‘Wheel of Fortune,’ Disney a ‘great fit’
Taping “Wheel of Fortune” at Epcot is truly coming home for host Pat Sajak, who bought a place in Central Florida a year ago.
“We’re looking ahead to grandkids. Who doesn’t want to come to Disney World?” Sajak, 70, said Tuesday. “It’s nice to be here for the annual humidity festival,” the former TV weatherman added.
In person, Sajak is more a cut-up than he can ever be on the game show.
“He is so funny,” said cohost Vanna White. “You see a little bit of that on the air. But multiply that by 10 times off the air. He is just so quick and fun, and we’ve been together 35 years — never had one argument.”
As host, Sajak said he has to restrain his natural performance instinct. “As clever as I think I am, people are watching to see the game, they’re watching to see what Vanna is wearing,” he said. “If I do anything remotely amusing, I have to do it sort of hit and run and get out of the way. It’s not the Pat Sajak show.”
“Wheel,” which airs 7:30 p.m. weekdays on WFTVChannel 9, is celebrating its 35th season. The game show is taping 15 episodes over three days at Epcot, which is marking its 35th year.
The episodes, which promote Walt Disney World Resort, will air through the year: holiday shows the week of Nov. 13, Valentine’s Day programs the week of Feb. 12 and episodes with Disney fans the week of April 30. They are timed to major ratings periods.
“Our viewers love anything Disney,” executive producer Harry Friedman said. “It’s a brand they know and love and respect, and it’s a great fit for us.”
Like Disney, “Wheel” has enduring appeal across the generations. “We’re proud to say we’re comfort food. We’re very, very popular among families,” Friedman said.
What does the 35-year run mean? “I’m old,” White, 60, joked. “I am so thrilled that our show has been on for this long. I still love my job; I love what I do; I love seeing people win.”
Sajak said “Wheel” had offered a dinnertime oasis for decades. “Vanna and I benefit from that warm feeling. It’s a family affair watching our little program,” he said. (A show spokeswoman said 250 from the “Wheel” staff and Disney were working on the episodes.)
“I don’t want to make too much of it, ’cause it is a game show, and as I’ve said often, we’re playing Hangman,” Sajak added. “But it has become a part of people’s life cycle and rhythm. Even if you don’t watch it every day, it’s kind of like the sunset. You may not go out on the patio and look at it, but it’s nice to know it’s out there.”
Old-fashioned, steady “Wheel” is a break from current trends, too. “The reality shows are about embarrassing people,” Sajak said. “We go out of our way to try to make our people comfortable. No one gets voted off. Even if you don’t win, you get something. If you hit bankrupt, we don’t actually come and take your house and car, though I think that would make for an interesting show.”
Minnie and Mickey welcome “Wheel of Fortune” stars Pat Sajak and Vanna White during taping of the show Tuesday at Epcot. The game show is taping 15 episodes at the park.