The Good, Bad, And The Ugly: "The Price Is Right" Australia Revival
Originally posted: May 12, 2012

By Jim Williams

"The Price Is Right" is back down under...and to put things mildly, people aren't exactly thrilled about it. The following commentary will serve more or less as my review of the new version of the venerable game show classic.

***THE GOOD***

It was a no brainer for 7 to bring Larry Emdur back to the gig he became most famous for. Emdur already serves as one of the co-anchors for the network's morning news and entertainment program "The Morning Show". And, as you may remember, last year Emdur flew to Los Angeles to do a report on "The Price is Right" which led to cameos on the actual program which led to rumors of a revived version of "Price" down under which led to the new Australian "Price" on the air today. Emdur is, in the truest sense, an absolute professional. He knows when to play things up for levity and when to build the drama. And he seemed genuinely touched by the reaction he received on his first show back in the saddle. He may well be the best active emcee for "Price" on the planet.

I also have to say that I do like the set down under. Based off the look of the highly successful French version of "Price", "Le Juste Prix", the new set is eye catching, albeit small. Lots of flashing lights and a great use of video wall technology on the set's big doors.

***THE BAD***

When "Price" was on 9 Network in the 1990s and 2000s, the show's announcer was Shawn "Cossie" Cosgrove. His easy going and effortless style along with his rapport with Emdur made him a great announcer and second banana. Since the show moved to 7, a new announcer was called upon.

This guy.

His name is Brodie Young and from his entrance on the first episode (saying that he wanted to shorten the show's signature phrase to "COD", I almost immediately wanted him off my screen. I know television executives (a.k.a. know-it-alls, nitwits, or morons) are always wanting to cater to a younger audience. And apparently catering to a younger audience means hiring an announcer who could pass for the Australian version of Vince Offer. He's actually not too horrible when it comes to reading copy for prizes, but when it comes time for a new contestant to come on down, "Cossie" he ain't. Young is borderline carnival barker-esque when it comes to calling people to the floor as he has a tendency to stretch out the call downs as if he's the center of attention. For the sake of comparison to an American "Price" announcer, think of Brodie Young as fill in "Price" announcer Paul Boland with an extra side of ham.

Oh, this is where it gets lengthy. As a matter of fact, this section will double also as an explanation on what exactly happens after a contestant gets to come on down since most of the nuts and bolts of the show are indeed "UGLY".

No longer do you have to win your way on stage to play a pricing game. Contestant's row is a thing of the past. Hmmm, where have I seen this before?

Ah yes, "The New Price is Right" with Doug Davidson. And we all know how well THAT clicked with loyal friends and true stateside.

Well, Australia pretty much went that route with the front half of the show.

So, you get called to play a pricing game immediately. And more often than not what do you get a chance to win?

What the? Big W?

Big W is essentially the Australian equivalent of Wal-Mart. The overwhelming majority of the pricing games are played for either a Big W shopping spree or prizes available from Big W. Big W sponsors the show and the show logo shows up eleventy billion times a show between props, prize reads, and commercial breaks. This sort of practice is not unheard of, of course. "Atinale Al Precio", the Mexican version of "Price" hosted by the great Marco Antonio Regil did this sort of sponsorship with retailers frequently. But, on the show down under it reeks of cheapness. Which reminds me...

THIS SHOW IS DIRT (BLEEP)IN' CHEAP! The prizes for winning pricing games are in the $1,500-$2,000 range. To put things in perspective, when Emdur first hosted "Price" in 1993, they were giving away more than that in prizes per pricing game on a regular basis...AND THAT WAS ALMOST 20 YEARS AGO!

Also, you can actually purchase some of the items featured on the show on a special website mentioned sporadically during the program. Hmmm, where have I seen this before?

And no, I'm not talking about Ed and Livinia's "Temptation". I'm talking about the bastardized American version where announcer Rolonda Watts "knows you want" their merchandise and Rossi Morreale has one thing to offer: lots of love.

I should correct my earlier statement on just how cheap the new "Price" is. There is a pricing game where someone can win a $3,000 Big W shopping spree.

Yes, Australian Plinko is now played for Tiddly Winks. Take a look at the board layout below.

This has to be some cruel joke, right? The maximum number of chips a contestant can win is only 3 (1 given at the start, 2 the contestant can earn additionally), so with all the luck of the Outback, a contestant can possibly win $3,000 at Big (BLEEP)in' W. Give me a break.

At the end of 3 pricing games, the 2 contestants who have won the most in Big W prizes advance to the showcase playoff...

...unless we have multiple losers as we had in the premiere episode. Look familiar? Look a little like contestant's row? Well, that's because it pretty much is. The contestants in question will bid on an item described by Emdur. The closest to its actual retail price without going over makes it into the showcase playoff.

The Australian "Price" showcase playoff is essentially the same as it ever was. They show the showcase (which now has fewer prizes and a low-mid end automobile) and then the two contestants bid back and forth from the base range given (i.e. between $27,000 and $28,000) until one contestant nails the actual value of the showcase.

Then as on other versions of the show down under, the aim is to rank the prizes in the showcase from lowest to highest.

Unlike other versions of the show down under, the rankings must be made and locked in within a 40 second time limit. This, to me, reeks of change for the sake of change. And what would happen if they didn't get the prizes ranked in the allotted 40 seconds? It hasn't happened yet, but inevitably it will.

And that's what 7 Network would like to pass off to the Australian public as "The Price is Right". But, is the Australian public that gullible?

Save for the era when they gave away "mega showcases" in primetime, Aussie "Price" wasn't really a big budget show. But, they used to offer a variety of prizes (and decent cars) at a variety of prices. Now, it's become a glorified infomercial for Big W with low end prize packages and shopping sprees for "lucky" winners.

The miniscule budget of "Price" is made even more laughable when one notes that it's the lead-in to "Deal or No Deal", a show that offers a top prize of $250,000 and, with some regularity, gives contestants a solid shot at walking home with a 5 figure payday.

The response to the new "Price" is shown in the ratings. The premiere episode Monday was watched by 536,000 viewers. The second episode was watched by just 402,000 viewers. That's a 25% drop from episode 1 to episode 2!

I share their thoughts. The fans of "Price" in Australia deserve better and so does emcee Larry Emdur.

If I could sum up the show in two words, I must quote the words Larry Emdur often ended his last run of "Price" episodes with, "Game over."

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