The company's first production was Jeopardy!, which aired from March 30, 1964 to January 3, 1975 on NBC (with a nighttime version airing in syndication for the 1974-75 season). A clause in the Jeopardy! contract stipulated that in the event it were cancelled, Griffin could produce a replacement show.
The Merv Griffin Show returned to television in 1965, remaining in production until 1986.
Wheel of FortuneEdit
In September 1973, Merv Griffin Productions produced a pilot for NBC at the request of Lin Bolen, under the title Shopper's Bazaar. This pilot, commissioned by Bolen to boost network daytime ratings among women 18-34, was hosted by Chuck Woolery with Mike Lawrence as announcer. The resulting pilot (which had been produced and directed by Bill Carruthers) was panned by Bolen, Merv, and test audiences, leading to a large-scale overhaul.
Two more pilots were taped on August 28, 1974 as Wheel of Fortune, now hosted by Edd Byrnes with Charlie O'Donnell as announcer and Susan Stafford hired at the last minute to turn the letters of the puzzle board. The changes were also panned by test audiences, but Bolen convinced her superiors to pick up the show for a January 6, 1975 debut...albeit with Woolery as host.
Wheel replaced Jeopardy! per the aforementioned contract, which had been scheduled to expire in January 1976.
On November 28, 1983, the logo that had been introduced on Bazaar became a separate graphic, sometimes animated. On September 10, 1984 (the same day Jeopardy! was revived with Alex Trebek as host), the company was renamed "Merv Griffin Enterprises".
The logo has seen numerous changes throughout its history. For Wheel, the logo underwent several changes:
- Originally, it was a transparent white vertical rectangle with rounded corners, containing a drawing of a griffin over "MERV GRIFFIN productions".
- Sometime between January 18 and April 6, 1978, "WHEEL OF FORTUNE Is Produced by" was added above the logo on two lines.
- On November 28, 1983, the superimposed logo was replaced by a full-color drawing of a griffin against a black background. This also began the tradition of the camera cutting away to the Griffin logo; on the nighttime version, this was followed by a cut back to the set for the King World logo/announcement.
- In early 1984, the logo began using the Peignot font.
- At some point between June and October 1987, the background became yellow.
- Sometime between September 10, 1990 and January 1991, it reverted back to the 1984 logo with a "page turn" effect added; however, unlike the previous logo changes, the daytime show used various effects (including the "page turn" style) with the 1987 logo through at least August 9.
- In late January 1993, the logo became a gold-colored griffin statue against the same cloudy background used by Columbia Pictures Television, TriStar Television, and later Columbia TriStar Television; the text also used the same Bank Gothic MD font. However, the logo itself would not be seen until April of that year.
Merv sold Enterprises to The Coca-Cola Company on May 5, 1986 for $250 million, although the Enterprises logo did not reflect this until sometime between November 13 and December 22 of that year. The company was transferred to Columbia Pictures Entertainment on December 21, 1987 (with the Enterprises logo being updated to reflect this on February 8, 1988), and again to the Sony Corporation on November 8, 1989.
CPE was renamed "Sony Pictures Entertainment" on August 7, 1991, although this change does not appear to have been noted in any way on Wheel until March 1992 (with the Enterprises logo not reflecting it until September 7).
Among the company's other productions were Let's Play Post Office (1965-66), Dance Fever (1979-87; co-produced with 20th Century Fox Television), Headline Chasers (1985-86; co-produced with Wink Martindale Enterprises), Monopoly (1990; in development since 1987), Super Jeopardy! (1990), and Ruckus (1991-92).
In July 1994, Merv made a deal with Sony Pictures in which he would remain executive producer of Wheel and Jeopardy! until 2000, which also included the shutdown of Enterprises and the takeover of those two shows by Columbia TriStar Television. The production company change took effect for the 1994-95 season, with the Enterprises logo and spiel used for the final time on June 17, 1994, and CTT remained the production company name (with a minor change to Columbia TriStar Domestic Television on October 25, 2001) until September 16, 2002, when it was renamed to the current Sony Pictures Television.
In 1996, Griffin founded Merv Griffin Entertainment as a replacement company, which continues operations to this day.