Q: I watch “The Price Is Right" and have noticed that at least one of the contestants who comes onstage has, tucked in their waistband, a device like a walkie-talkie with a little antenna. Have they been preselected to win, or what?
— Barbara Sellers, Antioch, Calif.
A: Those devices actually are backup microphones worn by all the contestants once they’re chosen to “come on down" from the seated audience.
It’s a protective technical measure in case anything goes wrong with the “stick microphone" host Drew Carey carries on the weekday CBS game show staple, a tradition held over from the days when Bob Barker presided over the show.
In fact, if you look closely, you’ll see that Carey also wears a backup mike on his lapel. It’s extra insurance that taping doesn’t have to stop if anything goes haywire with the main audio.
Q: I really like the new Dennis Quaid show “Vegas." It started in the fall, and now it already is showing reruns. Will the show continue?
— Helen Quade, Temple, Pa.
A: Virtually every comedy or drama series on broadcast television went heavy on repeats in December, and many extended that into January ... so it’s no indication of needing to worry about “Vegas," which has been doing so well for CBS, it’s all but guaranteed a second season.
Now that it’s the ratings-important February “sweeps" period, new episodes have made a comeback — but as an advance warning, March likely will be dotted with repeats, too, since most shows will be saving their remaining first-run stories for the end of the current television season in April and May.
Q: Why is Shirley Mac-Laine joining the cast of “Downton Abbey"? Is she taking the place of Maggie Smith?
— Eileen Behrends, Rake, Iowa
A: If you’ve watched the current Season 3, you’ve seen that the much-lauded PBS series has delighted in putting the two veteran actresses together. Especially since they are playing very separate characters meant to delineate American and English differences of the era, no one is taking anyone else’s place in that case. In fact, Oscar winner MacLaine told us not long ago that one of the biggest appeals for her in signing up was the opportunity to work with Smith.
Q: Is Ted Allen of the Food Network series “Chopped" related to the late comedian and former “Tonight Show" host Steve Allen?
— Larry Weisman, Milwaukee
A: Steve Allen had four sons from his two marriages, but we can find no evidence that he was any relation to Ted.
Q: I have enjoyed the episodes of “Made in Jersey" that have been shown so far. Will there be more forthcoming?
— Terry Dean, Buffalo, N.Y.
A: In a word, no. The CBS law drama was the first of the season’s new series to be canceled, and the back-to-back repeats that recently ran on Saturdays were what are termed lame-duck “burnoffs" of the remaining episodes that had been produced.
Q: I am curious to know what happened to two shows, “Terra Nova" and “Ringer." My husband and I are disappointed that they have not come back on.
— Sue Bradshaw, Boynton Beach, Fla.
A: As so often is the explanation, especially with series that don’t make it past their first seasons, the reason in both cases was low ratings. In the case of “Terra Nova," a big budget — as indicated by the special effects — compounded the ratings problem, and after Fox canceled it, there was some talk of trying to continue it with original episodes on Netflix. However, that idea ultimately proved too cost-prohibitive.
Q: Will “CSI: NY" return for another year?
— Joe Phillips, Glen Burnie, Md.
A: That’s a question that doesn’t have an answer yet, likely to the chagrin of the cast and crew members who found themselves in a similar boat last season. On the heels of the just-aired crossover episode with “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," the CBS drama airs its Season 9 finale Feb. 22, and “NY" star Gary Sinise told us he doesn’t expect to know his program’s fate by then. Since there was just that crossover, though, we’d say there’s reason for optimism.