Commentary

Pat Sajak Era Ends, But 'Wheel Of Fortune' Rolls On

End of an era? The phrase is often bandied about in reference to various cultural, political and historical milestones -- sometimes appropriately and sometimes not.

Pat Sajak’s last show Friday as host of “Wheel of Fortune” brought the curtain down on a 43-year run in the job, a record for hosting a single game show.

For sure, it was the end of one era -- specifically, the Sajak era on “Wheel of Fortune,” the fun-for-the-whole-family, game-show institution positioned five nights a week as “America’s Game” by announcer Jim Thornton. The phrase happens to be trademarked.

But it does not mean the end of the “Wheel of Fortune” era. As announced a year ago, Ryan Seacrest takes over as host at the start of the new season this September.

When the announcement was made, the TV Blog hailed it as “a great hire. [Seacrest] is a middle-of-the-road air personality with mass appeal who offends no one. And ‘Wheel of Fortune’ is TV’s consummate mass-appeal TV show.”

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Replacing Pat Sajak with Ryan Seacrest is not likely to result in viewers abandoning “Wheel of Fortune” in droves because Sajak left.

Hopefully, little will change about “Wheel of Fortune” with Seacrest as host -- the game, the genial banter between the host and the contestants, the amazing in-show sponsorship opportunities that the show is built for, and the superlative management of the puzzle board by the indispensable Vanna White (at least for the length of her current contract through the 2025-26 season).

“Wheel of Fortune” is a decidedly old-fashioned TV show, which is both an asset and a curse. People seem to love its simplicity.

Its central features -- the puzzle board and its ungainly wheel -- are strictly analog. It is a place rare in the TV universe, where seldom is heard a discouraging word.

But like all such “traditional” TV, the audience for “Wheel” is undoubtedly aging. Like so many other good things, “Wheel of Fortune” won’t last forever, even if it feels safe for now.

Whether sooner or later, when “Wheel of Fortune” finally goes, that will be truly be the end of an era.

If an era now ends with the exit of Sajak, 77, from game-show television, maybe it is the era of traditional game-show hosts. With a career that dates back to the 1970s, he is possibly the last of his kind.

“I've always felt that the privilege [of hosting “Wheel of Fortune”] came with a responsibility to keep this daily half-hour a safe place for family fun,” Sajak said on his final show seen last Friday.

“No social issues, no politics, nothing embarrassing, I hope. Just a game. But gradually it became more than that: a place where kids learn their letters, where people from other countries hone their English skills, where families came together along with friends and neighbors and entire generations,” Sajak said.

“What an honor to have played even a small part in all that. Thank you for allowing me into your lives.” And then, he was gone.

Photo credit: Sony Pictures Television; Photographer: Carol Kaelson

1 comment about "Pat Sajak Era Ends, But 'Wheel Of Fortune' Rolls On".
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  1. Ben B from Retired, June 11, 2024 at 9:43 p.m.

    I watched the final week with Pat retiring as host of Wheel it will be on for many more decades even if Ryan is only the host for 5 or 10 years. Yeah, a host hosting for 30 or 40+ years is over as I don't think it is a for-life job like Pat on Wheel or Alex on J.

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