Tonight marks the final appearance of pat Sajak as host of the Wheel of Fortune.

The 77-year-old entertainer is leaving after 41 seasons and over 9000 shows. That is a lot of spinning, and Sajak, who has had some helath problems in recent years, has opted to step away from one of the cushiest jobs in television.

Some will remember the three-time Emmy winner’s foray into the late night field decades ago in the later part of Johnny Carson’s long reign on The Tonight Show. Sajak got a chance to show he was more than just a game show host (as Carson had to prove decades earlier), but there was nothing especially memorable about that venture.

His pairing with Vanna White on Wheel certainy will go down as one of television’s most enduring double acts. This has left some, including me, wondering why Sony did not promote White to the host position upon Sajak’s departure. She signed a contract extention to flip letters through to the end of the 2025-06 season. At a relatively young 67, why not let her take a two year victory lap?

Yup, me and Vanna. I’m guessing 35 years ago.

In any event, the host next fall when the series resumes will be Ryan Seacrest. Yes, he is an obvious choice. He has a track record of not wearing out his welcome on both a daily daytime series (Live with Kelly & Ryan) and a twice-weekly prime time ht (American Idol). He can be glib and spontaeous. Sajak’s comfortble shoes, however, will be hard to fill.

There’s also the problem with optics. Pat and Vanna looked like brother and sister, or your favourite aunt and uncle. It is going to look more like Ryan and his mom. Maybe that will work just as well.


The show is still about the game — filling in blanks — and audiences playing at home. In some ways Wheel of Fortune could be host-proof. Jeopardy! went through a rough transition in trying to replace Alex Trebek. He set a high bar when it came to accuracy and diction and projecting the right mix of intelligence and empathy. I don’t think the Wheel job comes with the same demands, although it helped that Sajak always seemed capaple of injecting a bit of wit and sass to the proceedings.

His retirement brings us to a question: “BLANK” are the top five all-time TV game show hosts. Sajak aside, here is my list:

1 Bob Barker. Come on down if you disagree. Barker is second only to Sajak in terms of years in the service of one show. He was more of the show, however, acting as a very professional host but also holding court over a frenzied studio mob and being really, really good at running the games. Plus, after “Happy Gilmore,” you always felt he could take you out if things ever really got out of hand. Dogs and cats might disagree, but I have him at No. 1.

2. Trebek. He was the James Bond of game show hosts. Dapper, collected, always the coolest one in the room. A man with a great sense of humour and a surprisingly playful interview.

3. Gene Rayburn. When I asked Sandra here for her list, his name popped immediatley into her head. With the kooky wire retractable antenna mike, he turned Match Game into a sketch show free for all. Clips of Gene trying to reign in Match Game‘s occasionally over-served celebrity panel still make me laugh on Instagram. Alec Baldwin, by the way, was terrific in the even bawdier Match Game reboot from a few years back.

4. Richard Dawson. He was great on Match, but even more himself on Family Feud. Yes, he would have been shut down during the pandemic, a one-man COVID spreader with all that kissing of contestants. His “Survey says!” still rings out as one of the ultimate catch phrases. Just one of the fun stars of a fun decade on TV, the ’70s.

5. Bill Walker, Party Game. Walker was the ever patient adult in the room in this tipsy, ’70s delight from Hamilton’s CHCH. He had to play straight to the rambunctious home team of Billy Van, Captain Jack Duffy and Dinah Christie. Some hosts would have resorted to a whip and chair to try and bring the show in on time, but Walker, who never lost his cool, was the perfect lion tamer.

Honourble mentions: Peter Marshall, “Master” of The Hollywood Squares; Monty Hall, Let’s Make a Deal; Allan Ludden, classy and cool on Password; Dick Clark on Pyramid; Bob Eubanks on The Dating Game; John Charles Daly on What’s My Line? Who am I leaving out?

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