Pat Sajak signs off on Wheel of Fortune, ‘a safe place for family fun’

As forewarned to us one year ago by the man himself, Pat Sajak has now retired from Wheel of Fortune with the closing of season 41. Although the show began in 1975, Pat’s tenure as host didn’t start until 1981, but he and Vanna White instantly became synonymous with the WoF brand. Over the years there were learning moments, dramatic moments, funny moments, and a beauty college’s worth of hairdos. As part of his sign off during his final episode that aired last Friday (I refuse to make a pun on it being his last spin, because I’m a Literal Lucy and he never actually spun the wheel on the show), Pat thanked the legions of viewers for tuning in, and waxed on the show’s bigger cultural impact:

Pat Sajak has officially given his final spin on Wheel of Fortune.

The longtime game show host’s last episode is set to air on Friday, June 7, as he begins his anticipated retirement.

During the episode, Sajak, 77, delivers a heartfelt speech to thank viewers for their support during his 40 years of hosting the classic.

“Well, the time has come to say goodbye,” he begins. “I have a few thanks and acknowledgments before I go, and I want to start with all watching out there. It’s been an incredible privilege to be invited into millions of homes night after night, year after year, decade after decade.”

Sajak adds that he proudly fulfilled the duty to make the half-hour show “a safe place for family fun. No social issues, no politics, nothing embarrassing I hope, just a game.”

He points out that over time, “it became more than that,” and evolved into 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 play even a small part in all of that,” says Sajak. “Thank you for allowing me into your lives.”

Sajak, who began hosting Wheel of Fortune in 1981, first announced retirement in June 2023. He wrote via X (formerly Twitter), “Well, the time has come. I’ve decided that our 41st season, which begins in September, will be my last. It’s been a wonderful ride, and I’ll have more to say in the coming months. Many thanks to you all. (If nothing else, it’ll keep the clickbait sites busy!)”

Weeks later, Ryan Seacrest was confirmed as his replacement. Sajak’s long-time co-host Vanna White will continue through the 2025-2026 season.

“I don’t know how to put into words what these past 40 years have meant to me but I’m going to try,” White said in a tribute video to Sajak, released on Thursday, June 6. “8000 episodes went by like that. When I first started, I was so green. You made me so comfortable and so confident, Pat. You made me who I am, you really did.”

“As this chapter of our lives is coming to an end, I know you’ll still be close by,” she added later in the video. “You’re like a brother to me and I consider you a true lifelong friend who I will always adore. I love you, Pat.”

[From People]

“A safe place for family fun. No social issues, no politics, nothing embarrassing I hope, just a game.” Those are some carefully, curiously chosen words from Pat, no? On the surface they’re all good sentiments: Wheel of Fortune was a place for people of all ages and ideologies to have fun watching a game show. But to brag about “no social issues” just seems weird to me. Not that I think the show needed a soapbox, and that’s kind of the point: what is the purpose in calling attention to it at all? Likewise with “no politics.” A prime-time game show is obviously not the place to drop commentary denying climate change or complaining about LGBTQ rights. That kind of talk is for off-air hours.

Vanna White’s full video tribute was emotional and from the heart. Ryan Seacrest also congratulated Pat for setting “the standard for hosts everywhere.” Though he closed his comments with the somewhat corporate-sounding, “Best wishes for all your future endeavors!” I cannot wait to see what the chemistry will be between Vanna and Ryan. And given Ryan’s uber-frugality, I’m also waiting to see if he reclassifies Y as a vowel so contestants have to start purchasing them. I think about these things.

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