What IS the Price?
The Price is Right has been
a schizophrenic show of late. They've done some brilliant special
episodes (The Halloween, Valentine's Day and April Fools shows were
particularly inspired.) At the same time, they've had some real
clunkers. The 7000th show had almost no zing to it; the New Year's Eve
show purported to have the "Favorite prizes of 2009" and made them
nearly impossible to win.
But you could chalk any of those things up to bad luck, poor
contestants, who knows. On Monday, January 4, the first game out of the
blocks was Pick-a-Number. The prize on offer was a hot tub plus ten
massages at the spa of your choice. The first three numbers of $8,49-
were given, and the last number had options of 3, 5 or 7. The contestant
picked seven, and lost because the actual prize was $8,493.
Let's count the fails. First is the scheduling of Pick-a-Number first.
The first game of the show sets the tone. A win in that first game
builds momentum that the show can build on. Good producers would want an
exciting fun game to start the show. Pick-a-Number requires the player
to fill in the prize of the prize by picking a number from three
choices. It is a fine game to drop in when you need to make up time from
Switcheroo or Three Strikes, but there is no reason to lead off the show
Second is the prize. I know that the hot tub is a TPIR-standard, plus we
get to look at whichever model pulled the straw to show it off. The
complaint is in adding something to the prize that you cannot possibly
price accurately. Ten massages at the Beverly Hills Hilton? Yeah, you
could price that. A year's membership to Gold's Gym? You could price
that. But adding something like "ten massages at the spa of your choice"
essentially makes the game random.
I'm going to detour here for a moment. I realize that the point isn't to
be able to price everything to the dollar all the time. That would make
for a not-very-fun show. But if you say that the prize is "A new car!"
but neglect to mention whether the car is a Prius or a Jaguar, then we
have a problem. And that leads us into the next fail...
The blank to be filled in was the ones place. They are expecting the
player to be able to price the prize to the dollar. Even the most evil
setup previously would ask the player to pick the tens digit, or more
often the hundreds. The game at that point becomes not one of pricing
acumen, but one of dumb luck.
For many years, The Price is Right was competently put together,
exciting and fun to watch. Unfortunately, the people in charge of the
show don't seem to know what they're doing, and we get bizarre games in
strange orders, prizes that are destined to go straight back to the
warehouse, and viewers changing the channel to something else.
Travis Eberle can be reached at
you want to know his price.