Ryan Seacrest confirmed in an Instagram post on Tuesday that he will take over “Wheel of Fortune” from longtime host Pat Sajak. In June, Sajak announced his plans to retire from hosting the game show after 41 seasons.
“I’m truly humbled to be stepping into the footsteps of the legendary Pat Sajak,” Seacrest wrote. “I can say, along with the rest of America, that it’s been a privilege and pure joy to watch Pat and Vanna on our television screens for an unprecedented 40 years, making us smile every night and feel right at home with them.”
During his tenure hosting “Wheel of Fortune” alongside letter turner Vanna White, Sajak has won the Daytime Emmy for outstanding game show host three times, with 19 total nominations. While Sajak will no longer be the face of “Wheel,” which he’d steered since its 1981 debut, Sony Pictures Television confirmed that he will continue a partnership with the program as a consultant.
“Well, the time has come. I’ve decided that our 41st season, which begins in September, will be my last,” Sajak wrote of his departure. “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!)”
In the days following Sajak’s announcement, reports surfaced that Seacrest was in the running for the job. Bloomberg reporter Lucas Shaw, who broke the news of Sajak’s departure, tweeted that Seacrest was a potential candidate and had begun early conversations with the game show’s producers. “Some sources say he’s the frontrunner,” Shaw wrote. “Others say he is just one of many interested.”
One of those interested parties was “The View” host (and EGOT winner) Whoopi Goldberg, who made her intentions known on air. “I want that job!” Goldberg stated the following morning, while the daytime panelists discussed the news of Sajak’s retirement with “Jeopardy” host Ken Jennings (who himself took over following the death of Alex Trebek).
Then there’s the case of White, who moved from the letter board to the wheel (for the first time in 37 years) in 2019, when she filled in as host while Sajak underwent emergency surgery.
“When we started ‘Wheel of Fortune’ who could have imagined we’d still be at it 41 seasons later?” White tweeted in response to Sajak’s post. “I couldn’t be happier to have shared the stage with you for all these years with one more to come. Cheers to you!”
But Seacrest ultimately won the role.
Like Sajak, Seacrest has shepherded “American Idol” from its inception, hosting the singing competition show since 2002. Seacrest has proven a stabilizing force on the show as it transformed across the decades, with judges cycling in and out and amid its move from Fox to ABC. “I hope to host that show forever,” Seacrest told Variety earlier this year.
He is also well-versed in taking up the mantle from another icon, after assuming hosting duties for “American Top 40” from legendary radio host Casey Kasem in 2004 and “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.” Seacrest co-hosted and executive produced the holiday special with Clark from 2006 until the renowned broadcaster’s death in 2012.
Seacrest’s new gig comes just months after he signed off as co-host of “Live With Kelly and Ryan,” where he worked for six years with franchise stalwart Kelly Ripa. The duo experienced great success in the ratings. As of his final shows, “Live” celebrated 29 consecutive weeks as the No. 1 syndicated talk show across all key Nielsen measures (households, women 25-54 and total viewers, with 2.3 million people tuning in), a position it has held for the past three years. And in 2019, Ripa and Seacrest won a Daytime Emmy for outstanding entertainment talk show hosts.
But, departing “Live” reduced Seacrest’s schedule from having six jobs a year (including “Idol,” “On Air With Ryan Seacrest,” “American Top 40,” “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” and his morning show for L.A.’s KIIS-FM radio) to five.
The TV host also shifted his focus to his food ventures (Seacrest formed an agricultural company to study the process of producing extra virgin olive oil and organic wine and will be releasing his own label, dubbed “Concento.”) and launching new broadcast media centers in pediatric hospitals with the Ryan Seacrest Foundation. And, now, it seems like there’s time to host a new show.
In his “Live” exit interview with Variety, Seacrest offered his younger self some prophetic career advice: “It’s okay to close a chapter and look forward to a new one. And what’s next is probably going to be something that you didn’t even see coming.”
And that next chapter will include spinning the Final Wheel.