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Wheel of Fortune

Pat Sajak ends his four-decade run on Wheel of Fortune

Friday, June 7 will mark the end of an era when Pat Sajak celebrates his final episode as host of Wheel of Fortune.

Sajak joined the show in 1981, but he wasn’t its first host. That honour went to Chuck Woolery, who was partnered with letter-turner Susan Stafford when Wheel first debuted in 1975. When Woolery bolted the show abruptly in 1981 (reportedly over a salary negotiation that went awry), Sajak — then a local L.A. weatherman — was quickly brought in as his replacement. Stafford was eventually replaced by Vanna White, and the rest is game show history.

In June 2023, Sajak announced that the show’s 41st season would be his last. “It’s been a wonderful ride,” he said in a tweet.

Wheel of Fortune on CHEK and ABC. Pictured: Vanna White and Pat Sajak have been Wheel of Fortune’s dream team since the early 1980s.

For the game show icon, the decision to leave Wheel of Fortune after all those years was not an easy one to make. “It’s celebratory mixed with melancholy,” he said of his mood during an interview with Hawaii’s KHON.

However, he also insisted that retirement is something that he’d been pondering for years. “I’ve been thinking about this for a long time,” he explained. “I’ve had time to get used to the idea. It’s not like I woke up the other day and said, ‘You know it’s over.’ So there’s that. But it’s mixed emotions, sure.” 

When Wheel of Fortune returns with new episodes in September, there will be a new — albeit familiar — host in place: Ryan Seacrest, who’s co-anchored Live with Kelly Ripa and has hosted American Idol since its inception.

While appearing on Good Morning America, Seacrest paid tribute to his predecessor. “Pat Sajak is such a legend,” he said. “He makes it look so easy and smooth and seamless. He’s remarkable.”

While viewers will experience Wheel with a new host for the first time in four decades, Seacrest has promised he has no plans to mess with any of the elements that made the show such an enduring hit.

“With this game show, it’s such a success and has been for generations,” Seacrest said in a recent interview with People. “You don’t mess with it, just don’t mess with it. Just get out of the way, say ‘good evening,’ and let’s play.”

Meanwhile, White is remaining at her post, having signed a deal that carries through until the end of the 2024-’25 season.

As White told Good Morning America, when Sajak revealed his retirement plans, she was presented with a conundrum. While she initially considered exiting along with him, she realized the time wasn’t right for her to ride off into the sunset.

“When Pat told me he was going to retire, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m not sure I’m ready to retire.’ I thought about it and I thought about it, and I just wasn’t ready to retire,” she said. “Because I’m not that tired and I love what I do.”

Of course, it goes without saying that she’ll be missing her TV partner of 40-plus years. “How do you describe being with someone for 41 years that you love and adore?” she shared.

While loyal viewers will surely be saddened to see Sajak go, he promised that he wasn’t closing the door on television entirely.

“I’m realistic enough to know that people aren’t gonna be banging my door down,” he said. “But I’ll take projects if they come. But I suspect most of my time will be whittling on the front porch — but I don’t know how to whittle and I don’t have a front porch, so that’ll be a challenge.”

The season finale of Wheel of Fortune airs Friday, June 7, on CHEK & ABC

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