Ted Slauson: The Man Who Beat The Price is Right – REWIND

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Originally released September 13, 2021. In 2008, a man named Terry Kneiss won a double showcase on The Price is Right by making a perfect bid of $23,743 dollars. But there was more to it than luck. This is the crazy story of a gameshow going through changes and the man who helped Terry win: Ted Slauson. Then we chat with and play the quick quiz with game show fanatic Christian Carrion. 

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The Cobra Effect

Retired weatherman, Terry Kneiss had been called on down to be the next contestant on the Price is Right. He got out of contestant’s row by correctly guessing the price of a Big Green Egg smoker.  When he made it to the final part of the show, the showcase, The first showcase included prizes like a karaoke machine, a pool table and a 17-foot camper. Terry’s opponent passed on the group of prizes, meaning it was up to him to guess the price without going over. A guess within $250 of the actual price would win him both showcases. The total value of the prizes was $23,743 dollars. Terry’s guess? Exactly $23,743. It was the first time since 1973 that someone had guessed correctly to the dollar. But when the camera showed the show’s host Drew Carey, he wasn’t smiling. 

I don’t know about you, but for me, The Price is Right is indelibly linked to staying home sick from school. It will always invoke that sense of nostalgia – being home at 10am when you shouldn’t be and feeling like you’re getting away with something. The music, the colors, the stagecraft – it’s all part of the image of a show that has changed very little since its first episode. The show rose to fame under its second host, Bob Barker, who hosted the show until 2007 when Comedian Drew Carey took the reigns. And for a show to have done so well through such a transition is saying something. It’s a huge deal for a game show so iconic to pick a new host. A modern example would be the troubles that Jeopardy is currently having after the death of Alex Trebek. But The Price is Right continued to be popular and hardly changed a thing. 

The show operates based on promoted brands and prizes that have won the valuable honor to have their products bid on by the contestants. The prizes that are often the most valuable – are announced with a phrase that has transcended the show: “A NEW CAR!”

Even the show’s theme song is iconic. But as the theme song played to close the show on December 16, 2008, Drew Carey and the producers were scrambling, trying to figure out what to do about Terry Kneiss’s perfect bid to win the showcase. And they were looking into the audience at a man named Ted Slauson.

When you watch the broadcast of The Price is Right from Terry’s Kneiss’s perfect bid episode in 2008, you see the show go seamlessly straight from his bid to the announcer going through the next showcase into Drew Carey reading the actual prices. But in reality, the show taping had halted for a few minutes while executive producer Mike Richards and Kathy Greco, who had the official price lists, met with Carey to explain that something was up. He had bid the exact right amount. Something that was seemingly impossible. They considered the idea that maybe he had been cheating. But they also had an idea of what was going on – and they were looking at a man in the front of the audience wearing a blue shirt. His name was Ted Slauson and they knew who he was.

Ted Slauson is a man who was a Superfan of the Price is Right. He was so famous to the cast and crew of the show – and to other Price is Right superfans, that people he didn’t know would call him by name as he was lined up to enter the show. Slauson was such a fan of the show, that he knew the prices of the items in the showcase. He remembered seeing those same prizes on previous shows. And he was loudly yelling and holding up fingers to convey those prices from his place in the audience to Terry Kneiss onstage.

There was another controversy that the show had just undergone. I mentioned Jeopardy earlier. The man who was set to be host of Jeopardy and then had his off rescinded was Mike Richards. The same Mike Richards who, in 2008 had just replaced Roger Dobkowitz. Roger had been the shows producer for 35 years and was loved by fans of the show. But as Bob Barker retired, changes were being made. And one of those was a new producer. Between Mike Richards and new host Drew Carey, subtle things were changing on the show. And these superfans – just like any superfans – didn’t like all the changes.

So as Kathy Greco and Mike Richards heard Ted Slauson loudly yelling the prices to Terry onstage, they immediately connected those dots. To them, this was a fanatic who was angry that Roger had been replaced. Maybe he was even sent by Roger, they thought. Drew was angry. He’s a new host of a popular show and now, if the show was corrupt, he was thinking it’s the end of his reign as host. He recalled asking Kathy – “there’s no way this is going to air, right?” And she replied “I don’t know how it could.”

But there was a major problem with that. Terry Kneiss – and Ted Slauson for that matter – hadn’t done anything illegal or wrong. The show encourages the audience to yell out their guesses. If Slauson was guilty of anything – it was watching the show too much. 

It turns out – the suspicions about Slauson being angry about the producer change weren’t accurate. He just wanted to see Terry win. And we know this because Slauson was just doing what he had been doing since he first started showing up to tapings in 1989. Theodore Slauson watched the show from the time he was a boy. And between 1989 and 1992, he attended more than 20 live tapings of the show. He recorded every show and kept a spreadsheet that recorded every prize and its value. Slauson made his living developing standardized testing and used those skills to build a computer program that  allowed him to study his spreadsheet. When he would attend the show, he loudly shouted out the prices to the contestants. Several times, Bob Barker would interact with Ted during the show. He definitely knew who he was and when Ted got onto the show in 1992, Bob told him “Theodore you made it! He’s been a loyal friend and true”

If you talk to Terry Kneiss about his win, he claims he didn’t hear Slauson giving him the prices. He claims that he and his wife also kept spreadsheets of prices and memorized them. He claims that the 743 in his bid of $23,743 was from their anniversary and his wife’s birth month. Terry and his wife were statisticians and loved numbers. He had worked in casinos busting card cheats. It’s totally plausible that he did it on his own. But according to Drew Carey, everyone knew that Slauson was yelling the prices. They even had to edit the show to remove Slauson several times. 

As many of you know, I’m a professional magician. And there’s a theory in magic called the “Too Perfect Theory.” It’s the idea that if something is fake and you’re trying to make it look real, it can’t be perfect. It would be like if you committed a crime and made up an alibi to the police, but then started describing every person you saw and every car you passed in perfect detail. It would be too perfect. For this reason, you might see a mindreader or a magician mess up a small detail on purpose here or there. Well the same goes for this. The only reason anyone knew that it wasn’t a normal taping of the show was because Terry guessed the number on the nose. Had he guessed 23,500, he would had won and nobody would have thought any different. 

The main problem was that the Price is Right was recycling the same prizes for the same prices for way too long. There wasn’t enough variation. After the December 16, 2008 show, this all changed. They expanded the range of prizes to make it virtually impossible for anyone – no matter how good their memory – to be able to guess the prices. The example that Drew Carey gives is you could have the same car 4 days in a row, but with 4 different trim packages and the price could be anywhere from 20,000 to 25,000. So if you’re an aspiring game show contestant with a good memory and you plan on bringing the Price is Right down the way that Terry Kneiss and Ted Slauson did, you just might be hearing this instead.

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Forgotten history, bizarre tales & facts that seem too strange to be true! Host Michael Kent asks listeners to tell him something strange, bizarre or surprising that they've recently learned and he gets to the bottom of it! Every episode ends by playing a gameshow-style quiz game with a celebrity guest. Part of the WCBE Podcast Experience.


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