My Dumb, Desperate Life: The Price is Right


If contestants were chosen for t-shirt cleverness, we would have been shoe-ins.

If contestants were chosen for t-shirt cleverness, we would have been shoe-ins.

I present to you, gentle readers, a timeline exploring how my life in between teaching jobs has become kind of a cartoon without me noticing.

10:24 a.m. I arrive at the Sony Centre with my cousin Zack, and meet several friends already in line. We have tickets to the Price is Right, and have heard that you have to show up disturbingly early in order to secure your position in the draw to be a contestant. We are in line between two elderly people in wheelchairs, and four young people conversing suspiciously in Czech.

10:43 a.m. It is fairly cold outside, and we send off members of the group for the first of several coffee runs of the day. Hannan was brought several camping chairs and we begin huddling together with them.

11:02 a.m. We have discussed it in line, but several people were not previously aware that this is The Price is Right Live. Drew Carrey is not present, nor are any of the remaining Barker’s Beauties, and no matter how memorable we act when we are called down for contestantship, we will never be immortalized in daytime television history. Deep disappointment washes through the line-up, which has ballooned to 17 people.

These hats came with built-in slots for feathers.

These hats came with built-in slots for feathers.

11:04 a.m. I adjust my fedora. Did I mention we are all in custom t-shirts emblazoned with Price is Right jokery and matching day-glo hats, each inscribed with a currency symbol in glitter paint? Because we are.

11:31 a.m. The host of today’s live version has arrived, a freshly pressed and dry-cleaned suit in his hand. “Tom!” we scream. “Tom! We love you, Tom!” In our minds, somehow this insincere pandering will charm this man, will bring him over to our spot in line, will convince him that all eight of us will need to have a shot at the showdown and also stardom.

11:32 a.m. Someone else in line tells us that the host’s name is actually Todd.

11:32 a.m. “Todd! We love you, Todd!”

12:04 p.m. Hannan has returned to the line with several dozen Tiny Tim’s donuts. They are delicious, and I put down a book on Shinto mythology (I don’t even know, you guys) to begin gorging. We huddle in a semi-circle on camp chairs, wrapped in dingy winter coats, topped with fedoras, eating out of baggies on the ground. Another friend remarks that we should probably have a garbage fire in a steel drum set up to complete our image.

The competition.

The competition.

12:45 p.m. The line has begun to swell. Several other people have arrived in custom t-shirts, but none of them are as clever (or loving stencilled) as our shirts.

12:58 p.m. Stragglers approach the enormous line, and then begin walking brazenly up to the stage door. When they are turned back, they shrug their shoulders, as though miming innocence. “I thought this enormous line-up was for something else!” I consider peeing in a jug and saving it for future line-jumpers. (We have grown avaricious and cruel in these hours.)

1:24 p.m. A production assistant emerges to smoke a cigarette, but his presence sends a frisson through the crowd. There is a great volley of hooting. One large woman suddenly lifts her shirt, exposing herself. Herself is covered in another t-shirt, this one customized to reference Bob Barker. The Price is Right is the New Orleans of middle aged ladies.

It feels right.

It feels right.

1:31 p.m. We are allowed indoors, where we fill out information cards, and get the price-tag shamed name stickers for our shirts. We have grown up on these stickers, and affixing them to our chests feels like destiny.

1:33 p.m. The production sets everyone loose for a few hours before the show will begin. We pass thousands of other people in line, who notice both how close we must have been to the front to already be marching freely, and our very fine hats.

1:47 p.m. Three women are doing street promotion for a store, and they stop and talk to us. We explain about The Price is Right, maybe leaving out the Live! aspect in order to sound more interesting. The woman nods along with our explanation, and asks again, “Okay, but why the hats?” Donny sums it up: “The hats are because we are assholes.”

2:10 p.m. We walk through all of St. Lawrence Market, checking fine sausages and artisanal mustards. People take note of our attire. It feels like Hallowe’en.

4:00 p.m. We are allowed entry into the Sony Centre, and we rush for our seats high in the balcony.  Apparently you are allowed to drink during this performance, and I suddenly imagine that every taping of TPIR in the 1970s was essentially Studio 54, and that Rod Roddy did rails of cocaine off the beauties’ chests between Punch a Bunch and that game with the yodelling mountain climber.

4:23 p.m. They show old clips and trivia from The Price is Right history, and Hannan proves strangely adept. By the time the show begins, she will have technically won a 1970 Ford, a 1981 Hyundai, and a sand buggy from the mid-90s.

The gang's all here.

The gang’s all here.

4:45 p.m. The lights dim, and the crowd goes completely insane. A man we have never heard of introduces us to the event, and begins showing us highlight reels from the actual television show. We are assured, time and time again, the The Price is Right is the greatest gameshow in history. I feel like maybe we are joining a cult.

4:50 p.m. The host, Todd Newton, emerges. A clip package tells us he is an Emmy winner. I have never heard of a single of the shows he has ever been involved in. I’m not totally convinced that he isn’t a hologram.

5:01 p.m. The first four contestants are called. The third contestant is Donny. We are on our feet, preparing to shower him in our love and adulation, but he is already half-way down the stairs, arms aloft like a champion boxer.

5:03 p.m. Donny has lost, and shattered our dreams of reflected glory. To be fair, absolutely no one in this theatre knew the price of that weird electric stand-up scooter.

5:25 p.m. Donny has won a t-shirt, and we each demand approximately 1/8th of its greatness. Between rounds, the show gives away Tim Horton’s $25 giftcards. Canada!

5:46 p.m. An elderly Chinese woman has been selected as one of the contestants for the Big Wheel. It grows apparent that one of her kids or relatives brought her along, and that she has never seen The Price is Right, does not know what’s going on, and maybe doesn’t speak English. She cannot manage to make the wheel do a full turn, and is drowned in a hail of boos, as is the Holy Tradition. This must be the most confusing thing that has ever happened in her life.

5:48 p.m. The old woman has won. Twice. She wanders vaguely off stage, possibly into the sunset. I imagine her children telling her that she has won several hundred dollars, much to her continued confusion.

6:21 p.m. They show increasingly long clip packages between rounds, as they need to set up each game behind the curtain. Todd drifts into the crowd to accept the hugs and praise of a hungry, beleaguered audience. In the cloud of their fervour and titillation, do they mistake him for Bob Barker? I think they do.

6:31 p.m. A woman wins the bidding round, and the crowd grows hushed. There is tension in the announcer’s voice. It is time for Plinko.

6:31 p.m. The crowd erupts. Chaos reigns.

6:31 p.m. My heart is beating through my chest. I am eleven years old, sick home from school, eating a large bowl of chicken noodle soup, drinking flat Canada Dry ginger ale. I am in a childhood dream. I jump and scream, as do thousands of other souls.

6:31 p.m. Todd could ask anything of us now, now that he has given us Plinko. Does he want blood? If he wanted blood, we would give it to him. The fine carpet would run red and slick.

6:31 p.m. We have all been initiated in this new sacrosanct pact. The Price is our God. All hail.

6:36 p.m. This lady totally sucks at pricing games. She only wins three chips to play Plinko! The crowd rumbles—I think something has awakened in our collective spirit. I fear this woman will be torn apart.

6:38 p.m. She has only won $250 at Plinko. Elderly Chinese granny clobbered her!

7:01 p.m. There is no showcase showdown, but another pricing game. I feel the tension in the crowd at the lack of competition. The poor Plinko performance has left us unsated. We hunger for violence, for defeat. We want two competitors to enter into the Showdown, for one to crush the other, for a middle-aged legal aide from Burlington to rip the face off of a hairdresser from London, Ontario, for her to beat this woman to death with new his and her motorcycles, for her to wear the skin of the vanquished around her neck like a fine shawl as she jets down to Vegas for an all-expenses paid trip, including tickets to the Blue Man Group. She will drive off in her new Ford, and we will praise her as a scion, as a saint. Her face will be slick with gore. Her laugh will not be human, but then, neither will ours.

7:21 p.m. The game is over, we have been released into the street. School children wave to us from a schoolbus. Several other people whisper as Donny passes, noting his new fame.

12:31 a.m. I slumber, and when I dream, it is of sand buggies, of Barker’s beauties, and of spaying and neutering my pets (it’s a weird dream).

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12 thoughts on “My Dumb, Desperate Life: The Price is Right

  1. I LOVE Price is Right!!! Or I did, when Bob Barker still hosted it. Not a big fan of Drew Carey. But I’d still love to be on the show someday. However, I have never heard of Price is Right Live? What the heck is that and how is it different from the real show?

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