“Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak has been doing his job for nearly 40 years. Clearly, he’s doing something right. But is it possible that he completely redefined what it meant to be a game show host?
The 1980s ushered in a new era of television, and with it came the idea that a game show host didn’t need to be a performer. Pat Sajak himself was a pioneer on that frontier.
Chuck Woolery was the “Wheel of Fortune” host for six years before he left the show over a salary dispute.
Enter Pat Sajak.
He took over the hosting duties from Woolery in 1981. And according to a 1986 article from the Washington Post, Sajak brought a completely new approach to hosting the show.
“I just don’t know how to do it any other way. And Merv never asked me to do that upbeat delivery,” Sajak said in 1986. “I try to make people as comfortable as possible, get their minds off where they are and any pressure that might be building. I get them relaxed at the start of the show, and once the wheel spins, the game starts and I fade into the background. It would be nice to be able to say this is the Pat Sajak Show. But it’s not, and game shows are not for performers.”
There you have it. Pat Sajak let the game itself be the star of the show. Not a mind-blowing concept in today’s day and age, but at the time, that was a pretty unorthodox style.
‘Wheel of Fortune’ Host Pat Sajak Set The Example
In 1986, only five years after Sajak took over on “Wheel of Fortune,” he was already noticing a shift in the game show industry. Seeing all the success the show was having, others tried to follow the example.
Sajak told the Washington Post that other people trying to do game shows were getting notes that told them to keep their tone lower and not as gushy.
“Maybe, I’ve performed a public service,” Sajak said.
He also suggested that a game show shouldn’t be a platform for someone to launch their acting career.
Game show hosts should be game show hosts. This idea is in keeping with his philosophy on blending into the background.
It’s a philosophy that has yet to lead him astray.