‘The Price is Right’ will start its 49th season without something it’s never gone without before: a studio audience.
Production began Monday on CBS’s The Price is Right. But when host Drew Carey and the cast returned to Television City Studios, they weren’t met with a cheering crowd. That’s because the audience will be absent from the show.
At least for now.
Dateline reported that changes in the show met local, state and guild guidelines  to create a COVID-19-safe atmosphere.
To make it happen, crews went to the legendary Stage 33, where the show has taped since its premiere on Sept. 4, 1972, and built decking to cover the audience pit. The result is a level stage where no one “comes on down” and where the winner from Contestant’s Row won’t climb steps to get onstage.
Instead, the show’s famous Contestant’s Row has also been redesigned with individual stands spaced six feet apart. Contestants will bid on prizes as always, but if they look behind them for help from the crowd, they’ll be in for a disappointment.
The winning contestant will then play one of the show’s famous pricing games — apparently they all remain in play. Some of them, according to Dateline, required changes in staging to keep Drew and the contestant six feet apart.
And yes, the show’s famous Big Wheel will still be there, too. Contestants spin the wheel in the Showcase Showdown round. The showdown determines which of the six contestants from that day’s show go on to the Showcases at the end of the show.
You can see a photo of what the show’s Contestants Row will look like in Dateline’s article.
I have my doubts. They can fill in crowd noise — cheers, applause, etc. — with sound effects. But everyone will see there’s no audience to do the cheering.
I certainly understand the push to get the show back into production. But the audience has been such a critical ingredient over the years that one wonders how the show can be the same show without it.
Hopefully they won’t have to shoot this way for long.