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Pat Sajak ends his run as host of 'Wheel of Fortune' on Friday


Game show contenders won't be buying a vowel from Pat Sajak anymore.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) Wheel of Fortune.


After more than 40 years, Sajak's final spin on "Wheel Of Fortune" is tomorrow. Here he is on Day 1 way back in December of 1981.


JACK CLARK: And now, here's your new host, Pat Sajak.

PAT SAJAK: As Jack mentioned, my name is Pat Sajak, and I've been fortunate enough to wander onto the set of a very successful program.

ROBERT THOMPSON: Well, I suppose doing anything for 40 years is fairly unusual.

MARTIN: That's Robert Thompson. He is a professor at Syracuse University who teaches a class on pop culture and television.

THOMPSON: It is especially unusual in television, where most shows don't last anywhere near that long.

MARTIN: Thompson says Sajak's decadeslong run is partly due to the success of the show itself and Sajak's old-school style of hosting.

THOMPSON: A game show host is someone you're potentially going to be watching a half hour a day for five days a week. There has to be sort of all the edges kind of off. You want them to have a personality, but it can't be the kind of personality you grow tired of.

MARTÍNEZ: In 2014, some fans did grow tired of Sajak, when the self-described conservative Republican tweeted that, quote, "global warming alarmists" were "unpatriotic racists." His spokesman later said it was a joke.

MARTIN: Personal politics aside, jokes were a big part of Sajak's hosting style, especially in moments where contestants would give some pretty off-the-wall answers.


JOE: A group of pill pushers?


SAJAK: This is "Wheel Of Fortune," Joe.

MARTÍNEZ: Thompson says credit for the show's long-running success is also due to its co-host Vanna White and her rapport with Sajak.


VANNA WHITE: We all goof around here on the set. We're all like family and all that.

SAJAK: We're very lucky. We have...

WHITE: Yeah.

SAJAK: ...A really nice group of men and women here. We like them all - well, except for, you know, that one you always complained about. But other than that, we like everybody.

THOMPSON: Whatever you want to call it - Abbott and Costello - he was able to do a bit with Vanna day after day that most of the other game show hosts did not have.

MARTIN: Vanna White's new co-host is TV and radio presenter Ryan Seacrest. And Thompson says don't expect to see major changes to the game show. It works well, just as it is.

THOMPSON: If you look at the TV shows that have come and gone, a show like "Wheel Of Fortune" keeps plugging away. That should tell us about some very basic things of the nature of human entertainment that I don't think we give nearly the credit.

MARTIN: But as we know, it is the host who keeps things moving. Right, A?

MARTÍNEZ: Absolutely. That's what we're hosting for. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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