'Wheel of Fortune': Vanna White will miss upcoming shows as future remains uncertain post-Pat Sajak

Between a weeklong absence in the upcoming season and ongoing contract negotiations, the letter-turning star's long-term future is cloudy.

CELEBRITY WHEEL OF FORTUNE -
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Wheel of Fortune fans may notice that the show is missing a pretty big staple during it's popular “Teacher’s Week” episodes this week — Vanna White.

White and host Pat Sajak have worked together on the game show since its syndication debut in 1983, accounting for nearly 8,000 episodes over the span of 40 years. And while both of them rarely miss a taping, White was forced to miss a day of filming due to illness, which in the game show world is equivalent to a week’s worth of shows. In this case, it was the annual series of episodes featuring teachers from across the country competing for big prizes.

Of course, rescheduling when you’re filming with teachers can be hard, for obvious reasons, but the show had to go on. And who better to step in for White during Teachers Week than an actual teacher? So Bridgette Donald-Blue, who was recently named a 2023 California Teacher of the Year, went from teaching letters to turning them in White’s one-day absence. Puck News reported that the hosting switch-up didn't sit well with Sajak, whose preferred White replacement is his daughter, Maggie, and he declined to tape the show's usual send-off segment with Donald-Blue alone.

But the unscheduled absence did come at an interesting time considering it was during White’s then-ongoing contract negotiations, which had become highly publicized since Sajak announced in June that the show’s upcoming 41st season will be his last. Ryan Seacrest was selected as Sajak’s replacement, while the show itself was renewed for five more years through the 2027-2028 season.

White negotiated a deal to continue working on the primetime Celebrity Wheel of Fortune earlier in the year, but had been working to secure a new long-term deal for the regular syndicated version of the show, for which she is under contract for another year.

Those negotiations were reportedly paused due to the writers' strike, while production of Wheel of Fortune, however, was not halted due to the strike. Eventually though, about a week before the strike ended, White signed a two-year contract extension to continue as co-host through the 2025-26 season, per The Hollywood Reporter. The new contract means at least two years of co-hosting alongside Seacrest.

It was reported that the two sides — White and Sony — were far apart. That could be due to the fact that, according to reports, White had made remarkably less than Sajak for a long time — roughly $3 million compared to his $15 million — and she hadn’t received a raise in 18 years. Which is why she hired a notoriously aggressive lawyer, Bryan Freedman, to do her negotiations. TMZ reported that she was looking for half of what Sajak makes for Celebrity Wheel of Fortune but “settled for $100k an episode," while Sajak apparently makes more than $400k per episode.

Terms of White's new deal for the regular show were not disclosed, but are believed to include a big pay raise for the co-host.

Wheel of Fortune airs weekdays, check your local listings.