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November 1st, 2006

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11:25 pm - "Gentlemen, do I have at least ONE number right?"
I was saddened and chagrined to hear that Bob Barker would soon be retiring as host of The Price Is Right, the most venerable American game show and a cultural institution. A whole generation grew up attached to this show as the show you watched when you stayed home sick from school. The show that, in its 35-year history, never got rid of its early 1970s soundtrack, endlessly playing background tunes with names like "The Big Banana", "Amen Brother Herbert" and "Splendido!" Bob Barker would hold court every morning from 11:00 to noon Eastern with a fantastic television program. It was, in the words of Rod Roddy, "Television's most exciting hour of fantastic prizes, the fabulous sixty-minute PRICE IS RIGHT!"

(cue theme music here.)

Rod Roddy (or Johnny Olsen before him) would then continue: "And now, here's the star of The Price Is Right, BOB BARKER!"

Bob Barker would always enter, crisply hit his mark, graciously accept his curiously long microphone from "the lovely" Janice, and receive a standing ovation.

"My!" he'd say. "My, my, MY! Well, I certainly must thank you for that lovely welcome, and I'd like to present one back, so welcome, everyone, to The Price Is Right, Rod, what's our first item up for bids for these lovely people?"

Bob Barker started his television career in 1956 as host of a game show called Truth or Consequences, a strange bastard parody of a quiz show wherein the contestants onstage had to answer an incredibly inane or impossible question before the buzzer sounded -- usually a second after the question was asked. Having failed the "Truth" part of the game, the contestants would have to then "Pay the Consequences" by performing a silly or humiliating stunt (Double Dare and its ilk owed a hell of a lot to Truth or Consequences.) Blindfolded wives had to feed their equally blindfolded husbands, fellas sat in dunk tanks while their sisters threw the baseballs, housefraus had to do something terribly messy with pies, and everybody screamed with laughter. Once in a while the stunt was sentimental -- long-lost family members being reunited after years apart, for instance. But more often than not, it was all an exercise in good-natured humiliation.

It was through humiliating contestants that Barker learned how to work an audience, but most importantly, he learned how to really work with the contestants. Having cut his teeth on Truth or Consequences, Barker was then tapped to host The Price Is Right. There he became the Master of Suspense.

Bob could hold that poor Samoan woman in pure fright as he reached into the Punchout board and pulled out a little card.

He'd take a peek at the card.

"Oh, Estelle, Estelle, Estelle..."

Estelle would wring her hands.

"Estelle, when I looked at the amount on this card, I went 'Oh my.' Because, Estelle..."

Estelle would gnash her teeth.

"Estelle, having given up the twenty-five hundred dollars, to have one more go at the Punchout board..."

Estelle would rend her garments while the audience began to respond in anticipation.

"Estelle, in this card it says... oh, I can't show it to her right now, folks!"

THE PLACE WOULD GO NUTS. Bob's fake-out got 'em every time. They'd roar and awww and holler. Meanwhile, Estelle nearly wets herself out of fear.

"Oh, no, folks, it'd just be too much, I couldn't!"

The crowd would loudly argue back that yes, he could.

So Bob would flip the card open and cheer.

"She got the FIFTY THOUSAND!"


The bell would start dinging, Estelle would leap onto Bob in an estatic bear hug dance of joy, "$50,000" would flash on the screen in big gaudy letters while the theme music triumphantly played, the audience would be on its feat stomping and screaming, and Bob would ad-lib right through it all.

"Yes, she did! She got the grand prize! She got th-- whoah, she just got me! Okay! All right! Allll right! Whew! Oh, look at her go. Look at Estelle and her family!" (Estelle, at this point, had run back into the audience to embrace her huge family.) "Fifty-thousand dollars, yes sir! That's three games played, three winners won, and the first Showcase Showdown is next after we do a little business with you!"

(11 comments | Leave a comment)


Date:November 2nd, 2006 05:53 am (UTC)
"Please have your pet spayed or neutered."

The Price is Right was and is one of my all-time favorite game shows. It just won't be the same without Bob.
Date:November 2nd, 2006 02:24 pm (UTC)
One of these days I gotta stay home sick from work and watch that again.
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Date:November 2nd, 2006 04:44 pm (UTC)
I learned how to price washers and dryers as a child by watching Bob hold court on that show every day. Truly an American treasure.

Remember, the winner is the closest to the actual retail price, without going over.
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Date:November 2nd, 2006 06:03 pm (UTC)
The most amazing thing of The Price is Right to me is that the show is essentially one giant sixty-minute commercial. Every prize, every item up for bids, every grocery item used in a pricing game gets its own hard sell, its own 10 or 30-second plug.

And we loved it.
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Date:November 2nd, 2006 07:19 pm (UTC)
Exactly. Who of our generation does NOT know that Rice-A-Roni is, in fact, the SAN FRANCISCO TREAT?
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Date:November 2nd, 2006 06:26 pm (UTC)
I'd love to bring a db-meter into the TPIR studio. I've been a lot of noisy places, but I remember that studio during Bob's introduction and entrance as one of the loudest of my life.
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Date:November 2nd, 2006 07:31 pm (UTC)
My parents have watched that show every morning since I can remember, them being restaurant folks who didn't have to get to work until 11am (it plays out here from 10-11). When they lost Johnny at night, Bob became all the more important.

My dad knows the trick to every game and the price of everything they have. I'm so sad my folks made it to see the show. I think my dad knew he'd never get picked. The trick to comin' on down was to have a gimmick. Cutest gal in the college group, funny t-shirt, military uniform, strange accent, incredible enthusiasm, or - best of all - a very large Samoan women. My mom said if she went her gimmick would be to say that my brother's first words were "Bob Barker" - not actually true but pretty close since he could name every game show host while still in diapers. My sister saw the show with her college friends and didn't get picked but did get on camera a few times. Her friend won a bedroom set. And my coworker's college roommate won BOTH showcases when he was on, including 3 cars. I'll miss that show.
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Date:November 3rd, 2006 12:48 am (UTC)
Being from South Dakota also improved your chances, I am told. Sadly, I've never been able to test this, as I've never even been to California, let alone TPIR.

My sophomore year of college, we went through this thing where each floor gave itself a South Dakota-specific "name," for whatever stupid reason. Ours was...something in Lakota, I can't remember what. But one of the floors named itself after Bob Barker, and TPIR gave them all tickets to the show. The floor's RA made it to contestant's row.

I loved watching that show as a kid...and it was always fun on those rare occasions when I was awake to watch it in my post-college years. Imagine my surprise and joy last year, when (while at work) I turned it on, and caught the greatest pricing game of all, Cliff Hangers.

Bob, we'll miss you.
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Date:November 3rd, 2006 01:16 am (UTC)
I loved Plinko. I always wished I could get on the show just to play that. That, and the game where the Alpine hiker yodeled his way up a mountain (was that Cliff Hangers?)

I also thought it was hysterical when some weak-ass contestant couldn't spin the wheel all the way around and Bob had to help spin it for them.
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Date:November 4th, 2006 06:26 am (UTC)
Christ, he's retiring? I thought he was dead. He was ancient when my great grandmother used to watch him back in the day.

Hooray that he gets to enjoy retirement, then. :)

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