I’d Like to Solve, Pat: RETIREMENT!

You know the intro, as chances are it’s been on your television at some point during the week for the last 41 years. “WHEEL…OF…FORTUNE! Ladies and gentlemen, here are the stars of our show, Pat Sajak and Vanna White!”
Come September, that intro will change for the first time in over four decades. Pat Sajak, the show’s longtime host, is set to retire after Friday’s show. Ryan Seacrest will replace him as host. I will turn 39 in July, and Pat Sajak and Vanna White have been a source of comfort, especially since “Wheel of Fortune” has been syndicated for my entire life.
When my four siblings and I were very young, when Wheel of Fortune appeared on TV in the 7-8 p.m. time block in the early 1990s, it meant bedtime was near. Sajak was our half hour of fun before my mom or dad would start saying, “Okay, it’s time to go upstairs and get to bed!”
As I progressed into later childhood and my early teens, Sajak and White were the ushers into fun. Friday nights were pizza nights growing up. Those nights in particular, my siblings and I knew that once “Wheel of Fortune” finished, our beloved TGIF sitcom lineup would air.
Now, as an adult in my late 30s, my husband and I watch “Wheel of Fortune” often while we eat dinner. We try and guess the puzzles and laugh at Sajak’s often dry sense of humor (which is much more appreciated than when we were children!). We also remark how jealous we are when finalists solve the last puzzle and get that coveted $40,000 or $100,000 card!
Before he hosted “Wheel of Fortune,” Chicago native Sajak served in the U.S. Army as a DJ for American Forces Vietnam Network during the Vietnam War. He hosted the same radio show called “Dawn Buster” that Adrian Cronauer had. For over a year, Sajak followed Cronauer’s signature sign-on: “Good morning, VIETNAM!” If you’ve never seen the movie inspired by this, watch it this weekend. You won’t be sorry.
In the 1970s, Sajak DJed for a radio station in Kentucky and later at WSM in Nashville. He later was a voiceover artist making station identifications and anchoring quick news segments at “The Today Show” (where he served as a weekend and substitute weather reporter). In 1981, TV host and media personality Merv Griffin asked Sajak if he’d like to take over hosting duties for “Wheel of Fortune.” Sajak was initially rejected by then President and CEO of NBC Fred Silverman, but he eventually got the job. When Sajak returned for his 36th season, he earned the accolade of longest-running host of any game show, even surpassing Bob Barker, former host of “The Price is Right.”
When the show ends tomorrow, I will raise a glass to Sajak on a job well done. I will certainly miss the familiarity and comfort of Sajak but am curious to see how Seacrest does in the position.
Cheers to over 40 years, Pat!



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