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I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them.



  
From a random review:

  

« Botha, Ted: Mongo: Adventures in Trash | Main | Bauby, Jean-Dominique: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly »

Blits, Stan: Come On Down!

  

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Harper © 2007, 193 pages
4 stars

Note: I read this book in part for The Sunday Salon. See related posts here and here.

Stan Blits has worked on the The Price is Right for 28 years. He's the show's music director as well as a writer and contestant coordinator. The Price is Right, meanwhile, is the longest running network game show in history. It debuted in 1972, on the same day, we're told, that Joker's Wild and Gambit debuted. (Bill Cullen hosted an earlier incarnation of the show that aired from 1956 to 1965.) Bob Barker was the show's only host, from 1972 on, until he handed over the reins in October of this year to Drew Carey. This passing of the microphone makes the release of Blits's behind-the-scenes look at the program particularly timely.

[INSET TEXT: Audience members are all potential contestants, and prior to every show Blits talks to them all, in groups of about twelve, interviewing 340 people in ninety minutes.] Blits's book features a very brief--one paragraph--foreword contributed by Bob Barker, and an introduction in which the author discusses his own role on the show. There follow eighteen chapters that offer readers a look at what goes into getting the program on the air. Blits discusses, for example, how the week's shows are planned, the nightmarish number of details that have to be seen to when it comes to the display and discussion of prizes, the lighting and sound, models and make-up, the games themselves, and the role of the show's announcer, who is also charged with warming up the audience before the curtain opens. (Legendary announcer Johnny Olson used to "run around, sitting in women's laps, rubbing his butt up against them, and making off-color jokes." Who knew?) The book's final chapter is a sort of challenge, in which the reader is invited to play along in a pretend game of The Price is Right, but it doesn't work very well as a self-scoring quiz.

Come on Down! is glossy and amply illustrated, so it may qualify as a coffee table book--one that's meant to be displayed and skimmed through rather than swallowed whole. There is indeed fluff in the narrative: Blits is certainly not out to denigrate the show or anyone affiliated with it; all Price employees are hard-working and talented. That said, the book is well written and not entirely vanilla in tone. I laughed, for example, at Blits's story about the thickly-accented contestant who mispronounced "Tidy Cat" on air (shorten the "i" sound). The most interesting part of the book for me was Blits's chapter on his pre-show audience interviews. Audience members are all potential contestants, and prior to every show Blits talks to them all, in groups of about twelve, interviewing 340 people in ninety minutes. The logistics of the process interested me, and some of the stories Blits tells are gems. Here's a snippet from his conversation with a certain "Joanelle":

"'And what do you do?'

"'I'm involved with a church group that goes around the country promoting abstinence. Our motto is 'Have the romance, but keep your thingy in your pants!'' she says proudly.

"'That's pretty funny, Joanelle. Tell me, are you really concerned with what people are doing with their thingies?' I ask with slight bafflement.

"'You betcha, baby. We think you crazy men ought to control your big bad selves,' she says with hands on hips followed by a deep whooping hyena laugh.

"I look down at my crotch and realize that this woman is actually interested in controlling what's going on down there. And not just mine, but on a global scale. She's trying to reach out and not touch somebody. And there are millions like her."

On another occasion Blits interviewed a couple moments after the wife found out that her husband had slept with her cousin. "Okay, Sy, why the hell would you be telling your wife on the line at The Price is Right that you slept with her cousin?" To his credit, Blits considers the possibility that the couple was lying, but their body language when they weren't aware he was watching suggested that they were indeed headed for divorce court. Or perhaps Divorce Court.

If you're a fan of The Price is Right or interested in a light, behind-the-scenes look at a television institution, take a look at Come On Down! You'll leave the book with a greater appreciation of how complicated a business it is to produce a game show.

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Comments

1.

Nice post




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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.