It’s 1998, maybe 1997, and my brother and I travel to San Antonio for another summer. This means a few things: real Mexican food, Sea World and mornings of “The Price is Right” with my grandmother, bowl of Special K in-hand.
That was 14, maybe 15 years ago. Sea World is now a high school job and Drew Carrey delivers Bob Barker’s pet advice; game shows all together proving to be the cartoons of my childhood — they’ve faded from memory.
So imagine the day when I hear that “The Price” is hiring a male model to showcase a catamaran or two. And, oh my God, is he a reason to come on down.
Rob Wilson is a guy from Boston. See him on the street and catch that defeating smile, sure. But you’re missing the Greek god underneath. It’s almost stupid how pretty he is — how perfect he is for the job. But this is not just another gig for a gorgeous face. It’s a historical one, breaking a 40-year tradition of an entirely female supporting cast of “Barker’s Beauties.” And beyond that, it’s a tan, chiseled step toward gender equality.
Here’s the showcase.
CBS holds an open casting call back in August. Under the Los Angeles heat, a trail of heartthrobs stand in an execution line. One by one, a panel of producers and female models narrow the men down to a group of 26 finalists. These men bring more than sculpted abs to impress, they bring a personality.
Then in a five-episode web series, they compete in challenges designed to test their ability to pose, charm and showcase. They don’t wave their hands around prizes like the women do. No, they smile and point, maybe give a thumbs-up. In one episode, they even make up their own “The Price is Right” theme songs. Rob trying to free-style over the show’s intro tune is cute, like Bambi trying to walk. And I thought all they did was sell grandparents jet skis they’d never use.
Eventually six are left standing and the decision turns to the public. From Sept. 28 to Oct. 4, votes are cast leaving Rob with the highest marks. You can see why watching his winner interviews. Rob’s sex appeal carries into his personality. He exudes a manly charisma — adorable with just enough cockiness to be cute rather than irritating. Then that smile! He points to a living room set or designer sunglasses and you’re convinced it is the greatest thing you’ve ever seen (aside from him, of course).
It’s such a shame, then, that his job only lasts one week.
Rob will be on stage with the other models starting on Monday, Oct. 15. For the first time in the show’s 40-year-run, a male model will bring some balance to the genders. After that, he’s gone. It’s received its fair amount of media attention, definitely. But why make a gimmick out of something that’s genuinely progressive?
It may not be earth-shattering, after all, most people watch “The Price is Right” while home sick with Kleenex scattered around. But it’s still something. 2012 even sounds futuristic, and it seems silly that gender roles are still in place for trivial things like game show models. Honestly, until I heard about Rob Wilson at the water cooler, it hadn’t occurred to me that that was the way of things on the show. He is more than a sexy smile to swoon over on sick days and should be treated accordingly, as a step in the right direction.
Whether he ends up sticking around or not, come Monday I’ll be a college student rediscovering his childhood. With a 20 oz. coffee instead of a bowl of grandma’s favorite cereal, I’ll tune into “The Price is Right” after a decade-long absence to see how Rob holds up… and to gawk at him sans shirt.
I hope, wish and pray that they keep him on. But if they don’t, I recommend he set his eyes on Vanna White’s job.Contact Eric Ramirez.