Showcase Showdown (The Price Is Right)

Showcase Showdown (The Price Is Right)

The Showcase Showdown is a segment on the American game show "The Price Is Right". The segment is also commonly referred to as "The Big Wheel", referring to the main prop used in the game. The game is played twice in each hour-long episode as an elimination round which determines which one of the three contestants from the first or second half of the show will participate in the Showcase at the end of the episode.

The Big Wheel

The wheel itself stands vertically and is held by an axle at its center such that its edge faces the audience. It is contained within a housing that only allows the front half of the wheel to be seen. The wheel is technically an icosagonic prism, segmented into 20 unique sections, each marked on the wheel's edge and sides with one of the multiples of 5¢ up to $1.00 in a non-incremental order. The sequence of the money values on the wheel is: 5¢, $1.00, 15¢, 80¢, 35¢, 60¢, 20¢, 40¢, 75¢, 55¢, 95¢, 50¢, 85¢, 30¢, 65¢, 10¢, 45¢, 70¢, 25¢, 90¢.

To spin the wheel, contestants grab handles around its circumference on the left side. An arrow is attached to the right side of the wheel's housing which indicates which segment the wheel is "on" at any time. The tip of the arrow is spring-loaded, and the wheel has pegs at the border between each of its segments so that there is never a dispute as to what space the wheel has landed.

Some contestants have trouble spinning the wheel all the way around due to its weight. In such cases, especially with elderly contestants, contestants have been given the opportunity to request a substitute spinner, most often the host.

While it is not explicitly stated in the rules, contestants are expected to spin the wheel by pulling the handle downward. On November 30, 1992, a contestant spun the wheel in the opposite direction. Host Bob Barker stopped the wheel and did not allow the "backward" spin to count. This happened a second time on January 30, 2001, and a third time on May 5, 2003.

On at least five occasions, former host Bob Barker has been "booed" for not getting the big wheel all the way around himself, while spinning the wheel for a contestant.


Six pricing games are played per hour-long episode. After the first three games, the first Showcase Showdown is played by the three contestants who played those games. Then, after the final three pricing games are played, the second Showcase Showdown is played by the three contestants from those games. In each round, the three contestants play in the order of the value of their winnings thus far (including in the One Bid round), with the highest winning contestant spinning last.

The goal of the game is to be the contestant with the score nearest to $1.00, without going over. The contestant is allowed to take the sum of two spins of the wheel as their score, but may stop after their first spin if they are satisfied with the score they have. If a contestant chooses to spin a second time, and the sum of their spins is more than $1.00, they are immediately disqualified. Each spin of the wheel must make at least one full revolution, or the spin will not count, and the contestant must re-spin. If the first two contestants are disqualified for having the sum of their spins each over $1.00, the third contestant advances to the Showcase by default.

The contestant with the leading score stands on the opposite side of the wheel below a scoreboard showing their score. If they are beaten by a subsequent contestant, that contestant takes the first's place, and the first contestant leaves the stage. If two, or rarely all three (as shown in the January 28, 2008 episode), contestants end up tied for the lead at the end of the round, a spin-off is played. Each tied contestant is allowed one spin, and the highest score wins. If there is another tie, the process is repeated.


If a contestant achieves a score of exactly $1.00 in one spin (whether in regular spinning, or a spin-off), or a combination of two spins, they win a $1,000 cash bonus, and a bonus spin after the normal spins have been completed. If a spin-off is required at a score of $1.00, the contestants take their bonus spins and play the spin-off with the same spins. If the first two contestants in a Showcase Showdown both go over $1.00, the third contestant automatically wins, but is allowed a single spin to try to get $1.00.

Unless it is also a spin-off, the bonus spin does not affect the scores or outcome of the Showcase Showdown. The contestant takes one spin; if the wheel lands on $1.00, the contestant wins $25,000 more. If it lands on either 5¢ or 15¢, which are marked in green and are on either side of the $1.00 space, they win $10,000 more. In a bonus spin, the wheel must go all the way around, or the spin does not count, and the contestant is not allowed to re-spin. For all bonus spins, the wheel is brought back to the 5¢ marker before spinning, as this provides that the three bonus spaces are the first three spaces that occur after the required full revolution.

If a bonus spin is also a spin-off, and the contestant's spin does not go all the way around, the contestant may spin again for the spin-off only, and loses their chance at the bonus. (One contestant who had this happen on November 27, 2002 was "not" given a re-spin; this is generally regarded as a mistake rather than a rule change. Further incidents led to re-spins for positioning only.). If another tie occurs in a "bonus spin-off" and $1.00 is spun in a subsequent spin-off, no additional money or bonus spins are awarded. However, in pre-1978 episodes (before the present bonus spin rule), that was worth another $1,000.

Also, in a combination bonus spin/spin-off, a 5¢ or 15¢ spin will win the $10,000 bonus prize but will still be considered a 5¢ or 15¢ spin for the purposes of the spin-off. Thus, as has happened in the past, it is possible for a person to win the cash bonus but be defeated in the spin-off by someone who did not win a bonus prize but achieved a higher score.


Trial "Rainbow" wheel

The Big Wheel first appeared on the shows for September 8-12, 1975, when the show did a week of trial hour-long episodes. The round replaced the original half-hour system by which the top two winners of the three for that show automatically advanced to the showcase.

Aesthetically, the wheel bore little resemblance to the current wheel, though the gameplay was very similar. The wheel was was flat and had its face to the audience, like a clock, instead of its edge. The values were listed in the same order as on the modern wheel, printed clockwise in colored circles around the perimeter, though the wheel was spun counterclockwise. An arrow in the center of the wheel pointed to the top circle to indicate which space was landed on. Below the arrow was a scoreboard which showed the space the wheel was currently on, and the display changed constantly while the wheel was spinning; the sound of the wheel spinning was a series of different-toned beeps (similar to the sound accompanying the dollar amounts popping up on the "Jeopardy!" gameboard). For the episode which aired September 8, contestants waiting to spin stood in Contestants' Row, with numbers indicating their order covering up the bidding screens; for the other four episodes of the week, all three contestants were present on stage. The leading contestant stood at a podium to the right of the wheel (further away than today) with its own scoreboard to indicate their score. The only major difference in gameplay was that for spin-offs, contestants were allowed two spins as in normal spinning. As at the introduction of the modern wheel, there was no bonus spin after a score of $1.00. [ [ Mr. City's Showcase Showdown page] ]

Other Changes

When the show permanently expanded to an hour later that year on November 3, the Showcase Showdown returned, with the current Big Wheel. However, there were several rules not yet in place. Initially, there was no rule that the wheel had to make one full revolution; this was added very early on.

The bonus spins were not implemented until December 1978, shortly after CBS raised its winnings cap to $35,000. Prior to 1978, CBS game show contestants could not win more than $25,000; winnings which exceeded the cap were forfeited and donated to charity. Until this point, the 5¢ and 15¢ sections were not marked in green, and a contestant who spun $1.00 simply won the $1,000 bonus. If there was a spin-off for a tie at $1.00, and a contestant again landed on $1.00, they would be awarded a second $1,000 bonus. The wheel is now started on the $1.00 space prior to the first spin of the first contestant. Prior to this rule change, the wheel would start anywhere based on its location when moved on stage.

From the time bonus spins were implemented in 1978 through the end of Season 36, the bonus for the green sections was $5,000 and $10,000 for the $1.00 space. The bonuses were raised to their current value at the start of Season 37.

Starting in Season 30, the bonus for scoring $1.00 in a bonus spin was raised for the prime time shows. The Military Specials in Season 30 had the value increased to $100,000, and the subsequent Million Dollar Spectaculars had it increased to $1,000,000, neither of which were won. For the Season 35 prime time episode that aired May 16, 2007, the initial bonus for scoring $1.00 with the regular spins was increased to $10,000, and the bonus for spinning a green section in a bonus spin was increased to $20,000.

As of Season 36, the initial bonus for a score of $1.00 on the Million Dollar Spectaculars is $5,000. The contestant is awarded an additional $25,000 for landing on a green section in the bonus spin and an additional $50,000 for landing on the $1.00.


One of the most trademark elements of the Big Wheel is the beeping sound heard while it spins. While the current beeping is likely the best-known, the Big Wheel has had several different beeping sounds over its history. On October 1, 1999, when the beeping device did not work, host Bob Barker asked the audience to provide the sound vocally. This happened a second time on May 8, 2007. It is unknown at this time whether or not Drew will ask the audience to make a "beeping" sound in case the device fails.

The wheel segment features two types of camera shot; the first is a 3/4 shot of both the wheel and the contestant until the wheel is about to stop, at which point the edge of the wheel is shot in a head-on closeup. The second is a split screen shot that features a head-on view of the wheel on the right-hand side with the contestant on the left-hand side. From 1976-1996, on the left side of the screen, the contestant was shown in closeup within a red triangle outline on a black background, which mirrored the actual red arrow pointer at the right of the wheel; a modified version of the split-screen debuted in 1988. This graphic was revived in 2006, when "The Price is Right" was played on "Gameshow Marathon", but the second arrow was outlined in green, with a clear background.

From 1996-2003, the show used a shot of just the wheel, without the split-screen, on the arrow as the wheel is almost ready to stop. That shot was also used in the first year of the wheel's life, though not as constant as it is now, with the camera frequently cutting to the contestant before cutting back to the front of the wheel. In December 2003, the shot was modified so that as the wheel is making its downward descent, its movement would be captured starting from the top, then the camera would follow the wheel to its stopping point at the arrow.

Beginning with the November 2007 airings of the show, the split screen was revived for the Showcase Showdown in the U.S. version. On its first taping back, it was used for both spins; however, it is now used on each contestant's first spin, and not consistently. In this incarnation, the left side of the screen shows both host Drew Carey and the contestant without the arrow used previously. The split-screen camera shot is usually used to give the contestant an opportunity to say "hi" to any friends and family watching at home and audience while the wheel spins. When the split-screen isn't being used the shot introduced in 2003 is used.

No more than two years into its existence on the show, the Showcase Showdown began using its own unique music cue, titled "Dig We Must". An edited clip of the cue is heard whenever a contestant has spun a total of $1.00 on the Wheel; whenever the contestant earns more money in a bonus spin; and at the end of the second Showdown. On all Million Dollar Spectaculars hosted by Bob Barker (Seasons 31-35), it was used to end both Showdowns; this was also the case on the daytime show until March 2, 1989, partway through Season 17. Additionally, the cue was also played upon introduction of the first pricing game on the "Gameshow Marathon" episode; so far, this is the only time that it has been played during a non-Showcase Showdown segment. A new recording of the cue debuted at the start of the 36th season.

The walls of the Big Wheel were originally gold when it debuted on the first hour-long show on November 3, 1975. The walls were changed to red by December 30, 1977. By late March, 1979, pink "Pricedown" dollar signs were added to the walls. By the end of Season 16, in 1988, gold slanted dollar signs debuted on the walls. A purple wall with the "Pricedown" dollar sign was used for the first five taping sessions in Season 37 but was removed after the wheel received a makeover for the July 27, 2008 taping session. A red wall with the same square pattern as those on the turntable wall and Big Doors used in Season 36 prime time (that pattern is being used for Season 37) with one large Pricedown dollar sign on each side was used starting with the second taping session of the season. [ [ *SPOILERS* Confirmed Season 37 changes and non changes ] ]

Until Season 21, contestants stood on a circular piece of red carpet while spinning the wheel and while awaiting their result(s), and contestants with the highest score stood on another circular piece of red carpet situated under the scoreboard. During the 1992-1993 season, these circular pieces of red carpet were replaced by a long rectangular piece of carpet with gold trim that encompassed the front of the Showcase Showdown setup after Bob Barker complained (on-air) that too many contestants were slipping on the circular carpets. The current rectangular carpet also includes the traditional Goodson-Todman asterisk. A border with the same pattern used on the turntable, Big Doors, and wall of the Big Wheel was added to the red carpet at the start of the second taping session of Season 37. []

Another complaint by the host on-air led to changes in Season 37. As the show switched to HDTV, the wear and tear of the wheel became evident in the picture quality caused by HDTV broadcasts. In an attempt to create a new look for the HDTV broadcasts, the traditionally black sections of the wheel were painted purple, along with other aesthetic changes to the framework of the wheel. During the first taping on July 20, 2008, Drew Carey criticized the new purple design, and CBS pulled the wheel after five shows, and the wheel from the live Las Vegas casino show was used on the second July 22 taping. The normal wheel was sent back to the CBS Art Department to be repainted back to its traditional black with the new HDTV-friendly fonts, and was ready for the July 27 tapings that started Season 37. The Las Vegas wheel has the Season 16-36 wall but considerably different fonts and backgrounds, and a different LED scoreboard compared to the one used on the regular wheel. As a result of Carey's criticism, the episodes in question were pulled and moved randomly into the Season 37 order. []

The Price WAS Right

"The Price WAS Right" was a completely different Showcase Showdown format used on many episodes of the short-lived 1994 syndicated version of "The New Price Is Right". In it, three contestants were placed in a modified Contestants' Row and shown a vintage television commercial. After the commercial was presented, each contestant bid what they thought the product being advertised cost in the year the commercial originally aired. The person who was closest without going over won and advanced to the Showcase.

"The Big Wheel" was used for several episodes of "The New Price Is Right" after the production team was unable to secure enough vintage commercials for use during the series. However, the contestant with the "most" winnings spun first.

International Showcase Showdowns

Many versions' rules tend to be the same as the original US version, however, some have a few differences:

*Most commonly different is the sequence of numbers on the wheel itself. The Australian version (during the Ian Turpie era on Seven in the 1980s) used the same number sequence as the U.S. version, except in the opposite direction on the wheel (15, 100, 5, 90, 25...), also used on Germany's version during the mid-'90s. The British versions had a different sequence altogether, a sequence later carried into usage on the Spanish and Portuguese versions' wheels. "Cash en Carlo" had a different number sequence as well, different from the US and UK.

*On the British, Australian, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and French versions, there is no bonus spin, though a bonus prize is given to someone who gets 100, except in Portugal.

*On the Spanish, Italian, and French versions, to win the bonus prize, the contestant has to score 100 on the very first spin only — a combination of 100 in two spins won't count.

*The rules for Germany's version, "Der Preis ist Heiss" were quite identical to the format used on the American version of "Gameshow Marathon", in that the top two scorers would advance to the Showcase. However, unlike GSM, they could only spin the wheel once, and that was it. If they got 100, they won a car or a motorcycle, although early episodes did have a DM1,000 prize. Also, if two-thirds of contestants won their pricing game on the day's episode, no Showcase Showdown was played — they automatically went to the Showcase.

*On the Dutch version, "Cash en Carlo", the player did receive a bonus spin, but the only prize was €10,000 for getting 100 — there were no green sections for a €5,000 bonus. On Mexico's "Atínale al Precio", the rules were the same as the US, but sometimes instead of MX$10,000 for 100, a car was awarded.

*The original Central-produced version of UK Price is Right from the 1980s did have a Showcase Showdown wheel in early episodes, but it was quickly replaced (due to IBA rules at the time) with two rounds of "Supermarket" per half. There, the three IUFB winners of each half would have 60 seconds to obtain as many grocery products as possible hoping to be the closest to £20, high or low. Later on, that game was replaced with the Showcase Questions, in which Leslie would ask questions to all six IUFB winners regarding the cost of certain items, and the furthest one away, high or low, from the ARP, would be eliminated. They played with four questions, and the last two went to the Showcase.

*On the Seven Network's Australian version of Price is Right in the 1980s, the Showcase Showdown winner would play against the returning champion (referred to as a "carry-over champion" in the UK and Australia), and only two IUFB winners competed, a rule which would carry over to the Nine Network's version in its last few months, albeit without the returning champion format.


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