Pat Sajak and Vanna White will return for more Wheel of Fortune, but the game itself is getting something of a facelift. Sajak and White are set to continue with the show through at least the 2023-2024 TV season, which will provide some stability to a series that just lost executive producer Mike Richards after a scandal that came to light when he was named host of Jeopardy!. The new contract comes as the show refreshes somewhat, with an updated set and theme song. The series will also expand its social media footprint, bringing on Maggie Sajak, Pat's daughter, as its social correspondent.
The younger Sajak will be the "online host," a role which Today describes as "sharing exclusive videos, behind-the-scenes access, and interviews with the hosts, staff, crew, and contestants." She will also be responsible for the show's social media pages.
Some of the Wheel refresh is purely cosmetic, while other elements actually impact the viewing and gameplay experience. Announcer Jim Thornton, who has been with the show for 10 years, will now have a podium on stage from which he will introduce Sajak and White. This makes him significantly more of a presence for the viewing audience.
Even more significant: Sajak will no longer personally do the final spin of the wheel, with the duty instead going to the player who is in control of the wheel at the time.
"If you think about it, by doing the "final spin" I, as host, had an impact on the outcome of the game and that has always bothered me because it just didn't feel right," Sajak told Today. "With this change, only the contestants determine the outcome of the game and the host does not impose themself in any way."
Today also says that in Season 39, the Free Play space on the wheel will be removed and replaced by an $850 wedge, and a $4,000 bonus added to contestants who solve all three puzzles in the Triple Toss Up Round, making the round worth $10,000. Lastly, the minimum amount that can be won on the Bonus Wheel has been upped to $39,000, in honor of the show's 39th season in syndication.
It seems plausible that some of these changes are intended to bring forward some other friendly faces, so that Pat Sajak feels less like the sole face of Wheel of Fortune. It would be difficult to believe that the challenges facing Jeopardy! post-Alex Trebek have not made an impression on the Wheel executives.