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New Spin on Wheel of Fortune

Marion Charatan

Posted on January 8, 2021 11:37

4 users

24 celebrities have already been selected as contestants for the new Celebrity Wheel of Fortune, which debuted on Thursday, January 7 on ABC at 8pm ET. They can win up to $1 million dollars for their favorite charity.

Growing up, I always enjoyed watching Wheel of Fortune with my parents. My Dad was always the best puzzle solver. I still tune in decades later. What's the draw? Well, even though it may seem a little mindless, that's a good thing with everything that's going on now. A healthy little escape is welcome.

The classic game show is the most successful syndication in TV history. It has racked up 7 Emmy Awards and is in its 38th year. What makes the program succeed? Hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White have a lot to do with it. 

Pat Sajak is perfectly cast in the hosting role. He is approachable, self-effacing and witty in a down home way. The 74-year-old got an early start in broadcasting. When he was a teenager, he entered a contest on WLS Radio's Dick Biondi Show, won and became a guest deejay on Biondi's show. While in college, Sajak was hired as a newsman for a local radio station WEDC and later, was a DJ on Armed Forces Radio when he served in Vietnam. Sajak moved up the ladder, doing 5 minute newscasts for The Today Show and eventually landing the job as full-time weatherman for KNBC in Los Angeles in 1977. But the big break came when the legendary Merv Griffin offered Sajak the opportunity to take over hosting Wheel of Fortune from Chuck Woolery, whose contract was not renewed. Initially, Fred Silverman, the President/CEO of NBC rejected Griffin's suggestion--saying he thought Sajak came across as too 'local.' But after Griffin fought back by refusing to tape new shows, Silverman relented, gave the go-ahead to hire Sajak in 1982, and the rest is history. 

How did Vanna White get paired up with Pat Sajak? The beautiful blonde 63-year-old was a contestant in the Miss Georgia USA Pageant in 1978. Ironically, White's first-ever appearance on a game show was as a contestant on the Price is Right in 1980. She never made it onto the stage, though, because she didn't guess the correct price! White had some TV and film roles, along with modeling gigs but her biggest break was when she was picked as the permanent host of Wheel of Fortune in December of 1982. White's warm personality and engaging smile, along with her long-standing chemistry with Sajak have made her one of the most recognizable stars in Hollywood. Both hosts have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

The Celebrity Wheel of Fortune successfully debuted last Thursday. 7.83 million viewers tuned in with 1.1 share. It was a fast-paced hour with the always funny Leslie Jones, formerly of SNL and now host of Supermarket Sweep, actress Chandra Wilson from Grey's Anatomy and pro skateboarder Tony Hawk. Jones won over $118,000 for Feed America. Chrissy Metz and Drew Carey are upcoming featured celebs. Sajak commented that the tapings offer 'a return to normalcy.' That's what we need. I'll be watching next week.

Marion Charatan

Posted on January 8, 2021 11:37

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