So you're going to see "The Price is Right" in person. Great! Trust me, it's going to be a lot of fun! Here's what you can expect during your day at TPiR (yes, this will take at least the majority of the day).
Before we get started, I'd like to stress one thing: DO NOT EXPECT TO BE SELECTED AS A CONTESTANT. Don't get me wrong, it is possible that you'll be called to come on down. But you're one person among 300 others in that audience. To put it mathematically, if we pretend that contestants are chosen randomly, you have a 3% chance of getting to Contestants' Row. Actually, there are usually more than 300 people in the audience. So please, please don't think that you're a shoo-in to be a contestant. Just enjoy the show, and if you get called, all the better.
Okay. Let's prepare for your trip to TPiR. First of all, you should have tickets. If you don't have tickets, chances are extremely high that you won't be getting in. For complete ticket information, you should visit this page
at cbs.com. Remember, tickets are not available on the day of taping, so you need to get your tickets in advance.
If you're visiting Los Angeles from someplace far away, then you'll need a place to stay. The hotel you choose is obviously going to be dependent on what else you want to do while in the area, and it would be ridiculous for me to list every hotel in the city. However, if you want the distance between your hotel and CBS Television City to be as short of a walk as possible, then you have two choices -- the Farmer's Daughter on Fairfax Avenue and a Rodeway Inn on Beverly Boulevard. The Rodeway Inn is the less expensive of the two, but at least under a past name, it was also lacking in cleanliness and customer service. While the Farmer's Daughter is costlier, its staff is also more receptive and helpful to the TPiR hopefuls who stay there -- check out the Wall of Winners in the lobby. Also, it's right across the street from where the morning line forms. The general consensus is that the Farmer's Daughter is the better choice. Its web site is www.farmersdaughterhotel.com
; the web site for the nearby Rodeway Inn is www.rodewayinnbeverly.com
The most important question is one that you'll have to answer before you even step onto the Television City lot -- at what time do you want to arrive? When Bob announced his retirement, the lines to even get into the studio got progressively longer and began forming earlier and earlier. But now that Drew is the host, attendance patterns have changed and we're not sure yet what a typical day is. At the time of this revision, you could arrive at pretty much any time on any day and get a seat, but that's bound to change. So what follows is what we knew back when Bob was the host and before we knew he was retiring. Use your best judgment when deciding on an arrival time.
All right, so you've got your tickets and a place to stay. Tomorrow is the big day! As you know, since you've carefully read your ticket, early arrival is advised since the pages begin handing out priority numbers at 8:00 a.m. But trust me, you're taking a gamble if you try to get there at 8:00 a.m. Almost every day, TPiR audience members begin to line up outside the gates of Television City in the middle of the night. It's common for people to be out there beginning at 3:00 a.m. or earlier -- on a busy day, the last people to get into the audience may have been in line since 5:00 or 5:30 in the morning. The extremely dedicated are known to set up camp outside the gate the previous night. The point is, you'd better be getting in line before 8:00 a.m.
But what time should you get in line? Well, I suppose it depends on how much of the stage you want to see and how much you value sleep. Your position in line has absolutely no bearing on your chances of being selected as a contestant. The only advantage you receive from being near the front of the line is that you'll receive a better seat in the studio. Here's how the members of the studio audience are seated: First, the seats in the center of the studio audience are filled, starting with the front row and moving toward the curtains in the back. People in those seats get a good overall view of the stage. Then people are placed in the section on the left side of the audience (left from the perspective of the camera when it's pointed at the audience -- the section closest to the announcer). From that section, you'll be able to see everything on the turntable, but you won't be able to see anything inside of door number three and part of door number two. If you're near the end of the line, you'll wind up in the section on the right. From there, you'll be able to see doors number two and three, but you'll see little to nothing of what happens on the turntable. If there's a big crowd, some audience members (which audience members they are depends on the whims of the pages) are placed on folding chairs in the center of the audience, which is a great view of the stage with slightly less comfortable seats.
The seat you receive will be determined by where you are in line during the wee hours of the morning. If you've taken my advice and are not expecting to be selected as a contestant, then you're at least going to want to see as much of the live show as you can, right? After all, if you wanted to watch half of the show on the monitors, you could have just stayed home. So if you care about where you sit, then get in line very early -- I'd suggest 4:00 or 4:30 a.m. Definitely no later than 5:00, though you're risking a side section if you're that late. And if you're going during a time that college students aren't usually in class (such as spring break or summer), then you should get in line even earlier -- an hour earlier, at least, though it wouldn't surprise me to learn that everybody who sits in the center on those busy days has been in line since 1:00 or 2:00 a.m.
The line, by the way, begins at the entrance to CBS Television City on Fairfax and extends down the sidewalk North toward Beverly Boulevard. In case you were wondering.
If you're driving to the studio, then obviously, you'll need a place to park. Unfortunately, free parking is a difficult thing to find in Los Angeles. You can't park on the CBS property, and the closest parking structure to the studio is located at The Grove, about half a block south of Beverly Blvd. (The large parking garage at the end of Farmers Market Place, not the open-air parking lots next to the Farmers Market. You risk being towed if you park all day in the open-air parking lots.) It'll cost $22 to park there for the day. If you drive around, you may be able to find some cheaper parking elsewhere, or maybe even some free parking along the curbs of one of the smaller side streets (be sure to read the signs to see if there are any restrictions!). But because people are averse to walking too far from their parked car, especially in the middle of the night, most of them end up parking in The Grove's parking structure.
So the sky is pitch black, and you're standing in line outside a television studio. You did look into how cold Los Angeles gets at night, right? It can still be downright chilly during the winter months. If you've arrived early enough so that you know you'll be spending at least a couple of hours on the sidewalk, it might be a good idea to bring some folding chairs to take the pressure off of your feet. Or at least a blanket to put on the ground. To kill time, you'll probably strike up conversations with the people around you. You might want to bring some food, too. There's a bagel shop across the street that must do pretty much all of its business on TPiR tape dates, though I've heard reports questioning its cleanliness.
While the tickets state that priority numbers are issued beginning at 8:00 a.m., the gates do open at 6:00 a.m. When they do, each person will receive an order of arrival slip, numbered in order of each person's position in line. Then you'll all be allowed to leave for about an hour. This is the time to take back anything that you no longer need now that you won't be in line on the sidewalk (like folding chairs or coolers -- or sleeping bags!). When you come back, prepare to have your TPiR ticket and a photo ID... security might check for those before letting you in. You'll be told to come back at 7:30.
At 7:30, you'll all congregate on the benches outside the studio. At least you have something over your head now. Then the first fun challenge of the day begins, when everybody tries to get in numerical order by the numbers on their order of arrival passes. Once that has been accomplished, it'll be 8:00 and time for the priority numbers to be given out. A page will take your ticket and give you somebody else's ticket on which they've written a number. That written number on the ticket is your priority number. Once you have your priority number, you're free to leave the studio and find yourself some breakfast, or maybe take a quick nap. Be sure to return by the time the page tells you to return, an hour or two later.
By the way, as you probably know, there are two tapings each day. You cannot receive priority numbers for both tapings -- you have to choose one or the other, even if you have tickets for both. If you do happen to have tickets for both, I'd recommend choosing the first taping unless there are no priority numbers left for it. You may still get a chance to see both tapings that day (more on that in a while).
If you've gotten in line early enough, the page will give you a priority number. That's what you want -- it means that unless something unusual happens, you'll be getting into the taping. After a certain number of priority numbers have been given out (the number is dependent on the expected group turnout for the day), the page switches to standby numbers. If you receive a standby number, then you have a bit of worrying ahead of you. You see, groups of 20 to 25 people are given special treatment when it comes to being in the studio audience. They don't have to wait in line for as long as you've had to wait -- if they've booked in advance, they can come to the studio at a later time and cut in line, ahead of the people with standby tickets. The page begins to give out standby numbers at a conservative time just in case some very large groups come to a taping. But usually, at least 25 standby ticket holders will also get in -- often more. Still, if you have a standby number, you're on the bubble -- just come back at the specified time (later than the time for those with priority numbers) and hope for the best.
Say you want to be in the audience, but you don't have tickets for that day's taping. Unless there's a very low turnout, chances are that you won't be getting in. But if you still want to try, you can receive a non-ticket slip. This numbered slip of paper will be honored as a ticket only after everybody who is holding a ticket -- priority or standby -- has gotten in. Usually, people with non-ticket slips miss out on the taping. But if it's winter before or after everybody else has taken their Christmas vacations, when audience turnout is lower than usual, things might work out.
Okay, so you've had breakfast, maybe gotten a bit of a catnap in, and now you're sitting on the benches by the time you were told to return. Get familiar with those benches -- you're going to be sitting on benches for the better part of the day. The pages will collect everybody's numbered tickets and hand out contestant numbers. On one side of a perforated line, there's a large number. On the other side, there are lines for you to write your name and social security number, as well as a place to sign that you are eligible and understand the rules. Be sure to print clearly, as the show will be referring to that side of the card when contestants are called.
At the same time you hand in the side of the contestant card that you signed, you'll be asked to prove your eligibility for the show. To do this, you'll need two pieces of identification. One of those pieces should be your driver's license or DMV identification card. The other piece of identification must have your social security number on it. The best choice would be your Social Security card, though any legal document with your social security number on it will do. If you don't have anything on you that shows your social security number, you can still be selected as a contestant, but if you are, you will have to produce proof of your social security number within thirty days of the day of taping. You also won't receive any of your paperwork until you do, which is no fun.
If you're visiting from outside of the United States, then obviously, you do not have a social security number. In that case, you'll be asked to provide a similar number. For example, if you live in Canada, then you'll write your social insurance number on the card. And provide proof of the number, of course.
While we're on the subject of eligibility, here are some of the other eligibility requirements. You MUST be 18 years old or older. If you're under 18, you will not be admitted into the studio. Period. Also, you cannot have been a contestant on "The Price is Right" within the past ten years, daytime or nighttime. This ten-year restriction also includes people who have been in Contestants' Row, but never won their way onstage. Yes, even if you're told to come on down right before the last pricing game and are one-upped by a fraternity member who then pretends to take a hit from an imaginary bong when he wins, that counts as appearing as a contestant on "The Price is Right."
However, you are not ineligible if you have been in the studio audience before, but didn't have your name called. Some people have attended literally dozens of tapings before they finally were told to come on down.
Also, if you have appeared on any game show -- be it network, syndicated, or even a local show -- within the past year, then you cannot be a contestant on "The Price is Right." Come back when the year is up. If you have been on more than two other game shows within the past ten years, then you cannot be a contestant on "The Price is Right." If you, a family member, or an acquaintance works for CBS, its affiliates, a company that produces programming for CBS, Fremantle, or any of the known sponsors of the show, then you are ineligible to be a contestant. If you are running for public office or planning to run for public office, then you are ineligible (everybody laughs when that one's mentioned, but they have to include it). If you have any questions about your eligibility, ask one of the pages.
Eventually, the pages will begin to hand out name tags. You'll be instructed to affix it to the left side of your shirt, of course, but you'll also be instructed to attach your large contestant number to the bottom of the name tag. A piece of advice -- just barely attach the number so it stays put. Otherwise, you're going to wind up tearing your name tag when you try to remove your number later in the day.
If everything is running smoothly, then you'll be free to roam for an hour or so. You can use the bathroom, buy some food from the CBS snack store, or browse through the gift shop. And... that's pretty much it. You're not allowed to leave CBS property.
Time to return to your seat on the benches! Get ready... in a few minutes, you'll be interviewed by Stan, one of the show's co-producers. This is the moment that will determine whether you are one of the lucky few who will be called to come on down. The pages will gather the audience members into small groups of about twelve people or so. Each group then stands in front of Stan as he goes down the line and talks to each person in turn. You'll have maybe ten to thirty seconds to be the best you can be during your individual interview, so make it count. If Stan likes you, then his assistant will write your number down on her clipboard. If Stan doesn't like you, then his assistant will write something about somebody else down on her clipboard. They're sneaky that way about not tipping their hand as to who they're considering.
If you're ineligible to be a contestant, or if you simply don't want to be chosen, then you should tell that to the page when he or she collects the part of the contestant card with your signature on it. The page will draw a large X over your contestant number, indicating that you shouldn't be selected. Right before the interview process begins, all of the people with X's over their numbers will be asked to come forward and head around the side of the building. Those X'ed-out people will be reunited with the rest of their groups as each group finishes its interview.
The most frequently asked question from people who are about to attend the show is, "What do I have to do to be selected as a contestant?" Well, unfortunately, there is no one specific thing to say or do that will guarantee you a spot in Contestants' Row. As people who work on the show have said, they're looking for a wide variety of people with a wide variety of personality types. Really, the best advice, as trite as it sounds, is to just be yourself.
Of course, there are some things that you don't want to do during your ten seconds. A couple of the less obvious:
Don't fake your enthusiasm. They can see through that like the $150 rangefinder. Yes, you should be enthusiastic, but if you're over the top, you're going to stay in your seat for the entire show.
Be respectful of the other contestants. For example, I once stood in the interview line next to a pretty energetic guy -- on the right day, he might have been chosen. But during at least two other audience members' turns to speak, he felt the need to display his energy by adding his comments to their comments. Needless to say, he wasn't called.
Don't wear any clothing that displays a brand name or logo. On TPiR, they don't like to give free advertising to companies that haven't paid for it.
Also, don't wear anything that could be construed as a costume -- this isn't "Let's Make a Deal." This includes signs, sashes, and goofy hats. At best, you'll be asked to remove it, and at worst, you won't be selected as a contestant because of it. As a general rule of thumb, if you wouldn't wear it on a trip to the grocery store, then you shouldn't wear it to the taping.
There are plenty of other things you shouldn't do, of course, like casually include curse words in your sentences or make threats on Drew's life. But you should be able to figure those out on your own. Really, the only thing you can do is be yourself and hope that Stan likes you. That's it.
Well, your interview is over. It's time for you to pass through the metal detector and surrender any cell phones and cameras you might have on you (you'll get them back after the show, but the better thing to do would be to simply lock them in your car or hotel room so you don't have to worry about remembering to get them back later in the day). You round the corner, anxious about what you'll see... there are more benches! It's time to sit back down!
While you wait for the rest of the audience to go through the interview process, you'll sit on a new set of benches. This is your last chance to use the restroom before the show begins. By this point, you're going to be very restless. My favorite bit of advice for what to do to kill time while on these benches: Think about your strategy for the Showcase Showdown. What is the lowest number you could get in your first spin that you would stay on? Now what about if you're the second spinner, as opposed to being the first spinner? If you already know what your thresholds are, ask some other people on the benches. I'll bet you ten bucks that they have no idea what they'd stay on.
Okay, everybody has been interviewed. You're all crammed onto those benches. The staff members are back inside, going over contestant interview notes, matching contestant numbers to names, verifying the information, and taking care of any last-minute details for the show. In just a few minutes, you're going to be inside Studio 33, seeing a taping of "The Price is Right!"
This is it! The doors have been opened, and the audience is filing in. You climb a flight of stairs. One final left turn... there it is! That famous set! My goodness, it's so much smaller in real life!
I know you feel like you've been waiting outside for 40 or 50 hours. But believe me, it all balances out once you get inside that studio. A taping of TPiR takes a little more than an hour to complete. That hour is going to feel like it's gone by in five minutes. Soak in as much as you can, because it'll all be over before you know it.
The pages direct everybody to their seats, following the seating pattern I described above. In a few minutes, Rich Fields will come out and warm you all up (like he really needs to). The music pumps up, the camera is on... the show has begun!
For the first four contestants only, the names have been written onto cue cards which are displayed as Rich reads each name. This is because the TPiR audience is incredibly loud -- so loud, it's impossible to actually hear him. When the last five names are called, though (the names called immediately after each commercial break), you'll have to listen to Rich to determine whether he's said your name. During each break, try to note which spot in Contestants' Row is vacant before the name is called. That way, if you're one of the lucky few to be chosen, you won't embarrass yourself trying to figure out where to go.
And if you can actually concentrate on such minute details as where to go or which way is the shortest path to Contestants' Row when your name is called, then my hat is off to you. It's such an amazing rush to be a contestant on "The Price is Right," it's enough of a feat that you're still able to stand upright, let alone remember anything you had planned on doing or saying. But do please make a note to actually look at the item up for bids while it's being presented.
And it's true -- the nine people who are called to come on down during the show really have no advance clue that they were chosen. The contestant selection is done in secret, so the shock you see when a contestant first hears their name is real.
Between each act of the show -- where the commercials would be if you were watching it on television -- Drew will talk to the audience. Mostly he'll talk to the contestants and make jokes, but maybe you'll get a chance to catch his attention and say something to him. But there won't be too much time for that -- the TPiR crew is one of the most well-oiled machines in television, and they get all of those prizes and props moved in and out of place amazingly quickly.
Like I said, before you know it, the showcase prices have been revealed and the taping is over. Even if you didn't get called as a contestant (I told you not to get your hopes up), you still might win the door prize. After Drew has left, one of the models brings out a basket containing the cards that you all filled out. One of the slips is drawn, and the person whose name is on that slip receives $100. Hey, it's better than a gift certificate from Service Merchandise. Then it's time for everybody to leave.
On some days (not too many of them, though), there won't be enough people in the audience for the second taping. If that's the case, then you can go back outside, get back in line, and see the show again. While you're sitting in the audience for the first taping, they'll tell you whether there are seats available for the second. If you get in line for the second taping, you'll go through the entire contestant process again, including another interview. And sometimes, people who weren't chosen for the first taping will be selected as contestants for the second. Hey, you've already spent the majority of the day at the show, so why not try?
Soon, though, the magic will be over, the final taping will end, and it'll be time to go home. As you leave, remember to pick up your cell phone and/or camera if you had to give them to security. And then you leave, as quickly and orderly as possible. Welcome to the world of television.
Let's see, what have I forgotten... oh, yeah.
You'll notice that I haven't given you any information on bidding or any of the pricing games. It's your job to learn those things. If you are a contestant who is unfamiliar with even the basics of the show, it'll be apparent -- no amount of audience assistance can hide the obvious cluelessness of somebody who has never seen the show before. It's true that any person in the audience may be called to come on down -- and sometimes that person is the one who least expects it. So please watch at least a couple of episodes in preparation.
As you file into the studio audience seats, there will be a board on the stage displaying the show number and air date of the taping you're at. Be sure to make note of that information so you can see yourself on TV. If you didn't see the board, the airdate will also be displayed on the monitors when Rich states the production information (after his warm-up, right before the show begins). But at that point, you'll be too amped up about the show starting to remember it.
Despite what your friends and coworkers will tell you, you do not have to wear a special shirt in order to be selected as a contestant. I'd estimate that at least a third of any studio audience is wearing clothing made specifically for TPiR. Obviously, not all of these people are chosen to come on down. And, in fact, people who don't wear TPiR-themed shirts are called on a daily basis. Believe it or not, what you wear has no bearing on whether you'll be selected as a contestant. Actually study the shirts of people in the audience and all of the people who are called to come on down and tell me I'm wrong.
For crying out loud, don't make bids of $420 or $69. It's been done hundreds of times already. It's not funny anymore.
If you're caught with a list of prices while in the studio audience, then you or somebody near you in the audience may have their winnings forfeited. If you feel that you must study prices before the show begins, be sure to throw the list away before you enter the studio. My advice would simply be to not have any prices on you at all during the entire day of taping.
Unless you're against one of the side curtains, you'll probably be shown on camera at least once during the episode. If you don't want to look like an idiot on national television, here are a couple of tips. First of all, don't look up at a monitor to see whether the camera is pointed at you. The underside of your chin is not that attractive. And please don't wave like a goofball if you think you're on camera. Just smile and applaud and/or cheer. You'll be glad you did when you see yourself on TV.
So here's to your trip to TPiR. Be sure to tell us about your experience when you're done (but please don't spoil any show results before the episode has aired). Have fun!