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Drew Carey is no Bob Barker. Not yet, anyway.

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Drew_lIn the interest of full disclosure, I groaned audibly(and maybe even swore like my name was Annie Barrett) when I heard the newsthat Drew Carey was taking over as host of The Price Is Right. But then again,it’s hard to imagine my favorite childhood game show emceed by anyone otherthan the now-retired Bob Barker.

Since today marked Carey’s first day on the job, Ithought I’d tune in from “Come on down!” to “ShowcaseShowdown” and see how he fared. The good news is, The Price Is Right doesnot succeed and thrive on its host alone, but rather on the contestants whoconvulse with excitement over the prospect of winning a dinette set, some”fun scuba equipment,” or A NEW CAR! There was Bernard, Carey’s firstcontestant, ignoring the host’s pleas to focus on the game, and instead walkingoff camera to inspect the new Jeep up for grabs (and get a hug from one ofBarker’s Carey’s beauties). There was Peggy, an older woman in a “ClevelandRocks” T-shirt, her face a mask of elation, panic, and terror as shecompeted to win “a trip to exotic Bali!”And best of all was Aura, who performed a hand-spring upon taking the stage,nearly had a nervous breakdown trying to decide whether it was the cat food orthe hemorrhoid cream that cost $6.99, then finally leapt into the air andcollapsed on her back after winning $16,000. I was howling with laughter, butat the same time, I felt a little choked-up. No need to tell me that’s tragic.

addCredit(“The Price Is Right: Robert Voets”)

Carey had a couple good moments, telling Aura he likedher “as a friend” after she threw her arms around him and declared,”I love you, Drew,” and keeping with Barker’s fine tradition ofclosing the show with a message about controlling the pet population. But tohis detriment, Carey lacks Barker’s innate charm and slickness; he doesn’tinspire “I want to be on stage next to that guy!” tinglies. What’smore, Carey needs to stop repeatedly calling contestants “buddy” (toocasual!), quit trying to force the funny and let the contestants’ natural anticsprovide the laughs (his insistence that a female contestant make pleas to the”mighty sound-effects person” was painful), and be sure never losecontrol of the game (he let Aura change her answer on “It’s in theBag” after soliciting audience opinion).

That said, I didn’t dislikeCarey’s hosting debut as much as I’d expected, except for the fact that it feltlike the producers had rigged the game, or at least made it super easy, toensure all six contestants won their respective games; a “perfectshow” has only happened 76 times in Price history, Carey noted. Plus, bothShowcase Showdowners scored $1,000 bonuses for one-dollar spins. Carey himself,I’d say he spun something around 60 cents, and while that’s not bad for DayOne, he’s got a lot of change to collect till he can be mentioned in the samebreath as Barker. And sorry, that metaphor hurt me more than it hurt you.