This is the unedited version of my article that ran in today’s Targum. The actual article can be found HERE. They spelled my name wrong on the website.

When Bob Barker retired from the hit afternoon game show “The Price Is Right” after nearly 35 years of hosting this past June, he left a crater in the world of television. Barker was a legend, always professional and always pleasant. His replacement would be scrutinized, gone over with a fine-toothed comb by fans. So who else to fill the role on TV Guide’s “greatest game show of all time” than… Drew Carey?

Carey, who is a comedian, creator of the ABC sitcom “The Drew Carey Show,” and former host of the American version of the improv program “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” was certainly a questionable choice to fill Barker’s enormous shoes. Nothing against him – he has always been a funny guy, easily ingestible in small doses, and seemingly friendly to the folks around him. But he just wasn’t Bob Barker. In a way, it would have been impossible to pick someone who could really fit the bill. So the producers decided to do what every single game show has been doing since the aftermath of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”—they hired a comedian beyond his glory days to play the role of host.

Drew Carey isn’t the first funnyman to embrace the host role. In fact, this isn’t even his first game show (He hosted “Power of 10,” a “Family Feud”-rip off, during the late summer). It seems that every new game show featuring a slick production and expensive-looking set is putting a comic in front of the camera. The most notable is the ultra-popular NBC show “Deal or No Deal” and its now-famous host Howie Mandel. Mandel was a struggling comedian who battled severe Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder until the game show set gave him new life. Similarly, the “Full House” father figure and notoriously raunchy Bob Saget heads the towering stage that is “1 vs. 100.” Ex-“Whose Line…” improv comic Wayne Brady dances along with contestants on FOX’s “Don’t Forget the Lyrics!” Even Redneck revolutionary Jeff Foxworthy is getting in on the action as FOX’s “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” enters its hugely successful second season. Just on the horizon, a spin-off of that show for Canadian audiences is approaching starring “Whose Line…” jokester Colin Mochrie. The list continues to grow with every last-minute midseason replacement.

What is it, then, that makes this type of entertainer so desirable to producers? It could be that game shows are largely improvised, and the most enjoyable moments often arise in the bits of dialogue between host and contestant. The old guard is being pushed out; shows like “Jeopardy!” where communication is limited to simple answers are rarely seen, and in their place we see programs where the eccentric personality and hilarious antics of the contestant are given precedent over the actual game show portion. “The Price Is Right” has always made use of this formula, so it only makes sense that their new host be someone who is adept to the situation and, producers hope, can get off a few lines in sarcastic asides.

We’re living in a strange world, one where kids may soon blur the line between the guy who tells jokes on stage and the one who gives away a million dollars. And it will only get stranger when someday your kid says “I know Drew Carey – he’s that guy who says ‘Spay and neuter your pets!’ after every show.”

Advertisements