Bob Barker, who died on Saturday at the age of 99, leaves a lasting impact on the game show and entertainment world as the longtime host of The Price Is Right.
Barker, who helmed the popular game show from 1972 until 2007, maintained a dedicated audience and created a cross-generational appeal for 35 years. He taped his last episode at age 83.
He’d go on to earn 18 Daytime Emmys for his hosting and producing efforts with the longest-running daytime game show in North American television history, according to the Television Academy. He was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for Daytime television in 1999.
Experts praise Barker for the way he remained relevant throughout the decades.
“He understood kind of an older mentality of show business that the show always goes on and the host always has a smile and puts people at ease, and day after day after day, he executed it with perfection,” Craig Loftin, an American studies lecturer and U.S. pop culture history expert at California State University, Fullerton, tells Yahoo Entertainment.
Loftin says he learned a lot by watching Barker on TV since he was a kid, crediting the game show host for the style in which he teaches his college courses. He was even able to see Barker live in action by attending a taping of The Price Is Right in 1995.
“There was something so inviting and appealing about the way he hosted that show that instantly made you feel like you were a part of it when you were watching it on TV,” he says.
After attending the taping, Loftin says, “It really dawned on me just that this was really hard work, that what he was doing was a very tough job.”
Barbara Barna Abel, a multimedia coach and host of the Camera Ready & Abel podcast, tells Yahoo Entertainment what made Barker so singular was that “he stayed relevant while he stayed true to himself.”
“He let his hair go gray, he appeared in Happy Gilmore,” Abel says. “He was on TV my entire life until he retired. ‘Come on down!’ is baked into my brain and a phrase my family and friends still use.”
Abel now trains hosts and emcees and believes they should take notes from Barker as one of the “pantheon of greats.”
“Running a game is hard; that’s why so few people do it successfully, and he made it look so easy, so natural,” he says.
The Price Is Right wasn’t even Barker’s first game show gig.
“Before he did 35 years on The Price Is Right, which didn’t quite make it to [Alex] Trebek’s 37 [years hosting Jeopardy!], he had almost 20 [years] on Truth or Consequences for a total of 51 [years hosting],” Robert Thompson, the founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture and a trustee professor at Newhouse School of Public Communication, tells Yahoo Entertainment. “He had two iconic game shows, one that lasted two decades and then another that lasted three and a half for a total of over a half a century.”
Still, Barker didn’t evade controversy in his long career. In 1993, he was sued by a former Price Is Right model, Dian Parkinson, for sexual harassment and wrongful termination. The lawsuit was ultimately dropped in 1995.
“That story was out there. It was talked about, it certainly wasn’t buried,” Thompson said, but “it did not seem to stop his career.”
Beyond his game show hosting duties, Barker will also be remembered for his relentless advocacy for animals, as he closed each episode with, “Have your pets spayed or neutered. Goodbye, everybody!”
His long-running image, in addition to his efforts outside the game show studio, is why he will be remembered more than a host like Johnny Carson, Thompson explained, because young people don’t typically watch reruns of old late night shows.
“Twenty years from now, when The Price Is Right is associated with Drew Carey and Bob Barker is old news, people are still going to be watching Happy Gilmore and SpongeBob Squarepants and Bob Barker by managing to insert himself into those kind of ongoing classics,” Thompson said.