April 12, 1976
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The centerpiece of Cliff Hangers is a game board with a stylized mountain slope (angled at about 45°) that has a scale which runs from 0 at its base to 25 at the peak, which ends at a cliff. At the start of the game, there is a mountain climber on the 0 mark at the base of the mountain.
The contestant is shown a two-digit prize and asked to bid on it. If he/she bid the actual price, the mountain climber stays where he is. Otherwise, the climber moves up the mountain, advancing along the scale the number of dollars away the contestant's bid is from the actual price. To give an element of suspense to the game, the actual price is not revealed until after the climber has moved, so that the contestant and audience will not know how far he will travel. If the climber remains on the mountain, the contestant wins that small prize.
The process is repeated for two more two-digit prizes, generally of increasing value. The climber continues from the point at which he stopped for the previous prize. If the climber goes over the cliff at any point, the game ends; however, the contestant keeps any small prizes won up to that point. If the contestant's bids are a total of $25 or less away from the actual prices of the 2-digit prizes at the end of the game, the contestant wins all three small prizes and a grand prize.
The game first premiered on April 12, 1976. Originally, four small prizes were offered; it was reduced to three on June 10, 1976. On its first playing, it was lost on the fourth and final prize.
A yodeling song, which has become a cornerstone of the game, is played as the mountain climber moves up the mountain. The current music is part of a song called On the Franches Mountains from the record album Swiss Mountain Music. The show has occasionally used the full song as prize music when trips to Switzerland and Holland are offered. Originally, the yodeling music used was a portion of "The Silly Song" from Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Until 1986, the game used a crashing sound that was also used in Hurdles for when the climber fell. On the January 21, 1993 episode, as the mountain climber fell, the One Away horn was accidentally played at first instead of the crashing sound, but then seconds later, the crashing sound was played; Bob remarked, "That was quite a drop; he didn't hit bottom!"
The popularity of the game has led to a life-size cut-out of the mountain climber used in some Showcases and One Bids in Season 37. The yodeling music was also used during a contestant's Showcase Showdown spins on the April 1, 2009 episode.
In the Halloween 2009 show, Drew Carey dressed up as the mountain climber.
On the October 16, 2013 episode, as part of "Big Money Week", Cliffhangers was played under special rules that let the contestant play for up to $250,000. Rather than playing for one large prize, as usual, the contestant would get $10,000 for each space on the board left at the end of the game, which meant that if the contestant had gotten all three prizes exactly right, they would have won $250,000. In the playing on the show, the contestant missed the three prizes by a total of $22, meaning he walked away with $30,000.
The Climber's NameEdit
Officially, the mountain climber has no name, although several hosts have used their own names for him:
- Bob Barker/Tom Kennedy – Never have referred to the climber by a name, only the mountain climber. No host of any of the UK or Italian versions referred to the mountain climber by a name, either.
- Doug Davidson – On The New Price Is Right he called the climber "Hans Gudegast", which is the birth name of his Young and Restless co-star Eric Braeden. When Cliff Hangers was lost on this version, Doug would often joke that "Hans was being rushed to Genoa City Memorial (Hospital)."
- Drew Carey – Has noted that the climber does not have an official name. He has referred to him by "Hans", "Yodel Man", and "Yodely Guy".
- Dennis James – When the game was first played in mid-1976, Dennis once referred to the climber as "Fritz", not knowing of model Janice Pennington's first husband Fritz Stammberger, who had disappeared in what was presumed at the time to be a mountain-climbing accident shortly before the debut. After the climber fell off the cliff, Dennis said, "There goes Fritz!" This upset Janice so much that she remained backstage crying for the rest of the episode.
- Larry Emdur (Australian version): Called the mountain climber "Cliff". "Cliff" is accompanied by a St. Bernard named "Spot". When the game was lost, only Cliff fell, leaving Spot on the mountain
- Marco Antonio Regil (Mexico): Called the climber "Pancho".
- Carlo Boszhard (The Netherlands): Called the climber "Malcolm".
- The Price Is Right Live! – The name "Johann" was occasionally used.
Cliffhangers usually has the same format worldwide, but on Germany's Der Preis ist heiß, the prizes each had a range attached to them, and the contestant had to bid within that range for it to count.
In Finland, the climber goes leftward rather than rightward, but otherwise, the game is the same.
Cliff Hangers Debuts
Carol wins over the edge on Cliff Hangers?
An actual perfect playing of Cliff Hangers!
Joy wins to the edge
Laura wins to the edge
A Cliff Hangers playing from Big Money Week 2013