Drew Carey, <EM>The Price Is Right</EM> Drew Carey, The Price Is Right

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.