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The ultimate TV spinoff: Pat Sajak says goodbye to ‘Wheel’ after 8,000 episodes


After more than four decades, thousands of episodes, tens of thousands of contestants and hundreds of millions of dollars in prizes, the Wheel of Fortune finally stopped spinning for Pat Sajak.

Sajak’s last episode as host of “Wheel of Fortune” aired Friday night. He’s hosted about 8,000 episodes as he and co-star Vanna White turned what fans call “Wheel” into one of the most popular game shows in television history and a fixture of American culture.

In a farewell message released before the show, Sajak thanked generations of viewers for inviting him “into millions of homes night after night, year after year, decade after decade.”

“It’s been an incredible privilege,” he said. Sajak declined an interview request from The Washington Post.

After 41 years, Pat Sajak retired as the legendary host of “Wheel of Fortune” on June 7. (Video: AP)

“Wheel of Fortune” started in 1975 as a daytime show that was first hosted by Chuck Woolery and Susan Stafford. But Woolery left in 1981 because of a contract dispute, and the show’s creator, Merv Griffin, homed in on Sajak, a little-known local weather forecaster in Nashville at the time.

Griffin recalled to The Post in 1986 that he liked “Pat’s whimsical antics.”

“He had great charm,” Griffin told the New York Times Magazine in 1988. “And he was always playing practical jokes.”

Sajak’s whimsy was on display from the start of his tenure at “Wheel of Fortune.”

“Please do not adjust your sets at home. Chuck Woolery has not shrunk,” Sajak said Dec. 28, 1981, during his first episode hosting NBC’s daytime version of the show. “I’ve been fortunate enough to wander onto the set of a very successful program.”

White joined him a year later, and in 1983 they started the syndicated version of the show that has spanned more than 40 years. On Thursday, the show released a two-minute video of White saying thank you and goodbye to a colleague who made her comfortable and confident from their first episode together.

Over the ensuing four decades, they teamed up almost every weeknight in front of millions of Americans, growing together as co-workers and friends while traveling the world and “sharing so much more behind the scenes,” White said as photos of their children playing together flashed on the screen. Representatives for White didn’t respond to an interview request from The Post.

“You made me who I am,” she said in the video. “You really did.”

Sajak announced his retirement a year ago, saying his tenure on the show had been “a wonderful ride.” Although Sajak is stepping down, White is staying on as “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest replaces Sajak for the syndicated show’s 42nd season.

In 2019, Guinness World Records awarded Sajak the longest serving host on a single game show.

Sajak became more politically outspoken toward the end of his career, using his humor and conservatism to play the social media troll. In 2014, he posted on social media that he believed that “global warming alarmists are unpatriotic racists knowingly misleading for their own ends.” That same year, Sajak published a post that might serve as a guide to his online writings: “Sometimes it’s fun to poke a stick in a hornets’ nest just to hear the buzzing.” In 2022, he was criticized for posing with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

Friday’s episode was vintage Sajak. He was cheery yet self-effacing. He celebrated contestants’ wins and encouraged them when they gave an incorrect answer. At the beginning of the show, he told the contestants that, although they were skipping a round to give him time to say a goodbye message, he was giving each of them $1,000 to make up for it. Then, he changed his mind: Make it $5,000.

“It’s not my money!” he said.

Adrienne Bean, of Memphis, played her part in giving Sajak a proper send-off. After beating out the other contestants, she chose so many correct letters on her final puzzle that her host knew a win was likely.

“She’s already nodding. Let me build some tension,” he joked before Bean solved the puzzle and won $50,000 for doing so, bringing her total haul of cash and prizes to $79,598.

The show finished with Sajak’s farewell video, in which he said that he’s always felt that the privilege of being welcomed into people’s homes came with the responsibility of keeping “this daily half-hour a safe place for family fun — no social issues, no politics, nothing embarrassing, I hope. Just a game.”

But “Wheel of Fortune” gradually became more than that, he added. It’s been “a place where kids learned their letters, where people from other countries honed their English skills, where families came together along with friends and neighbors and entire generations.”

“What an honor to have played even a small part in all that,” he said. “Thank you for allowing me into your lives.”



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