Wednesday, July 25, 2007

(sarcasm mode on)

Chip called me after a rare weeknight at the bar. What a treat. (sarcasm mode off)

So Drew Carey will now be instructing people how to play Plinko, the Range Game and Five Price Tags on “The Price is Right.”

That can’t be too hard to do, even if there are more than 70 pricing games in the show's rotation. Bob Barker always did it in an authoritative manner. Carey seems too conversational and matter-of-fact for the gig. He may have done well with his “Whose Line is it Anyway?” hosting duties, but that was allegedly comedy improv, not a game. (I’m not convinced it was genuine improv.)

Barker developed great comedic schtick as host, but his role as emcee always prevailed. I don’t expect Carey to turn his TPIR hosting responsibilities into a stage for his wit, but will he find the right balance between his hosting duties and his comedic personality? Time will tell.

Am I thrilled with him as Barker’s replacement? No. Am I unhappy? No.

Several people auditioned for the show. A few seemed to remain in the running this spring. One was Mark Steines, an anchor on “Entertainment Tonight.” I haven’t watched that show in years, so I couldn’t pick him out of a police lineup, but he seemed like a reasonable choice. He’s a broadcaster, not a comedian, which I find favorable. I am not a fan of taking a nationally known comedian and making him the host of a game show, a formula the networks seem to rely upon for most of their big money prime time games these days. I like my game show hosts to be old school emcees, so I think I’d have learned to like Steines in a hurry.

George Hamilton, an actor whose credits I couldn’t recite to save my soul, was another choice. (Is he famous for anything besides his tan?) He was older than most, if not all, of those considered for the job. I see so little of that guy that I can’t rate how good or bad of a choice he’d likely be, but I wasn’t high on the idea.

The few game show websites I read are in love with Todd Newton. He’s a relative unknown, but is probably the best choice out there if you’re looking for a traditional emcee who isn’t a veteran, a la Pat Sajak and Chuck Woolery. (It’s hard to believe Sajak is 60. He’s less than six years younger than Woolery. I knew Woolery was in his 60s, but I would have guessed Sajak was 55 or younger.)

Newton has hosted game shows, but he’s only 37, so his game show resume is limited largely to Game Show Network original programs which don’t seem to find a casual audience. It’s a network for the hardcore gamers, like me.

Newton has also hosted other programming, including shows on E! and some short-lived show on FOX. I think he has a B-level pageant to his credit, too, as well as segments during last summer’s “Game Show Marathon” on CBS. He’s well connected to the game show world – in an era where that world is smaller than it was when he was growing up – so he’d be a logical choice.

Newton has even hosted the casino version of the TPIR, which is offered in Vegas, and elsewhere I think. Basically you buy a ticket and watch a non-televised version of the show, using the actual stage props from the show. Contestants are randomly picked and given a chance to play for much smaller prizes than on TV. I would like to attend one of those shows, but last time I was in Vegas they were charging $40 for a ticket, and I have seen the real thing for free.

I’m not a big fan of Newton and I’m not sure why. He’s not bad, and the material he has hosted hasn’t been top shelf. Despite that he has done a good job, and seems to have genuine enthusiasm for the games he hosts. For some reason I just didn’t care for him as the new host of TPIR. Had he been chosen, as I expected, I wouldn’t have been bothered by it, but I wasn’t rooting for him.

Rosie O’Donnell claimed she was offered the job. Depending on who or what news source you want to believe, she wanted to “gay up” the show by replacing female models with male hunks and reducing the show to four games during the hour, allowing her more time to “chat” with contestants and demonstrate that she’s really not very funny. She claims she was offered the job and turned it down because she couldn’t get the show moved to New York or the taping schedule compressed to allow her to tape a month worth of shows in a week.

One report I read said she had just one meeting with executives and was immediately dismissed because of her desire to recreate the show to her liking. If that’s true, does she have any clue the show has been successful for 35 years in its present format?

She would have been a disaster, but I had no doubt she wouldn’t get the job, so I wasn’t too concerned about speculation she was in the running.

Carey emerged as a late contender, largely based upon his performance during test runs of his new big money prime time game “Power of 10,” debuting next month. Funny, CBS chose an out-of-work comedian to host a big money game. But Carey did something to impress execs enough to consider him for a more traditional game show. I hope their assessment is right.

So who would I have chosen? Somebody who wasn’t considered, to the best of my knowledge: Rich Fields.

Fields, 46, became the show’s third permanent announcer in 2004. He’s obviously familiar with the show, and the audience is familiar with him. Although he hasn’t hosted a game show before, he has a broadcasting background. And while there aren’t a lot of examples in game show history, there have been instances in the past where a show’s announcer has replaced the departing host. That practice may have been limited to the 1950s and ‘60s, but Fields wouldn’t have been an illogical choice in 2007. I enjoy his work, he looks like a game show host and he has better qualifications than Carey, so he would have been a decent choice, but it wasn't to be. I wasn’t surprised.

At this point I hope I’ll be pleasantly surprised by Carey this fall.

1 comment:

Dinesh Ramde said...

Dude, you're fascinating. You really do care a lot about this show.

I wouldn't have thought you were in the producers' target demographics, but apparently you're an ultra-loyal viewer.

Considering I never watch the show, I was glad Carey got the job. I'm a big fan of "Whose Line," and even though I figured they could bring some preplanned lines in to some games, I never questioned whether it was real improv.

I like his conversational manner and his every-guy persona. So I might actually TiVo the show occasionally just to see how he does.