Tuesday, January 06, 2015

I'll Take a W

On this day in 1975, Wheel of Fortune premiered as part of NBC's daytime lineup.

Pat Sajak wasn't the original host; Chuck Woolery was. And Vanna White wasn't the original assistant; that was Susan Stafford. Sajak and White took over in the early '80s.

It didn't all happen at once; there was some overlap. Woolery left the show in 1981, and he was replaced by Sajak. Then Stafford left the show in 1982, and she was replaced by White.

Sajak stayed until 1989, then he was replaced, briefly, by former pro football player Rolf Benirschke, who was replaced by Bob Goen. When the network show was canceled and it was picked up for syndication, Sajak returned as host. He's still there. So is White, who has been on the show now for more than 30 years.

Otherwise, the show (a Merv Griffin creation) is virtually unchanged from the one that made its debut 40 years ago — except for the fact that it is now in syndication and typically airs at night. It is the longest–running syndicated game show in the United States.

The basic format is still the same — and people still tune in by the millions. The truly dedicated have been watching now for 40 years.