To say the press overreacted to Bob Barker’s departure would be something of an understatement, though his absence from “The Price is Right” after 35 years does look a little weird. Still, as with his nighttime stint on “The Power of 10,” Drew Carey quickly establishes himself as a fine gameshow host — an innately likable guy who genuinely appears to enjoy interacting with regular folks and seeing them win stuff. While it’s hard to envision Carey matching Barker’s longevity, the baton pass provides viewers no reason to stop coming on down.
After a raucous welcome from the studio audience in his debut episode, Carey quickly gets down to business, guiding the wildly enthusiastic prize-seekers through a series of silly games. Without giving too much away (spoiler alert!), most of the contestants do quite well, and Carey has an amusing habit of laughing his ass off each time somebody scores a big payday.
This is hardly rocket science, and Carey essentially puts his comedic skills on auto-pilot so as not to let them get in the way of the business at hand, which is doling out cars and dining room sets. In that respect, there’s been no effort to capitalize on Barker’s exit by tinkering with the basic formula, indicating that CBS’ daytime department has a better handle on the pitfalls of screwing around with years of tradition than does its nightly news staff.
The mere fact Carey wanted the gig (which, based on his sitcom’s success, he certainly didn’t need) speaks to his populist sensibilities, and “Price,” after all, is the most democratic of institutions — the thrill of seeing a plump Midwesterner lose it when announcer Rich Fields yells “It’s a new car!” — as well as a tribute to old-fashioned American capitalism.
At first glance, anyway, CBS has gotten the host right, and beyond that exhibited the savvy to leave well enough alone.