Amidst the deluge of tragedy, cruelty, vitriol and just plain madness of our current political environment, I have found an unexpected oasis of peace and harmony: “The Price Is Right.” Yes, the “Come on down!” game show, which just launched its 48th season.
I watch it every day. This is a little embarrassing to confess. As a reasonably self-aware and socially conscious woman, I fancy myself above such lowly predilections. Yet I’m hooked. I grieve when the show is preempted by breaking news, breaking weather or another round of "chopper talk" from the White House lawn. I have a TiVo season pass, so if I can’t tune in live, at 11 a.m., I’ll catch it later in the day.
For the uninitiated, each hour-long episode of “The Price Is Right” consists of six pricing games. At the end, two players face off in the “Showcase Showdown” for a grand prize — usually a car or a boat or a lavish trip or both. The players must guess the actual retail price of the prize without going over, and whoever’s closest wins. It’s not hard to root for the players, who are selected from the studio audience — the producers pick the most boisterous prospects at each taping.
But the thing I appreciate most about “The Price Is Right” is the diversity among the contestants. It’s so different from the all-white, only-attractive demographic that I recall watching since the '70s.
Nowadays, contestants are white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, you name it. The ultimate rainbow. And besides racial, ethnic and beauty diversity, there’s ability diversity too. “The Price Is Right” accommodates hearing-impaired, visually impaired, little people and wheelchair-bound players. There’s body-shape variety, from petite to plus-plus size; age inclusion, from kids (special segments) to nonagenarians; and, I’m guessing here (because it’s impossible to tell just by looking) representation from all gender identities and sexual persuasions.
“The Price Is Right” often airs specials to honor breast cancer survivors (balding, bald, wigged and buzzcut), newlyweds (lesbian and gay couples included), mamas-to-be (from bubbling to bursting), members of the military (all-inclusive), and various other cohorts.
All are welcome.
Not only are all welcome — and this is where the hope comes in — all are equally embraced and celebrated. Think about it. Where nowadays do you see a large, diverse crowd cheering loudly for a tall black man or an elderly Hispanic woman, a turbaned East Asian man or a disabled white woman?
“The Price Is Right” is a sanctuary; a priceless hub of unity, diversity, inclusion, and, well, love.
And, bonus! Party affiliation and religion are wholly absent on “The Price Is Right.” We have no idea whether the players are Democrats or Republicans, Independents or abstainers; Jews or Christians or Muslims or Buddhists, agnostics or atheists, or something else.
The positive energy is palpable. Once a contestant gets out of “Bidder’s Row” and up on stage for an individual game, the audience is on their team, shouting suggestions or gesticulating wildly — no matter their size, color, shape or age. Everyone groans when the player loses and hoots and applauds when they win.
The host, Drew Carey, who succeeded Bob Barker in 2007, is a warm teddy bear of an ex-Marine. When players nearly tackle him with a celebratory hug, he takes it all in stride. Regardless of a contestant’s identity, or their familiarity with a particular game’s nuances, Drew exudes acceptance and is invested in the outcome.
Me too. Even on the treadmill at the gym, I’ll let loose a “Woohoo!” if someone snags a car or a pile of cash in a close-call game. Does this say something about my own propensity for vicarious pleasure? I’m not sure, but the shared experience makes me happy.
Some criticize “The Price Is Right” for its crass materialism and capitalistic leanings. From one perspective, the show is basically one long commercial for everything from pickled beets and dandruff shampoo to designer shoes and luxury cars.
But if you watch for the people and not the products, you’ll find that “The Price Is Right” is a sanctuary; a priceless hub of unity, diversity, inclusion, and, well, love. And that’s a nice thing right about now.