Bob Barker Stayed in My Living Room for 35 Years
Thursday, June 14, 2007
My dream of standing in Contestant’s Row and proudly declaring, at the top of my lungs, “ONE DOLLAR, BOB!” has officially died.
After 35 years, 6,586 episodes, 17 Emmy awards, 8,000 “it’s a new carrrrrr!” wins and a whopping $300 meelion in total prizes awarded, Bob Barker is retiring from “The Price is Right” at the age of 83. His final show airs today. And I’m bummed.
I’ve been a huge fan for my whole life, almost from the first episode , when contestants were just told to awkwardly “stand up” and not “come on down.” (Note that I just said “huge fan” and not “crazy fan.” A crazy fan pens musical odes to Bob to the tune of “Suddenly Seymour” from “Little Shop of Horrors” or, worse yet, involves a poor unsuspecting cat . But I digress.)
OK, fine. So I know how to play each of the 80-odd games that have been featured on the show during its run, didn’t mind being home sick as a kid because that meant I could watch, and until today, fantasized about sitting in the audience with my equally obsessed sister, wearing a shirt reading “I ♥ Bob So I ♠ My Dog!” (My dogs have all been male, but it’s just funnier that way.)
Oh. I just read that last section again. So maybe I’m a little freakish. But even those people who have never watched a show or wondered just why in the hell Bob couldn’t just push the stuck Plinko chip down with his fool hand instead of reaching for the entirely ridiculous Plinko Stick can’t deny the tremendous cultural impact of “The Price is Right.”
As the longest running game show in American television history, “The Price is Right” has been a welcome constant in our lives during 35 years of massive political and societal change. No matter what unrest was going on in the outside world, for one hour every day, there was trusty Bob, standing on that same, tacky, glue gun and glitter set, helping little old ladies spin the big wheel or trying not to lose his mind when some rube like Joy somehow found her way on stage despite having the game playing prowess of a turnip. (Honestly, how can you watch the show and NOT know that EVERY damn price in “Ten Chances” ALWAYS ends in a zero? Or, while I’m on the subject, not know that bidding $20, $30 and $40 in Cliffhanger – yes, the one with the mountain climber and the yo-dee-doo-dee-doh ” song, guarantees a win? Or that the Clock Game is the easiest game ever, and if you bid $899 and $999 on the two prizes, you have a REALLY good chance of winning before so much as one second ticks away? I’ll stop now.)
The Price is Right also represents every part of the glamorous Hollywood Dream…A person is plucked from obscurity, made a celebrity before a national audience, and given the chance to come into a small fortune. Or at least leave with some lovely parting gifts.
But it’s still All About Bob. He made it acceptable to show up drunk to work before Lindsay Lohan was even born. He tried his best to save some contestants (I’m pointing at you, Jose ) from making complete idiots of themselves on national television. And he aged gracefully before our eyes, never losing his passion for his job.
More importantly, Bob Barker was one of the first personalities to promote social causes through the media. A vegetarian and animal rights activist, he refused to host the show until producers agreed to stop offering fur coats as prizes. On nearly every episode, dogs or cats in need of a home modeled a prize and Bob encouraged the audience to adopt pets from shelters. And, of course, his sign-off of “Help control the pet population. Have your pet spayed or neutered” no doubt encouraged millions of people to do just that.
They haven’t yet announced Bob’s successor to the TPIR throne, but the front runners include an ET reporter who covered Anna Nicole, literally, to death; Elaine Benes’ dancing boss ; A.C. Slater ; a shrinking violet who really needs to speak her mind more; some teeth ; and, apparently, my mother’s winter handbag . Sigh.
I don’t know why I never found my way to California to have my chance to “come on down.” Maybe it was the expense. Or never finding a good time. Or the paralyzing fear that I’d get on stage and have to play for some god-awful prize like a jukebox or the dreaded “vintage replica gas pump.” With a different host, I can’t say I’ll be that excited to try. But if I do, you can be sure I won’t be wearing a tube top .
Thank you for the past 35 years, Bob. You will be missed.