The Pat Sajak Show

The Pat Sajak Show

infobox television
show_name = The Pat Sajak Show

caption =
format = Talk show
runtime = 90/60 minutes
creator =
starring = Pat Sajak
Dan Miller
country = flagicon|United States United States
network = CBS
first_aired = January 9, 1989
last_aired = April 13, 1990
num_episodes =
producer = Paul Gilbert [ The Good Fortunes of Pat Sajak] , a December 11, 1988 article in "The New York Times"]
location = CBS Television City
website =
imdb_id = 0096674
tv_com_id = 2209
related = "Pat Sajak Weekend"

"The Pat Sajak Show" was an American late-night television talk show which aired on CBS from January 9, 1989 to April 13, 1990.


The show was hosted by Pat Sajak, best known as host of the game show "Wheel of Fortune". In order to do the talk show, Sajak left the NBC daytime version of "Wheel", but remained the host of the syndicated nighttime version.

Sajak's announcer and sidekick on the show was Dan Miller, his friend and former colleague from their time working together on weekend newscasts at WSM-TV in Nashville, Tennessee, in the mid-1970s. The in-studio band was led by jazz musician Tom Scott.


Sajak was hired by Michael Brockman, the CBS vice-president for daytime, children's and late-night programming, who wanted to have a late-night talk show established when Carson eventually announced his retirement. Brockman had known Sajak since the two were working for NBC in the late 1970s. Back then, Brockman had approached Sajak, a weatherman, about doing a game show, but Sajak rejected the idea, saying what he really wanted to do was get a talk show. Brockman kept him in mind over the years, and at a lunch in 1986 he reminded Sajak about the conversation—Sajak confirmed his interest in a talk show, and Brockman went to work getting approvals from his management for the plan and getting network affiliates to commit to the show.

CBS spent more than $4 million for a new sound stage for the show at its Television City studios. A staff of more than 30 was hired, and Sajak signed a guaranteed two-year contract for what was reportedly $60,000 a week.

In an interview held a month before the show premiered, Sajak said he was "not looking to raise the level of TV" ; he also summarized the elements planned for the show, a plan that "steal [s] liberally" from talk shows past and present:
*interview celebrities like Sylvester Stallone who become available when they are promoting their latest film;
*follow in the footsteps of Jack Paar, his idol, by building a returning roster of non-celebrity guests who are interesting conversationalists.
*use a hand-held camera to roam, like David Letterman's NBC show;

In that same interview he also listed what the show wouldn't contain: no opening monologue, and no Letterman-style sarcasm.


Chevy Chase was the show's first guest; his interview was followed by one with Joan Van Ark, a performance by and brief interview with The Judds, an interview with the outgoing commissioner of baseball, Peter Ueberroth (interrupted briefly when Chase, who followed late-night talk show conventions of the time and remained seated on stage during the show's other guest appearances, raised his hand and asked if he could go to the bathroom). [ [ Late-Night Chitchat Additions: Pat Sajak and Arsenio Hall] , a January 11, 1989 review from "The New York Times"] One more interview (with Michael Gross), and then a show-ending performance by stand-up comic, Dennis Wolfberg.


The show's set was similar to that of "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson". Its format also emulated Johnny Carson's model, featuring a monologue, comedy bits, interviews with celebrities, and performances by musicians and comedians. "The Pat Sajak Show" began as a ninety-minute talk show, but was reduced to sixty minutes in October 1989. CBS executives said the show was shortened because the late-night talk show format was better suited for a sixty-minute time slot. [ [ CBS Trims 30 Minutes From 'Pat Sajak Show'] - New York Times]

Rush Limbaugh incident

Two weeks before "The Pat Sajak Show" was canceled, on March 30, 1990, Rush Limbaugh (whose radio show had just recently been syndicated and was still largely unknown) made headlines when he guest-hosted the program, and in a departure from its regular format, entered the audience to get its response about a bill in Idaho allowing for abortion on which he had just commented. After a verbal confrontation with an angry woman in the audience, Limbaugh addressed the camera and suggested that he went into the audience in an attempt to show the viewing public that there was an underlying prejudice against him. Due to the constant heckling by audience members, Limbaugh decided to conduct his interview with Sydney Biddle Barrows in another studio.

After a commercial break, Limbaugh attempted to address the topic of affirmative action, but was heckled again by several male audience members calling him a "murderer" before he could make a point. Limbaugh sat silently with the camera focused on him for nearly a minute while audience members continued shouting phrases such as "You want people to die!" Limbaugh responded with, "I am not responsible for your behavior," and got an ovation from the remainder of the crowd, as the few dissident audience members continued to shout.

After another break, Limbaugh returned and conducted the final segment from an empty studio after the audience had been cleared. He stated that the audience was not "evicted from the studio" or "forcibly restrained from doing anything they did" and gave CBS credit for handling the situation in the manner it did. ["The Pat Sajak Show", 30 March 1990]

Limbaugh later publicly suspected the dissident audience members were planted by the show's producers as a publicity stunt, but that he was not informed in advance or after the fact, if that were indeed the case. [ May 3, 2001 Transcript] of"Larry King Live" guest host Pat Sajak inteviewing Rush Limbaugh]


During its final weeks, Sajak worked four days per week, while guest hosts took the reins on Fridays. Sajak, while interviewing Limbaugh a decade later on "Larry King Live", facetiously said the show "was going so well that they actually auditioned replacements for me on the air." Limbaugh all but confirmed Sajak's suspicion when he responded with, "I don't know if it was necessarily an audition for that slot, by the way, but I know that they were auditioning talent for various things."

On April 9, 1990, CBS announced the cancellation of "The Pat Sajak Show" due to low ratings, which were generally half the level of Carson's, [ [ CBS Television Cancels 'The Pat Sajak Show'] - New York Times] and were further divided by the "Arsenio Hall Show", which had been launched in syndication the same month as Sajak's show. Sajak was on vacation when the show was pulled from the lineup, and did not get the chance to host the final show and say goodbye to his audience. The final show was hosted by comedian Paul Rodríguez. Some affiliates delayed the show or never carried the program at all choosing to air sitcom reruns or syndicated shows.

CBS filled its newly-available late-night airtime with movies (though some affiliates chose to carry other programming, notably "The Arsenio Hall Show") and would not program another late-night talk show for three and a half years, when it premiered "Late Show with David Letterman" in August 1993.

See also

*List of late night network TV programs


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