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Ready for Changes at 'The Price is Right?' Come on Down!

by Gary Susman, posted Jul 21st 2010 10:02AM
Rich Fields on 'The Price Is Right'Changes, some big some small, are coming to America's oldest game show. 'The Price is Right' is suddenly in the news this week, thanks to an old scandal, a departing major player, and reports of tweaks to the show's format that could mean more frills and less game play. Longtime fans may be grumbling and asking themselves WWBBD? (What would Bob Barker do?)

The biggest change is the departure of longtime announcer Rich Fields, which Fields himself confirmed last week in a statement to fans. Fields, who has told contestants to "come on down" since 2004, wrote that his replacement will be an improv comic, someone who'll be chosen via on-air auditions.

It's not clear whether Fields was let go, quit to pursue greener pastures (he'll still be working for CBS as a weatherman), or left because of the new direction the show is taking. As Fields put it, producer Mike Richards has "explained to me that he loves having the 'house bands' and 'live performers' all the time on 'TPiR' and that he hopes to make it more of a 'variety show within a game show.' He believes that having a comedian at the announcer's position from now on will enhance this new change in direction."

Asked about Fields' departure, Manfred Westphal, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications for FremantleMedia, the company that produces the show, told TV Squad, "We did not renew Mr. Fields' contract. We do not further discuss the contractual particulars of our on-air talent."

Certainly, the timing of Fields' announcement is curious, coming the same week as the news that a new pricing game is coming with the biggest payoff in 'Price Is Right' history, as well as the revelations in a much-buzzed-about Esquire magazine article about what really happened on the day in 2008 when a contestant won both showcases with a suspicious, unprecedented, on-the-nose price guess.

Word of the new game appeared on game show news site BuzzerBlog, which says that the game is called "Pay the Rent" and offers a $100,000 payoff for its top prize. That's about four times the value of a typical showcase package. When it debuts this fall, it'll be the second new game introduced on the show in recent months; another game, "Rat Race," introduced at the end of last season, has proved popular among fans.

Games don't evolve very often on 'Price is Right,' but that may change with the publication last week of Esquire's piece, 'TV's Crowning Moment of Awesome.' The article recounts the story of Terry Kniess, the contestant who landed the improbably perfect bid during an episode that aired in December 2008. Kniess claims his winning bid was a combination of luck and memorization (he'd studied the show and memorized the prices of hundreds of recurring products), though it didn't hurt that Ted Slauson, another longtime fan and careful student of the show's recurring products, was in the studio audience that day helpfully shouting out prices to the contestants.

At the time, the show's crew feared that the implausible event was somehow the retribution of Roger Dobkowitz, who'd been the show's producer for 36 years until Richards replaced him weeks earlier. That sense of horror and shock was why host Drew Carey, who'd replaced retiring 35-year-veteran host Barker only a year earlier, appeared so underwhelmed by Kniess's victory, and why CBS buried the episode, taped months earlier, in the dead of December, Esquire reports.

There was no evidence, however, that Dobkowitz was involved; maybe it was just karmic retribution. Still, the show has had to take measures to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future, measures like moving recognizable longtime fans to the back rows where the contestants can't hear or see them, or rotating more new products into the prize lineup, or introducing trickier games with more dependence on luck.

Terry Kniess's perfect bid on 'The Price Is Right'

Inevitably, says BuzzerBlog's Alex Davis, fans will complain about all these changes. "The hardcore fans won't be happy because many have an axe to grind," Davis tells TV Squad. "Those hardcore fans won't be happy with anything unless they go back to the way it was 20-25 years ago."

Drew Carey on 'The Price Is Right'As for the addition of comics and musicians to the show, that's something that's already been happening for a while. It's certainly something that Carey, with his background in improv comedy, feels comfortable with, though it would never have been allowed in Barker's day.

In his statement, Fields didn't express an opinion about whether the increased time for performers will be good or bad for the show; in fact, he seemed to make a point of not saying anything critical about Richards or Carey, whom Fields called his "biggest champion," and who had nothing to do with the "change in direction," Fields said.

"I think people are making too much of the 'variety show within a game show' comment," Davis says, adding that he doesn't think the performances will cut into game play too much. "This is a 'wait and see' thing more than anything. Frankly, the show is rushed now as it is (it's down to around 38 minutes of show), so a change may not be the worst thing ever."

As for who's in line to replace Fields, Davis says one candidate named is J.D. Roberto, whose TV hosting résumé includes 'Shop Til You Drop' and 'Reality Remix,' and who has also hosted the 'Price Is Right' live stage show in Las Vegas. He also notes that on 'Let's Make a Deal,' the announcer is an improv comic, Jonathan Mangum, a friend of host Wayne Brady. Both Brady and Carey have improv comedy backgrounds as well; Brady was a popular regular on Carey's version of 'Whose Line is It Anyway?'

CBS has yet to formally announce any names of candidates. In response to TV Squad's queries about the developments cited in this post, CBS Director of Media Relations Cindy Marshall suggested that more new games are on their way. "We will be announcing details of any new games shortly," she told TV Squad. As for other changes, she said, "Stay tuned for next season and find out." She declined to comment on Fields' departure or any fallout from the events depicted in the Esquire article.

Davis says it's been common to hear fan complaints about changes on 'Price Is Right' for three years, ever since the show lost Barker (and Dobkowitz, and the old cast of product display models), but that fans eventually get on board and accept the tweaks. "The show obviously needs to tread lightly and not just toss everything out of the window, though," he adds. "This is a very established show and you can't massively alter anything without damage."

(Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.)

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While I'll agree that Carey is the worst thing ever to happen to TPIR since Bob's departure, have you noticed that they've dumped Rachael and the other lovely blondes for a bunch of ethnic screwballs? You see, they don't want beauty and order any more, they wan't vulgarity and chaos, and that's what their "new direction" is all about.

May 16 2011 at 1:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

While I'll agree that Carey is the worst thing ever to happen to TPIR since Bob's departure, have you noticed that they've dumped Rachael and the other lovely blondes for a bunch of ethnic screwballs? You see, they don't want beauty and order any more, they wan't vulgarity and chaos, and that's what the "new direction" is all about.

May 16 2011 at 1:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If this is for demos, I'm 21 and I think this is a FOOLISH idea! I don't watch The Price Is Right to have the announcer make me laugh, but to have him do a great job at reading the prize descriptions and call contestants. Rich Fields did that well and made it look very easy. I've listened to these improv announcers and they just don't have what it takes to announce this show.

When Rod Roddy passed away, they had many professional try out for announcer. I believe they made the right choice when they picked Rich Fields to become the permanent announcer, he was the best of the bunch. Notice in the 2003 - 2004 try-outs the announcer everyone hated, Daniel Rosen, is an improv comedian. Imporov comedians = piss poor announcers.

Mike Richards is to blame for all this, but all would be forgiven if he stopped this foolishness and rehire Rich Fields.

March 10 2011 at 12:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I checked on Rich Fields because I'm missing his authorative and deep voice, only to find he has been replaced, and more bands and live performers will be added. What a stupid idea!!! We're not all teenagers who watch TPIR, you know. In fact, I would think most of your audience would prefer the same format of games and prizes. It's a game show, not "Dancing with the Stars" or "America's got Talent." I'm o.k. with Drew Carey, but think he needs to control the contestants better--writhing on the floor, screeming, acting like fools isn't exactly fun to watch on TV.

October 01 2010 at 1:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think the show "jumped the shark" when they got Drew Carey as the host. With Rich leaving now, there is no more reason to watch it. Drew is a terrible host, the so called guest announcers are dull, and the changing format is horrible. Too bad. Why did CDB choose to destroy its own cash cow?

September 30 2010 at 11:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
T. fitz

I like Drew well enough, BUT keep Fields! and how about giving some stuff away. The show makes it harder and harder to win anything. Also the show gives some stupid and expensive items: 3 trips to sports events that cost as much as a car! In these tough times give good things that people would use. This goes for that stupid "zonk' show too.

July 29 2010 at 4:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

if thy take off rich field there a bunch of fools an ill quit watching the show, cary an field are doing just fine you dum ass,s

July 29 2010 at 1:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Reed McEwen

I actually liked the special guest band appearances, The Dollyrots totally made the show.

July 28 2010 at 2:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My husband watches this show everyday and everytime i walk past the tv when this is on i say why did they ever get Drew to host. For a comedian he is the most boring game show host on tv and still to have lasted this long is beyond me.

July 28 2010 at 11:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We can bring the previous Come on Down cue (the one before Bob Barker retired.

July 27 2010 at 10:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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