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"...From Television City In Hollywood!" I got to see a taping of this
program in person, during its 90 minute format.
You have to keep in mind that CBS had no real toehold in the "late night" wars at that time, that Johnny Carson was still King, but there were hints that the reign was soon to end: Arsenio Hall was barking and starting to change the style and format of the talk show and that David Letterman was on NBC following Carson, and gaining a lot of attention.
Pat Sajak, always very personable with the contestants on "Wheel Of Fortune," tried his hand at interviewing. Where he only had to actually converse with the players on "Wheel" for roughly thirty seconds, here, he had to quiz well known celebrities for minutes at a time and actually "chat." I don't think he was prepared for such a task.
As if that wasn't bad enough, he did something really shocking: he attempted comedy! In fact, I'm surprised that David Letterman didn't sue Sajak and the show for what they did, which was all but swipe Dave's style and delivery, making Sajak a Letterman impressionist on a nightly basis. The title of this summary was the name of one of their running bits, where Sajak would point out what the daytime talk shows were discussing: Donahue, Oprah and Geraldo: hence the D.O.G. Watch. And yeah, the bit was about as funny as reading that was.
The whole program was an unfortunate error for everyone involved. Other victims were the show's band leader, famed Jazz saxophonist Tom Scott, who also penned the program's theme music (Scott was also designated this role for the disastrous Chevy Chase talk show, so maybe he's got a streak of bad luck when it comes to this), and Dan Miller (II), the program's "Gary Owens" style announcer, who was also saddled with various sketches like running for "Mayor of Television City," another inspired, yet bankrupt (if I can borrow a "Wheel" word) of humor skit. Cleverly, he has managed to keep this program's resume notation off of his IMDb page!
There was one bright spot in all of this, though it was a personal one. According to Pat's official website, he met and fell in love with his wife while working on the show. At least that made it worth the trouble for them!
The show was pared back to an hour from its original 90 minutes, and the host left before his name was removed from the title, eventually to be sent to Talk Show Purgatory.
Luckily, Sajak was able to retrieve his game show gig, where he has comfortably and successfully been to this day, though, in 2003, he did take a stab at another interview style show for Fox News, thankfully without any attempts at monologues or "desk humor."
THE Phenomenal SUCCESS of the syndicated evening version of game show,
THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE had a most interesting by product; namely, that is
the prolific wit and fine sense of humor possessed by its host. After
broadcast experience in Vietnam, Pat Sajac did some variously scattered
jobs in the Radio/TV industry. We see that he was a Weatherman at one
MAKING THE MOST of being the man who moderates the wheel spinning and introducing his guests, he kept all interested and entertained by using his quick mind in ad-libbing the most laugh getting quips imaginable. He did so consistently, without having to resort to insult or working blue. After all, THE WHEEL is a family show!
SO IT CAME to pass that Mr. Sajac got an offer that he couldn't refuse; not from a Crime Boss, but rather from CBS. They had long wanted a show that would cut into the viewer-ship that THE TONIGHT SHOW with Johnny Carson. Here was a dichotomy of realities to deal with. On the one hand, this was a great opportunity for Pat Sajac. But, for him or anyone else, it was a long shot; or even a career's suicide.
WELL, THE WHEEL stopped on "Bankrupt" for the show and it lasted only a season. So, luckily (or wisely, we should say)the producers over at Merv Griffin Productions brought him back to his gig as MC.
THE MOVE TO his own talk show could well have worked, had the network not thrown him in to such a "Baptism of Fire." Instead, and we risk being accused of using hindsight-which is always 20-20, the CBS people could have put him on Afternoons with his talk fest. In the same manner that David Letterman's (short) run on NBC, had familiarized us with him, so perhaps nurturing Pat Sajak as a future hot property, instead of wanting instant, blitzkrieg-type of victory.
Like a "Wheel Of Fortune" contestant attempting to buy "Y",the
game-show host couldn't have been thinking too clearly when he accepted
a gig as a late-night talk show host. What began as a 90-minute program
when it premiered in 1989(the same year that The Arsenio Hall Show came
onto the scene as well)on CBS within the first three months was reduced
to an hour,but that didn't make it easier for the eternally grinning
Pat Sajak to come up with compelling material. His interviewing skills
as a late night talk show host were pathetic. He couldn't interview
worth a damn. Having the audacity to try to unseat the king of late
night-Johnny Carson,Sajak had the drapes,the spotlight,the band,and the
couch but not the charisma. Because of this,CBS cancelled his show the
following year. One of the few memorable episodes featured an interview
with Robbie and Evel Knievel--the other was the one with Joan
Rivers,who also had the audacity to unseat Johnny Carson too,but
miserably fail.---This was so appropriate because the show itself was a
disaster waiting to happen and the executives at CBS knew this too.
After Pat Sajak's talk show was cancelled in 1990,CBS would have to
wait another three and a half years before they finally hit payola in
the competition for the late night talk show format,and they did in the
fall of 1993,when they acquired David Letterman from NBC to CBS.
Before long,in 1990,the cancelled "Pat Sajak Show" was replaced by repeats of Jack Lord's crime drama series "Hawaii Five-O" and the Telly Savalas crime drama series "Kojak" along with repeated episodes of either "Columbo" or some other form of entertainment that replaced it for CBS Late Night. Pat Sajak returned to do what he did best-host a game show and this was something he knew how to do,brilliantly and successfully.
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