Drew Carey host of The Price Is Right by Monty Brinton/CBS
Giggling at the antics of the slap-happy contestants who "come on down" at what he calls "the happiest place on Earth," Drew Carey looks like he's having a blast, and looks right at home, on the spiffed-up set of
The Price Is Right
as he takes over as host today. There's no fuss and no ceremony, and outside of the introduction telling us we're at the Bob Barker Studio in Television City, and that one of the games is still called "Barker's Bargain Bar," and that Carey chooses to sign off with the traditional plea to have your pets spayed, there's no actual homage to the former host as the new
And yet, probably the greatest tribute to Bob Barker is that the show goes on, and goes on effortlessly with its funny-looking new ringleader, who appears to be genuinely tickled at the breathless excitement of the frantic folks who come to play the game. When one of the contestants does a cartwheel after taking the stage, Carey quips: "What are you going to do if you win it?" (He also throws in a reference to the classic comedy routine "Slowly I turn . . ." which seems to go over everyone's head.) In short, he's the right guy for the job, and for as long as he wants it (can't imagine him sticking it out for 30-plus years unless the price really IS right), this man of the people will fit right in on the game show that still feels like TV's most open-door party.
Keeping on the theme of TV's lighter side, has anyone noted what a boom night Monday is for new comedies? Three engaging shows vie for attention in the 8 pm/ET hour, including NBC's spy caper
The Big Bang Theory
, which is developing into a keeper (thankfully, no more visits to the sperm bank for smarmy sex jokes), with great buddy chemistry between Jim Parsons (a real find as the obsessively fussy Sheldon) and Johnny Galecki's neurotic Leonard. When their other geeky genius friends visit (Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar), we're talking ensemble bliss. Tonight's episode sounds especially promising, with a guest appearance by Laurie Metcalf as Sheldon's mother. (That makes two
veterans to appear on the show so far alongside Galecki; Sara Gilbert did a funny bit last week as a female geek who Leonard asked for a kiss: or, in geekspeak, "a biosocial exploration with a neurochemical overlay.")
In the same time period (8:30 pm/ET), the CW's underwatched
Aliens in America
is a charming alternative and a great fit with
Everybody Hates Chris
. Tonight's episode is an excellent showcase for Adhir Kalyan as Raja, the Muslim exchange student Raja who remains sweet of soul even when the show gets a bit crude and obvious in scoring its punch lines. Raja's unsentimental education in the ways of American adolescence (and local prejudices) takes a new twist as he is forced to lie about the non-existent "rocket club" his buddy Justin made up as a way to hang in private with his nerdy, sex-obsessed friends. When Raja goes shopping for supplies to build an actual rocket to alleviate his guilt, you can imagine the complications, since everyone in town still seems to think Raja is a closet terrorist. This show manages to satirize prejudice in a topical way without seeming too heavy-handed, largely thanks to Kalyan's charming performance.
The newest welcome addition to the night, following on the high-stepping heels of
Dancing With the Stars
(at 9:30 pm/ET), is the sharp and slick
, a farce about amnesia, identity and reinvention that stars a very winning Christina Applegate as a woman who wakes from an eight-day coma with no memory of who she was, and the more she learns about herself to her horror, the more she'd like to forget.
"Bad Sam" (before the hit-and-run accident that put her in the hospital) was not a nice person, as we learn in occasional flashbacks of inexcusable behavior. New Sam, however, very much would like to be a better Sam, although she first has to mend fences with her estranged parents- Jean Smart is a hoot as her self-absorbed mother- and a nervous boyfriend (the terrifically appealing Barry Watson, bouncing back nicely from the forgettable
What About Brian
) who's oddly ambivalent about Samantha's reappearance. Doesn't take long for us to discover why. There's also strong support from
bubbly Melissa McCarthy and the sultry Jennifer Esposito as, respectively, the angel and devil sidekicks who battle for what's left of her soul. And Tim Russ, who mastered the deadpan as the dour Vulcan Tuvok on
Star Trek: Voyager
, provides the voice of calm reason as Frank the doorman, who has observed Sam at her worst for far too long.
Applegate is adorable in the title role: dithery and zany as befits a comic heroine, as Sam reacts to each revelation about her true character in dismay; but also possessed of an actual spine, as she sets about trying to rewind her life, repair the damage and make not only herself but everyone around her aim higher. Next week, we follow her to work, where New Sam's blunders are seen as wisdom by co-workers who still live in fear of Bad Sam. It's a fun situation, but as is often the case with high-concept shows, comedy or drama, you can't help wondering how long they can milk this premise before it gets old.
is also handicapped by ABC's inordinate fondness for the single-camera filmed comedy format, with busy graphics adding a veneer of sophistication when what you might prefer are the belly-laughs you get in the traditional sitcom set-ups so confidently displayed on CBS's Monday lineup.
Still, we can look at all of this comic activity on Mondays as a sign that TV comedy, despite the doom-and-gloom headlines, isn't quite dead yet.