‘Wheel of Fortune’ Host Pat Sajak is Himself Surprised He’s Still Hosting Show

Angel Yuan
By Angel Yuan
July 17, 2023Entertainment
‘Wheel of Fortune’ Host Pat Sajak is Himself Surprised He’s Still Hosting Show
Pat Sajak (L) and Vanna White from "Wheel of Fortune" attend a ceremony honoring Harry Friedman with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles on Nov. 1, 2019. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Pat Sajak, host of the hit TV show “Wheel of Fortune,” said he is himself surprised by his long-standing role on the game show of over 40 years.

Mr. Sajak, 76, took to Twitter earlier this week to joke about his history on the show. A Twitter user called @Chicago_History posted a question, asking, “If someone from 1981 suddenly woke up in 2023, what would surprise them the most?”

The veteran presenter responded, “That Pat Sajak was still hosting Wheel of Fortune.”

Fans reacted enthusiastically, with one fan writing, “And @patsajak is still on top of his game!” Another fan wrote, “Great answer! I’m going to miss you!” Mr. Sajak has been the show’s host since 1981, when he took over from Chuck Woolery, who was the show’s initial host when it premiered in 1975.

NTD Photo
Host Pat Sajak during recording of the NFL Players Week 10th Anniversary on “Wheel of Fortune” in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Dec. 6, 2005. (Doug Benc/Getty Images for Players Inc.)

In 2019, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized Mr. Sajak for holding the record of the longest career as host of the same game show. However, he recently announced that he would be leaving the show after the latest season, which will begin airing in September.

“Well, the time has come. I’ve decided that our 41st season, which begins in September, will be my last,” Sajak posted on Twitter on June 13. “It’s been a wonderful ride, and I’ll have more to say in the coming months. Many thanks to you all. (If nothing else, it’ll keep the clickbait sites busy!)” he added.

Mr. Sajak, a former Los Angeles weatherman, joined “Wheel of Fortune” in the early 1980s, making it a major hit. The show quickly spawned board games, video games, casino slot machines, and, finally, a prime-time offshoot, called “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune.”

Though “Wheel of Fortune” does not occupy the same place in American culture that it once did—at its peak in the 1980s, the game show had a nightly viewership of more than 40 million viewers—it remains one of the most popular entertainment programs on television.

Two weeks after his retirement was announced, “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest was revealed as the new host of Season 42.

In a statement at the time, Mr. Seacrest stated that he was honored to be taking over from Mr. Sajak. “I’m truly humbled to be stepping into the footsteps of the legendary Pat Sajak,” Mr. Seacrest said.

“I can say, along with the rest of America, that it’s been a privilege and pure joy to watch Pat and Vanna on our television screens for an unprecedented 40 years, making us smile every night and feel right at home with them,” the message continued.

After his replacement was revealed, Mr. Sajak expressed excitement for his final season before “handing over the car keys” to Mr. Seacrest.

The quick decision by the executives of Sony Pictures Television, the studio that produces the show, is a big bet on a show that has continued to draw viewers—even as traditional television has declined with the rise of streaming services.

“I can’t wait to continue the tradition of spinning the wheel and working alongside the great Vanna White,” Mr. Seacrest posted on Twitter.

Vanna White, Mr. Sajak’s co-host on “Wheel of Fortune” since 1982, is contracted for another season, and is in negotiations for the renewal of her contract beyond that.

Although Mr. Seacrest expects to work with Ms. White on the show, there has recently been speculation about her position.

A report from Puck News revealed that Ms. White’s annual salary of $3 million hasn’t been raised in nearly 20 years, and that her annual earnings were roughly one fifth of Mr. Sajak’s.

Sony Pictures hasn’t commented on the issue, but a source told TV Line that there “is no plan to eliminate Vanna’s role,” and that Sony “is in active discussions to renew Vanna’s deal beyond her current contract.”

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