’s wrath. He swipes Walt’s parking spot—and has his car set on fire for his trouble.

10. The little piggy

Though Mike is hard as nails, he’s got a soft spot the size of Texas for his granddaughter Kaylee. He gifts her a pink pig plush in Better Call Saul, which crops up again in Breaking Bad under slightly less cute circumstances. He uses the doll as a distraction when an assassination attempt is made on his life.

11. Word games

Giancarlo Esposito as Gus Fring in 'Breaking Bad'
Ursula Coyote, AMC

The first letters of the episode titles of the second season of Better Call Saul are an anagram for “FRING’S BACK.” It’s a granular sort of trick that the creators have pulled off before: four of the episodes of season two of Breaking Bad spell out “Seven Thirty-Seven Down Over ABQ.” In the season finale, a 737 plane does indeed go down over Albuquerque, or ABQ.

12. Sentimental value

Given that Saul’s Breaking Bad office has a lot of strange objects in it, it’d be easy to miss the octagonal desk. As it turns out, the offices of Saul Goodman aren’t the desk’s first home: it’s seen in the background of Kim’s office in Better Call Saul. It’s retroactive, sure, but it’s still nice to know that Saul has some mementos around.

13. Movie night

Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn in 'Better Call Saul'
Ursula Coyote, AMC/Sony Pictures Television

There’s also a little sentimental value in the name of Saul’s holding company, Ice Station Zebra Associates, which he uses to help Walt launder money in Breaking Bad. As we discover in Better Call Saul, Ice Station Zebra is Kim’s favorite movie, due to her father’s affection for it. Though Kim is physically absent from Breaking Bad, small details seem to tie back to her all the time.

14. Set dressing

Krazy-8, may he rest in peace, also shows up in Better Call Saul. The van that he drives has the logo for Tampico Furniture on it, and he’s wearing a uniform with the logo as well. Tampico is where Walt, as he recalls in Breaking Bad, bought Walter Jr.’s crib. Unfortunately, those fond memories aren’t quite enough to save Krazy-8’s skin.

15. Beware of bugs

Before Mike leaves Philly for Albuquerque, a bartender tells him to be mindful of tarantulas. The spider plays a key role in Breaking Bad later on, as a young boy’s pursuit of the bug puts him in Walt’s path—and Todd’s path, by proxy. Determined to make a good impression on Walt, and knowing that there can’t be any witnesses to what they’re doing, Todd shoots the boy in one of the most shocking and cold-blooded moments in the entire series.

An earlier version of this story ran in 2018.

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