Five years ago today, a major change happened on CBS’s The Price is Right. And things just haven’t been the same since.
Comedian Drew Carey took over hosting duties following the retirement of Bob Barker after 35 years in the role.
Barker is a legendary host, and despite some nasty goings-on behind the scenes, he was a master when it came to being a master of ceremonies. He knew how to make the contestants be the star, how to get them the laughs and how to keep things on the show’s tight schedule so that as little editing as possible was done, a technique of recording known as “live to tape.” When things went wrong, including the most famous incident in the show’s history, the woman whose breasts went flying out of her tube top as she was called to “come on down,” they were almost always going to be shown, anyway.
Carey isn’t as polished as Barker, but then almost no one is. Carey’s game is more chaotic, and at times, more juvenile. It’s as if the show has suddenly been crossed with Saturday Night Live, but during one of those “unfunny” periods of ‘SNL’s history.
What’s most frustrating for a fan of the show that dates back to its half-hour days in the early 70s is the fact that Carey has shown that he is more than capable of being a good host. It’s just that some days, far too many days, it seems, he just doesn’t quite make it to that level. His inconsistency has been noted by many longtime fans, some of whom were his biggest champions when he took the reins.
I was fortunate about fifteen years ago to have the opportunity to go behind the scenes at the show. I met Barker, announcer Rod Roddy, and some of Barker’s Beauties, including my all-time favorite, Janice Pennington, who had been on the show from day one. I also met Roger Dobkowitz, who was a longtime producer who stayed on even after Barker left.
None of the folks I knew from the show are there anymore.
I’ve actually reached a point at which I don’t even watch on a regular basis. Once in a while, when something goofy or unexpected happens, I’ll hear about it and watch a clip or two online. But the show isn’t what it used to be, and part of that, surely, is that styles have changed enough over 40 years that my picture of how the show should be no longer meshes with what might satisfy average viewers.
Tastes sometimes change. Once in a while, they evolve to the point that we’re the ones left out. I wish the show a long life. I just wish it was more my cup of tea these days.