Wednesday, November 1, 2006

It Couldn't Last Forever

If you follow game shows at all, then you've probably already heard by now that Bob Barker has announced that he will retire as the host of The Price is Right at the end of the current season.

This doesn't come as too much of a surprise. There's been speculation each year for several years now that each season would be Barker's last. Yesterday's announcement merely happened to be when he finally said, "now's the time."

I've had the honor of being in the audience for several Price is Right tapings in the years following my arrival in Southern California almost a decade ago, and I actually did get to speak with Bob during one of the taping breaks (not that he'd remember it at all; he's had literally thousands of such encounters in his 50-year career on television). As I recall, I congratulated him on the Lifetime Achievement Award he had received during the Daytime Emmy Awards in 1999 (this must have been within a few months of that honor). Nothing hugely original or profound, I know, but it was my chance to interact with one of the last remaining "greats" of the game show world in person.

All indications are that The Price is Right will continue after Barker's retirement, although for how long depends entirely on how well the host chosen to be Barker's successor can fill the enormous shoes Barker will leave behind. But don't count the as-yet-unnamed new host out too quickly. Barker himself had to fill some rather large shoes when he first became host of what was then called The New Price is Right back in 1972: Bill Cullen had hosted the original version of the show from 1956-65 to great acclaim and popularity. At the time, few could see anyone replacing Bill Cullen. The fact that few people today are even aware that an earlier version of The Price is Right ever existed is a testimony to Barker's hosting ability.

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