Buy, Buy, Buy: TV's Most Shopping-Centric Game Shows
It's the season for shopping, but take a break from the malls with The Price Is Right, Supermarket Sweep and more
It’s the season for shopping, or at least that’s what the holiday advertisements tell us. It’s up to you whether you hit the malls or just stay home and make your loved ones homemade Popsicle-stick ornaments this year, but in either case, we’ve got a treat for you. We’re rounding up The Price Is Right, Supermarket Sweep and TV’s other delightfully weird, shopping-centric game shows.
Think of it as a way of psyching yourself up for those post-Black Friday treks back to the shops – or just enough shopping to remind you why you’re abstaining this year.
The Price Is Right
Of course, any discussion of consumer-focused game shows has to begin with the most famous one. And rightly so, because this show was and continues to be a celebration of capitalism, and a look at human behavior at its looniest.
You’ll never see anyone else get so excited at the prospect of guessing how much consumer goods are worth.
While the show has been broadcast continually since 1972, its original, Bill Cullen-hosted run began in 1956. If you want to see how different it looked – and how much less zany it originally played out before the Bob Barker years – check out this episode from 1957.
Of course, the Barker’s era is enough to make any of us do the Price Is Right winner dance.
If The Price Is Right is the granddaddy of shopping game shows, then Supermarket Sweep is the enthusiastic soccer mom. This show transformed a stroll through the grocery store into a high-stakes thrill ride, mostly by making that stroll happen as quickly and frantically as possible.
Here’s a refresher, in case you’ve forgotten how harried the Big Sweep could be.
Or how rewarding it was when contestants got the the $5,000 prize in the Bonus Sweep.
The show’s most recent run ended in 2003. If you were one of those viewers who always dreamed of careening down the aisle and loading up a cart, the A.V. Club did an in-depth interview about what it was actually like to compete on the show. One revelation? All that meat was fake.
Let’s Make a Deal
Any flea-market veteran will tell you: It takes a special skill to know when to haggle. That’s the skill that Let’s Make a Deal started testing back in 1963 and continues to test today with Wayne Brady as its host.
Of course, anyone who was watching was just waiting for the painful booby prizes – the zonks.
What some Let’s Make a Deal fans might not know is that there’s a famous statistical paradox – the Monty Hall problem – that’s named after the show’s original host and concerned with the point at which choosing door No. 1 over door No. 2 is a mathematical certainty.
Shop ‘Til You Drop
Who needs a grocery store when you could take on an entire mall? Full of fictional stores? Like The Price Is Right and Supermarket Sweep, this one favored those with a working knowledge of stuff and, often, the price tags commonly attached to said stuff.
It ran for 10 seasons between 1991 and 2005. In case you miss it, know there’s an astonishing number of full Shop ’til You Drop episodes posted on YouTube, mostly by one guy, who might just be the show’s greatest (and perhaps only) superfan.
It’s not as famous as its counterparts, but this one has all the mid-’90s quirk one could ever want in a game show – and an animated intro to boot. The gist for this one? Trying to trick complete strangers into being personal shoppers for you – without communicating to them with words or gestures.
Shopping Spree ran from 1996 to 1998, and seeing the clothes alone is prize enough.
Why shop in a fictional, made-for-TV mall when you could shop in an real mall? This game show picked eager shoppers from an actual mall – the Glendale Galleria, in the case of the premiere episode, though the show traveled – to compete for “mall money.”
In case you’re wondering, Born Lucky did not live up to its name. The show ended production just over a year after it premiered in 1992. So you’re on your own for your holiday mall expedition.
Flea Market Flip
Give credit to HGTV for turning the consumer game show on its head and making the contestants be the sellers. An on-going competition show that began in 2012, Flea Market Flip has DIY heroes gussy-up junk into flea market gems and then attempt to sell these treasures. It’s maybe the most pro-capitalism game show ever.
But can these contestants accurately guess the price of a washer-dryer? And where are there zany costumes?