Drew Carey, The Price Is Right
Drew Carey has the cold sweats, but not because he's worried about replac­ing Bob Barker as the new host of The Price Is Right. The guy is sick — bad sick — and he's in his dressing room at CBS in Hollywood down­ing Theraflu and popping vitamins like mad. Carey really should go home, but there's no rest for the overemployed. Today he still needs to shoot two more epi­sodes of Price, then grab a plane to New York City to tape his other CBS game show, the prime-time Power of 10.

It doesn't help that he's also nursing a bum wrist, which he crushed in a much-reported mishap with a turntable door during an early Price rehearsal. When he makes his on-air debut Oct. 15 (check local listings), he'll still be wearing a splint that he says "made me hold up my arm all stiff across my stomach. I look like Colonel Klink." Still, he soldiers on. "This is just crazy, man," says Carey, 49, as he prepares to go on stage. "Driving over here this morning, I'm thinking, 'Why am I on TV? I've got money. Am I out of my mind?'"

His body aches so much he winces, but Carey is a sucker for a crowd, and the energy emanating from the studio audience is almost atomic. He quickly peps up. "When I came out on stage for my first taping, I just about cried," he says. "This is iconic TV, and it means so much to the folks out there. This show is not about the host or the games. It's about the audience." When the taping starts, he throws himself into the competitions with kidlike zeal, truly thrilled whenever anybody wins anything, no matter how small or dopey the prize. When one female player is accidentally scratched by another player's wristwatch, he hops off the stage to sit with the bleeding woman until a studio para­medic is found.

He's notice­ably moved by the revival-house feelings in the room — how everyone roots so boisterously for the contestants — and when the show concludes, he urges the crowd to try to hold onto those feelings. "I really believe in the Zen of The Price Is Right," he says afterward. "When we wish others well, we feel great. And we can feel that way all the time. We have that choice in this world."

Ah, choices. Producers of the long-running game show (now in its 35th year on CBS) were faced with a big one when Barker announced his retirement last year (he'd hosted the show since its CBS debut in 1972). The hunt for a replace­ment was extensive. "It started getting scary," says Barbara Bloom, CBS' senior VP of daytime programs, acknowl­edging the network's difficulty in finding the perfect host. According to backstage buzz, George Hamilton dazzled the CBS suits with his Barker-esque charm but had trouble memorizing the games. Entertainment Tonight's Mark Steines was considered too slick, actor John O'Hurley too robotic. Others tested include Ian Ziering, Mario Lopez and E!'s Todd New­ton. Negotiations with Rosie O'Donnell fizzled, at least in part because the former View cohost didn't want to move to Los Angeles.

Then came Drew. "He had been on our early wish list but he wasn't interested," Bloom says. "Then he did the Power of 10 pilot for us and we knew he was our man." Typical of Carey, he got the offer to host Price via cell phone when he was eat­ing at a Cracker Barrel in North Carolina. "I try not to put on airs," he says. "Bob and Drew," says producer Roger Dobkowitz, "are apples and oranges except in two respects: They both love and respect this game, and nei­ther is a phony."

Carey will keep Barker's end-of-show plea to spay and neuter pets, but the prize-toting models known as Barker's Beauties "will not become Drew's Dolls or Carey's Cuties," Dob­kowitz says. "Drew wants them referred to individually and by their real names." As for other alterations, Carey sees no point. "People keep asking if I'm going to change anything, and I'm like, 'What, are you kid­ding?'" he says. "That would be like inventing New Coke or making TV Guide bigger. You'd have to be crazy."

You can cheer on previous Price contestants in clips in our Online Video Guide.

Go behind the scenes with our exclusive look at Dancing with the Stars in the Oct. 15 issue of TV Guide. Plus: Dr. Phil offers Britney some tough-love advice. Try four risk-free issues now!

Send your comments on this feature to letters@tvguide.com.