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Gone — And Forgotten

Gone — And Forgotten

The producers of “The Price Is Right,” the longest-running game show in US TV history and one of the longest-running shows of any type, sponsored a 40th anniversary program last week.

Conspicuous by his absence was Bob Barker, the show’s host for its first 35 years, a multiple Emmy winner and arguably one of the most recognizable faces on TV.

The anniversary program was hosted by Drew Carey, who has hosted “The Price Is Right” since Barker retired in 2007.

The producers did not explain Barker’s absence, but his post-retirement remarks about the show apparently had angered them.

“Barker thinks … his criticism of the show’s prize packages since his departure … contributed to his lack of inclusion in the anniversary show, the Los Angeles Times reported. “Barker has questioned the shows giving away tickets [in prize packages] to Sea World and the Calgary Stampede, two organizations Barker says “are notorious for animal abuse.”

Barker, 88, is a prominent animal rights activist; he has contributed millions of dollars to animal rights causes, and for a long time famously ended each broadcast of “The Price Is Right” by declaring “Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.”

Barker adopted the issue to honor his late wife, Dorothy Jo, an animal lover who died in 1981. When he was host, “We really became very careful about what we put on the show,” he told AP. “Had I been the executive producer, they would not have even considered bringing me tickets to the Calgary Stampede.”Reasonable people can debate the merits of the animal rights issue. Reasonable people can argue that Barker had become a distraction on the show with which he had become synonymous, because of his outside activism and the series of sexual harassment suits filed against him by female members of the staff.

But reasonable people show respect where respect is due.

In the view of the show’s producers, Barker had apparently outlived his usefulness.

In Jewish tradition, gratefulness is an eternal obligation. Even for inanimate objects. A possul Torah that is not fit to be read from still keeps a position of honor in a synagogue ark. Worn-out copies of a siddur or Chumash are buried, not simply thrown away. Moses, when bringing the Jewish people out of slavery, refused to lift a hand against the water (the Red Sea) that had saved his life as an infant.

In a yeshiva, we stand when a scholar whose memory and cognitive abilities are in the past walks in. In Judaism, honor does not dissipate with age.

Not so in American culture.

At the recent national political conventions, such one-time candidates and office-holders as George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin and Al Gore were missing from their respective parties’ gatherings. If not actually uninvited, all were clearly persona non grata. All had served as lightning rods – controversial for various reasons. But all had been judged deserving, in recent years, of their parties’ nomination, of standing ovations, of positions as their parties’ representatives.

This year, they were discarded, their names hardly or never mentioned.

On “The Price Is Right” anniversary program, whose taping took place in the Bob Barker Studio, Barker was present only in a few film clips from the show’s early years.

The price for his outspokenness, apparently, was his exclusion from his show.

In Barker’s case, the price was not right.

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