Thursday, October 15, 2015

Once upon a talk show

Everybody gets a talk show sooner or later. (Okay, slight exaggeration. I've only gotten a blog, and lots of people don't even get that.)

But Pat Sajak, who you may know from the big wheel thingie, really did get a talk show on CBS in January, 1989. It lasted for fifteen tumultuous, mostly low-rated months. The big problem was a guy named Johnny Carson, just entering the homestretch of his nearly thirty-year run.

But Sajak himself was probably too low-key and vanilla to prosper in the late night wars. The same aw-shucks persona that has served him so well on Wheel of Fortune made the talker look and sound snoozy.

Splitsider has posted an entertaining look at Pat's misbegotten effort. Maybe the oddest note in the story is the comment about "Sajak's average of 3 million" viewers. Hey, Fallon gets about that many viewers, and he looks like he'll be on forever. Just shows how the TV audience has splintered. Back in the day, Carson easily doubled that three million figure.

The story is packed with funny anecdotes and other yummy trivia that might make for a good Jeopardy category...if anybody could remember the show.


  1. Stu SHostak of Stu's show at did audience warmup for the Pat Sajak show.

  2. Actually, Arsenio Hall sealed Sajak's fate, with ratings about- in the high 4 million viewers, nearly 3 million in the demo. This accelerated Carson's retirement, by Helen Kushnik, (Jay Leno's manager at the time) through the press.

    1. I think that show was around the time that Wheel Of Fortune was also on CBS in addition to being syndicated. Sajak is a great game show host, but not so much in the world of talk shows. And Arsenio was basically taking the talk show world by storm in the late 80s and 90s. Fun fact: Burton Richardson, former Family Feud announcer was the announcer for Aresnio.

      Since Jimmy Fallon has basically turned The Tonight Show into a variety game show, NBC might as well let Fallon host and produce his own game show. He sure loves playing those.

    2. Don't believe Kushnik propaganda. With his huge (by current standards) audience, Carson could have kept going for as long as he wanted. He just got tired of the show. He was already taking a ton of time off in the last few years.

      BTW, whatever happened to Arsenio? I think he had another show a couple years ago that vanished in a week or two (slight exaggeration).

  3. Arsenio's 2013-14 late night show originally got renewed for year two, then the decision was later reversed.