Pat Sajak, who has hosted the syndicated game show Wheel of Fortune since 1981, announced Monday that next season will be his final one at the helm.
“The time has come,” Sajak, 76, said on Twitter. “I’ve decided that our 41st season, which begins in September, will be my last.”
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!)
— Pat Sajak (@PatOnWheel) June 12, 2023
Just like with Jeopardy! and Alex Trebek, Sajak will leave some big shoes to fill. The 76-year-old won three Daytime Emmy Awards as the host and a Lifetime Achievement honor. In 2018, he moved past the Price Is Right‘s Bob Barker as the longest-running host of an American game show.
Naturally, the first question everyone had was “Who will replace him?” The most obvious names included American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, The View co-host Whoopi Goldberg, and long-time WOF letter-turner Vanna White. There have also been a number of people in the sports media world who have either thrown their hats in the ring or been mentioned as potential successors.
Let’s round them up and see how viable their vowel-buying future might be.
Stephen A. Smith
As all modern sports media discussions must, we begin with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. Smith, who routinely offers himself up for opportunities beyond his current role, has done the same for the Wheel of Fortune hosting gig.
“I want to throw my name into the hat,” Smith said on Wednesday’s episode of his podcast. “I ain’t trying to give up my day job, I ain’t trying to give up my podcast. But I got to tell you, if Wheel of Fortune called to ask me to host the show for a couple of days, I wouldn’t mind. I wouldn’t mind hosting that show while folks try to figure out what those letters mean and it equates to.”
Smith probably has his pick of the litter in terms of his next big project. While this cushy gig might be tempting, we’d have to imagine he’s ultimately got his sights set on bigger things.
“He would be terrific,” Rodgers said. “He checks every single box you would need with that, and he would be able to do the thing that Sajak does where you know he’d hear the dumb answer, he’d respond to the dumb answer, he would zing the person without being too bad about it and then move on to the next one.”
That sentiment was echoed by 710 ESPN afternoon host Scott Kaplan as well.
The radio veteran, who has done plenty of TV work as a reporter and announcer, told Barrett Sports Media on Thursday that the comments were made in jest but he is a huge fan of the show and could do it if the stars aligned.
“I appreciate that my colleagues at ESPN 710 in LA having faith that I could pull it off,” Sedano said. “Look, I’ve been doing live radio for over 20 years and TV for a little over a decade. A lot of stuff gets thrown at you over that amount of time. I’m also pretty solid at being snarky with a smile.
“Could I pull off being the next host of Wheel of Fortune? Probably not, but I’d love to imagine it.”
No one has seriously floated any reporting that Sir Charles is a potential replacement, but SI’s Jimmy Traina had the Inside the NBA analyst at the top of his list of sports figures he’d like to see considered, if only because of his unfiltered nature.
“Barkley should forget about his upcoming CNN show and go for Sajak’s job,” wrote Traina. “He’d be great for one simple reason: He has no filter. So when a contestant flubs a puzzle, Barkley can do his thing. You can just hear him saying, “America, do you believe this fool?”
Rather than being terrified of what Barkley might say about Donald Trump every week on CNN, it’d be way more enjoyable for all parties if he spent his days making fun of dumb contestants who can’t spell words properly.
USA Today’s FTW put the former New York Giants star on their list of potential replacement hosts and the Super Bowl champion has a lot going for him regarding resume bullet points. He co-hosted Good Morning America and Live! with Kelly and Michael for years and is now the current host of Pyramid. He’s affable, well-known, has lots of TV experience, and can probably strike a good balance when it comes to dealing with contestants. We smell an underdog pick here.
Logistically speaking, it’s pretty much impossible. But Rodgers did a guest hosting stint on Jeopardy! and was liked enough at the time by audiences to the point where he seemed genuinely disappointed that he didn’t get the gig. Since then, Rodgers has developed a bit of a different reputation in terms of scientific viewpoints and intellectual stances. If Jeopardy! requires a firm understanding of science and history, then perhaps his current mental outlook would fit a whole lot better on Wheel, where confidently making wild guesses about the correct answer is the norm.