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S-1 Slate

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A timeline for Season 1 of Wheel of Fortune, which aired in first-run from September 5, 1983 through June 15, 1984. Note that while debut dates varied from market to market, Wheel itself lists September 5 as the official debut date.

August 1983Edit

  • According to recollections, at least two stations (WJRT in Flint, Michigan and WKBW in Buffalo, New York) debut Wheel this month, the latter on the 22nd.
  • On August 29, four TV stations in Ohio (including WEWS in Cleveland, WKEF in Dayton, and WBNS in Columbus) debut Wheel with a special week of episodes taped at the Ohio State Fair on August 18-19. According to Pat Sajak during some 1997 tapings at the same location, these tapings did not go over too well due to at least some contestants having no idea how to play the game.
    • A set of photos that surfaced in June 2014 suggest that these were not "true" episodes, but rather a "mock" version, with audience members drawn randomly to play a reduced-stakes version with a vertical Wheel. The photos indicate that two people played at a time at individual miked podiums, with the Wheel between them (a similar setup to the Melody Roulette round on Name That Tune) and the puzzle board to their left (the audience's right). Although the photos do not include a full view of the puzzle board, the portions visible suggest an appearance similar to the 1974-81 style.
    • The Wheel used in these shows later appears in an official "mini-movie" made by the show in mid-1985, part of which (specifically, a parade) is done in Nelsonville, Ohio.

September 1983Edit

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King World logo - 1983
  • The nighttime Wheel officially debuts on September 5. It plays identically to the NBC daytime version, with Pat and Vanna White hosting, Jack Clark as announcer, and only six major differences at this point:
    • There are no returning champions.
    • The prize budget is noticeably higher.
    • Round 2 adds a Prize wedge to the orange $150 near Lose A Turn.
    • The top value in Round 3 is increased to $5,000, which is on a shiny, silver wedge covering the $2,000 wedge.
    • Following the Merv Griffin Productions logo, Jack adds "Distributed by King World Productions, Inc." The King World logo ("KING WORLD PRODUCTIONS, INC."), using the Eurostile Heavy font, is shown over Pat, Vanna, and the day's winner.
    • Each week is compiled from five taping sessions, and episodes typically air out of sequence due to the "bicycling" method of syndication still in use at this point.
  • The September 5 show is Jeff/Leslie/Linda, taped July 6. On this episode:
    • Near the end of Round 1, Pat accidentally begins to say that there are only vowels remaining (with an unrevealed S still on the board), but catches himself.
    • Unusually, there is no close-up of the $5,000 wedge when Pat announces it as the top value for Round 3.
    • As there is a commercial break during Round 3, the Final Spin chimes do not sound when Pat goes to spin the Wheel coming out of the commercial.
    • During the Speed-Up, Leslie asks to solve as the buzzer sounds to end her turn. Pat tells her that her time has run out.
  • On another early taping (Lisa/Bob/Nancy):
    • No vowels are bought in Rounds 1 or 3.
    • The category display is white in the Bonus Round, but red for the rest of the show.
    • The contestants are shown turning their backs during the commercial outro in Round 2.
    • In Round 2, Nancy accidentally asks to buy a vowel after spinning, but is prompted for a consonant by Pat. She then calls a D, which is not in the puzzle.
    • A total of ten turns are lost in Round 2, including six wrong letters (of which three are consecutive), and a streak of six consecutive lost turns.
    • Round 3 begins as a Speed-Up. Against precedent, the slide whistle does not play when Pat's Final Spin lands on Bankrupt.
    • There is a brief pause between Bob solving the Round 3 puzzle BIRTH CERTIFICATE and Pat ruling it correct, possibly due to Bob adding an A before the answer.
  • On still another early taping (Kathy/Janet/Barry):
    DollarSignPrizeWedge
    • Janet had previously played on the October 8, 1980 episode.
    • The Wheel Prize is $500 cash, displayed as five "crisp, new" $100 bills in a bird nest (a "nest egg"); the wedge has a large dollar sign in the same font as other Prize wedges. This is not the least expensive prize ever offered, as a $425 camera is also known to have been offered early in the show's run.
    • After the above plug, the players are shown turning around to face the puzzle board.
    • One of the fee plugs is a pre-recorded ad, although "Changing Keys" continues to play over it. This practice appears in several other episodes this season.
  • On yet another early taping (Cyn/Susan/Steve):
    • The category strip is white in the Bonus Round, but purple for the rest of the show.
    • In Round 1, Pat accidentally says there is no C in the puzzle as Vanna is walking over to reveal it, correcting himself as the ding sounds.
    • The board malfunctions during Round 2, as on at least two letter calls the trilons do not light up in sync with the dings.
    • The footage for the Bonus Round prize (a boat) is likely edited in, as Vanna is shown modeling it from behind the puzzle board.
    • The bonus puzzle WISH YOU WERE HERE uses all four lines of the puzzle board, one of the few known instances of a bonus puzzle doing so.
  • On yet another early taping (Laura/Lisa/Glenn):
    • The category strip is white in the Bonus Round, but blue for the rest of the show.
    • The contestants are shown turning their backs during the commercial outro in Round 2.
    • Pat explains how players choose bonus prizes during the final segment.
    • Two of the fee plugs are pre-recorded ads, although "Changing Keys" continues to play over them.
  • On yet another early taping (Kelli/Barry/Pam):
    • The category strip is white in the Bonus Round, but blue for the rest of the show.
    • There is no closeup of the Prize wedge when it is mentioned at the start of Round 2.
    • When Pam hits Bankrupt in Round 2, Pat does not ask her to hand over the Prize wedge, nor does he retrieve it himself. Given Pat's comments after that round's commercial break, it appears that initially, Prizes were not lost to Bankrupt.
    • Following Round 2, Barry initially asks to put his remaining $52 on account, but changes his mind immediately afterward and ends up placing the money on a gift certificate.
    • There are two consolation prize plugs (both of which are pre-recorded ads, with "Changing Keys" continuing to play over them) shown immediately before the car plug, which is itself done before the start of Round 3. As no other known episodes include this, it is unknown whether this was a regular occurrence.
    • The close-up of the $5,000 wedge is zoomed in further than usual.
    • Strangely, the Final Spin chimes sound immediately after Barry spins the Wheel. He is allowed to complete his turn, after which Pat does the Final Spin.
    • Strangely, "Changing Keys" does not begin to play until several seconds after Jack starts reading the fee plugs.
    • The ticket plug is done between the fee plugs and sponsor list. On at least this episode, it is done over a shot of the audience (itself an extremely rare instance of an audience shot during the show's years in Burbank). The address on this episode is "TICKETS WHEEL OF FORTUNE 3000 W. Alameda Ave. Burbank, CA 91523" on four lines.
    • On at least this episode, the eligibility disclaimer and Pat and Vanna's wardrobe plugs are in yellow.
    • On this episode, the Merv Griffin Productions graphic omits the "WHEEL OF FORTUNE Is Produced by" portion at the top.
    • At least one source claims this episode to be the second-taped show (#S-2).
  • Shortly into taping for the season, the top value in Round 1 is increased to $1,000; the green wedge is placed over the $100 near $750 (which was previously the top dollar).
  • On an episode after the $1,000 top value is introduced, but before the trees change (Barbara/Harlene/Kevin):
    • Strangely, while Pat is still in the middle of the rules spiel, the shot cuts to the puzzle board. The puzzle chimes then sound, to which Pat jokes that there's someone at the door who has a Person (the Round 1 category) for them.
    • The Prize wedge's lettering (SILVER) is much smaller than usual. The smaller lettering continues to appear at least occasionally until early next season.
    • The Round 3 puzzle DYED-IN-THE-WOOL has three hyphens, a likely record for the most punctuation ever revealed on the trilon boards until 1994.
    • Mark Corwin, then the associate director, fills in as director.
  • On another episode from the above timeframe (Richard/Claire/Melissa):
    • During Round 1, the buzzer sounds on a correct letter.
    • The Prize wedge (VIDEO) uses the smaller lettering.
    • The players are shown turning their backs during the commercial outro in Round 2.
    • Claire puts $25 on account after Round 2, which she claims in Round 3.
  • On yet another episode from this point (Lou/Cindy/Karen):
    • The Round 3 puzzle THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA is on the second through fourth rows, a practice normally done only if the first word is too long for the top row.
    • Cindy lands on $5,000 three times in a row in Round 3. She then solves for $25,100, buying a total of 12 prizes (including two cars). The resulting prize copy runs for three minutes and twelve seconds.

October 1983Edit

  • At some point in the early Fall, the on-set trees become brown; previously, they were green.
  • On an episode with the brown-leaf trees (Ed/Dawn/Ellen, taped in September):
    • Ed solves the Speed-Up puzzle with $16,050. Pat throws to commercial, but is quickly stopped and Ed shops. "Changing Keys" is heard briefly while the situation is resolved.
    • Ed sweeps the game and wins a hot tub in the Bonus Round.
    • Beginning around this point, contestants who win the Bonus Round have their final totals displayed on screen (usually in a yellow Helvetica font).
  • On another episode with the brown-leaf trees (Bob/Pearl/Carmen):
    • Round 4 begins as a Speed-Up.
    • Jack does not do his "the prices of the prizes..." spiel, possibly due to the available copy being a repeat.
  • As of the above episode, the original King World logo is still in use.
  • On another episode from around the same point (Dan/Gloria/Ola):
    • No vowels are bought in Round 2.
    • Gloria sweeps the game but loses a Mazda in the Bonus Round.
    • One of the fee plugs is a pre-recorded ad, although "Changing Keys" continues to play over it.
  • By the above episode, the Prize wedge can now be lost to Bankrupt.

November 1983Edit

KingWorld1-84
  • Around this point, the on-set trees become white with lights on them.
  • On an episode with the light-up white trees, but before the Griffin logo changes (Rick/Joan/Cecelia):
    • The Prize wedge uses the smaller lettering.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used.
  • November 15 (Francine/Kim/Paul) is Episode #S-52, taped August 28.
  • Around November 28, the Griffin logo is replaced by a full-color drawing of a griffin against a black background. The griffin blinks, and the company's name is animated with light blue inside; below the Griffin company name is a Califon Productions copyright notice.
  • Most likely at the same time, and definitely by about the end of January, the King World logo is also altered: it now uses a rounder font, similar to Helvetica, with "KING WORLD" larger than "Productions Inc." The new logo is shown over a slowly-spinning Round 1 layout.

December 1983Edit

  • Reruns air during the week of December 26. Repeat airings use a new set of fee plugs and cut away to a gold gradient background listing the replacement sponsors during the normal sponsor crawl.

January 1984Edit

  • Kathy Najimy is a contestant sometime this year, between appearances on the nighttime Family Feud (1981) and The $25,000 Pyramid (July 31, 1985). On May 2, 1989, she appears as a guest on The Pat Sajak Show and shows a picture of her Wheel appearance.
  • On an episode from this month (Lloyd/Linda/Debbie):
    • During the opening, Pat sits in the on-stage motorhome and throws a wadded ball of paper out the window, causing Jack to laugh. After the logo appears, Jack introduces him as "And now, here's your litterer: Pat Sajak!"
    • The overhead Wheel shot during Pat's opening spin is positioned too far upward, cutting off the lower portion.
    • The puzzle board uses its original chase light sequence (see below).
    • Following the Bonus Round, Vanna spins the Wheel for the first known time. She does so from the host's area, and (with the red contestant arrow, much like the Final Spin) lands on the red $200 next to Lose A Turn.
  • Beginning around this point, the puzzle board's chase light sequence (used when the category is revealed and after the puzzle is solved), which normally goes counterclockwise on the left side and clockwise on the right, is occasionally reversed. As far as is known, episodes used either the original sequence or the reversed one, but never both.
  • On an episode from January or February (Thelma/Sam/Lisa), with the animated Griffin logo and light-up white trees:
    • Pat models the Cadillac in the opening, causing Jack to introduce him as "And now that he's parked, here's your host: Pat Sajak!"
    • The curtain becomes stuck on the right-hand spiral pillar after Pat's entrance, and he successfully pulls the remainder down into place. After Pat introduces Vanna, the curtain does not open and she has to push it apart herself.
    • The puzzle board uses its reversed chase light sequence.
    • The hyphen in the Round 1 puzzle MASON-DIXON LINE (itself inexplicably categorized as Thing instead of Place) fails to light up for several seconds.
    • The Round 2 puzzle has both an apostrophe and a hyphen, although the answer (BACHELOR'S-BUTTON) should not have the latter. This is the first known instance of improper punctuation.
    • There are two sets of repeated categories: Thing in Rounds 1-2, People in Round 3, and Person in Round 4.
    • Surprisingly, no vowels are bought in the entire game.
  • On an episode from around this period (Tom/Cindi/Velma):
    • The puzzle board uses its reversed chase light sequence.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 1.
    • Neither Bankrupt nor Lose A Turn is hit.
    • Rounds 1, 2, and the Bonus Round are Phrase.
    • In the final segment, Pat and Vanna plug the Arlington Hilton in Arlington, Texas, at which they stayed (apparently during a contestant search).
  • On an episode taped this month (Fern/Darlene/Michael):
    • The puzzle board uses its reversed chase light sequence.
    • The category strip is white in the Bonus Round, but blue for the rest of the show.
    • Both Fern and Darlene get Free Spins in Round 1.
    • The Prize wedge (BIKE) uses the smaller lettering.
    • In a rather rare occurrence, Michael spends all of his money in the Round 3 shopping segment.
    • Mark Corwin fills in as director.

February 1984Edit

  • Early this month, the on-set trees are replaced by walls with foliage on them. The walls are altered according to the time of year (with snowflakes and lights in Winter), while the trees continue to appear occasionally.
  • On an episode from after the walls are introduced (Teresa/Mark/Gladys):
    • All three puzzles are very short; Rounds 1 and 3 are only 15 letters, and Round 2 only 10.
    • Even more unusually for this era, the Round 2 puzzle RAY CHARLES uses only one line.
  • On another episode from around this point (Mike/Sonya/Betty):
    • The puzzle board uses its reversed chase light sequence.
    • Round 3, which begins as a Speed-Up, is the longest of the three puzzles, at 16 letters.
    • Pat's Final Spin lands on Bankrupt.
    • Two of the fee plugs are pre-recorded ads, although "Changing Keys" continues to play over them.
    • Strangely, GSN's airing of this episode in the 1990s includes the replacement fee plugs.
  • On yet another episode from about this point (Frances/Elaine/Duane):
    • The puzzle board uses its reversed chase light sequence.
    • Rounds 1, 3, and the Bonus Round are Phrase.
    • Two of the fee plugs are pre-recorded ads, although "Changing Keys" continues to play over them.
  • On yet another episode from around this point (Joy/Norm/Ann):
    • The Prize wedge (WATCH) uses the smaller lettering.
    • Ann solves Round 3 with no money, bumped up to $200.
    • Ann calls R twice in the Bonus Round, and the second R is displayed briefly before Pat tells her to choose a different letter.
    • Strangely, GSN's airing of this episode in the 1990s includes the replacement fee plugs.
  • Although the daytime series alters the Griffin logo to use much smaller text in the Peignot font and remove the blinking animation from the Griffin, the nighttime series retains the late-1983 design for the remainder of the season, adopting the new design at the start of Season 2.

March 1984Edit

  • On an episode taped sometime this month (Misa/Chloe/Frank):
    • The puzzle board uses its original chase light sequence.
    • The Wheel spins very slowly during the intro.
    • Misa gets two Free Spins in Round 1, using both of them after two consecutive wrong letters in Round 3.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 3.
    • During the Speed-Up, Pat initially asks Chloe for a letter immediately after an incorrect answer by Misa, but is reminded from offstage that Misa's five seconds hasn't run out yet.
    • In a rather rare occurrence, Chloe spends all of her money in the Round 3 shopping segment.
    • During the final segment, Pat and Vanna discuss unusual names, including Misa. During this, they note that "Vanna" is not short for anything and is not unusual (at this point, Vanna has met four other people with the same name).

April 1984Edit

  • On an episode sometime this month (Virginia/Bob/Norma, taped February 14):
    • The puzzle board uses its reversed chase light sequence.
    • Virginia wins with $5,000, due entirely to hitting that amount on the very last spin of the game; interestingly, this also amounts to a win by only $75.
  • On an episode taped sometime this month (Betty/Debbie/David):
    • The opening graphics do not have their white outlines.
    • During the opening, Pat and Vanna model a motorcycle with sidecar. Pat acts as if they are going around a curve, falling into Vanna's lap in the sidecar. After the logo appears, Jack introduces Pat as "And now, here's your motorcycle friend: Pat Sajak!"
    • Debbie puts $19 on account after Round 1, but loses it to Bankrupt in Round 2.
  • On another episode taped this month (Bill/Jude/MaryAnn):
    • At least two cracks are visible on the gold ring of the red sunburst backdrop.
    • MaryAnn calls Pat "Jack" during her contestant interview.
    • Round 4 begins as a Speed-Up, with no shopping.
    • Possibly due to the presence of Round 4, Pat signs off after the Bonus Round.
  • On still another episode taped this month (Mark/Carol/Debi):
    • The puzzle board uses its reversed chase light sequence.
    • Rounds 2, 3, and the Bonus Round are Phrase.
  • Reruns air during the week of April 23.

May 1984Edit

  • On an episode from around this time, a contestant only spins once, calling an incorrect letter on $700 in Round 3. Although he later participates in the Speed-Up the following round, none of his letter choices appear in the puzzle.

June 1984Edit

Post-SeasonEdit

  • Among the Summer repeats are Thelma/Sam/Lisa (June), Teresa/Mark/Gladys (July), Frances/Elaine/Duane (August), and Lloyd/Linda/Debbie (August).
    • While Bob/Pearl/Carmen, Tom/Cindi/Velma, and Joy/Norm/Ann are known to have rerun copies circulating, it is not known when they were reshown.

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