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'Price Is Right' Celebrity Week Preview: Charles Barkley Gets Emotional, NeNe Leakes Is Bedazzled

Executive producer Mike Richards talks to THR about the game show's famous fans and how the second annual event fits into a bigger overall strategy.

Demi Lovato Price Is Right Mike Richards - H 2013
CBS
Demi Lovato spins the wheel; inset, Mike Richards

The Price Is Right has its fair share of famous fans, six of whom will be playing alongside contestants next week when the CBS game show kicks off its second annual Celebrity Week.

Sharon Osbourne, Demi Lovato, Drew and Nick Lachey, Charles Barkley and NeNe Leakes will each participate in six of the show's popular games as they help contestants vie for spots in the Showcase. Each also gets to spin the famous wheel for charity and present special showcases full of their own personal favorite prizes. 

Combined, the celebrity contestants raised more than $300,000 for charity, and one of the celebrities broke last year’s individual record, when Snoop Dogg raised $72,585 for the Snoop Youth Football League.  

Price Is Right executive producer Mike Richards said there is no shortage of famous fans who request to be on the show. In fact, Celebrity Week in its current form was born when Snoop's agent contacted Richards' agent saying the rapper's dream was to spin the wheel and asking how he could get on the show. He says some of the stars enlisted reach out to the show, while others are found through a more formal booking process.

"There is a blatant Price Is Right fandom that exists," Richards told The Hollywood Reporter. "You never know who turns out to be a huge fan. I never would have guessed that Snoop rarely misses the show."

As the executive producer, he also gets a kick out of seeing the contestants realize they will be playing alongside a celebrity.

"But it's not just celebrities for celebrities' sake," he said. "They help contestants win, and we donate money to charity. It feels very Price Is Right."

Of this year's celebrities, Richards revealed that Barkley was not only very funny but also got nervous and emotional, saying it had been a lifelong dream to play on Price Is Right; Lovato shares a personal story while helping a contestant price a product; Osbourne gets "pick up and spun around three times" by a contestant; and Leakes shows up in a bedazzled T-shirt with one of her famous lines from Real Housewives of Atlanta: "I'm rich."

Richards says the goal is to keep Celebrity Week an annual tradition, but it's also part of an overall strategy to ramp up the show's special episodes. As THR exclusively reported, the game show is planning its first kids special, wherein children ages 8-14 will play for the first time, alongside a parent, in an episode set to air mid-April. Also coming are specials centered on spring-break, featuring college students; law-enforcement; Mother's Day; Father's Day; and April Fools' Day.

"I can't tell you what is going to happen, but we always do something insane for April Fools' Day, and this year will be the most insane for me as a producer," Richards says. "Just think of me in a pool of sweat."

Other recent specials include a Valentine's Day-themed episode featuring couples playing together as well as episodes centered on grandkids/grandparents, veterans and nurses.

"We have a great format and a great set of 77 games, which we add to every year, but I believe it's really important to change things up but not lose the heart and soul of the show," Richards says. "We have well over 5 million loyal viewers, and I want to make sure they get the same great show they love but also do other things and give the show a little bit of a different feel sometimes. Adding a little bit of variety has helped us enormously, and it's one of the reasons our ratings are up this year." (The game show is seeing increases in key demos including women 25-54.)

The Price Is Right, which is hosted by Drew Carey and produced by FremantleMedia North America, airs at 11 a.m. ET/10 a.m. PT weekdays on CBS. The full Celebrity Week schedule:

Monday, Feb. 18 -- Lachey brothers playing for Camp Joy

Tuesday, Feb. 19 -- Leakes playing for Saving Our Daughters

Wednesday, Feb. 20 -- Osbourne playing for The Sharon Osbourne Colon Cancer Program

Thursday, Feb. 21 -- Barkley playing for The Mustard Seed School
           

Friday, Feb. 22 -- Lovato playing for Free the Children