Drew Carey started his hosting duties on The Price is Right Monday, taking over for Bob Barker after the rangy emcee retired with 35 under his belt, and the first thing I noticed was how much faster Carey talks. I’ll admit, I had not watched this CBS prize-giveaway institution since I was a grade schooler whiling away summer morning hours in the thrall of daytime game shows. But I remember Barker’s methodical baritone, usually a balancing, calming force opposite the hyperventilating cost guessers standing next to him onstage.
Carey has a less stentorian, more machine-gun style of delivery — he may have the crewcut-and-hornrimmed look of a ’60s TV host, but that’s where the similarity to those mannered ringleaders ends — and part of me hoped his move-it-along pace would allow for a professional comic’s ad-libbing in between the shout-outs to the announcer and descriptions of how each goofy consumer-goods game is played. On the show I watched, he got off one quick one — “I love you, Drew, thank you” one woman declared upon rushing to his side from the audience, to which Carey replied, “I like you as a friend” — but mostly Carey seemed earnestly intent on keeping this still defiantly unslick production rolling along, although he did always seem genuinely tickled by contestants’ unvarnished, shameless excitement at winning ski equipment or new wheels or a trip.
But this is a road-tested, sitcom-hardened, improv-advocating joke teller we’re talking about here. Maybe he’s just trying to get past the karaoke period of mouthing a legend’s lines — even continuing Barker’s tradition of pleading at the end to control pet populations — before turning the show into his own. In any case, let’s hope Carey doesn’t wind up the “spayed and neutered” one.