The Price Is Right



10 a.m. Monday-Friday

Drew Carey, come on dowwwnnnnnnnnn!!!!!!!! The man who would be Bob Barker finally takes the mike, replacing the legendary Barker, who hosted this seminal CBS daytime game show for 35 years (since its inception in 1972).

Such a natural at this gig is Carey, however, that comparisons are irrelevant and unnecessary. He might be bigger than Barker and have worse sight and less hair, but Carey has an endearing, childlike everyman demeanor that's instantly comfy. He already has proved this on the other CBS gamer he hosts, "Power of 10," showing himself to be at once a goofball and a legitimately enthusiastic spirit. And Carey is precisely the same on "The Price Is Right," keeping the show's surrealistic retro vibe intact and doing nothing to trample on Barker's legacy. He even reminds viewers at the end to remember to spay and neuter their pets, just like Bob did.

The beauty of "Price Is Right" is that the decades have done nothing to change it. When you watch it, it's still the '70s. Everything about it screams 1974: the throwback logo, the low-tech multicolor set, the pep-rally atmosphere (contestants jump up and down like jackrabbits) and even the prizes themselves -- such as gas grills, refrigerators, hammocks, subcompact cars and of course cash, cash, cash. This remains The Show That Time Forgot. It is your daddy's "Price Is Right." And that makes it perfect for a dude like Carey, who already looks as if he stepped from the pages of a 1958 Look magazine feature on suburban Dads. He blends in with the show so perfectly that it's nearly frightening, a living throwback to the feel-good game show hosts of yore but with a deadpan new-millennium sensibility. He's a portly Bill Cullen crossed with a more wisecracking Monty Hall.

In the opening hour, Carey lucks out with a game in which nobody seems to lose. In fact, he takes to repeatedly saying, "Perfect game! This is a perfect game so far! I think it's happened only 77 times before in the history of the show where everybody won something."

The thing is, Carey doesn't maintain the kind of ironic distance from the proceedings that we'd expect from a converted stand-up comic. He dives right in with earnest zeal and truly seems to be having the time of his life. When he exults over the success of the already manic contestants, it feels genuine. The incredulous fits of laughter that escape his lips carry a certain "I can't believe I'm here -- this is so cool!" quality, as if he's stepping outside of himself to revel in the moment.

In other words, Barker need not be concerned. His baby is in good hands. It's just that Carey looks to be having such a good time, he ought to be paying CBS.