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Adrian International Film Festival Review: 'THE PERFECT BID'

Courtesy of AIFF


I’d say that, assuming you didn’t live under a rock - you probably have had some exposure or even fond memories of sitting down and watching "The Price Is Right." I know I do. Especially on a rainy Friday morning, snow day, or being home with the flu: it seemed like in those days you were tuned into whatever shenanigans host Bob Barker would cook-up. But I don't think anyone watched it quite like Ted Slauson, who is the focal point behind a new documentary entitled "The Perfect Bid: The Contestant Who Knew Too Much," an engrossing, fun, and unbelievable true story. It's also one of the year’s best films.

Directed by CJ Wallis who clearly isn’t just an amateur director, but has a real passion for the story, "Bid" details how Slauson, a mathematics teacher from California, managed to travel to Bob Barker studios a record 24 tapings prior to being selected as a contestant and thematically beat the system. He developed an algorithm with excel spreadsheets, homemade games, and studied products down to the dollar. Equally, Ted (or Theodore) became a punchline to many of Barker's jokes whenever he was in the live studio audience, and for the producers - among them original show creator Mark Goodson - Ted Slauson was their worst nightmare.

Wallis expertly cuts back and forth between his subject and clips from the early days of "The Price is Right" which splice together into a gripping story. The film even features a surprise interview with the 95 year old legend himself: Bob Barker. Yet for being a film that's only 75 minutes, "Bid" manages to squeeze so much on the screen without coming up short. I didn't leave the film with much questions, just a sense of wonderment. 

More importantly, Slauson is a fascinating guy who started going to tappings in the mid-80s' and we physically see him feeding advice to contestants (when he wasn’t lucky enough to be selected) who were all desperate for a bid that could win them a flashy new car (one such lady actually mouthed the words “Help Me” to him during a taping). There's even a fun tongue and cheek romance that transpires with Ted and one of the models named Holly, and Wallis shows us the transitional period in which Barker retires and (current host) Drew Carey steps in.

We also, and this is probably the most fascinating aspect of the entire film, see how a contestant named Terry (who was featured in Esquire magazine) managed to nail a perfect bid on his 'Showcase Showdown' to the dollar (some random amount that totaled $23,743.) That was the story you probably heard about, but what you didn't know is that Mr. Slauson helped edge Terry along. It was a scandal that shook up the big wigs at CBS, and Terry, naturally, was thrust into fame as being the first contestant in history to achieve such a feat. He was also branded by some as a cheater. I would've liked to have seen more of that story play out, because it is interesting, however one can make the assumption that Terry likely won't be a fan of this film.

Granted this is Ted's story, yet viewing the backdrop to perhaps one of the most jaw-dropping moments in game show history is extremely rewarding. Similarly, this all ties into a nice bow that helps make "The Perfect Bid" go down very smoothly. It reminds you that the craziest ambitions are sometimes the most innovative and to always get your pets spayed or neutered.

Grade: A-

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