Tuesday, May 27, 2014

On the Air: The Price is Right (1956)

In 2 years' time, The Price is Right will mark its' 60th anniversary. Yes, you read that right. Sixty. Today's generation may only know of the incarnation that has been with us since 1972, but it, in turn, was a revival.

Price began in 1956, airing both in daytime and primetime on first NBC (until 1963), then ABC (1963-5), with Bill Cullen as host, and the inestimable Don Pardo was the announcer. Not sure if Pardo carried over when the series shifted to ABC, since he rarely took jobs away from NBC. The original Price's game play was radically different than the current version. To wit:

Cullen, of course, moved on to MC a bazillion other games, mostly for Price creator Bob Stewart after the latter launched his own production company, spinning off from Goodson-Todman. Pardo announced most of those shows, since they were taped in New York. Cullen would return to Goodson-Todman as a panelist and part-time guest host on To Tell The Truth during the Garry Moore/Joe Garagiola era (1969-77).

When Price returned in 1972, it completed the rare trifecta of having aired on all three major networks of the period when CBS picked up the show. Bob Barker (Truth or Consequences) was chosen as MC, since the show was now based in Los Angeles, and Cullen, of course, was busy in New York. Initially, it remained a half-hour, like the original, but would morph into its current hour-long format.

Here's the 1st episode of the current series. Johnny Olsen is the announcer. Note the subtle difference in Olsen's call to contestants, as opposed to later episodes.

Price would return to primetime periodically for themed specials, and at one point, was used as a summer replacement series. It also aired in an on-again, off-again, syndicated evening edition, which has had the likes of Dennis James and soap actor Doug Davidson (Young & The Restless) as hosts.

In 2006, Barker retired, and after a year, Fremantle Media, which took over the series from Goodson-Todman, hired actor-comedian Drew Carey as Barker's successor. Perhaps the biggest selling point was the Cullen-esque buzzcut that was one of Carey's trademarks. Drew has since grown out the hair, and, nearly 7 years in, has proven all the doubters wrong.

The following is the first one that Carey had taped in the fall of '07:

Currently, George Gray (ex-Weakest Link) is the announcer, having taken over for Rich Fields a while back.

Last month, Carey switched places with Craig Ferguson, a castmate from his ABC sitcom, for an April Fool's Day stunt. Carey would bring the models along to The Late, Late Show, while Ferguson and announcer Shadoe Stevens (ex-Hollywood Squares) and friends took over Price for a day. It's not going to be a tradition, though, as Ferguson has already made it known he will be leaving his show at the end of the year, presumably due to being passed over as David Letterman's successor in favor of Stephen Colbert.

This stuff never gets old.

Rating: A-.

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