What Bob Barker Means To Me
Christian Carrion shares his thoughts on the passing of the game show legend.
Listen to this article narrated by Christian Carrion.
Life can get away from you when you’re busy. And life has been very busy for me personally. I’ve had a lot of incredible opportunities—I’m getting ready to record the first live episode of Tell Us About Yourself in D.C. this weekend; I just had the time of my life recording a commercial for an unrelated prescription drug company a few days ago: they flew me to Los Angeles, I had an incredible time, I got to see some friends, catch up and touch some game shows, which is always helpful.
I thought that today on September 4th, the 51st anniversary of the premiere of The Price is Right, I would share some thoughts on the passing of Bob Barker. This is old news to a lot of us. His death was announced a little over a week ago at this point, and it’s been mentioned in news articles, and Facebook posts, and tweets, seemingly by the thousands.
I don’t know that I took the time to process the loss. Being a fan of game shows and being involved in game shows to the degree with which I’m involved in game shows is an interesting sort of double-edged sword. I remember a few years ago, my executive producer of this podcast—and my best friend and my partner in BuzzerBlog and Pacdude Games—Cory Anotado reached out to me. This must have been about 2017. He said, “We should write an obituary for Bob Barker. Not to wish anything ill on him, but, news outlets are prepared in that way, and it might be a good idea to, along those same lines, prepare.”
And so I did. And I remember writing that article and putting a sort of placeholder symbol for the age and tracking his career. (I didn’t need to do a lot of research for that because Bob Barker was somebody that I’ve idolized for years. His on air persona, his ability to take interesting people and make them the center of attention and get a show out on time and be entertaining and funny with unscripted people) All those abilities have been a source of inspiration for me as I make my journey, such as it is. I didn’t need to do a lot of Googling or figuring out, you know, when Truth or Consequences started, when he started hosting The Price Is Right, how long he’s been doing, it’s been a memorable thing… A lot of it a second nature.
Writing that article was a turning point for me because it was a realization that I was no longer just the kid who was watching The Price Is Right on the couch when he was sick from school. There’s a very human side to the entertainment that we watch and writing Bob Barker’s obituary, as it turns out, six years before he passed away was a great reminder of that.
I turned 18 about a month before he retired from the show. He announced his retirement back in October and something pulled me towards Los Angeles. I said, “I needed to go. I need to go see that show.” And I did. I did need to go see that show. I needed to get there before he went away. And I won’t echo the sentiments that have been shared by people across the country over the past few days. But suffice to say The Price Is Right was an enormous part of my life in watching Bob Barker, watching him do his thing, watching him host the show with my parents, it being a family event when we were home in the morning. It was just a huge element of my life. And I owe a lot of my personality, my creative drive, my passion for the things that I love—I owe it to people like Bob Barker. He was definitely at the top of that list of people to which I owe this this debt.
So I needed to go and I went. Episode number 4003K taped on May 15th 2007 at 4:30 p.m.. I think about that time in the studio in Los Angeles with people who love the show, experiencing that part for the first time. Being around other game show lovers for the first time. Being at CBS Television City Studio 33 of the Bob Barker Studio. Then getting called up as a contestant and running to Contestant’s Row and shouting my bids into the microphone and making eye contact with Bob as I gave my ridiculous bids, and then making it up on stage and shaking his hand and speaking into his microphone and being shown a car and freaking out and playing the game and losing the car and spinning the wheel and shaking his hand again. All of these micro-interactions add up to a complete page turn in my life.
Now I know that there are other people that are in charge of the various elements of the show. Bob was one piece of a massive machine that produced that show day in, day out for 35 years. And so I hold no naive notion that Bob selected me to be on this show. I think that was a choice by committee. All of those micr- interactions add up to a just a complete beginning of a new chapter. That was the day that I became a game show contestant, and there was no looking back. Something transformed in me as a result of making it onto that show and meeting Bob and fulfilling what felt like a cosmic duty.
And then I got to meet him again.
I met him in New York. He had just released his autobiography, Priceless Memories. This was in 2009. And I took the train from Connecticut to New York, and I waited in line for hours at Barnes and Noble on Park Avenue. And my copy was the first book that he signed. And I had read it cover to cover on the way in. And he was surprised that I had read the whole book. I had my name tag as a bookmark, and you read it and said, Huh, Christian? And I knew he wouldn’t remember me. He’s met tens of thousands of people. And while I have incredibly fond memories of my time on the show, I know that it’s just a drop in the bucket for a guy like Bob. I had the opportunity to tell him that being on the show really changed my life and, you know, two years after the show, I don’t know that I had even begun to experience 10% of the transformation that the validation of that experience brought me.
So, 2023. Bob passes away. And isn’t it funny that the first responsibility of this version of myself is to make sure the obituary is spelled correctly and has the correct date and correct year of this birth and correct age. And in that rush of getting the article out, sharing the article, responding to the people who messaged me as though I lost a loved one—which I guess I did—in that rush. It’s easy to get carried away and distracted. It’s easy to decide that you need to compartmentalize that sense of loss, that grief.
It’s funny that for as long as I’ve been a fan of game shows, deep down, to a certain degree, I think that I still feel like the people around me won’t understand. On its surface, it almost sounds like a Saturday Night Live sketch. Man walks into a party, burst into tears because Bob Barker died. And so. I totally consider this a fault, but I don’t know that I’ve completely developed the trust to communicate to the people around me how sad this kind of thing makes me. And I’m grateful to have an outlet through which I can communicate that grief.
I feel a little bit shameful that it took me so long to process this loss, and I’ll tell you what really helped that along. A couple of days ago, CBS aired a tribute episode of The Price Is Right. It was all about Bob Barker, and it was all about his time on the show, his time before the show on Truth or Consequences, his appearances on TV shows and in movies. They played Happy Gilmore and they did the whole thing. Watching it as it wrapped up, as it got close to the hour mark, I realized that I had always wondered what the show would do when Bob passed away.
One of the elements of broadcasting that’s always fascinated me is, how does one deal with the unpredictable; when something happens that’s not in the script; when something happens, that’s completely outside of the host’s control; how does that host pick up the ball and run? I think about it like chess, to be honest with you. How do you make that next move? What do you do? How do you get out of check? And so to that end, I always wondered what The Price is Right would do once it lost its host. And with the airing of this tribute episode, that question has now been answered. While there’s a bit of closure involved in that, it’s also a little surreal.
I also make no qualms about the fact that as I got older, I learned more about The Price is Right and I learned more about Bob Barker. And I learned more about the human side of a person that I considered to be immortal in my youth. Bob was a complicated person; again, being as involved in this world of game shows that I am to the degree to which I’m involved, you learn things about the people that you grew up watching, that you wish you didn’t know, that you wish you didn’t learn. It’s almost like growing up and thinking, your parents are superheroes. And as you become a teenager and even older than that, realizing that they have their they have their quirks, they have their weaknesses, they have their foibles, they have their faults like any other human. That’s a part of his legacy that I’ve become comfortable acknowledging.
But I think that as a lover of game shows, and as a lover of his style of hosting, and as a fan of his, and a fan of his career and everything he’s done from a television standpoint, right now, I’m just feeling the loss of somebody who imparted a lot of lessons to me. Someone who taught me a lot about this thing that I wanted to do with my life. There aren’t many game show hosts that are better than Bob Barker. You’d be hard pressed to find them. There are a lot of people out there on TV right now that are doing their best Bob Barker impression, but it will always pale in comparison.
I apologize if everybody is sort of over it at this point. But like I said, life tends to fly away from me sometimes. So I thought that I would take this little bit of time to acknowledge the passing of Bob Barker, one of the greatest game show host who ever lived. Somebody who inspired me to do this exact thing that I’m doing right now. I am talking into a microphone because people like him, people like Bob Barker, taught me that this was the thing to do and, in their own way, taught me how to do it well. And I can only hope that I’ll ever be one-hundredths of a thousandth as good as he was.