Tuned In

Drew Carey Comes On Down

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Robert Voets/CBS

The Fox Business Network launched this morning, but there was a major change today at a more important TV chronicle of the American marketplace. Drew Carey took over The Price Is Right.

The gods smiled on Carey, or at least his contestants, his first time out: every player won their pricing game, for only the 77th “perfect show” in TPIR history, Carey crowed. The first spinner in his first Showcase Showdown spun $1.00 exactly on her first spin, in the second one, a spinner did the trick in two whirls. The Showcase winner walked off with a day’s total north of $45,000. At this rate, Carey may bankrupt his employer. (The shows are pre-taped in bunches, of course, so for all I know CBS may have cherry-picked the most fortuitous to run first.)

So how did Carey himself do? We already know, from Power of Ten and Whose Line Is It Anyway?, that Carey is a good host; and the art of TV hosting is the not-as-easy-as-it-looks job of being yourself on TV. And I thought Carey was better at being himself this morning than he was at being Bob Barker.

He’s made no major changes to TPIR–the games, the showcases, the models–but where Barker hosted as a wry uncle, Carey is the genially smart-assed cousin. Showing off an electronic Sudoku game, for instance, he snarked: “You’ll never be bored again if you have this Sudoku game. No more boredom again, ever in your whole life!” On the other hand, he seemed a little uncomfortable delivering the more familiar Barkerisms: he stumbled on the spay-and-neuter your pets line, for instance, and sounded self-conscious asking, “What’s our first item up for bids on the Prrrr-ice Is Right?”

So far that awkwardness is more charming than off-putting. With his trademark tight stance and huge, squinty grin, he seemed to be thinking, “I can’t believe I’m hosting the freaking Price Is Right! Me!” And although Carey’s funnier when he can work blue or at least risque, he was probably as funny as he should be without overwhelming the game. He’s good enough for now, and it looks like the TPIR format can run itself well enough while he figures out how to make it his own.

But then again, I’m not the audience Carey needs to win over. Stay-at-home moms and dads, retirees and flu-ridden students of America, what say you?