The Showcase Showdown segment of the popular game show isn’t what many of you think it is, and I can prove it.
I just read an article from one of my favorite magazines, Mental_Floss, a publication that digs up interesting trivia.
I grew up watching Bob Barker on The Price is Right and in 1997 I had the opportunity to take a camera crew behind the scenes to meet Barker, his “Barker’s Beauties” and announcer Rod Roddy.
When I saw the article on Mental_Floss titled, “14 Things You Might Not Know About ‘The Price is Right,’” my curiosity wouldn’t let me pass without clicking.
Diehard fans of this particular game show over the years simply know this blunder is coming. People refer to the end game of the show, in which two contestants bid on elaborate showcases, as “The Showcase Showdown.”
It makes sense: the Showcase Showdown sounds like the ultimate game.
But it isn’t.
It all began in 1975, three years into the current show’s run. For the first week of the show’s third season on CBS, they conducted a little experiment called “Anniversary Week” in which the then-30-minute show was transformed into an hour. It was only for that week, but it was an on-air test to see if the show could hold interest for an hour.
But this created a logistics problem that had to be solved.
In the half-hour format, three contestants made their way onto the stage to play a pricing game. But only two of them could have a chance at winning a showcase. That was easy: the two highest-winning contestants of those three were automatically chosen for that end game.
In an hour format, you still needed to select those two showcase contestants, but producers had an additional problem: filling several more minutes of airtime that still remained even when the number of pricing games played doubled from three to six.
Enter the Showcase Showdown: an elimination segment featuring the famous “Big Wheel.” Each of the three contestants had the chance to spin a wheel and try to come as close to $1.00 in one spin or in a combination of two without going over a dollar. Whoever did so won a spot in the end game.
Over time, a bonus was added: a contestant who landed on the $1.00 or who amassed exactly a dollar in two spins received a $1,000 bonus. Eventually the 5¢ and 15¢ spaces, both adjacent to the $1.00 space, were painted green and an additional bonus was added: for contestants who hit the $1.00 bonus, they were given a final “bonus spin.” If, in the bonus spin, the wheel landed on one of the green sections, they won an additional $5,000; if the wheel landed on the dollar space in that spin, they won an additional $10,000.
(Over time, the bonus amounts jumped to $10,000 and $25,000, respectively.)
I know, I know, I said I had proof. Remember the aforementioned “Anniversary Week” specials I mentioned? Here’s a clip from the very first “Showcase Showdown,” which Barker mentions by name.
You’ll note a totally different wheel design and staging:
Fortunately, they redesigned the “Showcase Showdown” by the time the show expanded to a full hour later in 1975. Shuffle ahead to 16:14 for the first playing of the “Showcase Showdown” with the wheel we all know today:
If you ever play a trivia game and the “Showcase Showdown” comes up, you might just have the winning answer! If winnings are involved, I’ll take a check.