POSTED BY STUART LEVINE
Bob Barker, you're priceless... and, it seems, irreplaceable.
That's the message CBS entertainment topper Nina Tassler was telling a roomful of critics, when one of them (yours truly) asked why it's taken so long for the network to find a replacement for Bob Barker as the host of classic gameshow "The Price Is Right."
Barker held the skinny mic at "Price" for an astonishing 35 years and retired over a month ago but gave notice in 2006. Granted, finding someone to fill those shoes is a tough assignment -- almost as difficult as winning a Showcase Showdown -- but there doesn't seem to be any sense of urgency over at the Eye to get a new guy (or gal) in place for the transition.
Drew Carey is currently the leading candidate but sources say they're stuck in contract negotiations.
"It's a truly daunting task," Tassler said of hiring someone new that can be as popular and charasmatic as Barker. "There's everyone in the world and then there's Bob Barker."
Normally, the show would start shooting any week now for the new season but everyone over at "Price" -- from producers to others on the staff -- are left feeling helpless until a new host is named.
Tassler said auditions were held during Barker's final months on the air, including George Hamilton (a Les Moonves favorite), Mark Steines ("Entertainment Tonight"), Mario Lopez, local weatherman Mark Kriski and even Ian Ziering. And then there was the Rosie O'Donnell talk, which seemed more bluster than serious consideration.
So when will a new host be named? There's no way to tell, and little indication of when it might happen.
"Hopefully, we can make the decision soon," Tassler said.
Yeah, sooner rather than later would be good, before the giant wheel begins to rust.
-- Stuart Levine