Game Show Host Pat Sajak Retires After Long Run


After 43 seasons and over 8,000 episodes, Pat Sajak is retiring. The 77-year-old will host his final episode of “Wheel of Fortune” on Friday evening, concluding a week of tribute episodes titled “Thanks for the Memories.”

Unlike Alex Trebek, who hosted various game shows before and during his 37-year tenure on “Jeopardy!,” Sajak has only hosted “Jeopardy!’s” sister program for his entire TV career. He started on the network version of “Wheel of Fortune” and continued when the show began its syndicated run in September 1983. Over time, he surpassed the late Bob Barker’s record for the longest tenure on a single game show by one host.

Notable Conservative Celebrity

Sajak, who briefly hosted a late-night talk show on CBS in 1989 and 1990, is one of the few Hollywood figures known for his conservative views. He has served as a director of Eagle Publishing, the Claremont Institute, and has chaired the Board of Trustees of Hillsdale College since 2019.

Interestingly, Sajak’s predecessor, Chuck Woolery, also holds conservative views—a rare occurrence in Hollywood. In 1981, a salary disagreement with Woolery made “Wheel” creator Merv Griffin seek a new host, eventually choosing Sajak, who was then a local weatherman for NBC’s affiliate in Los Angeles.

For decades, Sajak has brought light-hearted banter and witty exchanges to millions of Americans’ homes five nights a week. Unlike “Jeopardy!,” where the content typically demands a serious tone from the host, “Wheel” suits Sajak’s quick wit and improvisational skills—talents honed since his time as a deejay for the Armed Forces Network in Vietnam, following Adrian Cronauer of “Good Morning Vietnam!” fame.

Game Shows in Flux

While “Wheel” co-host Vanna White will stay with the show for at least two more years, Sajak’s departure marks another shift in the game show landscape. Ryan Seacrest, the “American Idol” host, will take over when “Wheel’s” 42nd season kicks off in September. The passing of Alex Trebek in late 2020 led to a prolonged search for a new host, culminating in changes to “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel” due to a new producer, affecting the former’s format and presence.

Sajak’s exit brings an air of change to “Wheel” as game shows enjoy a TV renaissance. Particularly in summer, networks have revived old game shows like “The $100,000 Pyramid,” “Card Sharks,” “The Weakest Link,” and “Press Your Luck,” while introducing new series like “The Wall.”

With multiple streaming options causing declining viewership and challenging stations to retain audiences, networks seem to hope that the lower production costs of game shows can offer “fresh” content at a lower price than scripted dramas. (The writers’ and actors’ strike last summer and fall also led to an increase in game shows, as networks scrambled to update their schedules.)

The big question now is how “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel” will perform as their long-standing hosts move on and their formats are adjusted to suit modern tastes. As the saying goes in television, “Stay tuned.”

Christopher Jacobs
Christopher Jacobs
Chris Jacobs is founder and CEO of Juniper Research Group, and author of the book The Case Against Single Payer.

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