IF YOU GO
What: “The Price is Right Live”
Where: Omaha Music Hall, 1804 Capitol Ave.
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Cost: Tickets start at $48.85 and are available at www.ticketmaster.com, or by calling 1-800-745-3000 and at all Ticketmaster locations.
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In 2001, Todd Newton had the realization that he wanted to dedicate his career to hosting game shows.
He had the right look — the deep tan, the straight teeth, the luxurious hair. He had the right personality — peppy, positive, always rooting for his contestants. And quickly, he also had the right mentor — none other than Bob Barker, the deeply tanned, straight-toothed, luxuriously haired longtime host of “The Price Is Right.”
Upon their first meeting, the two bonded over their love of game shows and their work with homeless animals.
Soon Newton was sitting in on tapings of “The Price Is Right” and learning from the master. In particular, Newton learned that Barker had a knack for bringing out the personality of each contestant called to “come on down.”
“He's the king,” Newton said. “He set the standard for game show hosts.”
Just as he dreamed, Newton has gone on to have a successful career as a game show host. The 43-year-old is the host of HUB Network's “Family Game Night,” and he's hosted several programs on the Game Show Network. He's interviewed celebrities on the red carpet for E! Entertainment Television. And he's followed in his mentor's footsteps as the host of “The Price Is Right Live,” which is coming to Omaha next week. We caught up with Newton about game shows, game show contestants and the allure of “The Price Is Right.”
So, what's it like to host the stage version of such an iconic show that's had such iconic hosts?
It's a dream come true. In the mid- to late '90s, I pretty much decided that I wanted to devote my career to game show hosting. I felt that was everything that I'd been working up to at that point. I loved the interaction with the contestants. I loved the live feel. I loved giving away cars, kitchen appliances — things like that.”
Tell me a little bit about the live show. How is it different from the television version of “The Price Is Right”?
The similarities are endless, the differences are very few. Technically it's identical. One of the key changes is to make it more interactive. Everyone in the audience has an equal shot of being called down to contestants' row, as opposed to pre-selected from the line for television. Also, we call more people down during the program to keep more people in the mix.
Prize-wise, we have cars, we have cash, we have trips. It depends on the night. As for games, (on television) there are over 85 different pricing games. We're a large convoy, but we still can't carry 85 different games.
I liken our show to going to a concert and knowing they're going to play all of their biggest hits. Plinko is always a sure bet, and so is the Big Wheel. No one leaves disappointed.
Were you a game show junkie growing up?
I don't know about game show junkie, but I appreciated the genre, I appreciated its appeal. There aren't too many types of television that can grab you and have you yelling back at the TV in the first 60 seconds. I'm a firm believer that game shows are the only true form of reality television. The emotion you see is genuine and raw and spontaneous, and people love it. As much as we'd like to be up there playing ourselves, we love rooting for other people.
Have you ever been on a game show?
When I worked with Bob (Barker), I sat through countless tapings. It was nothing short of an excellent learning experience.
When I was a host on E! Entertainment Television, I appeared on “Hollywood Squares.” That was a lot of fun. And when I was younger, I was on “The Dating Game.” I've been on both sides of the microphone.
Is there a certain kind of person who makes a really excellent game show candidate?
I'll say that it's different for television and for live. For television, we look for colorful, energetic, excited people. For the live show, I think it's completely different. I think if we can really dedicate the attention that each person deserves, we're going to highlight their personality whatever it is.
If I'm up there with a woman who's a little nervous, I'll be more doting to her and more attentive and walk her through the games and make sure she gets as much out of it as possible. And if I've got someone up there doing back flips, I'll build up the momentum as best I can.
You want to get to know them, you want to know who they're there with and where they came from and what they had for dinner before the show. And the audience wants to know these people, too. They want to know who they're rooting for.