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Friday, May 02, 2014

The Price Is Right: Pricing Games From The Past

Hello!  And, allow me to welcome you to the final Friday discussion of all things television!

Surprised?  Don't be.  Truth is that the television portion of the blog will be switching over to Thursdays beginning on Thursday, May 8.  It's all a part of the huge changes that I have coming to the blog in May as we celebrate the third anniversary of the blog all month long!  Next Friday at this time, we'll be talking about retro foods, food commercials, food memories, and I'll even post some recipes for you to try, courtesy of the millions of cookbooks we have scattered all over the family kitchen cupboards. 


For now, we have one final Friday discussion on television, and I think that I've come up with a great topic idea to usher out the old and bring in the new. 

Admittedly, it's an idea that I got while watching this television show yesterday morning.

Okay, so everybody must have seen at least one episode of "The Price Is Right".  It's only been a daytime institution since 1972, after all!  For over forty years, thousands of contestants have come on down to meet Bob Barker or Drew Carey (depending on when the episode was taped), and have played dozens of pricing games in hopes of winning some classy furniture, an exotic vacation, sleek appliances, or a BRAND NEW CAR!!!

(Ahem...sorry about that folks.  I was channeling my inner Rod Roddy.)

Of course, over the years, I remember there being some games that were played way more than others, and certainly there are some games that have been played for thirty years or more!  I think that the "Check Game" was introduced the same year I was born, and is still sporadically played today.  "Secret X" continues to make people richer by playing a simple game of Tic-Tac-Toe.  When I was younger, I used to love it when the little yodeler dude flung himself over the cliff due to the stupidity of the contestants who played "Cliff Hangers".  And, "Any Number" is one of the few games to have lasted the entire run of "The Price Is Right" so far, debuting in September 1972 and still going strong!

Of course, the pricing games that I have listed up above are ones that are featured at least once a week on "The Price Is Right".  But did you know that in the 42-year history of the game show that there have been a total of 107 different pricing games that have been created for the show?  One hundred and seven!  Unbelievable!

Of course, not all 107 games are still available to play.  Case in point, one of my favourite pricing games to watch was the pricing game called "BUMP", which debuted in September 1985.  The game was designed like a London city street with double-decker buses on it.  Each bus had a price tag on the side, and the contestant had to decide whether to bump the buses to the left or the right to win the prizes offered.  And the way that the show chose to bump the buses made it a very popular game...especially with the men in the audience.  Have a look!

Now, here's the thing.  I loved the game "BUMP", but I remember that it had been years since I last saw it.  I did a little research and found that it was retired on November 20, 1991.  No wonder I missed it!  It hasn't been shown in almost 25 years!  As for the reason why it was pulled?  Well...partly it was due to the fact that the producers felt that the provocative grinding of the hips by Barker's Beauties was not very family-friendly, and they decided to pull it after six years.  But it's also rumoured that it was axed right around the same time that Barker's affair with Dian Parkinson was beginning to cool.

Who knows what the reason was?

Truth is, there are a lot of pricing games from the game show that have been retired - thirty-three in all.  And, in this blog, I thought I'd showcase seven more of these thirty-three games to explain how they were played, how long they lasted, show you videos of how the games were played (if possible), and the reason why they were pulled.  How many will you remember?

Okay, let's start with game #1.

Date Premiered:  February 3, 1981
Date Retired: January 12, 1998

How many of you remember playing the game of Skee-Ball at your local carnival or video arcade?  I loved Skee-Ball!  I was never very good at Skee-Ball, but regardless, I still liked to play it.  And, I think that's one of the reasons why I enjoyed watching this game whenever it came on "The Price Is Right".  The way the game worked was that the contestant would be shown three prizes that they could win, and they would get the opportunity to win the three balls that corresponded with said prizes.  If they throw the ball and it lands in the center slot, they win the prize.  There was also the chance to win the "Super Ball", which allowed contestants the chance to win all three prizes at once with just one throw.  If the contestants missed the center hole, the other slots all had a cash value, so contestants always left with something.  Here's a visual of the game in action.

REASON FOR RETIREMENT:  It took WAY too long to play.  On average, the game took at least five minutes to get through, which took away from the time spent on other games.  If you ever have heard Bob Barker say "We may have to cancel 'The Young and the Restless' today", it's likely because the episode featured "Super Ball".  In fact, there was one play of the game in late 1991 that ended up lasting almost TEN minutes because the contestant had no idea how to play Skee-Ball!

Date Premiered:  November 4, 1983
Date Retired:  November 27, 1985

I was a bit too young to remember this game when it originally aired, but reading up on how it worked, I'm sorry I missed it.  This was certainly one of the more interesting games played on the show.  Have a look at a playing of this game for yourselves.

Now, the game mechanics, as you see, were simple enough.  You had four prizes, and you had to guess the right price of each prize within a specific range.  For instance, the first prize you had a $25 window to work with.  If your answer was within $25 either above or below, you won.  Of course, if a player missed one of the prizes, their game was technically over...unless the autograph book that they held had "SECOND CHANCE" written inside.  If it did, they could continue.

Each autograph book contained the signatures of Bob Barker, then-announcer Johnny Olson, and presumably the signatures of then-models Janice Pennington, Dian Parkinson, and Holly Hallstrom.  And whether the contestants won or lost, they got to KEEP the autograph book as a souvenir!  Heck, that would have been enough of a prize for me alone!  I wonder how much those books would go for today?

REASON FOR RETIREMENT:  Inflation made the game harder and harder to design, thus making it harder to win, and it was canned after just two years.

Date Premiered:  January 25, 1979
Date Retired:  June 14, 2002

The story of "Penny Ante" is one of the most tragic of all the pricing games.  You'll understand why this is the case when you read the reason why it was retired.

The one thing that I remember the most about "Penny Ante" is the sound that the buttons made when they were pushed.  Have a look at the playthrough of the game.  We'll continue after the video.

So, the game worked as such.  The contestant was given three gigantic pennies at the beginning of the game.  The game had two different coloured sections, and each section featured a grocery item along with four possible choices of prices.  If the contestant guessed incorrectly, they lost a penny.  If a contestant lost all three pennies before guessing the two grocery prices, the game was over.

REASON FOR RETIREMENT:  The death knoll for "Penny Ante" began in the late 1990s.  Mechanical failure started to occur more and more, with the wrong price tags opening up, and the lights not working.  By 2002, the game was more or less ready to give up on itself.  The final nail in the coffin came when the game was pulled and replaced with another game last minute...and the game itself was left outside in the pouring rain and was completely damaged beyond repair!  Designers attempted to redesign the game, but nothing was ever built, and the game went into permanent hibernation.

Date Premiered:  February 19, 1976
Date Retired:  March 31, 1983

Ah, "Hurdles".  Another game I don't remember.  Let's see if I can find a video for it.

That was one wacky game, wasn't it?  Though, I can see how it was played.  Contestants were shown a grocery item and price at the beginning.  That item signified the "hurdler's price", the price that the hurdler could clear.  Underneath the hurdle course were three pairs of prices for three other grocery items.  One was priced above the "hurdler's price", one was below.  Naturally, the object of the game became clear.  Choose the lower price so that the hurdler could clear the course!  Clear the course without knocking over a hurdle, you win!

REASON FOR RETIREMENT:  Like "Penny Ante", the game was subjected to a lot of mechanical issues.  Sometimes the hurdlers wouldn't clear the course even though they were supposed to.  It was a popular game for its time, but it was pulled in early 1983.

Date Premiered:  September 12, 1983
Date Retired:  November 3, 1989

This was one weird game.  I presume that this game was the one that eventually replaced "Hurdles" as it debuted six months after "Hurdles" ended.  But this was also a game which allowed audience participation from home - the one, and so far ONLY game to do so.

During the 1980s, home viewers were encouraged to send postcards to "The Price Is Right" which included their names, addresses, and home phone numbers so that they could have the chance to play along with the contestants on the show.

At the beginning of the game, Bob Barker would draw a postcard out of a bin at random, and dial the at home contestant to play along with the studio contestant.  That contestant would then work with the at-home contestant to share a cash prize of $15,000!  I'd love to explain how that worked, but a video is worth a thousand words.

REASON FOR RETIREMENT:  Staff felt that the game was too long, and they weren't very enthused by it.  Also, I think a lack of audience participation sealed the fate of this very interesting pricing game.

Date Premiered:  September 9, 1975
Date Retired:  May 10, 2007

Of all the pricing games that were retired, this one definitely had the longest life-span - lasting for 31 years, 6 months, and one day.  The game - which was retired shortly before Bob Barker's own retirement in 2007 - was considered to be one of the easiest games to play and win.  All you had to do was know the rules of poker.  Know that a four of a kind beats a three of a kind, and that a full house beats one pair.  The ultimate goal was to try and get five nines...that way you were guaranteed a win.  Have a look at how the game is played.

REASON FOR RETIREMENT:  Inflation.  It was a fine game to play when it first debuted...but it was finally put to pasture in 2007 due to the lack of value for the prizes offered - due to the rules, no prize could be worth more than $999.

Date Premiered:  November 14, 1977
Date Retired:  November 21, 1977

On the flipside, while "Poker Game" was the longest running game to be retired, "Professor Price" was one of the shortest, lasting just one whole week!  Rather than explain how the game was played, I'll post a video and let you guys figure it out for yourselves.

REASON FOR RETIREMENT:  Well, aside from the fact that it was really awkward to play...the game itself really had nothing to do with actually pricing items.  It was more or less a random trivia game.  Might have been a good concept in theory, but the execution was lousy.

So, there you have it.  A sampling of some of "The Price Is Right" games that no longer are in play, as well as the sad stories behind why they were pulled.  DO you have any more games that you want to add to this list?

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