June 16, 2024

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What he meant for television

What he meant for television

Vanessa Ganz, of Shoreham, doesn’t remember exactly the first time she saw Pat Sajak — she was just a child, sitting there night after night with her grandmother, watching strangers buy vowels — but she distinctly remembers the time they met. That was Dec. 17, 2017, when she won $58,000 in cash and prizes, a record for Long Island “Wheel of Fortune” contestants at the time.

Between commercial breaks, “he was acting like he was hosting for the first time,” says Ganz, a sixth-grade teacher at William Baca Middle School in Mastic Beach. “It wasn’t like he turned on the camera. He was kind and funny and interested in getting to know you. It was like I had this larger-than-life character in my living room the day before and now I was face to face with him, as if nothing was different.” .

Overthinking the reasons for Sajak’s longevity is like overthinking rocks: they’re there, they’ve been there forever, and they’ll always be there. Or at least Sajak will until this Friday, when he holds a Guinness World Record for 43 years as host of “Wheel.” He will be replaced in the fall by someone who was just a kid himself when this period began (Ryan Seacrest, 7, at the time).

But ask a fan – really, any Fan – and they will come up with a short checklist just like Ganz’s (then Fernie – she was married in 2022). It always starts with “likable”, followed by “quick-witted”. The word “nice” always seems to fit into this as well.

In fact, starting in 1981 — when Sajak, then 28, replaced another game show legend, Chuck Woolery, as host of NBC’s daytime edition — he absorbed the rhythms of this game until the game caught on. for him Rhythms, they became one. “Wheel” was never as serious or rational as its companion “Jeopardy” and therefore had no prestige either. Same with Sajak and Alex Trebek (now Ken Jennings). This show, this hosts, It is about matching letters and examining vowels. Sajak’s character was meant for this task.

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At once quiet and introverted – active and quiet – his balancing act of more than four decades must have been as difficult as it now appears. If he had been too serious, he would have become ostentatious, and if he had been self-absorbed, the “wheel” would have turned ridiculous and irrelevant, and by association, those legions of fans too who have waited a lifetime to spin this most famous of wheels.

Instead of being one of the most successful shows in television history, “Wheel” could have been a rambling rambling among hundreds of other game shows.

Sajak’s biography can be condensed into a few lines, too: Born in Chicago, to a working-class family, he was drafted into the Army, and sent to Vietnam where he worked as a DJ on Armed Forces Radio. After the war, he became a weather forecaster at WSM, a television station in Nashville, then headed to KNBC in Los Angeles in 1977. The weather could be boring there, so Sajak added a humorous flair to his delivery. He was hired by “The Wheel” czar and apparent fan Merv Griffin to revive the fading “The Wheel”. By the mid-1980s, the syndicated “Wheel” — launched in 1983 — was perhaps the most popular show on the planet.

There were certainly other reasons besides Sajak for this. Vanna White joined in 1982, and quickly became the new Farrah Fawcett. There may be neither vana nor bat, but also the opposite. Sajak’s cool, Midwestern look made her even more exotic and glamorous.

However, this Friday, we all say goodbye to a familiar name, then welcome another in the fall. Like Sajak, Seacrest is a seasoned broadcaster whose edges are so smoothed that he should theoretically appeal to almost everyone. But what Seacrest doesn’t have is that 43-year span. He doesn’t have generations of fans like Ganz, who now watches with her 1-year-old son Thomas.

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She says Sajak is “irreplaceable.”

Who do you know? Maybe it is.