Paige writes about the legacy of legendary US game show host Bob Barker, who fronted The Price Is Right between 1972 and 2007.
If you ask most fans about their favorite game show host, Bob Barker will be most people’s answer. With a career in television lasting 50 years including hosting The Price is Right for 35 years. Bob Barker defines the term legend and for some people define the whole genre of game shows. However, why is that? In this edition of The Legacy of… we shall look at Bob Barker and why he’s so fondly remembered.
Hosting many games in one show
The Price is Right, from its 1972 reboot, is the longest-running game show on American television. It is also what most people think of when the name Bob Barker comes up; understandable since he hosted the show for 35 years, with over 6000 episodes. The Price is Right is a rather interesting show. Instead of relying on one game throughout, like Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy, it relies on a bunch of smaller games called ‘pricing games’ which only take a few minutes and are the bulk of the show. There are over 70 games (about average) that are active during a season of the show; Bob could host every one of them differently while making the simplest of contestants actions exciting. Bob made every little detail seem important and knew how to make the games entertaining for a studio audience and a home audience,
The last of a dying breed
Bob mastered an art in game shows that today just doesn’t exist as it used to, if at all anymore; The art of audience participation. Before TPIR, Barker hosted a show called Truth or Consequences, which has something in common with Price; They both involve unrehearsed contestants. He also knew how to get contestants that were just right for the impending consequence and to get the best out of anyone. Audience participation involves a lot of spontaneous entertainment, which provides something organic that would be hard to script. Bob could improvise on the spot with almost anyone and sound so genuine; It’s hard not to like him, especially in front of hundreds of people in an audience day in and day out. Bob even said that he never wanted contestants chosen in advance because it wasn’t natural.
Little did Bob know how much influence he would have on game shows. For many people, he is the king of game shows, let alone game show hosts. Other hosts have asked for advice from Bob, and he always said to do it in their own way; The same advice given by Ralph Edwards, someone who would be an important part of Bob’s life even after his death in 2005. Bob also appeared on so many other shows from his popularity from TPIR. Bob was one of those hosts who made it cool to be an emcee and could have an answer for any situation.
Bob’s retirement in 2007, after fifty years in television, was a shocking moment for many people. As they still wish that he stayed long enough so they could see him hosting the show. However, Bob stated in his 2009 book that, “you never want to retire too late or too soon”. I think Barker made the right decision as he was slowing down a bit in his last few seasons and his performance was sometimes not as there as it once was. Once the year 2007 hit, Bob had nothing left to prove as he had set the record for the longest-running game show. He was also the oldest host as he was in his eighties at the time of his retirement. Amassing 19 Emmys for host and producer, Bob’s legacy is something that changed game shows altogether and no one could ever replicate in this day of age.