Carey wasn't trying to imitate. But it was a little like moving into someone else's house, with all the furniture left behind. Under Richards' direction, the set and prizes gradually changed. While Barker looked natural offering a grandfather's clock as a prize, it seemed silly for Carey. Similarly, it's hard to imagine Barker mustering enthusiasm for a smartphone or iPod. The show now uses video to introduce a trip instead of static set pieces. Carey also seems comfortable with contestants who are excessive in their enthusiasm. Loud music keeps the energy up during breaks, when Carey isn't telling jokes or talking to audience members.
"Everyone was worried when Bob left," Carey said. "A lot of people on the show thought they were going to lose their jobs and the show was going to be off the air. They had trouble finding a host. He was 'The Price Is Right.'
"What they found out, I think, was that 'The Price Is Right' is bigger than whoever is hosting the show. The host is an important part of the show, don't get that mistaken," he said, laughing. "But you've got a whole group of people who put together the show."
Carey, who is 55, isn't under the impression he has a lifetime appointment.
"I have to constantly think of new things to keep the show fresh," he said. "I have to constantly be witty and funny with the audience. I have to consistently be on. ... What I have to do is I have to make sure the way I do the job is they can't imagine anybody else coming in here and doing it better — not without having a couple of years to do better."
He is doing well by television's traditional report card. The show is up 14 percent in viewers over last season, and its average of 5.54 million viewers each day compares favorably to 5.42 million during Barker's final season. "Drew has exceeded expectations," said Angelica McDaniel, the CBS executive in charge of daytime programming.