You know, you can't see it unless you come to a taping, but everyone busts their asses on that show. Cameramen careen across the stage to save shots, stagehands sweat it out lugging these huge set pieces and prizes faster than they did yesterday, Kathy Greco flips me cards and dodges cameras, Adam points me to where I need to go while talking to the director while talking to cameramen and stagehands while talking to Doug who is talking to stagehands and cameramen... it's amazing to be in the middle of. And you can tell they do it not just for a paycheck, but because of the dignity and self-respect they get from doing a good job. I love working there, surrounded by that kind of hard work, day after day.
Rich Fields and the models actually vacationed with me this year. I spend all day sharing the camera with people that are so nice I want to go on trips with them. It's a place were everyone knows and likes each other. Above the line, below the line, stagehands, make-up, talent (Rich and the models), no talent (me)... That doesn't happen with too many shows.
Visited the set today and saw Mike Richards (the new Executive Producer). Couldn't help thinking of how we all were at the beginning of this past season and how we are now. We met right around this time a year ago after Roger Dobkowitz left the show. Roger worked at Price for 36 years. He taught me all the games and all the patter that came with the games. Now I'm meeting this guy Mike Richards at Bob's Big Boy in Burbank. I knew what he looked like because I had to look him up on IMDB because I'd never heard of him. He used to host Beauty and the Geek. I was late. He was on time. He's one of those guys who are always on time. Always moving. Always thinking. Always working. A real Ayn Rand loving go-getter. I was late.
His deal hadn't closed yet, and there was still a chance (I thought), that it wouldn't go through. And even after the deal went through, he wouldn't be able to start for 6 weeks or something like that. I had a press dinner that night where all they were going to ask me about was what was going to happen to the show now that Roger was gone after 36 years. I remember during those days I muttered a lot while I drove and didn't listen to the radio much because it distracted me from my muttering. I was living completely out of my body. We started talking about the show over our diner food. Small talk. Nothing major. How do you like hosting Price? You must be having fun. I auditioned for the show you know. Oh really. Ha ha. What was that like?
Finally, there was a moment when we both knew the small talk was over. I took a deep breath and said something like "Well look man, if you're going to do this show..." and then I laid out all my frustrations, talking with my hands and slumping a lot. When we were done with our lunch I had no idea what was going to happen with Mike Richards. Didn't know for sure that I would ever see him again. But everything I told him I loved and hated about the show, he loved and hated. Everything about the show that made me roll my eyes or shout with joy gave him the same feelings. We were already starting to complete each other's sentences. Still do. I love working with people like him. I can't believe the amazing luck-out they had in finding him.
This was quite a year on TPIR. The entire production staff was knee-deep in it all season. I think the production staff has had more meetings this year than at any time in the history of TPIR. And not just general, how's-it-going-and-what-are-you-up-to meetings. There were meetings and discussions about everything. There had to be. Everything moved at the speed of light this past season. I don't even look the same as I did when the season started. We show clips of the show before the tapings and I don't recognize the guy on the screen. It's been that kind of year. I don't recognize myself from the beginning of the season to the end.
The biggest change in the show this past season? The prizes. At the beginning of last season, the show used to average about 6 new prizes per taping week. It was possible, if one wanted, to watch the show for a while and memorize the price of almost every prize we offered. Now, we do just over 30 new prizes per week. We smoke any other show on television on prizes. Everyone on the staff is constantly pitching prizes, every single day. And we have a meeting once a week to do nothing but pitch prizes. The staff comes in with dream trips they'd love to go on, stuff they saw in a catalogue that they'd LOVE to have, well thought-out themed showcases... the prize department can barely keep up with all the prize ideas everyone comes up with. At the beginning of last season we'd give away say... a trip to Vegas. Stay at a "premium hotel" or some vague language like that. Nothing wrong with it. But since the prize meetings, they came up with one of my favorite trips ever: A Private Jet (!) to Vegas, a Skyloft Suite at the MGM (where only rich guys like me stay) including 24 hour butler service, tickets to KA, tickets to a show at Caesars, two expensive dinners and $5,ooo in cash. I was drooling over that showcase. I'd never lusted after a showcase before EVER. But since the staff has been working this way I've lusted after most of them. The staff picks GREAT prizes nowadays.
Tickets to the Final Four, golfing at St. Andrews, a day on a Private Yacht in the Bahamas (just a small part of the Bahamas trip we offered), a completely restored '65 Mustang... our prizes have been CRAZY GOOD lately. All because of these prize meetings. They even get all giggly while they're pitching, jumping in with suggestions to make the prizes instantly better. I brag to my friends about the prizes we give away.
So that's last season. Lots of meetings and great new prizes. Video instead of old paintings. Trips you'd kill for instead of grandfather clocks. Hondas. Our last Pontiac (a G-6). New producer. New director. Host re-born. And we were just setting the table. Tomorrow, we eat.
Call it the Year Of The Bungalow. And give everyone in it the credit they deserve.