Veteran TV host Bob Barker to retire after 50 years

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Veteran TV host Bob Barker plans to retire from “The Price Is Right” in June after 35 years as emcee of America’s longest-running game show and five decades on network television, CBS said on Tuesday.

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Barker, 82, who launched his national television career in December 1956 as host of another long-running game show, NBC’s popular “Truth or Consequences,” said he was ready to take a break from the hectic pace of taping five shows a week.

“One of the reasons for my retirement is it is really a demanding schedule for me at my age,” Barker told Reuters, adding that he wanted to devote more time to charitable work.

The tall, lanky entertainer, who grew up on a South Dakota Indian reservation where his mother taught school, got his start in radio and also emceed the Miss USA and Miss Universe Pageants for 21 years.

An avid animal rights activist, Barker resigned from the national pageant circuit in 1988 because producers of those shows refused to remove fur coats from the prize packages.

But the Emmy-winning star is most closely associated with “The Price Is Right,” which he has hosted since the program began its current run on CBS in 1972. He is estimated to have awarded more than $200 million in prizes during his career.

Now in its 35th consecutive season, “The Price Is Right” long ago surpassed “What’s My Line,” which aired for 18 years, as the longest-running game show on U.S. television.

The show currently airs two half-hour editions weekdays and ranks as the second- and third-most watched broadcasts on daytime television. The later edition averages more than 5.5 million viewers a day, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Show contestants, beckoned to the stage when the announcer calls “Come on down!,” compete for prizes by coming as close as they can to guessing the actual value of those prizes without going over.

Barker said his affable, easy-going style in handling players whose exuberance at times borders on hysteria was a skill that came naturally to him but improved with experience. He credited the contestants with keeping the show fresh.

“That game is different with each contestant’s personality, and that is what has made it interesting for me,” he said. “Working with unrehearsed contestants, creating spontaneous entertainment, that’s what I’ve done for all these years, and I’ve enjoyed it.”

He said the most memorable moment on the show was when a young female contestant’s tube top slipped when she jumped up and down with excitement, exposing both breasts.

Barker, one of TV’s first game show hosts to let his hair turn naturally gray-white, broke the late Johnny Carson’s record for continuous performances on the same network show in April 2002. Carson retired in 1992 after more than 29 years as host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show.”

CBS spokesman Chris Ender said “The Price Is Right” will continue after Barker leaves, “but it’s premature to discuss any transition plans right now. Our focus now will be giving Bob a proper send-off.”