Thursday, December 21, 2006

Hurry up and wait: Attending a TPIR taping

By all accounts, a taping of "The Price Is Right" is an all-day affair for audience members. And when I say "all-day affair," I mean an "ALL-day affair."

From what I can gather from various websites and people who have been through this, you need to show up at the CBS Studios by about 6 a.m. if you want to maximize your chances of getting into the studio. And really, if you wait until 6 a.m. to arrive, you probably won't get anything resembling a good seat.

Now you might read that and say, "Wait, I thought you already had a ticket." I do, but that doesn't necessarily guarantee anything. From what I can tell, that ticket only allows me to get a priority number, which gets me into line, which means I'll probably get in, but it's not for sure. Preference is given to groups of 20 or more...they don't have to wait in line as long as the rest of us do, and I guess every effort is made to ensure that they get seats.

Anyway, here's how things will probably play out on Tape Day (Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2007):

4 a.m. -- Rise and shine! This is when I plan to roll out of bed at the Farmer's Daughter Hotel. I'll shower, get dressed, maybe down a bagel or something, and then head across the street to the CBS Studios to get in line for the audience holding area. Notice I say "get in line," because there will almost surely be at least 20 or 30 people in line by that point, if not more. According to the good folks over at  an excellent TPIR tribute site  it's common for people to begin lining up at 3 a.m., and some even camp out there overnight to get front-row seats for the next day's taping. Yikes.

The one advantage I have here is that, coming from the Eastern time zone, I should be fairly wide awake, even that early in the morning. If I can get out of bed even earlier than 4, I will.

6 a.m. -- This is when the CSB Television City gates actually open. In the hour or two preceding this, I'll be standing in a line that will extend down L.A.'s Fairfax Boulevard, chatting with other audience members and trying to stay warm (yes, it's Los Angeles, but overnight temperatures in January still get down into the 40's). Many people bring folding chairs and food for this phase of The Big Wait.

Once the gates open, those of us in line will be given order-of-arrival slips, which of course are numbered according to each person's place in line. At that point we'll be allowed to sit on benches outside the studio until...

8 a.m. -- This is when everyone is given a priority number, which a CBS page will write on each of our tickets. Thankfully, once you get a priority number, you're allowed to leave the studio for awhile. I'll likely go back across the street to the hotel for a little rest and maybe some actual breakfast. Getting a priority number is a big step because it means that, barring anything unusual, you'll probably get into the taping. Some people show up later in the day to get into the stand-by line. Stand-bys are allowed into the studio if, for some reason, a seat opens up. No way am I taking THAT chance...

10 a.m. -- I'm guessing on the time here. All I know is that you're told to come back by a certain time, and you'd darn well better be back by that time. You've already committed a lot to this. The last thing you want is to come back late and be told you've missed your chance. Anyway, what apparently happens here is that you once again get to sit on the outside benches while the pages collect everyone's ticket and hand out contestant numbers. There's also a form or something to fill out with your name, Social Security number, and a signature line to acknowledge that you've read and understood the rules.

Then there's more waiting. A lot of waiting, actually, as the pages process the 300-plus people trying to get in for the taping. I imagine there will be many conversations with those around me in line. Maybe I'll bring a book, too, just to pass some time. But the important thing to realize, I've read, is that show producers may be walking around at this point observing people in line (and you don't know that they're show producers). They're already looking for people with some personality, so you don't want to withdraw from everyone else and act like a bump on a log.

At some point I know you also have to produce not one but two pieces of identification, one of which needs to have your Social Security number on it. This is for tax purposes in case you become a contestant and win anything.

By the way, to be eligible as a contestant, you must:

* Be 18 or older (check...many times over)
* Not have been a contestant on any previous version of TPIR, even from the pre-Bob Barker era (check)
* Not have been on any game show within the past year ( has been almost four years since my "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" appearance)
* Not be running for public office or planning to run for public office any time soon (ummmm, check)

Eventually, the pages will start handing out those pricetag-shaped name tags to everyone. You put them on the left side of your shirt, with your large contestant number hanging from the tag. At that point I guess you're free to roam around a little, though you can't leave the CBS property. There's a gift shop and a snack bar there, so those should be good time-killers.

Noon(???) -- Again, I'm guessing on the time here. There will come a point when it's time for your interview with the show's contestant coordinators. You're taken in groups of 10 or 15 to a different area, where everyone is essentially asked one question and given 10 seconds or so to answer. I'll talk about this more in a later post, but suffice to say, this is the make-or-break point when it comes to whether or not you'll be selected as a contestant. According to my boss' niece, who appeared on the show a few years ago and actually won some stuff, you have to have a little speech/answer prepared and be ready to be enthusiastic, though not overly so.

After everyone is interviewed, you pass through a metal detector and surrender any cell phones, cameras and related stuff you might have on your person (you get them back later, of course). You get to do a little more waiting, then they start to bring people into Studio 33 for the actual taping. Apparently everyone has the same reaction when they enter the studio:

(1) It's really, really cold.
(2) It's a LOT smaller than it appears on TV.

2:30 p.m. -- The taping isn't much longer than the show itself, maybe 70 minutes. By the time it's over, it will have been 11 or 12 hours since some people got into line. No matter what happens, it's going to be a long day.


  1. I cannot begin to imagine how long of a day you're in or. The plus side is that you should have lots of people to talk to - which should make time go by. I'd also make sure the iPod is freshly loaded up as well. You'll have to give me your cell phone number - I'll call you and do Tamer voices for you. Good times.

  2. Wow. That's a lot of work.
    You do realize the show is still on television?

    Very cold, very small studio were my reactions at a taping of Letterman. He talks to us until halfway though the opening theme music, then he goes backstage, puts on his jacket, and comes right back out. Dave stands like 3 feet from the camera for the monologue.
    I got there, and they had my name already on a list from a phone call to me. They give you numbers, explain when to be in line, and off you go to the Irish bar down the street.
    Dave's first comments to us before taping: " I gotta tell you, the show tonight's pretty bad"....then of course right after the first commercial break, "...welcome back, and I was just telling the audience what a dynamite show we have this evening"...probably a nightly joke.

    Jim F.

  3. Jim - I also attended a taping of Letterman some years ago, and you're right: Very cold, very small space. Cool experience, though.

    Rob - Yes, the goal is to keep people from looking directly at me and having their retinas burn out or something. Very astute observation on your part.

  4. They're giving away Lincoln Towne Cars? Yes, my friend, you are hopelessly out of the target demographic. Which is also why you will probably get on the show: "Hey, let's see how the nice young man with no discernable tattoos or military uniform does. Pick him -- he might get that wheel around more than once."

    Jim F.