It made headlines when Wheel of Fortune host, Pat Sajak, was rushed into emergency surgery. But what happened next was even bigger news.
Vanna White stepped across the invisible barrier and took Sajak’s place at the head of the wheel with literally just a few minutes notice. But it wasn’t as though she didn’t know the game or the players. Really, how hard could it be?
Vanna has almost 40 years of fan adoration to bolster her up. She began as the pretty young model who strutted back and forth across the soundstage in a floor-length gown. She spoke little, smiled a lot and turned the letters as they lit up.
That was the traditional role of the female on a game show 50 years ago. And it hasn’t changed much since then.
However, over the seasons as the technology improved on the show, Vanna’s already limited job has shrunk. No longer does she turn letters. Of course, she still walks back and forth. But now, she pretends to touch the square that electronically reveals the letter in the puzzle.
So Vanna went from doing little, to doing next to nothing. She has literally become the definition of “window dressing.” Even the former Barker Babes of The Price Is Right fame did more on set than Ms. White.
Yes, despite the modernization of the Wheel set, the prizes and even the players, Vanna is a throwback to a bygone era of game shows. The man is the host. Meanwhile, the young female model in a pretty dress blandly smiles and points at prizes and game pieces.
It’s every little girl’s greatest dream come true. In 1952.
It took Sajak going under the knife – and no one else available on 35 minutes notice – to put Vanna in the driver’s seat, introducing and encouraging the contestants while running the game. And why not? In her new role, she’s a modern day 50’s party host. And with only a few bumps along the way, Vanna has managed quite well.
However, she was worried because hosting requires a different set of skills. (Although what skills her regular job requires is still up for debate. Being able to walk in a straight line? Not slipping in your heels?)
And while she was covering for Sajak the first week, producers had a few “special guests” lined up for her old job, including Minnie Mouse. (Personally, I’d be worried if an imagination animation could do my job.) So much for job security.
One has to wonder what the New Year will bring. Wheel games are recorded weeks in advance. So despite still being in recovery, Sajak will still appear on television this month. White’s second week of hosting will then run in early January. And Sajak will return to the job after that.
But will Vanna just slink back into her old “smile and wave” ways? Or will the pretty model finally get some real responsibility to share with Sajak? After all, it’s 2020. Give the girl a promotion, already.