Come on Down!

01/01/2024
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    WORLDteen writer Kim Stegall, left, competes on The Price Is Right. (courtesy of CBS Entertainment/Paramount Global)
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    Kim Stegall and Juliana Chan Erikson pose at a taping of The Price Is Right. (courtesy Kim Stegall)
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    Kim Stegall poses with other audience members. (courtesy Kim Stegall)
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    Kim Stegall places a guess on the price of a golf club set. (courtesy of CBS Entertainment/Paramount Global)
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    Juliana Chan Erikson cheers from the audience. (courtesy of CBS Entertainment/Paramount Global)
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    Legendary game show host Bob Barker tapes his final episode of The Price Is Right in Los Angeles, California, on June 6, 2007. (AP/Damian Dovarganes)
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    Drew Carey, current host of The Price Is Right, talks with the audience during a taping of the game show in 2007. (AP/Kevork Djansezian)
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THIS JUST IN

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WORLDteen | Ages 11-14 | $35.88 per year

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Kimberly Stegall, come on down! You’re the next contestant on The Price Is Right!

An admission: I’m not a The Price Is Right superfan. But I love adventure. So when my WORLD News Group colleague Juliana Chan Erikson invites me to join her at a holiday The Price Is Right taping, I pack my bags. After all, the show’s “fabulous prizes” may be mine!

BEFORE THE SHOW

We arrive at TPIR’s new home at Haven Studio in Glendale, California. The show’s been there only a few months, having left Bob Barker Studio 33 after 51 years. As a kid, I remember watching Barker, with his coiffed hair and neat-as-a-pin suits. He hosted the show from 1972-2007.

The show’s concept is simple. Contestants guess prices—“without going over”—for everything from groceries to go-carts. Correct guesses win the items.

For each episode, only nine members of the studio audience make it to contestants’ row. Producers say it’s not outfits or feigned enthusiasm that secures a spot. Instead, it’s staff impressions from a brief group interview. The interviews happen before we head to the studio. Staffers ask questions like “Where are you from?” “What do you do?” “What’s your favorite game on the show?” They’re seeking folks who can sustain excitement throughout the lengthy taping session.

Juliana and I wear sparkly red and green tops and Christmas headbands with glittery dollar signs ironed onto them. We aren’t nearly the gaudiest or loudest would-be contestants. During our interview, we sing words to the TPIR theme—written just that morning. We practiced for our rideshare driver. She was impressed, but will TPIR staffers be?

IN THE STUDIO

Once in the studio, host Drew Carey and announcer George Gray appear. They interact with the audience and offer tips: “Look in the camera!” “Don’t run offstage while Drew’s talking even if you lose!”

Soon taping begins. Juliana and I watch as seven other people get selected, scream wildly, and then leap onstage to play their games. We cheer with gusto. We’re having a blast watching people win stuff.

But with each name called, we’re realizing: not today. But when I’m announced, Juliana has to shout, “It’s you!” over the din. I haven’t even heard my own name.

Secret 1: It’s extremely loud in the studio.

I run forward without falling (my personal fear!), high-fiving all the way. As the newest contestant on the row, I’m first up to guess a price. But I’ve heard nothing about what I’m bidding on. (See Secret 1.) I notice a model gesturing toward two golf bags.

Hundreds of people are shouting numbers behind me. In that moment, we’re all friends—or at least allies.

Secret 2: Camaraderie among audience members is real.

Sure, there’s someone encouraging the audience to cheer. But mostly, they don’t need coaching. They’re fully behind whoever’s playing.

Host Carey recognizes the unique spirit of TPIR. “Where else can you go . . . and have a bunch of strangers rooting for another stranger to do well?” he once observed to a Washington Post interviewer.

“What should I bid?” I ask a group dressed as elves on row two.

One woman says, “$6,000. I know.” She’s so confident that I bid $5,500 (because: “without going over”) and immediately feel silly. Carey looks doubtful. Everyone else bids much lower.

“Actual retail price: $9,500!” Carey says, stunned.

I scream and point to my intel elf. It’s a Secret 2 moment: We’re in this together.

UP ONSTAGE

Onstage is chaos. People carry signs, move props, and roll cameras. In the midst of that, I’m supposed to guess the prices of a label maker, a thermal lunchbox set, and a blue Mazda CX-5!

The only thing between me and a handsomely labeled lunchbox in a new car is a game called 10 Chances. In this game, players have 10 tries to put a series of numbers in the correct order for each item. Easy, right?

Did I mention I’m not a numbers person? Omitting the heart-rending details, I win the label maker and the lunchboxes but completely bungle the car. My audience friends clap anyway.

They erupt when I spin the wheel and clunk into the $1 spot on my first try. A $1,000 bonus! A second spin—this time for up to $25,000—nets nothing. The audience groans—and then applauds thunderously when they realize I’ve secured a spot in the Showcase Showdown.

SHOWDOWN AT THE SHOWCASE

Carey approaches the two of us: me, a silver-haired writer in a festive headband and a young man in a yellow shirt and light-up Christmas necklace. Carey encourages us to “just have fun.”

We do. And in the end, yellow shirt guy outguesses me. He runs across stage to his new car and photos of the Thailand elephant sanctuary he’ll visit.

For me, it’s bye-bye, portable dance floor, home photo booth, and yet another car.

Secret 3: Prizes mean taxes.

Even sans showcase, I won $11,089.89 in cash and prizes—including a $500+ lunchbox set. (What?!) But if accepted, high taxes on the prize value will be my responsibility to pay. I keep only the cash from my spin and the label maker. Those taxes I can handle.

As we leave the studio, my audience friends smile and congratulate me. They act as though I won the showcase. Their excitement is contagious. I’m happy too, even though I’ve “lost” not one but two cars. The final “secret” isn’t really secret.

Secret 4: Already you have all you want! (1 Corinthians 4:7-8)

Why? Winning or not winning shouldn’t dictate how a Christian feels or responds. Be content no matter what!

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