Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak had Walter Cronkite’s number on his phone. The two weren’t close, but they were friendly, Sajak said. But what they shared was far more important to the rest of us than we may realize.
Sajak dropped the name to a Las Vegas Sun reporter back in 2009 just before the newsman died.
“That impress you?” Sajak asked the reporter about the contact. “Actually, I did not know him very well, but he was definitely synonymous with the big events of our lives, the walk on the moon, Kennedy’s assassination.”
And Sajak is right. Cronkite announced nearly every major news event for decades. He was a fixture on American televisions for generations, and having that stability provided a sense of comfort.
Wheel of Fortune has been on the air for four decades. Sajak has hosted nearly every show. Vanna White, his trusty co-host, provides the heavy lifting on the program. Like Cronkite, the show provides fans a familiarity every weekday. And Sajak knows this. It’s why the show hasn’t changed much over the years.
“I think there is something to that, knowing what you’re going to get when you tune in,” Sajak said. “Let’s face it, we’re not the highest-tech show out there. We could change things up, get rid of the ‘clunk-clunk-clunk’ of the wheel. We don’t actually need Vanna to turn the letters, you know? You do walk a tightrope in trying to be contemporary but keep the things that have worked over the years. Anecdotally, I’ve heard that a lot of the appeal is personal.”
Sajak Admits ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Is the ‘Softest Job’
Pat Sajak is a fixture of American TV, but he admits it’s not the hardest job in the world.
Sajak opened up about his life to the Chicago Tribune in 2005 where he explained what it’s like to host a popular, syndicated game show.
“This has never exactly been heavy lifting,” Sajak cheerfully told the newspaper. “I’d like to make it sound tougher than it is, but to be honest with you, this may be the softest job in all of entertainment-dom.”
Wheel of Fortune’s shooting schedule is one week on and then three weeks off. Sounds pretty great.
“With this show, we’ll do 15 shows here and then take three weeks off,” he said. “If I had to come in and do this every day for 21 years, I’d probably be taking hostages by now.”
Sajak joked that he’s never really had it very difficult. Before he hosted Wheel of Fortune, he was a weatherman in Southern California. A place, he joked, “where there is no weather.”
But to be fair to Sajak, most game shows have this type of filming schedule. They batch film multiple episodes over the course of a few days or a week that can air for weeks to come. Jeopardy! shoots on a similar schedule, for example.