Inside The All-Plinko Episode Of “The Price Is Right”

For the first time ever in The Price is Right ‘s 42 year history, the daytime game show was dominated by Plinko on Friday, Sept. 27, in honor of the extremely popular game’s 30th anniversary. But, as BuzzFeed learned exclusively backstage during the taping of the episode, producers they got more, and less, than they bargained for.

The Price is Right host Drew Carey and a contestant on the show’s all-Plinko episode, which aired Sept. 27, 2013.

Cliff Lipson / CBS

LOS ANGELES — Today, we witnessed television history. For the first time ever in The Price is Right‘s 42 year history, the daytime game show was dominated by a single game: Plinko.

If you know The Price is Right — and how could you not, are you an alien or something? — you know Plinko. It is a pretty simple game: Contestants must correctly guess a series of prizes valued under $100 to win Plinko chips that they then drop down a giant slanted peg board into a series of cash-value slots at the bottom, usually valued between $0 and $10,000. It is also by far the most popular game that has ever been featured on The Price is Right. “It’s one of my favorites,” host Drew Carey told BuzzFeed on set of the all-Plinko episode. “I honestly think a lot of it has to do with anticipation — just the amount of time it takes the chip to get down to a prize, and how it bounces around… and the randomness of it.”

This year marks Plinko’s 30th anniversary, and to celebrate, Carey and The Price is Right executive producer Mike Richards conspired to create the first all-Plinko episode, which is usually structured with six separate pricing games. But at the June 26, 2013 taping of a special The Price is Right episode — which aired earlier today — contestants would play only Plinko, six times in a row.

And, as Richards explained before the show, the audience would have no idea what they were walking into. “They will know it’s the 30th anniversary, but they won’t know until about the third time it comes out that it’s all Plinko, all the time,” said Richards. “Which will be fun!”

It was fun. But during BuzzFeed’s exclusive peek behind the scenes, it turns out that when a 42-year-old television institution that runs like a Swiss watch tries to do something it’s never done before, things can also get a little frustrating.


Drew Carey with the special prizes for the all-Plinko episode of The Price is Right.

Cliff Lipson / CBS

Before every episode The Price is Right tapes at CBS Television City in Los Angeles, every beat of the show has to be rehearsed with the crew, and the Plinko episode was no different. Production assistants were racing around the stage setting up various elements of the show as one of the models, casually clad in jeans and a leather jacket, walked through the beats of one of the “one-bid” prizes with the stage manager. (They’re the prizes contestants bid on to determine who gets to play the next game, or in this case, who got to play Plinko next.) At one point, the model was spun around on a small circular platform, to reveal her singing into a karaoke machine. “You got two turntables and a microphone!” said the stage manager. “See what I did there?” The model smiled and nodded slowly, before heading over to her next prize package, an elliptical trainer and an enormous Mac Pro. (The implication being if you work on a computer that high-powered, the only exercise you’re likely to get is at home.)

Overseeing it all was Mike Richards, sitting at table on the showcase showdown stage with his other producers. Tanned, handsome, and 37, Richards projected the unflappable air of a man who knows he’s one of the luckiest producers in Hollywood. But he looked a little uneasy. Usually, the elements of The Price is Right are so second nature to the production staff that, well, the stage manager put it to me this way: “Game shows after a while are like slicing sausage.” But to keep the all-Plinko episode from feeling too monotonous, Richards and his team had included five variations of Plinko prizes — cars, trips, all-terrain vehicles, that elliptical trainer, etc. All those prizes had to be introduced and presented, of course, adding another layer of complicating novelty to an already unique show. Things were running a little behind, and they hadn’t even brought in the audience yet.


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