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3 Replacement Hosts That Sank TV Shows

January 13, 2016

Some TV shows are so synonymous with their hosts that when those hosts leave, the show doesn’t last much longer.

Wheel of Fortune

  • In the 1980s, two versions of Wheel of Fortune ran simultaneously on American TV. One is the still-running syndicated nighttime version, and the other was a part of NBC’s daytime schedule. Pat Sajak hosted the nighttime version, and when Chuck Woolery left the daytime one in 1981, Sajak took it over. But when CBS tapped Sajak to host a late night talk show to face off against Johnny Carson and The Tonight Show in 1989, he had to give up one of his gigs. He chose the daytime Wheel, and executive producer Merv Griffin’s choice to replace him was more inexplicable than hiring Pat Sajak to host a late night talk show: Rolf Benirschke. You’ve probably only heard of him if you’re a hardcore San Diego Chargers fan, because Benirschke was the team’s kicker from 1977 to 1986. Despite having almost no on-camera experience, he got the Wheel hosting job, and lasted less than six months before NBC cancelled the daytime version of the show.
  • American Bandstand is one of the most iconic TV shows in history, a national phenomenon under host Dick Clark, a former disc jockey and ultimately a media mogul omnipresent TV personality. But by the ‘80s, with MTV and other sources providing regular rock n’ roll on TV, Bandstand was passé. ABC reduced its length from 60 to 30 minutes in 1986 (30 years after Clark began hosting), then it moved from syndication, and to the USA cable channel. That’s when Clark decided it wasn’t worth his time anymore, and picked stand-up comedian David Hirsch to host. Hirsch lasted from April 1989 to August 1989, when USA pulled the plug.
  • The Rosie O’Donnell Show was an immediate hit in 1996, and won the Daytime Emmy for Best Talk Show five times. But in 2002, O’Donnell decided she wanted to return to stand-up comedy, as well as spend more time with her family, so she left the show, but not before selecting her replacement: comedian and actress Caroline Rhea. However, in the fall of 2002, producer Warner Brothers Television offered stations carrying Rosie another replacement option: The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Most stations picked that one, and gave it a prime, mid-afternoon slot. Stations that chose Rhea relegated it to the middle of the night, where it struggled for one season.
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