Pat Sajak didn’t know where his career would take him when he landed his first big broadcasting job in Nashville at 23 years old. Being the host on “Wheel of Fortune” likely never even entered his mind in those early days. In fact, becoming a game show host was towards the bottom of Sajak’s list.
But when you’re a weatherman on local television and Merv Griffin calls, you listen to what he has to say.
“Honestly, I didn’t see myself as a game show host. And I don’t even know what I mean by that but – nothing against it,” Sajak told NPR in 2013. “But if I were to make a list of the 50 things I thought I’d end up doing in broadcasting, you know, game show host would have been 47th, or something.”
Along with everyone else in the country, Pat Sajak had a stereotypical idea of what a game show host had to be. Picture an over-the-top, gushy, fake smile flashing man who was more teeth than talk. Sajak didn’t like the idea.
In his youth, the longtime “Wheel of Fortune” host found himself drawn to the understated nature of panel shows.
“I wouldn’t call myself a game show groupie, but I liked the panel shows. There used to be a class of celebrity – and I don’t exactly know who they were – people like Orson Bean and Peggy Cass; and people on shows like ‘What’s My Line.’ They were sort of actors. They were sort of conversationalists,” Sajak said in 2013. “You felt like you were at a dinner party with these people. So I liked those kinds of shows.”
‘Wheel of Fortune’ Icon Wasn’t Crazy About Game Shows, But Had A Few Favorite Hosts
So Pat Sajak wasn’t watching game shows all the time growing up. But he still respected the broadcasting ability of a few legendary hosts.
“I was not a – I didn’t have game shows on from dawn to dusk. But I liked some of the guys who did the show – so many shows, for so many years; guys like Bob Barker, and guys like Bill Cullen,” Sajak said in the 2013 interview. “I admired them as broadcasters. I thought they were terrific.”
And the fact that Sajak wasn’t a game show fanatic may have contributed to his success. When he took over on “Wheel of Fortune,” he brought a completely new approach to the game show host role.