There are some phrases in the game show world that carry more weight than others: “Is that your final answer?” “Would you like to buy a vowel?” “Deal or no deal?“
But three words stand above them all: “Come on down.” They’re the words every member of “The Price is Right” studio audience hopes to hear along with their name, though some hopefuls are more serious about it than others.
Ted Slauson, a standardized test assessment specialist from San Antonio, has attended 37 “The Price is Right” tapings. His obsession is documented in a film by C.J. Wallis called “Perfect Bid: The Contestant Who Knew Too Much,” now available on Blu-ray and on-demand.
Slauson started watching the show as a kid during summer vacations.
“Well it’s kind of ironic because it started when I was very very young, and I remember having seen commercials for it and thinking, well that show doesn’t look interesting to me at all,” he says.
But he was the youngest of six, and his brothers and sisters got to pick what they watched – and it “turned out that I actually kind of liked it, and so from there it just kind of snowballed into 35 years of watching the show.”
Over those many hours of watching, Slauson and his brother realized “that some of the prizes and products and things were repeated from, you know, one show, not necessarily to the next show, but, if you had a fairly decent memory, you might remember, well, hey, that grandfather clock was $1,000, and it was $1,000 again today, so I’m just gonna remember that. Because at some point I was hoping to get on the show when I turned 18.”
He started keeping a database and memorizing pricing lists because “I always felt like, you know, I want to make sure even if they call me down as the last contestant that I’m gonna have a chance to get up on stage. And the only way to know for sure that you’re going to have a good chance is by having a good knowledge of the prices of the prizes on the show.”
Slauson started to attend “The Price is Right” tapings. At one show, he “yelled out the price of the first item that was up for bids that day, and Bob Barker had to stop what he was doing and pointed out that, you know, I had yelled out this price, and I had no chance of winning, and, you know, the contestants proceeded to bid. And when he read the actual retail price he stopped and had me stand up because I had hit it right on the nose.”
Slauson attended 24 show tapings in eight years before he finally heard the words he’d been waiting for: “Ted, come on down.”
“I got a perfect bid on my item up for bids which was a recliner,” he says. “I did not win the Showcase Showdown, which meant I only won – I only spun 55 cents – so I ended up not going to the Showcase at the end.”
C.J. Wallis, the producer of “Perfect Bid,” finds Slauson’s story fascinating. “I mean, as a filmmaker, and as just somebody that grew up loving the golden age of TV, and just being obsessed with game shows, it just, like, it’s the perfect package. It’s like, I don’t go see the Avengers movies, Ted is my superhero.”
One show taping stands out for Slauson and Wallis. Slauson was seated next to a couple, Terry and Linda Kneiss of Las Vegas, and Terry was called onstage to compete.
“They showed the first item, which I knew the price of except it had gone up,” Slauson says. “During the commercial, Linda said, ‘Wow, you almost got that first one right.’ And she told Terry, ‘You really should listen to Ted because he knows what he’s talking about.’
Terry made it to the Showcase Showdown, “and when they showed the prizes in his showcase, I knew the prices of all three of them,” Slauson’s says. “This had only happened to me twice before in all the times I’d been to the show. And this was all while the top winner was deciding whether she was going to keep the showcase or pass to Terry, and and I told Linda, ‘That showcase is $23,743.’ And I said, ‘Let me add it up again just to be sure.’ So I added the numbers up again and I repeated it. I said, ‘Is that what I said the first time?’ And Linda said, ‘Yes.’ Well now, the top winner has passed to Terry, Terry looked at us, and we were signaling with our fingers, $23,743.”
Slauson says, “I could tell from what was going on onstage with some of the production staff, and some of their body language, and what they were doing. I knew immediately he had it on the nose.”
The crowd cheered and Bob Barker announced, “Hasn’t happened since ‘72 or ‘73, right on the nose. You won $56,437.”
Right away, Slauson says, “We could just tell that there was a big – I don’t want to use the word problem – because I think on a show called “The Price is Right,’ when your price is right it shouldn’t be that big of a deal.”
But “the woman who was now producer of the show, who’d been there many many years, just was standing right on the front of the stage, just shooting me a dirty look as they were running the credits and everyone was smiling and applauding and clapping along at the end of the show.”
Slauson never made it all the way to the Showcase Showdown himself. As for whether he’ll be returning to the show in the future, he says, “No. I will not be going back. I no longer watch the show.”
After “what happened with the perfect showcase bid, that’s when they started bringing in more prizes and different kinds of prizes, and throwing a trip in every showcase so that it’s impossible to ever get one on the nose again, because, you know, apparently that was a terrible thing. You don’t want the price to be right on “The Price is Right.””
Still, Wallis says, “The Price is Right” is as popular as ever among its fan base.
“I just think the fans, as we’ve found making this movie, the fans are insanely dedicated and loyal and people just love it so much that, no matter what happens to it, it seems like we keep coming back,” Wallis says.
Written by Rachel Taube.