I must admit to spending a good deal of this month reliving my childhood by watching reruns of the Bob Barker era of ‘The Price is Right.’
Come on Down! The streaming service Pluto.tv launched the Bob Barker Era ‘Price is Right’ Channel in early December. I couldn’t resist taking a peek. And I’ll confess that I’ve spent a number of hours this month watching those old shows.
Pluto.tv escaped my notice until I learned about their ‘Price’ plans. It turns out ViacomCBS now owns the streaming service. It also owns CBS, the network where The Price is Right made its debut in 1972. It’s almost a cable lineup in itself. The service offers multiple “channels” that include programming from some of ViacomCBS’s popular cable nets like TVLand, as well as “channels” devoted to genres of shows. There’s a “Game Show Central” channel that runs a lot of Game Show Network original games.
You can access it through its website or through your Roku device for free. Yes, for free.
The new channel came just ahead of Barker’s 97th birthday on Dec. 12. You’ll likely see some of these moments sooner or later:
But the release of a 24/7 channel devoted to the Bob Barker era of the classic game show comes as a surprise. Fans believed for years that CBS blocked reruns of the show on Game Show Network over concerns reruns might compete with the current run.
I grew up watching emcees like Barker, Bill Cullen, Gene Rayburn, Bert Convy and Allen Ludden. None of them worked their way into hosting game shows from standup comedy.
Things change. Tastes change. What worked in 1972 — or even 1982 — doesn’t necessarily work as well in 2020. I hate to be one of those people lamenting the absent “good old days.” But there are certainly times when those lamentations appear to fit.
Bob Barker era episodes bring back warm memories
Most of us spent our sick days home from school watching Bob Barker and other similar game shows. There’s definitely something nostalgic about watching those old shows now.
The service started the episodes with the show’s 11th season, from 1982. Producers of the show dropped furs then because of Barker’s stance on animal rights. We may eventually see earlier shows, but probably not for a while. We miss some of the goofy fashions of the 1970s. But there are still plenty of fashion blunders from the 80s to appreciate.
For those born too late, you also get to see Bob Barker with gray hair. He stopped with the hair dye back in 1987, bucking a longtime trend for game show hosts. Soon enough, I imagine Pluto.tv’s reruns will help us relive that moment, too. But in the meantime, I’m enjoying brown-haired Barker.
There’s also Barker’s Beauties, Janice, Dian and Holly. Longtime fans of the show certainly remember the original trio of models. Back then, they all seemed to be a happy family. We’d learn otherwise many years later, unfortunately.
And then there’s Johnny Olson, the show’s original announcer. Olson took the three words, “Come on Down” on the script and turned them into a piece of Americana.
Everyone who worked with Olson, by all accounts, loved him. He stayed with the show for 14 years until his death at age 75. Watching those old shows reminds me of how well Olson and Barker worked together and how much energy Olson brought to the show.
A few seasons into the reruns, I expect I’ll feel that sense of loss when his passing is mentioned all over again.
Back then, the show felt a lot more spontaneous. You can partly blame that on the amount of time the show has lost over the years for more commercial time. But Barker excelled at taking any situation and making it funny, and making the contestant shine.
And when things did go wrong back then, it seems those errors and goofs were more likely to stay in:
Here’s an example from 1984:
If you love the show the way it used to be done as much as I do, I’d recommend you check out Pluto.tv and look for Channel 163.