Television lost one of its greats in 2020 with the death of longtime Jeopardy host Alex Trebek, and now Wheel of Fortune's Pat Sajak is looking back at Trebek's legacy. Sajak is heading toward primetime in early 2021 for Celebrity Wheel of Fortune just as Jeopardy airs the final episodes that Trebek filmed before his passing, and his words about the Jeopardy legend are poignant as he looks back.
Alex Trebek hosted Jeopardy starting in 1984 and filmed almost up until his death in 2020, with his final episodes airing in 2021, while Pat Sajak started his ongoing stint as Wheel of Fortune host in 1983. The two shows have been paired in syndication for years. Speaking with ET, Sajak commented on their early years as hosts of their respective shows as well as the legacy Trebek leaves behind:
When I started the show... Alex had already done a half a dozen, maybe more, game shows here and in Canada, he has done a bunch of them, and was always highly professional and was like the perfect match for his show. . . . As a fellow professional, the admiration is off the charts.
Although Pat Sajak's time on Wheel of Fortune actually began a year before Alex Trebek joined Jeopardy in 1984, Trebek had already hosted a number of game shows, albeit shows with considerably shorter runs than he would experience with Jeopardy. By the time of his death, Trebek was synonymous with Jeopardy, bringing a combination of heart, humor, and knowledge that guarantee he won't be forgotten by viewers any time soon.
The outpouring of grief following Alex Trebek's death proves that fans share Pat Sajak's admiration for Trebek. In fact, Sajak isn't even the only person at Wheel of Fortune who has spoken out about the Jeopardy host's legacy as both a person and a professional in the game show business. Vanna White, who has been the letter-turning (and spectacular dress-wearing) hostess of Wheel of Fortune alongside Sajak, echoes Sajak's sentiments by saying:
I knew Alex for almost 40 years, and he's just been a good friend. Through the years, I have gotten to know his wife and his kids and he is just part of the family. Just on a professional level, I have been at this a long time and I really admire what he has done, and he had done so much.
Pat Sajak and Vanna White's comments in honor of Alex Trebek couldn't be better timed, as Jeopardy airs its final episodes with Trebek as host. The show isn't ending with the end of Trebek's last run of episodes, however, and presumably will continue to be paired with Wheel of Fortune.
In announcing the interim guest hosts who would be stepping in following Alex Trebek's last episodes, Jeopardy executive producer Mike Richards shared that Trebek "always said that he wanted the show to go on after him," and the goal was to "honor Alex's legacy" by continuing to produce the show he loved. Ken Jennings will be the first of the interim hosts, despite the controversy he has generated since the announcement.
As for Pat Sajak and Vanna White, they are coming to primetime in 2021 for Celebrity Wheel of Fortune, which premieres on Thursday, January 7 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC with Leslie Jones, Chandra Wilson, and Tony Hawk as guests, with more episodes continuing to air on Thursdays in January. For more of what's on the way in the new year, take a look at our 2021 winter and spring premiere schedule.