Today marked Bob Barker’s final day as host of The Price Is Right, and I’m pleased to report I only teared up three times during the hour-long telecast: Once as Bob announced the first item up for bids to thunderous applause, then again as the first “new car!” of the episode was introduced, and finally, as a contestant named Philip (who’d waited in line for five days to score a spot in the studio audience) started to lose his composure as he made it on stage for an (ultimately unsuccessful) edition of “Any Number.”
I’m not going to say I’m embarrassed about my mini-display of waterworks. (If you’re with me, come on down!) After all, along with Sesame Street, the Muppets, and Spectacular Bid’s Kentucky Derby, Bob Barker is responsible for some of my earliest (and fondest) TV memories; plus, he was a staple of my grade-school summer vacations and countless sick days as an adult. To me, Barker hearkens back to a different era — maybe it’s the pre-irony era? — in which you could spend more than three decades enthusiastically helping contestants master “Grocery Game” or “Plinko,” yet still be the height of cool. (Come ON, at 83, the guy is still a total fox.) And on his last day of work, Barker showed the skills that have made him an enduring and beloved pop-culture icon There he was shouting, “He’s on his feet! He’s on his feet!” after burly Canadian contestant Dean took a spill sprinting to contestant’s row. And how about his farewell to contestant Melba, who almost hit her head, then fell to the ground, during her two unsuccessful turns at the Price Is Right wheel: “I want you to get off here before you get hurt!” The guy is funny, quick on his feet, and isn’t afraid of hugging. He’s gonna be damn near impossible to replace.
Anyhow, on this sappy, emotional note, I leave you with Barker’s parting words from his final show: “Now, folks, I want to thank you very, very much for inviting me into your homes for the last 50 years. I am deeply grateful. And please remember: Help control the pet population — have your pet spayed or neutered. Goodbye everyone!”