by Elinor Jones
I scheduled a last-minute trip to Los Angeles for Thanksgiving. My brother's girlfriend asked if I wanted to try to catch a TV taping while I was here, and of course, I said yes. I figured we'd end up at The Talk, or something equally crappy. She sheepishly emailed to say that the only thing available yesterday was The Price is Right.
And that is when I just about died.
Going to The Price is Right has been a lifelong dream of mine. And if you have a heartbeat, it's probably your dream, too. So let me tell you all about it.
A really long story after the jump!
They said to be at the taping by 8:30, but they overbook, so we had to get there even earlier. I tell ya, getting up at 5:30am after drinking hard and furiously live-blogging Liz & Dick was not easy. But: Plinko! We got to CBS at 7am, and there was already a line.
At 8:30, they started letting us in. Some snobs had priority tickets, so they went in first. We were some of the first with regular tickets to get past the gate. They gave us each a card with a number - I was 123 - and we arrived at our first set of metal benches. We were on those benches for about an hour while pages and other CBS staffers went up and down the line, getting our names, having us sign papers saying we haven't been on TPIR or any other gameshow within the last two years, taking our social security numbers (??), and checking our IDs. We were outside. It was still early, and cold. People would break into applause every couple of minutes. It was kind of amazing.
Eventually we were shuffled up the benches, inching closer to...something. We still didn't know what time the taping started. The guy who wrote our names on our nametags was not very friendly and wrote my name weird (see above). We held on to our number and stayed in our place in line. I was between my brother's girlfriend, Lea, and a nice stranger from Virginia who was there on her own even though it was her kid's birthday, which made me like her a lot.
At the end of that bench section, we were all photographed in front of a blue screen. Lea and I wanted to be jumping so they had to take it several times. This is the best they could do:
We then settled into some very similar metal benches on a different side of the building. Somebody came out to tell us that we wouldn't get into the studio until noon, and we could order some food now that would be delivered to us at separate benches later in the morning. She made a point to insist that the food was made by the same chef who cooks for Drew Carey. It was a charming lie. Our section of benches had a full menu to order off of, but the higher numbers would not have that luxury. LOSERS! I ordered a $10 party pizza.
Some new pages came up the line and told us that they were going to photograph all of us individually so the producers could judge our looks. We had to stick our numbers onto our shirts. There was some drama when 105 and 106 disappeared for like 30 minutes. The page would not let us go anywhere else because they had to locate 105 and 106. I began to hate 105 and 106. They were holding us all back! From...waiting, and sitting on the bench. Eventually the page came back and took our pictures. I tugged my v-neck down a little and hoped some cleavage would give me a leg up.
There was a guy across from me on the benches at one point who asked me what kind of motorcycle I had. I had to tell him that I only had black motorcycle boots because I thought they looked cool. He was wearing a plaid flannel shortsuit. He laughed. People were still periodically breaking out into cheers.
A new person came out and let us know that the producer interviews would start soon. One page had to carry around a "Quiet" sign but everybody was too giddy to be shushed effectively. We scooted down that bench, and in groups of about 15, stood against a railing while a producer briefly talked to each of us. He was fun. He pretty much just got us to clap and yell, then asked us all where we were from, and what we did. My day job is boring, and I was nervous, but I smiled big, and he asked me a few extra questions. I felt like I had a shot.
After the interviews, we went to another side of the building, and some fresh benches. A group of about 10 heavily made-up young adults walked by, and came over to chat. The girl in front of us was squealing. After they walked away, she told us they were her favorites from The X Factor. Her day was made. At this point, we had to hand over our cell phones and go through a metal detector. Then: metal bench. There were a ton of TVs at that part, and they showed an episode of the show. I tell you what, watching a rerun of The Price is Right in a crowd of 300 excited fans is thrilling. Seriously.
The food came to our benches at around 11:30. They got it to us by yelling our numbers. It was pretty efficient, but it seemed like it would have been easier to just skip the lunch service and start the taping an hour earlier. Whatever. The pizza was fine, but I don't think it was cooked by a rich person's chef. After we ate and the rerun was over, we just sat. It was weird; I doubt many people ever just sit without looking at their phones. Since we didn't have our phones, we had to talk to each other. And cheer more. We guessed which people were gonna get picked to go up. At least 50% of the crowd seemed excited enough, including us.
These were our last benches. We had to throw away the rest of our food and drinks, and we walked single file up some stairs to the studio. Lea and I were seated in the left section, in the second row. The row in front of us was empty and had fancier chairs. The studio was smaller than it looks on TV, but way tackier, in an amazing way. Bright chiffon and lights everywhere.
There were dance jams blasting for several minutes while the seats were filled, and then the announcer came out. He warmed up the crowd a little, not that we needed it. The loudest person in the audience was sitting right behind us. He would not stop screaming "I LOVE YOU." I couldn't even hate him. Before we knew it, they were starting the show!! We could barely hear anything that they said into a microphone but there was a dude on stage who holds up a sign of each contestant's name as its called. We were not picked. Then Drew Carey came out, and it was ON!
The games themselves went super fast. So many cameras and crew are bundled at the edges of the stage that we watched on the monitors rather than looking at what was happening 15 feet in front of us. There were a ton of hype guys who clapped and laughed and made the "awww" face so we knew when to make a lot of noise. I nearly screamed myself hoarse when a young woman made some horrible guesses for a new car. She should have listened to me. She would have a Camaro right now.
We were told not to stand up when they were calling out new contestants so they could focus the camera on whoever gets called. But since we were so close, we could see that the camera had a seating chart taped to it with Xes where lucky contestants were seated. So it's not like they didn't know. This rule felt arbitrary.
They stopped for a few minutes between each segment as they filled the stage with games and prizes, and Drew Carey chatted with the crowd. A lot of people ran up to him to shake his hand. He was really nice to everybody, although he did make some weird penis and weed jokes, and I think he called a male cop a bitch? One middle-aged woman wore a shirt that said "MY DREAM IS TO HUG DREW." He saw her, called her up on stage, gave her a long hug, and as she walked away, she was wiping away tears.
Turns out that the empty seats in front of us were for contestants to sit in after their game. We got to chat with them about the big wheel and give them high-fives. Even the losers were on cloud nine.
TPIR hired a dude model for the first time recently. He was a dreamboat. He had to reshoot a lot of his spots, though. I guess it takes time to master the art of slowly touching something and clapping. They never reshot anything with any of the contestants.
When the time came to reveal the prices for the showcase showdown, they blasted "Gangman Style" and encouraged a 300-person dance party so we'd all be extra screamy for the close. Then after the reveal, they scanned the crowd over and over with camera while we spent another few minutes going fucking nuts. Watch for glimpses of my mug on television on January 29th. And if you're the betting and cheating type, I can tell you who wins so you can hustle your friends.
After taking away the winners, they did one "bonus come-on-down" for $300 cash. Since nothing else was random, it was a nice gesture. The guy sitting next to me won it.
It was all over by 1:45pm. Leaving the studio was the hardest part of the day. We'd spent nearly 7 hours in single file lines; that last crowd felt so undignified. Nobody cared. We waited in a disorganized line to get our cell phones, and another to buy our souvenir photo. "But I'm 123," I whimpered. It didn't mean anything any longer.
This is a really longwinded telling of my experience on The Price is Right, but I am so happy to have shared it with you, because of this: the lines, crowds, early morning, waiting for food, the crushing humanity - it should have been a nightmare. But it wasn't. Not even close. Everybody there was so happy to be there. The crowd was diverse, and loud, and weird, and emitting nothing but pure joy. It was, quite frankly, America at its best.
If only we could always be moments away from winning a Camaro.