Bob Barker is officially retired. The 83-year-old daytime television icon will appear Friday on his last episode of “The Price Is Right,” ending his 35- year tenure on the CBS game show and 50 years on television.
“I thank you, thank you, thank you for inviting me into your home for more than 50 years. I’m truly grateful, and I hope that all of you have enjoyed your visit to ‘The Price Is Right,”‘ Barker told the studio audience after the cameras stopped rolling at last week’s taping.
The episode is scheduled to air twice June 15: once at its usual time and again that evening. Reruns of Barkerhosted shows will play until the new season premieres in the fall. Among the reported candidates to replace Barker are Todd Newton of the E! network, Mark Steines of “Entertainment Tonight,” George Hamilton and John O’Hurley.
“You’re never going to be able to find somebody who’s just like Bob Barker,” said Cecile Frot-Coutaz, chief executive of FremantleMedia North America, which produces “The Price Is Right.” “They’re very large shoes to fill.”
Barker ended his record tenure by blowing kisses and working in the same low-key, genial fashion that made him one of daytime TV’s biggest stars. He closed the show with his usual, “Help control the pet population, have your pets spayed or neutered. Goodbye everybody.”
Later, Barker was humble when asked what qualities have made him an American favorite for half a century.
“Hosts of shows are like pie,” he said during a post-show press conference. “Some people like lemon, some like cherry, some like apple, and fortunately a lot of them like the Barker kind.”
He said the key to his success is listening.
“When I talk with someone, I listen. And I think if you do, you’re going to find little nuggets of gold to go with.”
Barker answered questions from the audience during commercial breaks in the taping. “Someone asked, will I spend my mornings watching ‘The Price Is Right’? In as few words as possible, no,” he quipped. He quickly conceded, however, that curiosity might get the better of him.
He said the only souvenir he planned to take with him from the “Price” studio was the sign from his dressing room door. “The guys put up a sign that (says) WGMC, world’s greatest master of ceremonies.”
Barker began his national television career in 1956 as the host of the game show “Truth or Consequences.” He first appeared on “The Price Is Right” on Sept. 4, 1972, and has been the face of the show ever since.
For 35 years, he has played the same games with contestants and filmed from the same spot – Studio 33, also know as the Bob Barker Studio – at CBS Television City.
“The only thing that’s changed on ‘The Price Is Right’ is the color of my hair,” the silver haired Barker said during a CBS prime-time tribute show that aired last month.
Barker has influenced the show’s prizes over the years, said longtime producer Roger Dobkowitz.
“Because he’s a vegetarian, we respect his wishes and we don’t advertise meat products on the show,” he said. At Barker’s request, they also stopped giving away fur coats.
The host’s long reign has also inspired fan traditions. Most female contestants – and even some men – kiss him on the cheek. Members of the military wear their uniforms. College students wear their university sweat shirts and groups of fans come in matching custom-made Tshirts.
As the legendary host counted down his last days on the air, fans from around the country made pilgrimages to Los Angeles to see him. Dozens camped out overnight near CBS studios for a chance to say goodbye during Barker’s final week of shows.