Given the number of years Wheel of Fortune has been on and the scope of this Wiki, it is no surprise that there are some frequently-asked questions about various elements. This page will attempt to answer some of them.
Was the show always called Wheel of Fortune?Edit
The show was originally called Shopper's Bazaar when it was first developed in 1973. The more familiar title appears to have been introduced in early August 1974, as a Variety blurb from July 31 uses the original name.
Does the 1973 pilot still exist?Edit
While creator Merv Griffin and Lin Bolen (then NBC's Vice President of Daytime Programming) did not like it, admitting its shortcomings during the show's E! True Hollywood Story, Shopper's Bazaar nonetheless exists and can be found online. Interestingly, Wheel is aware of this fact.
The most likely reason why it never showed up anywhere until 2012 is music rights, as instrumental versions of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and "Spinning Wheel" were used as the main and commercial outro themes, respectively.
When was the "Wheel! Of! Fortune!" chant introduced?Edit
August 8, 1983, the same day "Changing Keys" became the main theme.
How many versions have there been?Edit
In the United States, three: the original 1975-91 daytime series, the 1983-current nighttime run, and the 1997-98 spinoff Wheel 2000. There was also Wheel of Fortune - Live!, a traveling show during the late 1990s.
The show has been exported to quite a few countries since 1975; info on them can be found here, including two adaptations of Wheel 2000.
So why did the daytime version end?Edit
The daytime show's demise can be traced back to several factors, all following Pat's departure:
- His replacement by Rolf Benirschke, a former football player who had rarely been on television and never hosted a game show until doing an audition for Merv's Winfall (which led to one for Wheel). While a genial person, Rolf was visibly nervous and unfamiliar with some of the game's rules; this was not helped by a single pre-emption which caused his first four shows to air the same week as Pat's last day.
- The Price Is Right continuing to climb the Nielsen ratings and, despite being head to head with the show's first half, Wheel managing to remain consistent in the audience figures it had prior to Pat's departure. While it is likely that some of the Wheel audience tuned out after Pat left, this was clearly a negligible number.
- As a result of the show becoming a progressively more distant #2 in the ratings, NBC and Merv were unable to come up with a license fee agreement. NBC cancelled the show, kicking them out from Burbank after the June 30 episode despite the studio contract being scheduled to expire in 1990. CBS quickly picked up Wheel for a July 17 return, giving it an audiovisual makeover and a new host in Bob Goen.
- At about this point, the game show genre as a whole began a downslide that would not fully manifest until 1995. Upon moving to CBS, the Wheel ratings began falling, which did not stop even after returning to the NBC schedule in January 1991.
- Following the return to NBC, the show held at least three play-by-phone contests in an attempt to boost ratings; none worked, and may have been seen as a last-ditch grab for ratings.
- The show was drawing older demographics than most advertisers were looking for at the time (generally those aged 18-49), resulting in fewer sponsors (or at least a smaller diversity of them) as 1991 progressed.
Daytime Wheel took its last bow on September 20, 1991 after three weeks of repeats.
What about Wheel 2000?Edit
While the child-oriented version followed in its adult predecessors' footsteps by consistently being #1 among CBS' children's programming, it finished (after its last first-run episode on February 7, 1998) in 46th place overall with approximately 350,000 viewers. This was still better than the average for the entire lineup CBS was offering that season, which continually ran a distant fourth with a 0.5 (about 190,000 viewers).
On January 8, with five episodes left to air, CBS announced that it would be overhauling its weekend schedule, replacing everything with new cartoons by Nelvana (Anatole, Mythic Warriors, Birdz, and Flying Rhino Junior High). Birdz ran for just one season of 13 episodes, while the others got two seasons and 26 episodes.
The show's demise has actually left at least one notable effect on the adult version: unlike Jep! (a child-oriented version of Jeopardy! whose one-season demise paved the way for regular Kids' Weeks), the adult Wheel has not used children as contestants since the early-1990s My Favorite Teacher weeks; this was particularly obvious in a 2011 Family Week sponsored and promoted by Wendy's, as the fast-food chain had done so solely through their Kids' Meals.
During the New York City tapings of March 2013, two children in the audience asked Vanna White and current announcer Jim Thornton if there would be a Kids Week; the response from Jim was that Wheel would consider it.
How many daytime episodes were made?Edit
Not counting the three pilots, 4,215. This number was given by Peter Tomarken during GSN's first day in 1994, just before the nighttime Wheel debut was shown.
Wheel 2000 had 22 episodes and two pilots.
When did the daytime and nighttime versions tape?Edit
The daytime Wheel began taping in December 1974, and the original NBC run most likely wrapped in mid-June 1989. The CBS version taped from July 14, 1989 through about December 1990, with the return to NBC being taped from about January-August 1991.
Nighttime Wheel began taping on July 6, 1983, over a month before "Changing Keys" became the main theme on the daytime show; as the daytime show is not known to have taped that far in advance, this has led to a theory that the two versions were originally distinguished by whose music was used. This version taped at Television City from about August 1989 through May 1995.
The reason why the taping period for the daytime show at Television City is uncertain is due to the official Television City website, which has a list of what shows taped in which studios going back to September 1953. For whatever reason, the list does not count the daytime and nighttime versions of Wheel separately, a trait also present with The Price Is Right, Card Sharks, and Family Feud among others.
Have vowels always cost $250?Edit
On the nighttime show, yes. For the daytime show, it was dropped to $200 on July 17, 1989 and again to $100 sometime between January 4 and July 5, 1990.
Has the show always run for 30 minutes?Edit
No. From November 3-7, 1975, and again from December 1 of that year through January 16, 1976, Wheel aired for an hour from 10:30-11:30 AM. The former was for NBC's Daytime Gigantic Game Gala, while the latter may have been in response to the ratings of the one-week stint.
Rather than have three contestants play for an hour, the show used a sort of tournament style. Unfortunately, other than the November 3 show, nothing of the hour-long era is known to exist; as a result, most of the below information comes from recollections that date as far back as 1997, so these may not be entirely correct:
- Three contestants (including the returning champion, if applicable) played a three-round game during the first half-hour with $500, $1,000, and $1,500 as the top values (it is known that the week of November 3 used $1,000 in Round 1). Immediately afterward, a second set of contestants played a three-round game much like the first.
- The winner of each game then played a one-round "Head-To-Head All-Cash Showdown" with $2,000 as top value and the puzzle chosen in front of the puzzle board (reading WHEEL OF FORTUNE) from one of three bowls marked by category. This round was also the first appearance of the Prize wedge, albeit differently to its successor, as it was placed back on the Wheel if a contestant picked it up and hit Bankrupt.
- The winner of this round played a Bonus Round where s/he chose from Easy, Medium, Hard, or Difficult, which corresponded to the puzzle's difficulty (seemingly, the presence of common consonants) and offered larger prizes for the higher difficulties. The contestant picked four consonants and a vowel, after which they were given the category and 15 seconds to solve the puzzle.
What was the Big Month of Cash?Edit
A special event from October 5-30, 1987 on the nighttime version, in which the shopping element was temporarily dropped four weeks into Season 5 in favor of playing for cash, including a $25,000 cash prize being offered in the Bonus Round. It also saw the debut of a new game structure: where the top Wheel values had previously been $1,000/$1,000/$5,000, the game was now $1,000/$2,500/$3,500/$5,000.
The change was deemed such a success that the show opted to continue it "by popular demand" on November 2, renaming it the Big Bonanza of Cash. The "Big Bonanza" title and spiel were dropped sometime between February 12 and March 23, 1988, subtly noting that cash was here to stay.
Why are relatively few daytime episodes out there?Edit
Until the 1970s, television was generally seen as one-time programming, usually by networks but also by individual companies – if a show was not viable for repeats either on a network, in syndication, or in other countries, the tapes were usually wiped and reused. Kinescopes did not come into general use until about the late 1940s (despite being present since 1931), while videotape did not come into professional use until 1956; the two-inch tapes were expensive not only to purchase (early on, $300 per one-hour reel) but to store, hence the process of wiping.
The wiping process affected well over a thousand shows, including Wheel (one particularly notable victim was the DuMont network archive spanning 1946-56, parts of which had been destroyed circa 1958 for their silver content with the rest dumped into Upper New York Bay in the early 1970s); the last network to quit was NBC, in 1980. According to a King World representative in 2006, it was policy at Merv Griffin Productions/Enterprises to wipe and reuse the tapes, a policy they held until mid-1985.
Aside from this, Game Show Network has never held the rights to air the daytime version, only airing three episodes (one each from 1976, 1982, and 1989) as part of a marathon after Merv's death in 2007.
A list of daytime episodes that we know to exist can be viewed here. Additions and corrections are of course appreciated.
I was a contestant on Wheel before. Can I be on the show again?Edit
Short answer: No. The "Contestant FAQs" page on the show's website states that "Our rule is that you can be on the show only once in a lifetime. There are a lot of people who want to spin the Wheel!"
Long answer: Being on the American Wheel at any point in its history – including Wheel 2000, the unaired 2012 Lottery Experience Games, and possibly the 1973-74 pilots – renders you ineligible for the rest of your life. The "Show FAQs" page on the show's website goes into a bit of detail about this, specifically mentioning Wheel 2000 and the daytime show, name-checking Chuck Woolery, Bob Goen, and Pat Sajak; the names are followed by "or other hosts", which covers at least Rolf Benirschke and Alex Trebek.
This rule was introduced sometime between August 1983 and the end of 1998, likely when the Friday Finals were dropped at the beginning of Season 16. A contestant named Janet played on October 8, 1980 and #S-003 (taped July 1983), while a player named Paul was told after his appearance on #S-052 (taped August 28, 1983) that he could try out for Wheel again the following year. According to a 1998 recollection, a 1970s contestant was removed from the contestant prep room for having been on the show before.
On rare occasions, a contestant is brought back due to an error on their previous game. Known instances include September 8, 1988 (nighttime) and April 2, 2004.
Which version is referenced in Billy Joel's 1989 historical song We Didn't Start the Fire?Edit
While the show's placement between "Russians in Afghanistan" and "Sally Ride" covers the 1979-83 timeframe, the lack of any 1980-82 events would appear to suggest nighttime (despite it debuting about three months after Ride's space trip in June 1983).
When did the show first use themed weeks?Edit
The earliest known instance is Brides Week, known to have been held three times – January 24-28, 1977 (three grooms played on the 26th); February 6-10, 1978 (the last known appearance of director Jeff Goldstein); and June 8-12, 1981 (promoted on the June 8 episode of Blockbusters). The 1977 week is also the earliest known appearance of Summer Bartholomew, who modeled several wedding gowns for those shows.
While Brides Week is the most concrete example, an argument could be made for the week of November 3, 1975 (due to being a series of "test" hour-long episodes aired as part of NBC's Daytime Gigantic Game Gala) or the All-Star Dream Machine Championship (early 1976).
This said, the concept did not become a permanent part of the show until about Season 14.
What was the 1950s Wheel?Edit
A Peter Arnell series hosted by Todd Russell with Hal Simms as announcer, which aired on CBS from October 3, 1952 to December 24, 1953. The theme was Kay Starr's 1952 rendition of "Wheel of Fortune", which had previously enjoyed 22 weeks (nine at #1) on Billboard's best-seller chart.
Unlike contemporary games Queen For a Day and Strike It Rich, which simultaneously helped and exploited the poor and downtrodden for ratings to the dismay of both contemporary and modern critics, Wheel invited good Samaritans to share their stories to America (including Duane Dewey, the first person to receive a Medal of Honor from President Dwight D. Eisenhower) and spin a vertical carnival-style Wheel...although exactly how the game was played is unclear, as nothing is known to exist outside of three publicity shots. One of the set pieces was a Jackpot Wheel sporting various cash values (at least $300, $400, $500, $600, $800, $900, and $1,000) and question amounts (at least "1 out of 2", "2 out of 3", "3 out of 3", "2 out of 4", "3 out of 4", and "4 out of 4"); the "out of" signs likely corresponded to the values and question difficulty: easier questions and/or less right answers for $300 and $400, harder and/or more for $900 and $1,000.
While Merv's format was not based on Arnell's, much as the A&Q concept of Jeopardy! was not based on Gil Fates' 1941-42 CBS Television Quiz, the two Wheels nonetheless have marked similarities – the 1950s Wheel offered cash and prizes, had its logo in the center of the Wheel (as a permanent decoration rather than a graphic, with "Wheel" and "Fortune" curved in the same manner as Merv's logo), asked questions for money (not used by Merv's format until 1990), did hour-long episodes (a regular feature each Friday), won awards (an "Award of Merit" presented on-set by Robert C. Preble), spun off a nighttime version (July 7-September 15), upped its top value ($2,500 by September 18), and even changed hosts (Mike Wallace took over sometime between May 25 and September 18). Further, the concept of a vertical Wheel was used by Ed Flesh for the Shopper's Bazaar pilot in 1973.
The show appears to have ended due to its competition, primarily NBC's educational series Ding Dong School, with the nighttime version falling against Break the Bank. Tweaked formats proved successful elsewhere, though:
- In Australia, Reg Grundy's Wheel of Fortune aired on radio from 16 June 1957 to 1959, followed by the Nine Network from September 1959 to 1964. Originally hosted by Grundy (who was also the show's producer), he was replaced by Walter Elliott in 1962. A late-1959 episode is held by the National Film and Sound Archive, albeit with no intro or end titles; clips have appeared in Aussie retrospectives, including an intro, suggesting the existence of another episode.
- A British version (using a format that eventually became the second Door #4 on the 1984-86 Let's Make a Deal) aired on ITV from 20 September 1969 to early 1971, although one contestant claimed in the 2004 book The Dream Factory (made to mark the closure of the Northam studios where Wheel had taped) that the Wheel was rigged. Hosted by Michael Miles, who had recently wrapped a 13-year run on Take Your Pick (which ended 14 months earlier due to a reorganization of the ITV licenses), Wheel was dropped following his death on 18 February 1971. Nothing is known to exist of this version.
In 1981, Grundy debuted an adaptation of Merv's Wheel to even greater success, running until 2006. In 1988, STV (not to be confused with the 1969-71 version's Southern TV) adapted Merv's format, which ran until the end of 2001.
It should be noted that another series called The Wheel of Fortune, hosted by Jack O'Reilly, aired on Mutual in at least mid-1955. This was not a game show, however, but rather a preview of new record releases.
Was the show inspired by a casino game called Wheel of Fortune?Edit
While it is true that Merv's idea of the show came from a casino game, he based it off of Roulette, which involved a horizontal wheel similar to the show. The casino game that bears a similar name to the show is also often referred to as the Big 6 Wheel and is spun vertically (as in Shopper's Bazaar) and also has money on it, except the money used are dollar bills ($1, $2, $5, $10, and $20); and like Roulette, players must bet on which bill they think the wheel will stop on by placing chips on the appropriate bill on the table.
On Pioneers of Television: Game Shows (which aired on PBS in 2008), footage was shown of a Merv interview where he states that, when he needed to provide an interesting and unique way to award money, he looked back at one of his childhood memories: "the big spinning wheel game at the annual church picnic".
Is this Wiki affiliated with Wheel?Edit
This Wiki is made by fans, for everyone. We are not affiliated with the show, for better or worse.
Is the show aware of this Wiki?Edit
While Wheel has not yet made a definitive statement on the matter (and will likely never do so), some of the classic clips shown during the intro in Season 30 were events mentioned on this Wiki, although that in and of itself isn't really conclusive since many of the same events are also mentioned on the TV Tropes pages for Wheel (although this Wiki and those pages do share at least two editors).
The largest indicator that the show is aware of us is the retro Bonus Round on February 20, 2013 (THE HIMALAYAS, 1989). It was quickly discovered by fans that the footage was from Rolf Benirschke's first episode on January 10, something that would not have been known (let alone considered out-of-the-ordinary) by the general public, partly since Wheel is not known to have directly acknowledged his tenure and the episodes have never been in reruns.
Where can I watch episodes?Edit
This Wiki has an expansive collection of video links here, but does not host any videos itself. Sony has never released episodes on DVD or any other format, so the only sources are the collectors' trading circuit and videos uploaded by contestants or their relatives; as a result, the audiovisual quality varies.
I/a friend/a relative was on Wheel. Can you find my/their episode(s)?Edit
Hopefully. Share as much info as you know about the episodes in question (such as the episode number, recording date, airdate, player names, and the week theme if applicable), either on this Wiki or the Buy A Vowel boards (which most of this Wiki's users frequent), and we'll do our best.
At best, it'll already be online; at worst, especially if it's the daytime show pre-1985, it may be gone. In any case, we're always interested in hearing stories of players' experiences on Wheel.
I/a friend/a relative was on daytime Wheel and have the episode(s), but they aren't listed here as being known to exist. Can I/we send a copy to you?Edit
Sure! As with the above, contact us through this Wiki or the Buy A Vowel forums, and we'll try to work something out.
What is the font used for the show's logo?Edit
The font appears to be based on "Chesty" (also known as "Bust"), though some characters differ slightly in appearance in comparison to it. Other characters and words that do not appear in the logo have been displayed in the font on rare occasions (such as "WHEEL AROUND THE WORLD" during said week in Season 28), though the font does not appear to be available to the general public.
As a side note, the font used for the Shopper's Bazaar logo (as well as the puzzle board letters and credit roll of the 1973 pilot) is Hopkins, while the unique mid-show bumper logo used in daytime from at least 1983-87 (as well as at least one ticket in July 1989) used an unknown font.
What is the font used on the Wheel?Edit
According to a March 2008 Chicago Tribune article regarding various facts about the Wheel itself, the current font is a customized version of Clarendon bold/black.
Originally (or at least, beginning in 1974), the Wheel font was "Fortune", also known as "Chesterfield" and "Volta". As the series continued, the appearance of certain parts of the Wheel changed slightly: most noticeably, the 7's were modified to have a flat bottom instead of a rounded one at some point between April 7, 1978 and March 2, 1979; later on, more numbers started changing such as the 8's and 0's.
This modified font remained until January 2003, when all numbers (but not letters since Bankrupt kept the same appearance) were modified once again: only the 7, 8, and $ look identical to their counterparts in the previous font, while the 1 (only seen on the back of the $10,000 Wedge in Seasons 24-25), 3, 4, 6, and 9 are identical to Clarendon, which is the font used for the current Lose A Turn and the front side of the Mystery Wedges.
What is the font used for the category strips?Edit
Since September 2008, the category strips have been in Gotham. For some reason, ever since Fictional Character(s) was renamed Character(s) in early 2013, its strip has been in Arial on all but a couple occasions.
Like many other things about the show, the font has changed over time:
- The first known variant, art cards shown sporadically during at least the first half of 1976, used Helvetica Bold.
- The second style was a computerized monospaced font, used from at least January 18, 1978 to January 1985.
- In January 1985, the displays were replaced by a succession of Helvetica chyrons until early 1993. For a few weeks around January-February 1993, the strips became slightly less bold in appearance.
- Starting around February 1993, the strips changed to Gill Sans, although between April 1994 and February 1995 road shows reverted to a slightly less bold version of Helvetica. (The Norfolk, Virginia shows aired in May 1995 were the last road shows to use Gill Sans.)
- At the beginning of Season 13, the strips began using the Clearface font. This changed to Triplex for the first three months of Season 14, followed by Franklin Gothic Medium Condensed from December 16, 1996 through the end of Season 17.
- The strips were switched to Arial for Season 18, then Kabel Bold for Season 19. Seasons 20-22 used Alternate Gothic, which changed at the start of Season 23 to Trade Gothic (the Bonus Round strips retained the former font until October 24, 2005). Seasons 24-25 used Cosmos.
How many times was the nighttime Jackpot won?Edit
At least 114, the first on September 26, 1996 and the last on June 10, 2013. The highest known Jackpot win was $16,000 on October 5, 2006.
As a side note, the highest unclaimed Jackpot is believed to be $23,250 on September 19, 1997.
How many times has the ½ Car been won?Edit
50, the first on September 28, 2011. Interestingly, there have been five instances of a contestant winning the ½ Car but not the game, and three instances of a contestant winning the car with three tags.
What is the biggest one-round record to date?Edit
$54,000, set on February 18, 2005 and tied on two occasions (October 24, 2005 and February 7, 2007). All three were in the Speed-Up round.
The largest known win for a regular round is $44,300, set on a November 1986 nighttime show. The puzzle was AN AMERICAN SUCCESS STORY.
That said, $54,000 is not the most money that could have been won. That record is $62,400, also for a regular round, accumulated during Round 3 on December 5, 1985; the contestant called a wrong letter, and control did not return to her.
What is the main-game record to date?Edit
$69,300, set on December 21, 2012.
What is the lowest winning score?Edit
The lowest confirmed winning score is $1,000, sometime in late 1984 (nighttime), although the Bonus Round was won. On two known daytime episodes (March 30, 1987 and July 21, 1989), the winning contestant also had only $1,000 but did not win the Bonus Round. Interestingly, the contestant on March 30, 1987 had swept the game, possibly making this the lowest combined winnings in a single episode.
Following the retirement of shopping on nighttime, the lowest confirmed winning score is $2,450 on September 4, 1995 and November 10, 1998, but the Bonus Round was won both times. The lowest known total for a player who did not win the Bonus Round is $3,200 on October 31, 1991 and May 4, 1998. In another episode (taped in December 1987), there were two contestants who tied with only $1,900 each.
According to one recollection, there was a daytime contestant who won with just $575 (on a 1980s NBC episode) and a nighttime player who won with just $600 (sometime during Season 1 or 2).
On a side note, the lowest possible winning score in the show's history was $100 due to not only being the original house minimum, but the fact that Bankrupt took away all money put "on account" and the last round of the game guaranteed at least $100 in prizes would be won. The lowest possible winning score today is about $5,000, the minimum value of Prize Puzzle prizes.
How many $100,000 winners are there to date?Edit
33, the first being on December 19, 2001. Note that this only counts those who won the $100,000 cash prize in the Bonus Round, rather than exceeding $100,000 otherwise.
Interestingly, two puzzles have each led to a pair of $100,000 wins: BRAINS AND BRAWN on January 24, 2006 and December 16, 2010, BACK IN A FLASH on May 15, 2006 and April 26, 2012.
So far, only Season 21 has failed to provide at least one $100,000 winner. Consequently, there are no such winners for the year of 2004.
As a side note, the record for most $100,000 wins in one season is six, set in Season 23.
How many $1,000,000 winners are there to date?Edit
Two: Michelle Loewenstein on October 14, 2008 (total of $1,026,080) and Autumn Erhard on May 30, 2013 (originally scheduled for the 31st; total of $1,030,340).
As an aside, the largest non-millionaire record is $147,000, set on December 28, 2012 through a $100,000 win.
Who was the first host?Edit
This depends on whether the 1974 pilots are included. If one goes by the name Wheel of Fortune, then Edd Byrnes was the first host. If only aired episodes count, then Chuck Woolery was the first host; Chuck also hosted the 1973 pilot.
Based on questions asked to audience members by Thornton, Wheel takes the stance that Chuck was the first host.
Who was the first hostess?Edit
Susan Stafford, who had been a syndicated radio host beginning around 1971. According to Thornton, who sometimes asks this question to audience members during tapings, nobody at the show's current base of Culver City has ever been able to give the correct answer – a fact he brings up during road shows, where he does get the right answer.
Who was the first announcer?Edit
If Chuck, Susan, and Charlie were so great, why did they leave?Edit
Charlie left in mid-1980 after then-NBC head Fred Silverman announced the show was to be cancelled on August 1. He signed a commitment to the upcoming Toni Tennille Show shortly before the cancellation was overturned and, under the belief that "a handshake is my word", opted to stay with it.
Chuck left due to a salary dispute with Merv, wanting a raise in his annual pay from $65,000 to $500,000 (in line with what other emcees made) because Wheel was drawing a 44 share. Merv offered $400,000, and NBC agreed to pay the remaining $100,000 until Merv threatened to move the show to CBS. NBC withdrew the offer, and Chuck's last episode aired December 25, 1981.
Susan departed because she wanted to do humanitarian work. She took a trip to India in Summer 1982 and, after seeing the plight many people were in, felt that turning letters for the past seven years was not really a way for a grown woman to live her life; many have noted that Susan seems visibly distracted on the September 2-3 shows. While her last regular episode aired October 22, Stafford returned to fill in for her successor for the daytime week of June 16, 1986.
Has anyone announced the show besides Charlie O'Donnell, Jack Clark, or Jim Thornton?Edit
In order of appearance:
- Don Morrow filled in as announcer in August 1980 between O'Donnell's departure and Jack's hiring.
- Beginning on May 9, 1988, Charlie began filling in for Jack on nighttime, while both he and Johnny Gilbert (Jeopardy!) filled in on daytime. Conversely, Charlie had previously filled in for Jack in 1985 due to scheduling conflicts caused by Jack announcing on The $25,000 Pyramid, a show that he soon left to prevent the conflict.
- Near the end of Season 5, when Jack had become too ill to keep announcing anymore, Charlie and Johnny briefly filled in for him. In addition, Pat and Vanna read most of the fee plugs for reruns in Summer 1988; however, at least one rerun from this era has a very weak-sounding Jack reading the fee plugs.
- M. G. Kelly announced both versions from roughly September 5, 1988 to February 17, 1989, barring the two nighttime weeks taped at Radio City Music Hall (aired November 14-25, 1988), which were announced by Don Pardo. This was also Pardo's only game show announcing role since the end of Jackpot in 1975.
- Gilbert filled in for Charlie on the weeks of November 27 and December 4, 1995. This period is notable for an exchange between him and Pat on the 29th: at the top of the show, Pat joked that Wheel "isn't like Jeopardy!, where if you finish in second place with $10,000, you get a lounge chair!", to which Johnny replied "But it's a $10,000 lounge chair."
- Gilbert also did part of the intro on April 1, 1997.
- Following Charlie's death on November 1, 2010, the show underwent a rotation of guest announcers comprising Gilbert, Rich Fields, Jim Thornton, Lora Cain, Joe Cipriano, and John Cramer.
How did Pat Sajak and Vanna White get the roles?Edit
Pat, then a weatherman at KNBC, was noticed by Merv for his quirky and odd sense of humor. However, then-head of NBC Fred Silverman rejected the decision, claiming Sajak was "too local"; Merv opted to cease tapings until Pat was hired, which only happened after Silverman left the network.
Vanna was selected from hundreds of applicants to do on-air auditions to replace Susan, and was chosen due to her chemistry with Pat. According to Vanna, the only reason Merv would give her is that she turned the letters better than anyone else.
So what happened to Susan?Edit
She devoted her life to charity work and medicine, earning a B.A. in Nutrition and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, plus a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Pacific Western University. Her official website has a full list of her accomplishments.
Susan also had a longtime relationship with Dan Enright of Barry-Enright Productions, along with being the company's Vice President of Public Relations; following Enright's death in May 1992, Chris Sohl (the company's Vice President of Business Affairs since 1988) became the head of the company and promoted Susan to Executive Vice President, which in turn was followed around January 1993 by the company becoming Stafford-Enright Productions.
Unfortunately, her association with Wheel was quickly forgotten after Vannamania took off: a 1987 Chicago Tribune interview with her began by outright assuming the reader did not know who she was, while Susan herself became a bit annoyed and bothered that most people would say "You mean you were Vanna White before Vanna White?" upon telling them what she used to do.
Susan's Wheel-related obscurity was only further proven during a 1991 episode of the Nostalgia Channel game show Let's Go Back (created and hosted by Scott Sternberg, who later made Wheel 2000), when a question asking for the person Vanna replaced was met with silence yet, when asked who Pat replaced, a contestant immediately gave the correct answer; after Sternberg said Susan's name, the same contestant could be heard saying "forgot that".
The 1995 book Popular Culture, Educational Discourse, and Mathematics evidently did not see anything prior to Vanna's hiring, as it stated that Wheel "broke ground" by declaring Vanna a "hostess" and giving her equal billing with Pat, despite Susan having the former during her tenure and the latter at least twice (once with Chuck in 1981, again with Pat in 1986).
Wheel itself has very rarely acknowledged Susan's contributions, and she was not credited on the Byrnes footage that aired on the ceremonial 3,000th nighttime episode in 1998.
Who have been the producers and executive producers?Edit
- Producers: In the 1973 pilot, this and the directing were handled by Bill Carruthers. For the 1974 pilots, the role was given to John Rhinehart, with Nancy Jones being promoted to co-producer when the show debuted.
- In April 1976, Rhinehart announced his departure from Wheel, and was promoted to being NBC's West Coast Daytime Program Development Director the next month. As a result, Nancy became the sole producer.
- In 1995, Nancy was dismissed over concerns by Sony that Wheel had become "tired and dated" under her watch. Around the same time, Harry Friedman was contacted by an old friend, Sony Pictures Entertainment's then-CEO Alan Levine; shortly afterward (but not directly as a result of being contacted by Levine), Friedman became the show's producer for the last tapings of Season 12.
- By June 2, 1997, Karen Griffith and Steve Schwartz became co-producers. They remain at those positions today.
- Executive Producers: Originally Merv, until Friedman was promoted to co-executive producer in September 1999. Merv retired the next year, leaving Harry as the sole executive producer.
Are Pat and Vanna on Facebook or Twitter?Edit
Neither Pat nor Vanna has a Facebook page. However, Pat does have a verified Twitter account. Vanna does not.
I attended a Season 28 taping with Charlie announcing, but it aired after he died and someone else was announcing. What happened?Edit
Following Charlie's death on November 1 and the tribute that aired on the 5th, it was decided that the eight weeks that had yet to air with him announcing (November 8, 22, and 29; December 20 and 27; January 3; February 7; and March 28) would be dubbed over by various guest announcers. While the official reason was that it was "a tough decision, but it would have been too sad to hear Charlie's voice so close to his death.", his voice was retained on repeats of the first two months of Season 28 and all weekend repeats of Season 27.
Any references by Pat to Charlie were also dubbed over, and when Pat threw to the substitute the camera would fade to a wide shot where his mouth was not as visible. This also resulted in the last two appearances of Rock On!, where the category had been said by Charlie, being replaced with Pat just saying the name of the category.
The dubbing was generally considered by fans to be unnecessary, redundant, and primarily disrespectful, saying that a short tribute graphic/explanation would have sufficed and that viewers (including those who had attended the taping sessions) were being cheated. By comparison, the midseason deaths of Johnny Olson and Rod Roddy were handled by The Price Is Right through airing the rest of Johnny's work and keeping both men's work intact for later repeats. (Further, dubbing on Price would be far less feasible due to the much higher level of host/announcer interaction.)
Why did most of the Summer 2011 repeats have Jim announcing episodes someone else had done during the season?Edit
According to Wheel, which had announced Jim's hiring just after Season 28 ended, they had dubbed over the other substitutes to "establish" their new announcer. It has been speculated that this was actually the show either unwilling to pay royalties to the other substitutes and/or thinking their work so inferior to Jim's that their episodes were not worth rerunning unless he was dubbed over them, primarily due to how few episodes most of the substitutes got compared to Jim.
On some of these occasions, Jim was dubbed over someone who had been dubbed over Charlie, resulting in three people doing the exact same work: one which was taped prior to his death, one which was the result of not willing to air the first, and one which was likely the result of not willing to rerun the second.
On February 27, 2013, the retro clip in the opening was a set of outtakes from the intro of March 14, 2011 involving Tillman the skateboarding bulldog. While these clips aired during Season 28, Cramer (that week's guest announcer) was dubbed over by Jim despite no episodes from that week being rerun in Summer 2011. The fact that this was done long after "establishing" Thornton indicates that the official reason for the Summer dubbing was in fact false.
Who won the "Vanna for a Day" contest in 2011?Edit
Katie Cantrell, whose role as "Vanna for a Day" essentially amounted to being treated like Vanna for a day. Her role on the show amounted to a single episode (March 24, 2011), and even then not the entire show – Katie only did Rounds 2 and 3 plus a car pose after Round 4, a period that by no stretch of the term could fall under the definition of "day" and essentially renamed the contest "Vanna for Two Rounds".
Sets and SoundsEdit
Does the studio audience chant the show's title during the intro?Edit
With a few rare exceptions, such as certain road shows (most recognizably the Radio City Music Hall stint in November 1988), the chant is actually a recording that has been in use since August 8, 1983.
A similar pre-recorded chant was used on Wheel 2000, likely made during its first pilot.
How many touch screens does the puzzle board have?Edit
52: 12 on the top and bottom rows, 14 in each of the two middle rows.
How big were the old puzzle boards?Edit
The original 1974 board used 39 trilons, spread across three rows. On December 21, 1981, this was expanded to 48 trilons across four rows (11 on the top and bottom, 13 in each of the middle two); four more trilons were added to the corners by September 2, 1982, bringing the total to 52. However, these extra four were blocked by the frame of the puzzle board and could not be used.
The road-show board, used from 1988-97 (plus a brief stint at home base for the first few weeks of Season 13), always had 48 trilons, as it lacked the extra four in the corners.
What happened to the four-line trilon boards?Edit
The home-base board was reportedly offered to the Smithsonian, but rejected due to its large size. On Pat's now-defunct website, he stated that the board was "gone". Both the studio and road-show boards no longer exist, except for a single trilon with a W slide (displayed backwards) in Sony Studios' Wheel Hall of Fame.
At least some of the other letter slides were sold in auctions, autographed by Vanna and/or Pat; two of these slides (an N and a zero) were shown to Vanna in a 2013 interview she did for the WWLP show Mass Appeal, as the interviewer's grandmother had purchased them.
When was the curtain introduced?Edit
Sometime between January 6 and November 3, 1975. The original curtain had vertical strings of lights, which were removed sometime between June 7, 1976 and January 24, 1977.
Interestingly, the background of the Season 30 logo had what appears to be vertical strings of lights.
So what was at center stage before the curtain?Edit
A set of panel doors similar to those of Let's Make a Deal, inside a border that resembled the puzzle board (using a 10×5 grid of transparent squares). The doors opened after each round to reveal the prize platform for that round and, once Charlie finished describing the purchased prizes, the doors closed and "hookers" (stagehands with large hooks) pulled the platform out of the way to set up for the next round.
The Milton Bradley games released in 1975 use photos which indicate that, rather than the curtain immediately replacing the doors, Wheel temporarily went back to the original 1974 method of pulling away the puzzle board for shopping rounds.
When was the "logo on overhead Wheel shot" opening introduced?Edit
The first Byrnes pilot in 1974, remaining through at least the All-Star Dream Machine Championship in early 1976. It was dropped by June 7 of that year, but returned on August 8, 1983 (with the transparent wedges becoming white in January 1985).
After this, the shot remained until sometime between July 21 and August 22, 1989.
Why is the center of the Wheel green?Edit
Originally, this was used for chroma-key zooms during the intro (a practice dropped sometime between November 3, 1975 and the All-Star Dream Machine week in January 1976) and close. For at least the 1974 pilots and 1975 premiere, the center also changed color for each spin.
The center of the Wheel has likely remained green for the sake of familiarity, though the shade of green has changed over time: from 1974-86, it was dark green. When the Wheel's color scheme was overhauled in 1986, the center became lime green (like the Prize wedges at the time). The current shade, teal, has been used since Season 14.
When was the chroma-key closing shot used?Edit
The first Byrnes pilot in 1974. It was dropped sometime between March 15 and April 6, 1978, but returned sometime between January 2 and March 20, 1980.
It appears to have been used less and less frequently as the 1980s progressed. Its last known use on the nighttime version is the first Big Month of Cash episode (October 5, 1987), while its last known daytime appearance is the first show of Teen Week on December 21.
Why did some road-show bonus puzzles use the top two lines?Edit
Most likely to increase visibility in larger venues. This practice was done from about 1990-95; by the Hawaii shows in early 1996, two-line bonus puzzles once again used the middle two rows.
What were the different main theme songs?Edit
Wheel has used quite a few themes over the years, but only really three during the show's run:
- September 1973 (Shopper's Bazaar Pilot): an instrumental version of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.
- August 28, 1974 (Edd Byrnes Pilots): "Give It One", by Maynard Ferguson and Alan Downey, from Ferguson's 1972 album M.F. Horn Two.
- January 6, 1975-August 5, 1983: "Big Wheels", by Alan Thicke.
- On August 8, 1983, the show's theme became "Changing Keys", composed by Merv Griffin and Mort Lindsey. The theme had six different iterations over the years:
- Version 1 (August 8, 1983-September 1984): Used for Season 1 and at least the first week of Season 2.
- Version 2 (September 1984-June 30, 1989): Re-orchestrated to add a glissando to the beginning and make the instrumentation less "chirpy". The theme now began at the first bar during the intro, instead of the 56-second mark.
- Version 3 (July 17, 1989-June 12, 1992): Rearranged to have the melody on saxophone and jazz guitar, backed by organ and percussion. An "opening" version, with a similar beginning to "Give It One", was added sometime between July 21 and August 22, 1989.
- Version 4 (September 7, 1992-June 17, 1994): A slower, less "powerful" version of the 1989 re-orchestration, still utilizing a saxophone but this time including an electric guitar solo. As stated below, the closing alternated between this and the previous theme.
- Version 5 (September 5, 1994-June 13, 1997): Rearranged yet again, with a big-band orchestration and a very different melody. This version was performed by Mort Lindsey's orchestra, with a variant using the original melody played between Pat and Vanna's sign-off and the end of the fee plugs.
- Version 6 (September 1, 1997-June 2, 2000): Rearranged again, this time by Steve Kaplan. Had a similar melody to the 1994 version, but with a slower tempo and electric guitar solo.
- There were also specialized remixes, including a lap steel guitar rendition for Hawaii episodes in February 1996, and a marching band rendition for the San Francisco episodes in November 1996. Interestingly, both used the pre-September 1994 melody.
- Starting at some point in the late 1990s, a unique opening theme was used on some road shows.
- On September 4, 2000, the show's theme changed to "Happy Wheels", also composed by Steve Kaplan. This theme has also had several iterations:
- Version 1 (September 4, 2000-May 31, 2002): Used for Seasons 18-19.
- Version 2 (September 2, 2002-June 9, 2006): A new rearrangement which sampled the first few bars from the 1997 "Changing Keys".
- Version 3 (September 11, 2006-): A new re-orchestration by Frankie Blue. On September 10, 2007, a different cue composed by John Hoke began to be used for the opening.
Was the 1989 "Changing Keys" really used until 1994?Edit
Yes, although its use was sporadic following Season 9. In Seasons 10-11, the 1989 closing theme was used interchangeably with the 1992 version for the credits, while the Music Stars Week of May 2-6, 1994 used the 1989 opening theme for the only time since the end of Season 9.
Why does the Wheel no longer spin automatically during the opening and closing?Edit
The Wheel's automated spinning was discontinued in early 1997 by Harry Friedman at the request of Pat, who later stated on his now-defunct website that he believed it was "a bad idea" for Wheel "to demonstrate that we had the ability to automatically spin the Wheel."
This said, the automated spinning initially only stopped for the intro after January 6; the automation was not stopped for the credits until after February 24.
On "America's Game" weeks, the set changes every episode. Why is that?Edit
"America's Game" weeks are compilation weeks, consisting of "sixth episodes" taped from the various themed weeks at Wheel's home base of Culver City, California. Each taping day at Culver City consists of six episodes: five with a specific theme name (such as Endless Summer) and one called America's Game.
This practice has led to other oddities other than the set changing rapidly, such as a single Teen Best Friends or Family Week episode airing in the middle of a week, or the sixth show airing before the other five of that taping day.
On a side note, "America's Game" is itself a theme, with at least one puzzle (generally the $1,000 Toss-Up) themed to America.
Puzzles and CategoriesEdit
What was the first letter ever revealed?Edit
S, on the 1973 pilot. It was also the first letter given.
When did the "plural" categories debut?Edit
At least Things and People debuted in 1975, as no pluralized categories are used in the First Edition game but are in the Second. The very small presence of Things and People, amounting to about four of the 168 puzzles (with Things only appearing once), suggests that the concept was very new.
The absence of Fictional Characters, Events, and Places suggests that they were not yet in use, and there is no proof they were used prior to September 1984; September 16, 1994; and February 7, 1995 respectively. Likewise, there is no proof before Season 17 of Phrases existing, Titles being used before Season 21 (the earliest known appearance is January 6, 2004, although Pat's comments suggest that it had been used before then), Occupations being used before February 10, 2004, or Landmarks being used before April 29, 2014.
That said, there are many gaps in the available episodes, which leaves the possibilities wide open.
Has the show always used punctuation in its puzzles?Edit
Punctuation was actually nonexistent through at least part of 1975, as confirmed by multiple personal recollections and both Milton Bradley games. The earliest known use of punctuation is the hyphen of LOVEY-DOVEY on April 7, 1978.
The first known puzzle to contain an apostrophe is THERE IS NOTHIN' LIKE A DAME on June 1, 1979. The first known instance of multiple punctuation marks is not until SLEIGHBELLS RING ARE YOU LIST'NIN' on December 24, 1980.
Other punctuation marks were gradually introduced since then:
- Ampersands on July 18, 1989 (Goen's second episode), although they appear to have been exclusive to Same Name at first; the first known instance of an ampersand outside Same Name is the March 9, 1990 nighttime puzzle ROGER & ME. Oddly, Husband & Wife did not appear to use them until much later.
- Question marks with the debut of Fill In the Blank (by December 25, 1992), although other puzzles do not seem to have used them until sometime between September 5, 1997 and February 9, 2001.
- Periods between May 15 and October 20, 1995.
- Slashes by October 26, 1995, although there are only two other recorded cases of one being used.
- Exclamation points are uncertain: they were not present in September 1995, as a puzzle during that time was JEOPARDY PREMIERES. Although one was used after a Jeopardy! category involving the trilon-based puzzle board in the mid-1990s and again for a category involving the touch-based board on October 4, 2001, there is no evidence of the actual show using them until May 13, 2004.
- Number signs with the debut of Fill In the Number (April 7, 1998).
- Commas are only known to have appeared once, sometime between April 7, 1998 and April 2002 (the Fill In the Number puzzle ##,### LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA).
- Colons by December 28, 2004.
- In addition, a dollar sign was used on the February 9, 1987 Newsweek cover with Vanna.
Has anyone ever solved with no letters showing?Edit
At least one: the bonus puzzle BABY BOY on October 22, 1992.
In addition, several contestants have solved Toss-Up puzzles the instant the first letter was revealed, likely knowing the puzzle beforehand (it is not possible to ring in before the first letter is revealed).
The 1987 book Wheel of Fortune by David R. Sams and Robert L. Shook mentions that as of August 1, 1987, there have been three instances of a puzzle being solved with one letter (one of which was I BEFORE E EXCEPT AFTER C with only the T's revealed), although this is contradicted by eyewitnesses who have confirmed more than that amount (CLEVELAND OHIO and BUFFALO NEW YORK both with only the N's, and TUTTI-FRUTTI ICE CREAM with only the T's). The book makes no mention of a puzzle being solved with no letters, although it is possible that one happened between then and BABY BOY.
Have there ever been any puzzles without a vowel?Edit
At least one: the bonus puzzle MYTHS on April 9, 2004.
What is the most known instances of a single letter in a puzzle?Edit
The record appears to be SUMMERTIME SUMMERTIME SUM SUM SUMMERTIME on October 11, 2013, with eleven M's.
Previously, the record for a single consonant appeared to be THREE LITTLE KITTENS THEY LOST THEIR MITTENS on December 1, 2011, with ten T's. The record for a single vowel appears to be PLEASE LEAVE A MESSAGE AFTER THE BEEP on September 4, 1995 (itself a likely record for the trilon board), and I FEEL THE NEED THE NEED FOR SPEED on December 31, 2013, both with ten E's.
What was the shortest puzzle ever used?Edit
The shortest known main-game puzzles are OZ DOG (in the category Clue) sometime in the early 1990s and SCRAM (in the category Slang; used as a Speed-Up) on March 24, 1995. The shortest Bonus Round answer is AX sometime in Season 11.
The shortest maingame puzzles to be used on the electronic board are likely TAILOR and PAYDAY on May 4 and 21, 1999, respectively; the former was in Round 1, and the latter was a Speed-Up used in Round 5. Several Toss-Ups over the years have been only six letters long, as well. The shortest bonus puzzles known to be used on the board are likely any of a vast number of four-letter answers used between roughly 1997-2001 (the last known being BALI in November), plus FAWN on May 27, 2005.
What is the longest puzzle ever used?Edit
The answer varies, depending on whether one counts just letters, or total number of spaces used:
- Counting by overall number of spaces, the longest is SHE JUST WON A SEVENTH U.S. FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIP (Who Is It?, the answer being Michelle Kwan) on March 21, 2003, using 47 of the 52 monitors (45 letters plus two periods).
- Counting only letters, the longest is HERSHEY BAR GRAHAM CRACKER GOOEY ROASTED MARSHMALLOW (also the only appearance of What Are We Making?, the answer being S'mores) on October 23, 2007, at 46 letters.
The longest known puzzle on the three-line board is SLEIGHBELLS RING ARE YOU LIST'NIN' (Quotation) on December 24, 1980, using 30 of the 39 trilons (28 letters plus two apostrophes).
The longest known Bonus Round answer is IN ONE EAR AND OUT THE OTHER sometime during Season 2 or 3, using 22 of the 48 trilons (not counting the four corner trilons which could not be used at all).
The longest known puzzle on Wheel 2000 is LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (V.I.P.'s), using 18 of the presumed (as unused spots were not represented) 36 spaces.
As an aside, the longest puzzle on the 1973 Shopper's Bazaar pilot (which used a different style of three-line board) was GREENWICH VILLAGE (Place) in Round 3, using 16 of the 45 spaces.
Which categories have been used the least?Edit
Besides the aforementioned What Are We Making?, Composer/Song and Show/Song were used only once each around March 1996.
The April Fool's Day 1997 game also used a joke category of "Really Long Title" in Round 3, and at least the first two episodes of the first Retro Week in December 1999 created unique categories by prefacing the Round 1 category name with "60's" or "70's" (e.g. "60's Event").
What is the most that has been lost to a wrong letter?Edit
As mentioned above, $62,400 by contestant Terri on December 5, 1985. She had racked up that much money in Round 3 with most of the Quotation puzzle THE THRILL OF VICTORY AND THE AGONY OF DEFEAT filled in. The wrong letter in this case was an S.
Terry also lost out on $10,000 during the Speed-Up round.
What is the record for most amount of wrong letters called in one round?Edit
The record appears to be 18 (including an incorrect vowel), set during the Round 3 puzzle OXIDIZED (Megaword) on March 15, 1995. Interestingly, no repeated letters were called.
What is the most that has been lost through a mis-solve?Edit
The highest known loss is $33,450 by contestant Becki on September 19, 2007. She had racked up that much in the Mystery Round (Round 3 at the time) with most of the Place puzzle GLEAMING WHITE SAND BEACH filled in. She opted to solve, but added -ES to the end. As it was also the Prize Puzzle, she lost a $6,296 Caribbean trip as well.
Sometime during Season 3, a contestant is believed to have lost out on over $60,000 by forgetting the seventh word of the puzzle STAR LIGHT STAR BRIGHT FIRST STAR I SEE TONIGHT.
What is the most amount of puzzles ever used in a single episode?Edit
11, set on March 19, 2002 (seven main-game rounds, three Toss-Ups, and the Bonus Round) and tied on June 2, 2004 and September 22, 2005. The seven main-game rounds also appears to be the record for that particular part of the game, and appears to have been set near the end of Season 7. It is also believed that a Goen episode had seven rounds in the rather non-conventional fashion of six rounds and a tiebreaker.
The record during the shopping era appears to be six, set on April 1, 1983 (five main-game rounds and the Bonus Round). Note that this does not count the hour-long episodes, which always had eight puzzles per episode (three in the first game, three in the second game, the Head-To-Head round, and the Bonus Round).
What is the least amount of puzzles ever used in a single episode?Edit
Three, set on the first taped episode of Wheel 2000 (two main-game rounds and the Bonus Round).
When the show debuted in 1975, games had a minimum of three puzzles. This increased to four when the Bonus Round was permanently introduced in December 1981, five after shopping was dropped, six once the Puzzler was introduced in 1998, and seven when the Preview Puzzle debuted in 1999. The Toss-Ups replaced the Puzzler and Preview Puzzle, initially retaining the seven-puzzle minimum until increasing it to eight at the beginning of Season 19.
Has a puzzle ever been misspelled?Edit
On several occasions, a puzzle has been misspelled or contained improper punctuation. Known examples include:
- BACHELOR'S-BUTTON on a nighttime episode from January or February 1984 (Thelma/Sam/Lisa; should not be hyphenated)
- CHARLIE AND AMERICAN PRIDE on a nighttime episode between March and June 1989 (Liz/Victor/Leo; should be "Charley")
- FOG HORN on November 25, 1992 (should be one word; the correct spelling was used on February 7, 2003)
- JINGLE-BELL ROCK on December 18, 1996 and December 20, 2004 (should not be hyphenated)
- AMUSEMENT-PARK FUN HOUSE on September 9, 1997 (should not be hyphenated)
- CANDLEWICK on an episode between January and June 2000 (should be two words)
- PIECE OF MIND on November 14, 2003 (should be either PEACE OF MIND or A PIECE OF YOUR MIND)
- CAESAR'S PALACE on April 7, 2009 (should not have an apostrophe)
- WAIT A WHILE on April 26, 2010 (should be "awhile")
- COFFEE-TABLE BOOK on January 24, 2012 (should not be hyphenated)
- BABYPROOFING on November 28, 2013 (should be hyphenated)
- WIND-CHILL FACTOR on January 27, 2014 (should not be hyphenated)
Has the Prize Puzzle ever been Before & After or Same Name?Edit
Yes, at least three times:
- On September 9, 2004, the puzzle LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL WITH BUTTER awarded a trip to New Orleans, relating to the "let the good times roll" portion of the answer (although Pat jokingly tied it into the "roll with butter" portion).
- Less than a month later, on October 5, the puzzle was SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE WITH BLEACH.
- Less than a month after that, on November 1, the puzzle was IT'S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD SERIES OF POKER and awarded a trip to Las Vegas.
How are contestants chosen?Edit
Since 2000, contestants are chosen primarily through Wheelmobile events held throughout the year at public or semi-public venues such as arenas, theaters, shopping malls, etc. At these events, people may fill out a form and drop it in a bin. Five names at a time are drawn at random to come onstage; traveling host Marty Lublin interviews all five, who then play a Speed-Up round. Morgan Matthews is typically the co-host, although Tracey Wilson, Heidi Jackson, and Whitney Kirk sometimes hold this role instead. Auditions use a three-line board where one side of each square is a dry-erase surface, on which the hostess writes a letter if it is in the puzzle. As with the real game, a category strip and Used Letter Board are present. After a puzzle is solved, five more names are drawn, and the cycle repeats for an hour. Wheelmobile events typically last for six one-hour segments over the course of two days. Everyone who appears onstage receives a Wheel-themed prize, which is selected before the interview segment by Marty spinning a small wheel.
Those who show the most potential onstage, along with randomly-drawn names among those who did not get onstage, as well as those who submitted audition forms online, are then invited to second-level auditions. These consist of mock games hosted by a different traveling crew; unlike the Wheelmobile games, these feature a vertical Wheel, of which each contestant is given two or three spins before "hitting" Bankrupt or Lose A Turn, and a projected board rendered on a computer. After everyone has gotten a chance to play, the contestants then take a written test, consisting of 16 puzzles (four each in four different categories). Once the tests are reviewed, some of the contestants are eliminated; those who remain play another set of mock games, including interviews.
What were the limits for returning champions?Edit
Originally, players could stay on for a maximum of five games. This was decreased to the more familiar three-day limit sometime between June 7, 1976 and July 5, 1977, which also applied to the nighttime show from Seasons 7-13. For Seasons 14-15, returning champs were removed in favor of having the Friday Finals format each week (in which an extra prize or prize package was awarded to the finalist who won the Bonus Round), after which the show returned to the one-and-done format that had been in place for Seasons 1-6 (along with Wheel 2000).
The winnings limit was initially $100,000 in Season 7, increasing to $125,000 sometime between February 1990 and December 1992. Once the $100,000 top prize debuted in October 2001, the limit became $200,000, which was never reached (the closest anyone got was $142,550, won by Jack Wagner and contestant Christine Denos on February 28, 2006) before the limit was removed in 2008 with the Million-Dollar Wedge.
How many $100,000 losses are there to date?Edit
70, the first being on January 14, 2002.
Two puzzles have led to a pair of $100,000 losses: PUNCH BOWL on October 7, 2002 and March 15, 2010, and QUALITY TIME on February 18, 2005 and September 21, 2010.
As a side note, the record for most $100,000 losses in one season is 11, set in Season 28. So far, there have not yet been any $1,000,000 losses.
How does the Million-Dollar Wedge work?Edit
The Million-Dollar Wedge offers a chance at $1,000,000 in the Bonus Round. In order to win said prize, the contestant must do the following:
- Call a correct letter after landing on the wedge.
- Solve the current round's puzzle without hitting Bankrupt to claim it.
- Avoid hitting Bankrupt for the rest of the game.
- Have the highest total at the end of the game to go to the Bonus Round.
- Land on the one envelope with the $1,000,000 prize (replacing the normal top prize of $100,000) in the 24-envelope Bonus Wheel.
- Solve the Bonus Round puzzle.
What is the most that has been lost to Bankrupt in one show?Edit
$46,900 (all cash, minus the $1,000 Gift Tag), set on April 20, 2010. This includes a single player losing $30,600 in Round 3, which may be the most spendable cash lost by one player.
The most ever lost by a single contestant appears to be $35,000 (the $10,000 Mystery Wedge and $25,000 from the Big Money Wedge), on April 23, 2008.
How do contestants know if a letter has been called?Edit
There is a monitor (originally a chalkboard, later a dry-erase board) called the "Used Letter Board", which also displays the category, each contestant's score, and the five-second timer for making a move. After each letter is called, it is taken off the monitor. If no more vowels remain in the puzzle, the vowels are dimmed even if all five have not yet been called; if no consonants remain, then only the vowels are lit up.
Although rarely seen on-screen, the board is often acknowledged by Pat, most commonly by him saying "watch the board" if a repeated letter has been called; though "the board" may also refer to the puzzle board, as contestants' repeated letter calls may be letters that have already been revealed in the puzzle.
Why did some games in the 1990s have only three rounds?Edit
Three-round games were sometimes done to accommodate for home viewer sweepstakes. They were also done occasionally on road shows in the late 1990s due to time constraints.
Does the Wheel have to make a complete revolution?Edit
No, although if a spin seems unusually "light" Pat will usually stop the Wheel and ask the contestant to spin again.
However, the Bonus Wheel does have to make at least one complete revolution; if it does not, the original spin is edited out, and the contestant re-spins. This led to an incident on September 28, 2006 where a contestant's spin was determined not to have made a complete revolution until after the bonus puzzle was revealed; as a result, the original puzzle was discarded, and she re-spun to play a different puzzle.
Does the studio audience see the other side of a Mystery Wedge during the player's choice?Edit
No. Only the home audience sees the Bankrupt or $10,000/car/prize, depending on the wedge (and the era of the wedge). While this would appear to be done to prevent audience influence toward the contestant's decision, the studio audience is encouraged to tell the player to flip it over.
Has the host ever hit Bankrupt or Lose A Turn on the Final Spin?Edit
Many times, along with Free Play. It only seems like Pat never does because those invalid spins have been edited out since 1997, when they were only edited out sporadically before that point. Before this point, Pat had also hit Prize wedges, and even Surprise, on occasion.
Back when invalid Final Spins were aired, there was a running gag from 1977 through at least May 1985 where the Bankrupt slide whistle would play if it was hit.
Bad Final Spins have sometimes led to the host having to re-spin more than once. Among those that aired were:
- On October 8, 1980, Chuck landed on Lose A Turn twice in a row.
- On an episode sometime around January 1989, Pat landed on Bankrupt twice, and hit $1,500 on his third attempt.
- On a Bob Goen daytime episode, according to one recollection, Bob hit Bankrupt multiple times on the Final Spin, and requested that Vanna do the Final Spin for him as a result.
- On June 14, 1990, Pat hit Bankrupt three times in a row, with his fourth attempt landing on $5,000.
- On January 25, 1994, Pat again hit Bankrupt three times in a row, with his fourth attempt landing on $1,500.
There is an easy way to tell if an invalid Final Spin was edited out: if the red arrow flipper's location in the close-up does not match where it was heading in the wide shot of the Wheel, there was an edit.
What happened if someone used the Double Play and hit a prize or token?Edit
The official rules stated that landing on a Prize wedge, Surprise, or Free Spin gave that player the choice of taking the token back or applying it to their next spin. The sole exception to this was the $10,000 Wedge, which doubled its value.
How many people have tried to solve on Free Play?Edit
Two: November 24, 2010 and May 10, 2012. The first was correct, while the second was not.
Why do they sometimes briefly cut to Pat in Speed-Up rounds?Edit
To mask an edit of removing three incorrect letters, known as a "null" cycle, from the episode as aired.
During the main game, cycles are often edited out if all three players consecutively make moves that do not affect their score or the answer (i.e., cycles consisting entirely of wrong consonants, Lose A Turn, and/or Bankrupts from contestants who have no money or cardboard). Such edits are usually harder to discern, outside paying close attention to the Wheel's position. On rare occasions, turns are edited out that do affect gameplay.
When and why did the Bonus Round start offering RSTLNE?Edit
RSTLNE was first offered on both versions (daytime and nighttime) on October 3, 1988. The rule change was made because, under the original rules of asking the contestant for five consonants and a vowel, nearly every contestant would choose those letters.
Have any bonus puzzles used at least one each of RSTLNE?Edit
Plenty of times prior to the aforementioned 1988 rule change, but there are only a few known examples from afterward: TRADING PLACES on April 1, 1997; QUEST FOR KNOWLEDGE on February 1, 2010; BOUNTIFUL HARVEST on November 6, 2013; OVERWHELMING SUPPORT on November 15, 2013; and QUIRKY PERSONALITY on December 18, 2013.
Has RSTLNE ever revealed every consonant in a puzzle?Edit
This has happened at least once, with the puzzle TIARA on October 13, 1994. It is also believed that ONION was a bonus puzzle at some point, but the exact date is unknown.
Similarly, there has been at least one bonus puzzle where E was the only vowel: GEM on February 25, 1993.
Have any bonus puzzles not used RSTLNE?Edit
While sporadic, a few did not contain RSTLNE. The first known instance was GUM on a Bob Goen-hosted daytime episode in 1991, and the last known instance is PIKACHU sometime in 2001.
Does Y ever have to be bought?Edit
No. Y is always a consonant in Wheel's context, meaning that contestants must spin to call it even if the puzzle uses Y as a vowel.
Some international versions, such as Denmark's Lykkehjulet, have used Y as a vowel.
What happens if a Toss-Up is not solved?Edit
If the $1,000 Toss-Up is not solved, then the red contestant is interviewed first; if the $2,000 Toss-Up is not solved, then the red contestant starts Round 1 (regardless of whether s/he won the first Toss-Up); and if the $3,000 Toss-Up is not solved, then the contestant who started Round 1 starts Round 4.
Has there ever been a Toss-Up where no one even rang in?Edit
This has happened at least once: a $3,000 Toss-Up of WHAT A RELIEF, sometime in Season 20.
If any subsequent examples exist, they were likely edited out of the episode and replaced with another Toss-Up. This is known to have happened on March 31, 2014, with the $1,000 Toss-Up REST AREA.
What is the record for the most amount of Bankrupt/Lose A Turn hits in one round?Edit
The record for Bankrupt is believed to be six, achieved on March 27, 1979 (Round 2), December 30, 2008 (Round 3), October 4, 2011 (Round 2), and November 28, 2013 (Round 3); the 2008 episode involved one Bankrupt from a Mystery Wedge.
The record for Lose A Turn appears to be four, achieved on an episode circa April 1985 (nighttime), November 13, 1989 (nighttime), October 21, 2010, and October 21, 2013. Interestingly, on the 1985 episode, three of the four were consecutive hits by the same contestant, who used two Free Spins in the process.
Has there ever been a "perfect" main game?Edit
This is not known to have happened at all, although the closest known example is December 13, 1982: nobody hit Bankrupt or Lose A Turn and no mistakes were made, although a contestant did get buzzed out in the Speed-Up.
The closest occurrence of a contestant playing a perfect game happened in the first week of Season 26, where a player swept the game and won the Bonus Round. The only time he would have lost his turn was when he hit a Bankrupt on the Million-Dollar Wedge in Round 1, but he had obtained the Free Spin earlier in the round and immediately used it.
What is the smallest amount by which a contestant has won or lost?Edit
The smallest known margin of victory is $3, which occurred on June 3, 2014. Prior to that, many contestants dating back to at least 1989 have won by margins of $50. A win by $30 almost occurred on October 2, 2012, after a contestant tried to solve in the Speed-Up without calling a letter first.
In the first Byrnes pilot, a scoring error occurred in Round 4, and a contestant would have won by $40.
What happens if the game ends in a tie?Edit
Since the introduction of Toss-Ups, ties are broken by a fourth Toss-Up, without cash value; whoever solves proceeds to the Bonus Round. This has only happened twice: March 13, 2003 and March 2, 2006.
Originally on the daytime version, it was believed that ties resulted in the tied contestants returning the next day as co-champions, as is the case on non-tournament episodes of Jeopardy! Likely around the introduction of the Bonus Round, and definitely by November 1986, a tie game simply meant that no Bonus Round was played and all three contestants returned the next day. The continuation game did not count towards a champion's three-day limit, leading to an oddity in 1987 where a champion played five games due to two consecutive ties. Known tie games include November 13, 1986, the aforementioned 1987 episodes, and twice in 1989 during Rolf Benirschke's tenure as host. Benirschke's first tie quickly became infamous, as it resulted in him looking at the camera and admitting that he didn't know what to do.
Tie games on the nighttime show were originally broken by a Speed-Up round between the tied contestants. If a Speed-Up had already occurred, the tiebreaker had its own Final Spin (referred to as a "Final Final Spin" by Pat). Known tie games include a show taped in December 1987, and October 5, 1993. The former had the tiebreaker in its own segment, resulting in the Bonus Round moving to the final segment and Pat signing off immediately afterward, while the latter had the tiebreaker immediately after Round 5 with the rest of the game paced as normal. The nighttime procedure was also used for daytime weeks with the Friday Finals format, and at least twice had to be done at the beginning of Friday shows to break a tie at third place. It is believed that Goen-era ties were handled identically, and it was apparently used at least once on Wheel 2000.
What happens if a contestant asks to buy a vowel, then calls a consonant instead?Edit
If any rule exists for this, it has been applied inconsistently:
- On October 23, 1995, a contestant who asked to buy a Y had $250 deducted and lost his turn.
- On November 7, 2000, a contestant asked to buy a W, then a zero, before calling O. After a stopdown, it was determined to rule it as a bought O and hold the contestant to W on their next spin.
- On May 18, 2001, a team that asked to buy a T had $250 deducted and lost their turn.
- On May 30, 2011, a contestant who also asked to buy a T merely lost her turn; in addition, the T had already been revealed in the puzzle.
- On May 15, 2012, a contestant who asked to buy an N corrected himself to say I; Pat ruled it as I, but the ruling ended up not mattering as the I was already revealed.
- Starting from at least September 18, 2012, it appears that accidentally buying a consonant is now disregarded, judging from Pat's comment of "We'll take the first vowel we heard.", and corroborated by similar incidents on at least September 27 and December 19, 2013.
Why have some non-team episodes had more than three people onstage?Edit
Contestants who are not physically able to spin the Wheel themselves are allowed to have a friend or family member serve as a "designated spinner"; said spinner may only spin the Wheel for them, and may not otherwise assist in gameplay.
"Designated spinners" may also appear during weeks with teams, although obviously without the limitations on gameplay for the spinner. A known example occurred during the Family Week of May 23, 2011, in which a mother and her wheelchair-bound son competed as a team. While the mother was the only one of the two to spin, her son did not call any letters, and his only contribution to gameplay was solving Round 1 with her.
This does not apply to the Bonus Wheel, as that is smaller in size so the contestant is usually able to spin that themselves.
During a week with teams, what happens if each member calls a different letter during a turn?Edit
If one member of the team says one letter, and his/her teammate declares another letter at the same time, then Pat will ask them to decide which of the two letters they want to call.
Has a puzzle ever been thrown out?Edit
Very rarely, a puzzle may be discarded. This is often due to an audience member shouting out an answer, a wrong letter being revealed (supposedly a frequent occurrence during Susan Stafford's tenure, as she often tended to turn the letters before they were lit), or the host accidentally ruling an incorrect answer as correct.
According to the 1987 book Wheel of Fortune by David R. Sams and Robert L. Shook, puzzles that were discarded for any reason other than an audience member shouting out an answer resulted in each contestant receiving a $200 gift certificate; the exception was Round 1, which was simply reshot without such a bonus. The book also states that if a wrong answer was accidentally ruled correct, the two opponents to the contestant who gave the answer received a $200 bonus. Prior to the gift certificates being introduced in 1975, winnings from discarded rounds were still awarded to the contestant anyway.
At least three episodes (all nighttime) have had visible indication of a puzzle being discarded: a September 1988 episode where the introduction of the original, thrown-out puzzle (Phrase) was accidentally left in, with the replacement puzzle (a one-word People) not being seen until after the Final Spin; October 6, 1989 and April 16, 1991, where the blanks seen on the board in the opening pan clearly do not match up to the actual Round 1 that was played.
On an episode taped in Chicago on April 12, 2002 (which aired the following month), a letter was lit up in Round 3 despite not being called. After the contestants had their backs turned, the letter was revealed and Pat announced to the audience that they would discard the puzzle and restart the round. At the time the contestants turned their backs, one player had a $10,000 cash prize; although she won replacement Round 3, she was unable to land on the $10,000 prize again.
It is not known how "bonuses" for discarded puzzles were handled immediately after the retirement of shopping. According to a contestant who was on in March 2007, all three contestants received $100 cash bonuses after a round in which a wrong answer was accidentally ruled correct.
A round in May 2013 that began as a Speed-Up was thrown out due to a contestant solving the puzzle so closely to the buzzer that his answer could not be determined by ear; as a result, there was a stopdown before his answer was determined to have come after the buzzer, necessitating the discarded puzzle. The Speed-Up was redone with a new puzzle and the same Final Spin value. Other times, if a contestant solved the Speed-Up on or after the buzzer, the rest of the round would proceed as normal until solved, and Pat would announce that the scores were tentative so that the contestant's answer could be checked. The aforementioned Speed-Up was likely discarded due to the answer having come on the first turn, instead of much later in the proceedings.
Pat has accidentally accepted at least one wrong Bonus Round answer as correct (EXACTLY ALIVE on April 3, 2012, when the actual answer was EXACTLY ALIKE), in which case the Bonus Round was simply redone with a new puzzle following a ten-minute stopdown. At least twice (May 8, 1996 and March 23, 2005), a letter was revealed in the Bonus Round that should not have been; both contestants gave the correct answer and were allowed to keep their bonus prizes.
If an audience member shouted out the answer to a question asked by a "bonus" category, the bonus was simply discarded. This is known to have happened at least three times.
As mentioned above, Toss-Ups are thrown out if no one rings in, although this was not originally the case.
At least three episodes have had puzzles edited out for other reasons:
- The November 2, 1992 episode (from the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco) edited out Round 2 because the answer was VANNA'S PREGNANT; since she had a miscarriage sometime after its recording on September 11, the round was replaced with a short spiel narrated by Charlie which gave some details on the taping, bookended by footage of Pat explaining what had occurred in the round. Vanna's A&E Biography episode showed behind-the-scenes footage of her revealing the puzzle after it was solved, then being surprised by Merv Griffin holding balloons in celebration.
- One main source of contention in recent years is that Pat states Round 2 was played during the video, which is not only misleading but could be misconstrued by those who do not know why it was removed as meaning the round was too boring (or replaced arbitrarily) rather than sadly outdated. During the credits, Charlie notes that the episode had been edited for broadcast, but does not clarify.
- November 16 and 17, 2005 (taped at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans shortly before Hurricane Katrina) respectively had Round 1 and the $1,000 Toss-Up edited out, as their answers were deemed insensitive to hurricane victims. On the original airings, these rounds were replaced with clips of Pat and Vanna asking viewers for donation to hurricane relief funds; Summer reruns of these episodes restored the Toss-Up from November 17 (THE LOUISIANA SUPERDOME), but replaced the "missing" Round 1 from November 16 with another clip of Pat and Vanna thanking those who donated.