When it comes to consumerist '70s TV game shows, Let's Make A Deal was about big-ticket items like cruises and bedroom suites, while The Price Is Right sprinkled its showcase-worthy prizes among a long string of floor-cleaners and boxes of spaghetti. So for a full picture of American shopping life over the past 50 years, The Price Is Right wins. But for a full look at how game shows have changed during those years, the four-disc The Best Of The Price Is Right DVD set could be better.
The DVD pulls from three eras: the early-'60s version of the show, hosted by Bill Cullen; the mid-'70s version, hosted by a young Bob Barker; and the final week of Barker's tenure in June '07. The Best Of The Price Is Right leans heaviest on the middle era, probably because there's more nostalgia value to gawking at 35-year-old Amana Radaranges and Chevy Malibus. Unfortunately, The Price Is Right wasn't much as much of a game back then. The Cullen-hosted version was almost all bidding, and for the first few years of Barker's reign, the pricing games tended to be quick pick-a-number affairs, involving no strategy or skill.
Regardless, the contestants took The Price Is Right much more seriously early on. They dressed in eveningwear in the '50s and '60s, and even after the attire shifted more to "slutty housewife" in the mid-'70s, the contestants still quaked with nerves over the prospect of being onstage, and tried hard to make good choices. By the end of Barker's run, The Price Is Right was overrun with college students who barely paid attention to the game—or its increasingly frail, mumbly host—as they jumped around and waved at their buds, semi-ironically.
The older episodes on the DVD have their share of embarrassments too, like when Cullen promotes an upcoming network appearance by not-yet-exposed quiz-show fraud Charles Van Doren, or when Barker applauds a contestant's deference to her husband by saying, "With all this women's lib, it's nice to meet a man who still rules the roost." But those gaffes tend to get absorbed into the style of the show, especially in the '70s, when the camera moved more, the games had an analog crackle, and there were as many lens flares as flared pants.
Key features: Interactive menus, come on down!