A television universe without Pat Sajak is something we will all have to get used to in 2024.
Tempus fugit, right? He announced Monday that he plans to retire from “Wheel of Fortune” at the end of the 2023-24 season, which will be the syndicated show’s 41st season.
Sajak, now 76, has been the early-evening show’s only host since it began its run in 1983. He is the longest-running game-show host on a single show in American television history.
When he says good-bye, he will be 77, which feels like an appropriate retirement age for game show hosts and U.S. presidents.
However, let the record show that Bob Barker, now 99, retired at age 82 from “The Price Is Right” in 2007.
Sajak announced his retirement on Twitter. “Well, the time has come,” he wrote. “I’ve decided that our 41st season, which begins in September, will be my last.
“It’s been a wonderful ride, and I’ll have more to say in the coming months. Many thanks to you all.”
Sajak’s most recent contract with “Wheel of Fortune” producer Sony -- announced in September 2021 -- will expire after next season, which may have been a factor in his decision to step away.
Sajak also added the title of “consulting producer,” according to an announcement from Sony in September 2021.
He will reportedly continue in that role after he relinquishes the host position. Perhaps he will even have a say in his successor.
It is a pretty sure bet that whoever is chosen to host “Wheel of Fortune” will not likely be cut from the same cloth as Pat Sajak and the other game show and quiz show hosts from his generation and before.
Very generally speaking, they were career broadcasters from local radio, where they first honed their broadcasting pipes as disc jockeys, and then local TV, where they worked as weathermen and news anchors.
On their game shows, they wore suits and sports coats, always with ties. Their hair was of the utmost importance. I may be wrong, but I cannot picture any host from the long history of old game shows who was bald onscreen.
And so, another TV personality from a swiftly receding era of television known mainly to older people is leaving the scene.
“Wheel of Fortune” itself is a link to that era, along with “Jeopardy!,” “The Price Is Right” and “Let’s Make a Deal” (both on CBS) -- all of which have changed very little, in their essential characteristics, over the decades.
Pat Sajak changed very little too in his role as the host of “Wheel of Fortune,” which is introduced every evening by announcer Jim Thornton as “America’s Game®,” a trademarked phrase.
The old game show hosts always said their job’s biggest challenge was wrangling their contestants, especially when they would win a grand prize and either run amok or, if the host was in close proximity, aggressively hug him (as happened often with Bob Barker).
Sajak has always had an easy-going manner and spontaneous sense of humor that has set the tone for the show for 40 years.
What will the show be like without him? And what about Vanna? She is 66, and has been associated with “Wheel of Fortune” for one year longer than Pat Sajak.
Her contract also ends next spring, but there has been no word yet on whether she will stick around after that for another season or two. TV without Vanna White? Unthinkable!