Michael Larson, Come on Down!
I got clued into Tuesday's amazing finish by, of all things, a blurb on the awful-yet-captivating TMZ on TV where they showed a blip of the reveal. I couldn't believe my eyes. I also couldn't believe that nobody had spoiled it for me before.
Clearly what happened is that someone (or someones) with a savant knowledge of the prices on the show (and let's face it, if you watch for a month straight you know how much some things cost) was able to do some quick adding and help the contestant out. You simply don't come to a number than random by chance.
The question of rigging has come up but, to simplify things, this is simply Michael Larson part two. The audience is encouraged to, not prevented from helping. Apparently the show has caught some "good bidders" before and marginalized or even banned them from tapings. While some people may consider that bad behavior, in the end its their show, its not a public good, and its within their boundaries.
Drew claimed this had happened before (back in 1972 or 1973, when showcases rarely topped $3000). If it has, I haven't seen a clip. This very well may be the first time. And yes his reaction was muted; even TMZ picked up on that. I don't think it speaks to him being a bad host, I think it was simply an awkward situation that was hard to get excited about. Keep in mind that Peter Tomarken's interview of Larson himself was muted somewhat given the fact that everyone in the studio figured the show had been rigged.
So what does CBS do now? Advice like "get more prizes" is a bit short sighted; the show DOES recycle prizes quite a bit. Adding more distributors would require more research and more staff, and it has a cost. If someone hits a showcase on the nose once every 30 years it's probably not a budget buster.