BURBANK, CA—Mark Goodson, executive producer of CBS's The Price Is Right, has delivered an ultimatum to President Clinton: Withdraw all occupying U.S. forces from the game show or face "a war to make the continent weep."
The occupation, which began last spring in response to reports of treaty violations and human rights abuses on the part of the popular, long-running game show, has been building to a standoff for months.
The U.S. is demanding an unconditional surrender on the part of The Price Is Right, including the full dismantling of the Range Game and the relinquishing of an undisclosed number of cans of Johnson's Turtle Wax.
In an address last night to the American people, President Clinton said, "I have made every attempt to prevent a military confrontation and will continue to do so. But if the fabulous 60-minute Price Is Right will not stand before a U.N. tribunal for the crimes of which they are accused, we cannot and will not acquiesce."
Promised Clinton, "America is strong and her forces stand ready. This will not be another Tic Tac Dough."
Goodson was vehement in his refusal to cooperate. "Television's most exciting hour of fun and prizes will not be cowed by the demands of heretics," he said in a statement broadcast to U.S. markets via CBS affiliates. "President Clinton, you have until the second Showcase Showdown to remove all U.S. troops from our studio and the surrounding lot or we shall no longer be responsible for their fate. God have mercy on you all."
The Price is Right, in which contestants win cash and prizes for estimating the prices of retail goods, has taken a considerably more somber turn in recent months. In the show's opening moments, flashing light bulbs border the screen as the audience is shown trembling in their seats and attempting not to make eye contact with the armed CBS pages who patrol the studio aisles.
When contestants' names are read by the show's announcer, Rod Roddy, many faint or begin praying. Those who remain lucid walk quietly but visibly shaken to Contestant's Row, though one will occasionally attempt to subdue a guard and escape. Three contestants have been shot attempting this.
A rescue attempt last month failed when a company of U.S. Marines infiltrated the audience and fired a rocket launcher at the set. Host Bob Barker and model Holly Robinson took shelter behind the Plinko board; two other Barker's Beauties died in the skirmish.
Said Barker: "The next item up for bid is... death!"
The game show's military strength does not appear to have the Pentagon worried. U.S. Intelligence indicates its entire army has been cobbled together from merchandise intended as prizes. While impressive grenades have been jury-rigged from cans of Pam cooking spray, the show's most powerful land assault vehicle is a 1997 Cadillac de Ville equipped with 10-ounce bottles of Spray 'n' Wash and several dozen boxes of Hot Pockets.
American citizens are concerned about the prospect of war with a highly rated TV game show. "Nothing is worth spilling the blood of young Americans," said Chicago-area investment banker Todd Gerhardt. "Not even a Broyhill Herculon living room ensemble with matching Panasonic entertainment center." Antiwar demonstrators have staked out the Capitol building bearing placards reading "No Blood For Fabulous Prize Showcases."
Former President Jimmy Carter is being briefed by State Department officials in the hope that he can facilitate diplomatic relations to end the standoff. Carter's actions were instrumental in defusing the 151-day Hollywood Squares hostage crisis in 1979 and securing the release of celebrity panelist Paul Lynde.
AP contributed to this story.