Tuned In

Dead Tree Alert: Showcase Showdown!

  • Share
  • Read Later

Cliff Lipson/CBS

Everybody’s praising Bob Barker as he gets ready to retire, but in my Culture Complex column this week, I take a minute to give the love to that most American of game shows itself, The Price Is Right:

[U]ltimately, what wins Price are the skills that matter. Remembering facts (and I say this as a ruthless Trivial Pursuit player) is a pretty low form of intelligence, a Poindexter skill that gets less useful the further you get from your SAT. Players on Price apply knowledge–they calculate, make bets and take risks on the basis of comparisons and past experience–which is a whole different level of intelligence from regurgitating data.

What Price really tests is how to be a capitalist: how to survive in a consumer economy in which life is a constant struggle to defend the contents of your wallet. On Price, as in life, the vast groaning board of the consumer economy is laid out before you–buffet servers! Jet Skis! dinette sets!–and you must choose. What do you want? What do you need? And what is it worth?

I realize this argument takes me dangerously close to Barney in How I Met Your Mother, who called the show “… a microcosm of our economic system, a capitalist utopia where consumers are rewarded for their persistence, market acumen and intrepid spirit.” But whaddya gonna do? I’ve been on record for a while as saying that TPIR is the greatest game show in American TV. (My column is basically an extended dance remix of my earlier TPIR post.)

I’m sure plenty of people would disagree, though. Anybody want to argue for a different one? Jeopardy!? What’s My Line? Tattletales?