Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Bob Barker's Last Stand

For those you who have not heard, today the last show of The Price is Right to be hosted by Bob Barker was taped. While I assume most Americans know who Bob Barker is, I guess I should fill in those living outside the United States. Bob Barker is the long time host of the game show The Price is Right. He has hosted it for a record breaking 35 years, far longer than anyone else who has hosted a game show. This is all the more remarkable when one considers that before that Barker had hosted Truth or Consequences for 18 years! Indeed, Barker's career in television has spanned a total of over fifty years.

Given that Bob Barker long ago became a part of American pop culture, the taping of today's show was naturally a big event for many. Several people camped out over night outside the studio so they could get in line early. People came to the studios in Los Angeles from as far away as Mississippi and Alberta, Canada.

As might be expected, Barker entered the field of broadcasting while still young. He was attending Drury College in Springfield, Missouri when he got a job at radio station KTTS-FM. He would eventually find his way to Los Angeles where he was hosting an audience participation programme on KNX-AM in 1956. It was that year that Truth or Consequences producer and long time host Ralph Edwards would tap him to host the popular game show. He would host Truth or Consequences from December 1956 to its demise in 1975.

Barker would go onto host both Dream Girl of '67 and The Family Game in 1967 (continuing to host Truth Consequences as well), although both would be short lived. This certainly was not the case with his next game show. In 1972 CBS planned to revive the game show The Price is Right (the original had aired from 1956 to 1965). Barker was tapped as the show's host, continuing to also host Truth or Consequences until that show's demise in 1975. Ultimately, the revived version of The Price is Right would become the longest running American game show of all time.

Bob Barker's last show of The Price is Right will air later this month, on June 15. As of yet a replacement has not been announced, although it is difficult seeing anyone replacing the legendary game show host. Bob Barker has seen his share of controversy (he has been sued for sexual harassment, discrimination, and wrongful termination), but the man seems to be made of Teflon. Through it all he has remained America's best loved game show host and a pop culture icon. He appeared as himself in the movie Happy Gilmore where he won a fight with the title character. There have been references to him in everything from Seinfeld to the movie The Tao of Steve. As someone who has been a part of the American TV landscape for so long and long ago became a part of American pop culture, his retirement would seem to be a big event indeed.

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