The Price Is Right, the long-running television favorite of retired people, sick (or faking) school kids and college students with carefully-planned schedules, airs every weekday and combines the thrill of winning great prizes with helpful information about reverse mortgages. If you watched yesterday’s episode, it adds one more exciting element — you will get a glimpse of my face. No, I did not win. No, I didn’t even make it to Contestants’ Row, but I did have the privilege of breathing the same oxygen as the great Drew Carey.
Getting tickets to the show is easy. I’ve seen plenty of articles claiming you have to get there very early in the morning and wait in line for a chance of getting in, but the much smarter option is to request tickets online. If you register early enough (I registered about five weeks in advance), you’re guaranteed admission as long as you arrive on time. For the afternoon taping, we were required to arrive by noon. Once through the gate, we were given cards with our contestant numbers. If you’re waiting in line, try to avoid standing next to someone that annoys you, because the producers make sure you stay in the correct order until the moment you enter the studio.
Now you’re inside, and you’re excited. A CBS page comes down the line, passing out release forms, followed by another page — who has been specially selected based on handwriting skills — to give you your iconic yellow name tag. Unfortunately, this is where you find out what is in store for you. To one side is a CBS gift shop, with souvenirs from the shows that film in that studio. The other side is a food stand, whose staff will repeatedly shout that you have about six hours to go.
After about an hour of waiting here, the line starts moving. Each person has an individual picture taken (I later figured out that these photos are to help the producers find the contestants in the audience), then a group picture with your friends or family in front of a green screen. Around a corner is another line of benches … where you wait some more. After quite a while — two hours, maybe — 20 people are taken from the line to talk to the producers. Most people get one question (“What do you do?”), and the line moves on.
Around another corner we get to stand in the sun for a little while, watching the crew come back from their buy-one-get-one lunches at Macaroni Grill next door. A few audience members were excited to get a glimpse of a soap opera star, but I was more distracted with the bees living in the flowers next to us. After a short wait, we had to check our phones. The remainder of our time was spent phoneless, forcing us to make conversation. Fortunately, the overhead televisions soon started playing an older episode of the show. Another food stand was available here. For low, low prices*, you could refuel before the hour-long clap-fest you were about to endure. The overhead episode was cut short to show an informational video hosted by George Gray about the dos and don’ts of The Price Is Right. Unfortunately, it ran on a loop for the next hour, until the doors finally opened to the main attraction.
The studio itself is tiny. There are a total of about 300 people in the audience. The stage, which appears to be very large on TV, is actually not. Clever set arrangements and close camera angles keep the illusion going for the home audience, but there are many parts of the show that the studio audience simply can’t see. Enthusiasm is kept up by a man named Matt, constantly encouraging the audience to applaud. The stage is reset during commercial breaks, where the audience is treated to the comedy styling of the host. Drew Carey makes a great effort to connect with audience members, and it helps to relieve some of the tension from an afternoon worth of waiting. The show itself goes by quickly. It is 44 minutes at broadcast, and takes a little more than an hour to shoot.
Overall, it’s an exciting, if long, experience. If you live in Los Angeles and have nothing better to do, it’s a slight chance of making some money or winning prizes. If you’re just visiting, it does take up a fair amount of your time, but might still be worth it. As a television lover, it was an easy choice.
“My” episode filmed on April 15 and aired on June 10. If you see us in repeat (or want to find it on YouTube), you can find me a few rows back at stage left.
*Prices were not very low.
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