The Price Is Right (ITV, 1984-1988, 1995-2001, 2006-2007)
This is the lively game show that offered big prizes. The Price Is Right is something of an institution in America where it has run for decades, but when the format finally came to the UK in 1984 it caused something of a sensation as the games were presented in a style that hadn’t ever really been seen before in this country. The original host in the 80s was Leslie Crowther, but my favourite era of the show that I remember most was when Bruce Forsyth took over by which point restrictions on the value of prizes had been relaxed. He always liked to welcome the stars of the show, whoever they were…
Every week contestants were picked from the somewhat lively studio audience at random to “come on down” and play for prizes. First of all they were shown an item and had to guess the price of it. The contestant whose guess was the closest to the actual price without going over won the chance to play the game, and they also won that prize.
Again in the various games the contestant had to complete a task to win some more prizes. The most famous games included Plinko, where the contestant had to win coins which they then dropped into a machine and their prize was determined by wherever the coin landed. There was also the unforgettable Cliff Hanger which even thinking about it now horrifies me. After the end of the game, Bruce would say “there’s a space in contestants’ row”, so another contestant would come on down to play, and this would be done three times.
Regardless of whether they had won the prize in their game or not, the three contestants then went into the Showcase Showdown. They have to spin a wheel featuring numbers from 5 to 100. The contestant who scores the nearest to 100 without going over in a combination of one or two spins plays for the Showcase in the final. If they score exactly 100 they win a bonus, didn’t they do well!
In the final the one remaining contestant is shown the Showcase, which features various luxury holidays, cars and other great things. First of all they use the rangefinder, which indicates how much under they can be when guessing the value of the Showcase. If their guess is within the range without going over when the value is revealed, they win everything in the Showcase along with all the prizes that they have already won, and needless to say this makes everyone very pleased.
When The Price Is Right launched in the UK the style was very similar to the American version, and the over excited audiences and showing-off of flashy prizes really did cause a stir. After a while though the format settled down and it did become a hit with viewers. The Leslie Crowther era was an hour long and shown on Saturday nights, while the Bruce Forsyth era was half an hour long and shown on various days, and it has also been repeated on Challenge in more recent years. Between these versions Sky One also showed a short-lived revival in 1989. There was also a board game released of the Crowther and Forsyth versions.
In 2006 The Price Is Right was revived by ITV for a second time, this time in a weekday daytime slot and with Joe Pasquale as host. Unfortunately even though big money prizes were the norm on British TV by this point even for a daytime slot, this version wasn’t a big hit with viewers and ended rather quietly, which was disappointing.