‘The Price Is Right’: Why the Show’s Ratings Went Up when Host Bob Barker Went Gray

by John Jamison

Bob Barker is one of the most legendary television hosts of all time. He hosted “The Price is Right” from 1972-2007. And he must have been doing something right because the show is still going strong to this day. He hasn’t been at the helm the entire time, however.

Drew Carey took over in 2007, but it wasn’t because people disliked an aging Bob Barker. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest “The Price is Right” host actually boosted the ratings by appearing older. To get to the bottom of it, we have to go back to the 1980s. We have to go back to the time when a younger Barker started getting gray hair.

“I was prematurely gray. I began to gray at my temples, and I guess it could be that technology at that time was not what it is today, but I didn’t look good,” Barker told the Los Angeles Times in a 1990 interview. “It looked like I had no hair at my temples, so they suggested I tint it.”

And so Bob Barker started tinting his hair. But over time, it started to turn weird colors. Until one day on vacation, he decided that he’d let it go.

“When I came home the people on the show said, ‘You look better this way than you do with it dyed or tinted. Why don’t you leave it this way?'” He continued in the interview.

People Loved ‘The Price is Right’ Host’s New Look

Barker claimed that “The Price is Right” ratings improved as a result of his gray locks. And that doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Bob Barker is quite the silver fox. But it wasn’t exactly a seamless transition.

“The Price is Right,” like most high profile game shows, tapes its’ episodes ahead of time.

“We taped ahead. So let’s say on the Wednesday show I had dark hair, but when we taped the next show I had gray hair and that show aired on Thursday,” Barker said in 1990. “I got a letter from a fellow who said, ‘Bob, you must have had one hell of a night.'”

It’s hard to pin down exactly why his gray hair led to an increase in ratings. It could have been that people preferred a more experienced person at the helm. After all, gray hair certainly lends a sense of credibility to someone. Perhaps it was as simple as advances in camera technology, as Barker himself cited, which portrayed the gray in a more flattering light. However it happened, the gray hair worked. And now, at nearly 100 years old, Barker has fully embraced it.