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A timeline for Season 14 of Wheel of Fortune, which aired in first-run from September 2, 1996 through June 13, 1997.

Season ChangesEdit

  • The three-day champion rule is replaced by the Friday Finals. Each contestant plays for one day on Monday-Thursday, and the week's three highest winners including contestants who did not proceed to the Bonus Round compete on Friday. If the winner of the Friday episode wins the Bonus Round, he or she also receives an extra prize.
  • The last of Merv Griffin's music cues seem to be retired around this point.
  • The $25,000 sign is retired. When the cash is won, a $25,000 graphic now "flips" into place on the screen.
  • Prize values are now in a green serif font.
  • "Changing Keys" is no longer used as the commercial outro cue, except for the break after the last round.
  • The "bonus" category award is increased to $2,000, resulting in $1,000 Slogan being renamed Slogan.
  • Likely by this point, non-bonus categories with bonus questions switch to using the High Rollers chimes.
  • For the first time since Season 1, some fee plugs are now pre-recorded by the company.
  • Charlie's spiel is slightly changed to "From the Sony Studios, it's America's Game: Wheel of Fortune! And now here are the stars of our show: Pat Sajak and Vanna White!"
    • The theme is altered yet again, with the first few bars removed from the opening portion. The intro is changed to an animation of Sony Pictures Studios, which zooms in through the studio doors. In the background, a yellow version of the two-row logo can be seen on a black rectangle. On top is the Columbia TriStar logo, in between "COLUMBIA" on the left and "TRISTAR" on the right. A few seconds into the intro, the circular concrete transforms into a Wheel graphic, which contains no Bankrupt or Lose A Turn spaces, and is similar to the one seen here. Four gold squares with the two-row logo on the reverse zoom around to show Pat, Vanna, and a CGI version of the now-retired $25,000 sign, using the previous season's graphics as a backdrop. The graphic then zooms up to the fourth square as Pat and Vanna make their entrances. During the "Wheel! Of! Fortune!" chant, the logo is seen in a purple background.
  • A video screen is added at center stage, near where Pat and Vanna walk out. It features that particular week's theme until the closing segment, where it is replaced by the show's logo. Occasionally, it will show a closeup of the Wheel in mid-spin. This lasts until at least the following season.
  • For the first few months of the season, some shots of the board use much different camera angles than usual, most notably a low-level angled shot of the puzzle board from stage right, from which the board can not be read clearly. Some of these shots appear to be achieved with hand-held cameras.
  • The Wheel is altered slightly. Beyond the template changes on September 16:
    • Double Play is retired.
    • The $10,000 Wedge moves to Round 2.
    • The Round 4 Wheel Prize is retired, although some episodes use a Prize in Round 3 instead of Surprise, without any obvious pattern. If a Prize appears in Round 3, Charlie describes it at the start of the round.
    • The $3,500 that was used on road shows the previous season becomes permanent.
      Season 14 Surprise Wedge
    • Surprise is changed to its final design: plain black text (in the same font) with each letter outlined in a thin silver holographic film on a sparkly deep pink background.
  • For this season only, when Charlie plugs the $25,000 cash prize leading into the commercial break before the Bonus Round, Vanna (or sometimes Pat) is shown holding a sparkly green battery-operated envelope with flashing numerals. Occasionally, the normal envelope is used instead.
  • Repeated categories in the main game become noticeably less frequent.
  • By this point, the house minimum is increased to $500.
  • For this season, a www.sony.com URL appears between the credits and the copyright date in the same font as the credits.
  • Several episodes this season feature cold opens.
  • Until mid-January, some weeks randomize the backdrops to fit that week's theme.
  • Until about early March, the Bonus Round envelopes are sometimes sparkly green on the inside. There does not seem to be a pattern as to when the green ones are used.

September 1996Edit

  • The Friday Finals Bonus Round winner's extra prize for the week of September 2 is a Lloyd Flanders wicker outdoor furniture package.
  • On September 2:
    • The show begins with Pat and Vanna walking out without theme music playing, and conversing with each other briefly before the intro segment.
      PastelCategoryStrip
    • The category strips are changed to the Triplex font on a multicolored pastel rectangle. This design is only used until December. The post-Bonus Round total is white Times New Roman numbers on the same pastel background, with the entire graphic flashing for at least the first three weeks.
    • After contestant Jim buys the I in Round 1, the trilon does not light up for several seconds; Pat tells Vanna to turn it anyway, and it lights up shortly after it is turned.
    • Jim fills in the entire Round 1 puzzle TEMPTING OFFER by himself.
    • In Round 2, contestant Rich asks to solve, then changes his mind and asks to spin, only to buy a U instead.
    • Rounds 1 and 2 are played entirely by the person who began them, although the Free Spin is used in Round 2.
    • For the only known time, a contestant does not call any letters in the entire game: contestant Valerie only spins once, landing on Lose A Turn, and she does not play in the Speed-Up.
  • Between September 2 and 13:
    • The $10,000 prize is placed over the "regular" Bankrupt for Round 2, leaving no other Bankrupts on the template for that round.
    • The Prize wedges feature dark green Clarendon text on a glittery greenish-brown background.
      Season 14 Prize Wedge
  • On September 3, Headline debuts in Round 2. Until Season 18, it uses a folded-up newspaper as its category wipe instead of the "rolling Wheel" one.
  • On September 4:
    • Jeanette Russo (the champion on June 6-7) appears for her third episode. No mention is made of her return.
    • All three players win at least $10,000. This is the first known instance of this happening.
  • On September 6, I'LL GIVE THE WHEEL A FINAL SPIN is the Round 2 puzzle.
  • Between September 2 and 9, six bonus puzzles in a row are Thing.
  • The video wall is not used on the week of September 9.
  • The Friday Finals Bonus Round winner's extra prize for the week of September 9 is a Sony home theater system package.
  • On September 9:
    • Show Biz debuts in Round 2. Until Season 16, it uses a drawing of crossed spotlights as its category wipe instead of the "rolling Wheel" one.
    • Six rounds are played.
    • The bonus puzzle, OWL, is the last known instance of a three-letter bonus puzzle.
  • On September 12:
    • The camera closest to the blue contestant is noticeably cockeyed, an error which remains for at least the next month.
    • During contestant Tim's first spin in Round 2, the camera accidentally focuses on the blue arrow instead of the red one; interestingly, both arrows are on $250 wedges at the time.
    • Pat mistakes the Speed-Up bells for the "only vowels remain" beeps. He then tells the red contestant to spin again but is quickly corrected from offstage.
    • Inexplicably, said Speed-Up is done with only one consonant remaining (specifically, the D in GANDER GOOSE & GOSLING), even though finishing the game without a Speed-Up would have taken considerably less time.
    • At the end of the show, Pat and Vanna discuss the upcoming Jackpot round. Pat holds the Jackpot wedge upside-down and announces that "beginning next week we have our Topkcaj..." before Vanna grabs the wedge and turns it right-side-up.
  • On September 13, in a departure from the usual practice of using longer puzzles in middle rounds, Round 3 is QUINTUPLETS.
  • The Friday Finals Bonus Round winner's extra prize for the week of September 16 is an Academy Broadway camping package.
  • On September 16:
    • Pat no longer mentions the top dollar values until Round 4.
    • The Prize wedges no longer have glitter.
    • The Wheel is overhauled:
      Yellow 1000 Wedge
      • A template based on the one formerly used only in Round 3 is now used throughout the entire game (albeit with only one Bankrupt in Rounds 1 and 2), and the minimum value is increased to $250. These changes result in the retirement of $150, $200, $750, and $1,500. The space which holds the $10,000 Wedge in Round 2 and the second Bankrupt in Rounds 3+ (between the red $600 and green $500) is now an orange-yellow $300. All of the top dollar figures in each round now occupy the spot originally occupied only by $1,000. In addition, $600 returns to being present in Rounds 1-2 for the first time since October 1987 while $550 is present in Round 1 for the first time in its existence.
      • In the template formerly used in Round 3, the peach $900 becomes orange, the red $300 becomes green, the blue $250 becomes orange-yellow, the yellow $900 becomes red, the pink $200 is increased to $250, the orange $400 becomes yellow, the orange-yellow $200 is increased to an orange $250, the red $500 becomes green, the pink $600 becomes red, the blue $200 is increased to a pink $250, the red $600 (formerly between $1,000 and $300) becomes purple, the pink $300 becomes orange, the orange-yellow $700 becomes green, the blue $450 becomes pink, the purple $150 is increased to $350, $250 and $500 between Lose A Turn and Bankrupt swap colors, and the blue $400 becomes yellow. In addition, all of the yellow, pink, and purple wedges become brighter, with peach and blue retired as wedge colors (although the latter returns in Season 24).
      • The Jackpot wedge debuts in Round 3. Initially placed over the orange $300, it starts out as a shiny red color with "Jackpot" written on it in Cooper Black with gold letters. Initially, the Jackpot total is displayed in the upper-left hand corner, in black Avant Garde Gothic numbers on a pastel background. For the first week (or at least the first day), the numbers do not scroll as the Jackpot increases. If the Jackpot is won, a red-and-blue fireworks graphic appears on the upper-left corner of the screen and turns into a group of small sparkly stars which go from top to bottom.
        Jackpot96

        The original Jackpot wedge.

      • Free Spin moves to the green $300 (the former location of $3,500 in Round 3), where it stays until it is retired.
      • Lose A Turn is now very light yellow, nearly white.
      • The Round 2 Prize moves to $350, which had been the default location for a Prize when it was valued at $150.
      • Surprise moves to the yellow $400 two wedges counterclockwise from Lose A Turn. If a Round 3 Prize is used instead, it takes the same spot.
      • The Wheel's center is now teal.
        NarrowFontBankrupt
    • The music cue for the first Wheel prize (a trip to Hawaii) is the lap steel version of the original "Changing Keys" from the previous season's Hawaii episodes.
    • Classic TV debuts in Round 2. Until Season 18, it uses a console TV as its category wipe instead of the "rolling Wheel" one.
  • From September 16 to at least the 26th, the second Bankrupt is "off-model", using Clarendon instead of the normal Bankrupt font. As a result, it resembles a Prize wedge with the Bankrupt color scheme. This may have had to do with the fact that Bankrupt was never an individual add-on wedge before and that most of the add-on wedges at the time used the Clarendon font.
  • On September 19, Round 1 and the Bonus Round are Thing, while Round 4 is Things.
  • During the week of September 23:
    • The video wall is not used.
    • The Friday Finals Bonus Round winner's extra prize is a fantasy golf package including a trip to Kingsmill Resort.
  • On September 23, two graphical changes are made:
    • The opening is slowed down and altered to remove the CGI $25,000 sign. Although there are still four squares present, the zoom now happens on the third one.
    • The Jackpot amount starts scrolling upward.
  • On September 23, Round 1 is Things, while Round 5 and the Bonus Round are Thing.
  • On September 24:
    • There is a cold open where Vanna says that viewers have asked where the puzzles come from, and then says that Pat is sitting with a puzzle writer. This cuts to a shot of Pat sitting on-set and eating a banana while telling a joke to a stuffed gorilla, and then asking whether "OBNOXIOUS BEHAVIOR" would be a Thing or Phrase. This clip has been seen in several retrospectives.
    • The winning contestant has only $3,750 before the Bonus Round.
  • On September 25:
    • After contestant Lynn solves the Round 2 puzzle, her score goes from $2,000 to $1,750 and back to $2,000 again.
    • Although a repeated R is called in Round 3, it is not acknowledged as such.
    • In the post-game chat, Vanna and Pat discuss Pat's disclaimer about "Person does not always mean proper name", and Pat mentions that the show now has a Proper Name category, likely indicating that it debuts within the week.
  • As of September 25:
    • Charlie's closing spiel is still the same as it was at the beginning of Season 13.
    • The winner's post-Bonus Round total still flashes.
  • On September 26, the Jackpot is won for the first time, by a contestant who solves GREEN EGGS AND HAM BY DR. SEUSS with only the G's revealed.
  • On September 27, contestant Tammy retires with $54,064 despite losing both Bonus Rounds (and thus losing out on the golf package). This is the highest known total for an undefeated champion who lost all of their Bonus Rounds.
  • Possibly by September 27, and definitely by October 2, the off-model Bankrupt is fixed.
  • For the week of September 30, the bonus prizes (other than the $25,000) are a car and three trips: London, QE2 transatlantic cruise, and an unknown British Isles trip. It is unknown if there is an extra prize for the Friday Finals.
  • On September 30, there is a $12,350 Jackpot win.
  • Beginning September 30, a closed-captioning promotional plug is added after Round 2. It is usually read by Vanna.

October 1996Edit

  • By October 2:
    • The credits end with the copyright tag followed by "Created by Merv Griffin", then the King World and Columbia TriStar Television logos (with no spiels for any of these). This remains until mid-Season 20.
    • Charlie no longer signs off after the credits.
    • The show's closing theme now plays over the King World logo.
    • The end-game total graphic no longer flashes.
  • On October 2, after the Round 2 puzzle MATCHMAKER MATCHMAKER MAKE ME A MATCH (Quotation), contestant Mark Anthony is asked for the musical that provides the quotation. He does not provide the right answer of Fiddler on the Roof.
  • The Friday Finals Bonus Round winner's extra prize for the week of October 7 is a $12,131 ski package that includes Hart skis and a trip to Vermont.
  • On October 7:
    • The "burst" contestant backdrops are used for the first of only a handful of times this season.
    • After the Round 2 puzzle JOHNNY'S TONIGHT SHOW FAREWELL (Show Biz), Susan is given a multiple-choice question asking for the year it took place (1991, 1992, or 1993), and chooses the right answer of 1992. This is first of only four known instances of a "bonus" question being multiple-choice.
    • There is an $8,650 Jackpot win.
    • Contestant Susan finishes in second place with $22,650, the highest known second-place total at this point. Interestingly, all of it is won in the aforementioned Round 2.
  • On October 11, Pat's Final Spin lands on Bankrupt.
  • As of October 11:
    • The practice of editing out Final Spins that land on anything other than a cash amount has not yet begun.
    • The camera by the blue contestant is still cockeyed.
  • On October 14, the Jackpot display is erroneously $20 above the actual total from the second spin through the end of the round.
  • For the week of October 21, the bonus prizes (other than the $25,000) are a car and three trips: Tahiti, Bora Bora, and the Orient.
  • On October 21, after the Round 2 puzzle AND ALL THE MEN AND WOMEN MERELY PLAYERS (Quotation), Pat asks the contestant for the play that provides the quotation. The contestant does not provide the correct response of As You Like It.
  • On October 23, there is a Jackpot win.
  • On October 24:
    • There is a $6,450 Jackpot win.
    • Same Name uses three "names" for the last known time.
  • Sometime between October 23 and 31, as part of Pumpkin Masters week, Pat and Vanna carve their likenesses onto pumpkins. They show the pumpkins off on the 31st.
  • The Friday Finals Bonus Round winner's extra prize for the week of October 28 is a fantasy golf package including Fila clubs and trips to Virginia and Arizona.
  • By October 29, the cockeyed camera is fixed.
  • On October 29:
    • The title card is preceded by a cold open in which Pat states, "Boy, if you didn't watch Wheel yesterday, here's what you missed." followed by footage of him and contestant Linda jumping up and down. After the footage, Pat is seen jumping up and down while saying "Could happen again tonight. You never know."
    • There is a $15,550 Jackpot win.
  • On October 30, there is a Jackpot win.
  • On October 31:
    • Vanna wears a shirt and pants.
    • Contestant Brad solves the Round 2 Fill In the Blank puzzle SMARTY ? BELL-BOTTOM ? ANTS IN YOUR ? by saying "pants" in place of each question mark. He is credited with a correct answer and given the $2,000 bonus for correctly filling in the blank.
    • When the Bonus Round envelope is selected, evil laughter is heard instead of the traditional chime.
  • As of October 31, the Jackpot display still looks the same as it did on September 16.

November 1996Edit

  • On November 1, contestant Darlene retires with $119,351. She sweeps the game and wins $25,000 in the Bonus Round.
  • November 4 is Best Friends Week.
  • The weeks of November 11 and 18 are taped at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Pat comes down with laryngitis during this taping session, which becomes evident by the 15th and especially during the week of the 18th.
  • By November 11:
    • The Jackpot display changes to a red semicircle with "Jackpot" in gold letters along the curved part, and the total in white numbers underneath.
    • The $1,000 space becomes brighter.
  • On November 13:
    • In a rather rare occurrence, contestant Steven manages to go from $0 to a winning score in Round 4 without ever hitting $5,000.
    • When Pat describes the Bonus Round prizes, each one is revealed with a "page turn" graphic, and the $25,000 is promoted by Vanna using the electronic envelope.
  • On November 15:
    • In Round 1, the board's lights stop working after contestant Jon calls B. As a result, the B's in the puzzle NOB HILL STREET BLUES fail to light up, and Vanna stands in front of them for several seconds before turning them anyway. When Jon solves on the next turn, the remaining letters also fail to light up, and the board's border does not flash.
    • Round 3 is ONYX JADE & TOURMALINE, despite JADE being used as a bonus puzzle on October 2.
    • In Round 3, Pat runs up to the puzzle board to adjust the ampersand in the puzzle due to it being crooked.
    • The Surprise is an $11,100 electric piano.
    • Rounds 1 and 4 are Before & After (the last known duplication of that category), while Round 3 is Things and the bonus puzzle is Thing.
  • November 18 is College Week. A marching band plays "Changing Keys" live, but with the original melody instead of the altered melody of the "big band" remix.
    • There is no extra prize if the winner of the Friday Finals wins the Bonus Round.
    • From this point onward, unless noted otherwise, any College Weeks have the contestants introduce themselves while walking from center stage, followed by a local college's cheerleading squad (and often the mascot) introducing Pat and Vanna.
    • The three contestants return for the credits while the marching band plays during the credits.
  • On November 20:
    • Free Spin is placed too high, covering the dollar sign instead of the 3 on the green $300.
    • The Prize is a $2,000 gift certificate to Gap.
    • The Round 2 puzzle MADONNA GIVES BIRTH TO A BABY GIRL (Headline) is followed by a trivia question asking for the name of the child; contestant Danielle does not give the right answer of Lourdes. Also, Pat nearly forgets to ask the question.
    • Danielle sweeps the game and wins a $20,000 MasterCard in the Bonus Round.
  • On November 21:
    • The category strip disappears briefly during Round 2.
    • Pat and Vanna trade places during the Bonus Round so that he can rest his voice. While doing so, he turns the M in the bonus puzzle SYNONYM so hard that it rattles loudly. This was seen in several retrospectives.
  • On both November 19 and 21, neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the maingame.
  • On November 22, Pat uses hand gestures throughout Round 4 due to his laryngitis (pointing to the contestants when it is their turn, hitting the railing with his fist for wrong letters and a Bankrupt, and a series of gestures for the Final Spin spiel) until the Speed-Up begins.

December 1996Edit

  • December 2 is Escape to Hawaii Week. As with the week of November 18, there is no extra prize if the Bonus Round is won on the Friday Finals.
  • As of December 2, the Jackpot wedge still looks the same as it did on September 16.
  • On December 3:
    • In Round 1, contestant Brad's arrow is still flashing after contestant Andrew takes his turn.
    • The pastel Jackpot display appears for a split-second at the start of Round 3 before the curved display appears.
    • The numbers on the Jackpot display are noticeably thinner.
  • As of December 3, Proper Name has appeared in the Bonus Round at least twice; this is based on the fact that a Proper Name of MOZART with the pastel category strips was seen as a retro Bonus Round in Season 30, and said puzzle is more likely to have come before December 3 than after.
  • December 9 is Beverly Hills Week, taped in Culver City.
    Jackpot with Black

    The second Jackpot wedge.

  • By December 9, the Jackpot wedge is redesigned with JACKPOT written in a semicircle at the top of the wedge and written again vertically down the middle of the wedge. The letters are now yellow in a thinner, sans-serif font, and the top of the wedge is black.
  • For the week of December 9, the "burst" contestant backdrops are used.
  • On December 9:
    • There is a Jackpot win.
    • Vanna shows behind-the-scenes footage of her CD Santa's Last Ride. In the clip, she sings "Making Toys" with Tony Danza.
  • On December 10, there is a $9,200 Jackpot win.
  • On December 11:
    • Tom's wife, Christine, competed on September 24, although this is not mentioned.
    • Tom sweeps the game but loses a BMW Z3 Blue in the Bonus Round.
    • Somewhat coincidentally given the circumstances of the week, the bonus puzzle is JACKPOT.
  • On December 12:
    • When contestant Lea lands on the Jackpot wedge, it comes loose and partially exposes the orange $300, after which Pat fixes it.
    • There is an $8,550 Jackpot win.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used.
    • At the end of the show, Vanna sings "Holiday Time" from the above CD to several children, including her son.
  • On December 13:
    • There is a $6,950 Jackpot win, which results in Greg being the only contestant to win the Jackpot twice. This is also very likely the only time that the Jackpot is won four times in one week.
    • Round 3 is the first known appearance of Proper Names.
  • On December 12 and 13, Lea wins a total of three trips: a Queen Elizabeth II cruise to London on Thursday, and trips to Paris and Beverly Hills on Friday. Excluding shopping episodes, this is one of two known instances where a contestant wins three trips, which is very likely the highest number of trips won by a single contestant.
  • December 16 is Family Week. Once again, there is no extra prize if the Bonus Round is won on the Friday Finals.
  • On December 16:
    • The category strips are changed to a blue oval which spans about two-thirds the width of the screen. They continue to use the unique wipes for Show Biz, Headline, and Classic TV, and the "rolling Wheel" wipe for all other categories.
      Jackpot97

      The third Jackpot wedge.

    • The top of the Jackpot wedge becomes the same color as Prize wedges.
    • The "burst" contestant backdrops are used.
  • On December 18:
    • No vowels are bought in Round 1.
    • The Round 1 puzzle, JINGLE-BELL ROCK, is improperly hyphenated.
    • Charlie reads the closed captioning plug.
    • Just before the credits, Charlie plugs the video game adaptations for Sega Saturn and Panasonic 3DO, saying that they are coming soon. Although originally planned for an October 1 release, these games are never released.
    • The bare Round 1 template is seen, complete with yellow $1,000, as the Wheel spins during the credits.
  • December 23 is the first Happy Holidays Week, which is the name of the Christmas week episodes for the next several years. Starting this season, various Christmas songs are used as bumpers. As with the previous week, there is no extra prize if the Bonus Round is won on the Friday Finals.
  • On December 25, a rock version of "Jingle Bells" plays over the closing credits.
  • On at least December 27, the top of the Jackpot wedge is again black.
    EditedCategoryStrips96

    The blue category strip and curved Jackpot display on a rerun from the week of December 30.

  • Reruns air during the week of December 30. These reruns are edited to have the curved Jackpot display and the blue oval category strips.

January 1997Edit

TitleAuthorWideFont

January 3.

  • On January 3, which is a rerun of the October 11 episode, the replacement category strip in Round 2 uses Helvetica text from the first letter reveal onward.
  • Around this point, the low-level angled shots of the board are retired.
  • January 6 is Wheel into 1997 week. During this week:
    • There is no extra prize if the Bonus Round is won on the Friday Finals.
    • The original Jackpot wedge design is used, most likely due to the week being taped out of airing order.
  • On January 6:
    • The Wheel is tightened.
    • In Round 2, Becky forgets to pick up the Free Spin after hitting it. Three spins later, Pat walks over to the other side of the Wheel, removes the Free Spin, and gives it to her. As he does so, he accidentally moves the Wheel one peg from the edge of the green $500 onto the right-side Bankrupt of the $10,000 wedge. The Wheel is not reset before Becky spins again.
    • Rounds 1, 2, and 3 are played entirely by the person who began them.
    • Except where noted, the Wheel no longer spins automatically during the opening and credits. According to Pat, the automation was removed because he "thought it was a bad idea to demonstrate that we had the ability to automatically spin the Wheel".
  • On January 9:
    Reversed$10000Wedge1-9-97
    • The buzzer does not sound on an incorrect letter (E) near the end of Round 1.
    • Shane accidentally asks for a "brother" in Round 2. Pat has him try again, and he calls B.
    • The $10,000 Wedge is accidentally placed upside-down in the same round. Shane lands on the left edge of it (meaning he would have landed on Bankrupt under normal circumstances) and calls C. Only $1,000 is added to his score at first, but it is "corrected" after his next turn, as Pat tells him he has $12,400; however, he does not solve. Pat acknowledges the mistake before the start of Round 3, and jokes about it for the rest of the game.
    • The Fill In the Blank in the above round does not use a hanging indent for the last word of ? CITIES ? BROTHER ? -ENGINE AIRPLANE, even though such an arrangement could have fit on the board.
    • The numbers on the Jackpot display are thinner, and the display itself is much smaller.
    • The Wheel spins during the credits, but not the opening.
  • On January 10:
    • The "burst" backdrops are used for the last time. After they are removed, the backdrops are continually randomized to fit each week's theme.
    • Contestant Greg retires with $140,685.
  • January 13 is Alpine Ski Adventure week. As before, there is no extra prize if the Bonus Round is won on the Friday Finals.
  • On January 13:
    • Before the title card, Pat and Vanna are shown talking, and Vanna announces that she is pregnant (with her first daughter, Giovanna). As was the case when she was pregnant with Nicholas, she often wears suits for the next several months of taping.
    • The category strips' font is changed to Franklin Gothic Demi Condensed, while the oval itself becomes thinner and shorter, matching the length of the category name; once again, the wipes do not change. This style is kept through Season 17. However, Triplex remains in use for the sponsor list, eligibility disclaimer, credits, and copyright notice for the remainder of the season.
    • The lap steel guitar rendition of "Changing Keys" is used as a music bed for the Surprise (a trip to Hawaii).
    • The Jackpot wedge reverts to the red design with greenish-brown top.
    • The end-game total graphic changes to a green oval with white numbers in the same font as the category strips. This style is also kept through Season 17.
  • On January 16:
    • The second Bankrupt is accidentally placed on the Wheel for Round 1, but is not hit. This error is also seen in the closing automation.
    • During Round 5, contestant Kevin's flipper briefly stops on $250, but can barely be seen flipping over to $400 just before he calls a letter. Although he is initially credited with $250 per letter, his score is corrected immediately after the round goes into Speed-Up. The difference in score causes him to win.
    • The week's theme is seen on the video wall in the closing instead of the show's logo.
  • January 20 is the first NFL Players Week, featuring contestants playing for an NFL player in the audience.
    • This and all subsequent weeks with celebrity/civilian teams have the contestants receive their winnings in cash and prizes as normal, while a cash amount equal to the contestant's winnings (with a minimum of $10,000) is donated to a charity of the celebrity's choice.
    • During at least this NFL week, bleachers are set up onstage to increase the audience size.
    • Except for Season 19, the rerun of NFL Players Week is always the last of the Summer reruns, most likely to coincide with the upcoming NFL season.

February 1997Edit

  • February 3 is Sweethearts Week.
  • On February 3:
    • Rounds 1 and 4 are Phrase; the latter, LOVE HANDLES, is inexplicably in that category instead of Things. Pat points this out after the round is solved.
    • In Round 1, the husband of the red team (Jeff) starts to call C, but his wife (Annie) cuts him off and calls M. Pat asks Harry which letter should be accepted, and Harry says that he heard M, which is not in the puzzle. Strangely, the buzzer does not sound during this turn.
    • The Round 2 Prize, a Caribbean cruise, has the Princess Cruises logo in white at the top of the wedge followed by "Caribbean" in what is otherwise the normal Prize wedge design.
  • On February 7, the Jackpot is increased to start at $10,000 on Friday Finals episodes.
  • The weeks of February 10 and 17 are taped at the Blockbuster Desert Sky Pavilion (now Ak-Chin Pavilion) in Phoenix. Unusually for a road show, neither week is rerun during the Summer. During both weeks:
    • The video wall is framed by two zig-zag shaped signs, which spell out "PHOENIX" and "ARIZONA" in illuminated white letters.
    • The prizes are not shown onstage, so Charlie promotes them over video footage after the last round.
      Prize West
    • The Prize wedges use an Old West-style font, with no glitter.
      1997 Arizona W-H-E-E-L Holder
    • The W-H-E-E-L envelope holder becomes turquoise and red, with a pattern on it resembling a Navajo weaving.
  • During the week of February 10:
    • Vanna introduces the episodes with "From the Valley of the Sun, it's Wheel of Fortune from Phoenix!" A unique piece of music plays over video footage of Phoenix, followed by a timpani roll under Charlie's intro.
    • After Round 3, there is a bumper consisting of the traditional logo with a cactus on either side. "Phoenix" is written above it, and "Week" below it, both on red rectangles.
      S-2647 Slate
  • On February 11 (taped January 24):
    • No vowels are bought in Round 1.
    • The second shot of the board in Round 3 uses the thicker oval category strip from December and January.
    • In Round 4, the Final Spin bells sound just as Rick begins his second spin. Pat does not seem to notice the bells, as after a wrong letter, he starts to prompt Allison before doing the Final Spin.
  • All five Bonus Rounds are lost on the week of February 10.
  • February 17 is Family Week. During this week, Vanna opens the show with "From Phoenix, Arizona, it's Family Week on Wheel of Fortune!" A country music-styled cue plays over local footage, followed by a timpani roll under Charlie's intro.
  • On February 18, during the contestant interviews, footage is shown of Vanna surprising the blue team with the news that they have been selected for the show.
  • On February 21:
    PuzzleBoardForSale

    Goodbye, trilons...

    • Round 1's puzzle IRISH & JET SETTER is the last instance of Vanna revealing punctuation on the puzzle board.
    • The trilon-based puzzle board that has been in place for 22 years is used for the last time. The last official puzzle on it is the bonus puzzle POUND SIGN, but at the end of the episode, Vanna reveals FOR SALE on the board.
  • On February 24:
    PuzzleBoardNew

    ...Hello, monitors.

    WOF Bonus
    • Charlie's intro is just "Ladies and gentlemen: Pat Sajak and Vanna White!" (which becomes the official intro in Season 19) with no chant, music, or animation. Pat and Vanna walk out, discuss the new electronic puzzle board, and show time-lapse footage of the old board being dismantled before walking to their respective places. After the contestant interviews, a curtain reveals the new board while the puzzle-solve cue plays.
      • The new board's appearance differs from its predecessor in various ways. The frame appears as a group of spikes rather than as a pair of arches; the green screens for the monitors display the traditional logo where the old trilons did not; the green used for said screens is in a different hue from that used for the trilons; the frames bordering the monitors are black instead of gold; and the font for the letters is changed from Rockwell Condensed to Helvetica Condensed.
      • Blank spaces and punctuation are now revealed automatically as Pat announces the category. Puzzle solutions are also revealed automatically after the round ends. If a bonus puzzle is not solved, the solution is revealed one letter at a time, in a zig-zag if the puzzle uses two rows.
    • The gray parallelogram nametags are replaced by white-on-blue, oval-shaped nametags with white outlines that closely resemble the category displays in use at the time. The font used remains in the Helvetica family, but instead of the "Condensed" variant of that font, the nametags now use the "Black" variant. This style remains to this day, albeit with a font change in Season 32.
    • The first puzzle on the new board is VALENCIA SPAIN, and Vanna's first letter on this board is S.
    • The $10,000 Wedge is on $350, and the Round 2 Prize is on $700. Also, in Round 4, Surprise is moved to the $400 between $250 and $550. Given that several other episodes between now and late March have the Prize, Surprise, and/or $10,000 Prize on different wedges than usual, this appears to be a short-lived experiment with wedge placement.
    • The W-H-E-E-L envelope holder changes to gold lights (similar in style to the puzzle board's frame) and green letters.
    • At the end of the episode, Vanna uses the bonus puzzle to demonstrate how the new board works.
    • For the last known time, the Wheel spins automatically during the credits.
  • On February 28:
    • Nancy is credited with $2,150 instead of $2,400 in Round 1 due to an incorrect vowel by Mark two turns prior accidentally being deducted from her score instead of his.
    • The $10,000 Wedge is on the $250 between the $400 and the red $900 and the Round 2 Prize is on $800.
    • The Round 2 puzzle WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME (Title) is followed by a question asking what show the song is from. Nancy provides the correct answer of Cheers.
    • There is a $12,450 Jackpot win.
    • Pat accidentally says the category for the Speed-Up is Phrase (the category of Round 4), but an offstage voice can be heard correcting him.
  • Sometime around this point:
    • The second Bankrupt is now removed before round 4 that begins as a Speed-Up.
    • Final Spins that land on anything other than a cash amount are now always edited out; before this point, it is believed that such Final Spins had been edited out occasionally if the episode ran extremely long.
    • The Used Letter Board is replaced by a monitor which also displays the category name, the timer for Speed-Ups and the Bonus Round, and the Jackpot total during that round.
    • "Null" cycles (i.e., player control goes a complete cycle without affecting score, the puzzle, or cardboard in possession) are now edited out if the main game runs abnormally long; this is not necessarily due to Rounds 1-3 running overtime, and some games with such edits still end without a Speed-Up. If a "null" cycle occurs in the Jackpot round, the Jackpot total is adjusted in post-production to exclude the value of the edited-out spins (often resulting in the value display being in a different font than usual) unless the Jackpot is won, in which case the cycle is left intact. On very rare occasions, cycles that do affect score or cardboard in possession may be cut as well.

March 1997Edit

  • On March 3, the puzzle board is changed slightly: the font is made slightly thinner, and the borders between each monitor change from all-black to black with a thin green line.
  • On March 4:
    • Surprise is on $350, the $10,000 Wedge on the red $600, and the Prize on the orange $300. The Prize is won, so the Jackpot ends up in its correct place for Round 3.
    • Rosie O'Donnell makes a cameo after TALK SHOW HOST ROSIE O'DONNELL is the Round 2 puzzle. She then helps Vanna touch letters in Round 3.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used.
    • Round 3 and the Bonus Round are Event.
  • As of March 4, Pat still reminds contestants that "We're playing for cash."
  • On March 7:
    • For the last known time, the prize envelopes are green on the inside. The green envelopes were likely retired as they were too hard to read.
    • Howard Stern makes a guest appearance at the end of the show to promote his film Private Parts.
  • At a taping session on March 13, Raymond Taylor makes an unauthorized appearance in the studio audience and is forced to leave. He refuses and is physically ejected from the stage. Taylor is later banned from Sony Pictures Studios.
  • March 17 is the first Spring Break Week.
  • By March 20, nearly eight years after the daytime show dropped the shopping rounds and nearly a decade after nighttime stopped using them, Pat stops reminding contestants that "We're playing for cash."
  • On March 18, the Prize is on the yellow $400 between $550 and $250.
  • On March 20, the $10,000 Wedge is on $350, and the Prize is on $700.
  • On March 21:
    • The $10,000 Wedge is on the red $900, and the Round 2 Prize is on the yellow $400 between $550 and $250.
    • Surprise is not used; instead, a $5,545 trip to the Bahamas is added in Round 3.
    • Round 3's puzzle, MIKE CONNORS AS MANNIX, is categorized as Classic TV instead of Star & Role. Given that this is done at least two more times before the end of the season, it is possible that Star & Role was temporarily put on hiatus.
    • The buzzer does not sound on a wrong letter (D) near the end of Round 3.
  • Reruns air during the week of March 24. This is the last known time that reruns air mid-season.
  • March 31 is the first European Vacation week, a tradition which occurs once a season (or a variation of it, such as European Holiday or EuroTour) until Season 19.

April 1997Edit

  • On April 1, Pat and Vanna play for charity as part of an April Fools' Day gag, with Alex Trebek as host and Pat's wife, Lesly Sajak, touching the letters. Conversely, Pat hosts that day's Jeopardy!, whose first round features Wheel-themed categories including Before & After (which quickly becomes a recurring category identical to its Wheel counterpart) and Say "Jack" (a pun on Pat's last name, where all the correct responses contain the word "Jack"). On this episode:
    • The European Vacation set is retained.
    • Charlie begins the intro as normal, but Johnny Gilbert announces the last line, "And now, here is your host: Alex Trebek!" Alex then introduces Lesly.
    • Alex mentions that he had previously guest-hosted for a week in 1980, a fact he also stated during a 1991 episode of To Tell the Truth on which Charlie was a substitute announcer although his guest-hosting gig apparently came two weeks after Charlie left daytime.
    • After Alex's opening dialogue with Lesly, Johnny introduces Pat and Vanna using Jeopardy! "Now entering the studio..." intro while that show's opening theme plays. As they are introduced, their names appear onscreen in the style of the category strips.
    • Rounds 1 and 4 are Phrase.
    • Round 1's answer is PAT I'D LIKE TO SOLVE THE PUZZLE.
    • Pat and Vanna solve Round 2, VANNA MAKES HER WHEEL DEBUT, together. It is followed by a clip of her first official episode on December 13, 1982.
      Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

      Something to say when you have nothing to say.

    • Round 3 is SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS, in the joke category of "Really Long Title" and hyphenated twice to fit on the board. It is also given a "bonus" question asking for the musical it came from, and Pat gives the correct answer of Mary Poppins.
    • Alex's Final Spin moves only five wedges.
    • The Speed-Up round has Pat and Vanna's images inside boxes, rather than a zoomed-in version of the usual shot.
    • The Y in the Round 4 puzzle IT'S NOT AS EASY AS IT LOOKS refuses to reveal when Lesly touches it, and is only revealed when Vanna solves it immediately after.
    • Pat and Vanna play the Bonus Round together and win $25,000. Their combined winnings are split 50/50 between their two charities (The Boy Scouts of America and the American Cancer Society, respectively).
    • The bonus puzzle, TRADING PLACES, is believed to be the first bonus puzzle under three-and-a-vowel rules that has at least one each of R, S, T, L, N, and E.
    • No credit is given for Alex's wardrobe, although ones are given for Vanna, Pat, and Lesly.
  • Likely by April 2, the Prize, Surprise, and $10,000 Wedge permanently return to their normal placement.
  • April 14 is the first Puerto Rico week, a tradition that continues until Season 17.
  • All five Bonus Rounds are won on the week of April 14.
  • April 28 is the first Wheel Across America week. This theme is later called America Travel, and renamed again to Road Trip in Season 28.
  • On April 28:
    • In Round 2, contestant Tracey fills in the entire puzzle BILLIE JO BOBBIE JO & BETTY JO (Classic TV) by herself, although a "null" cycle appears to have been edited out. It is then followed by a trivia question asking for the hometown of those characters, and she does not provide the right answer of Hooterville.
    • Despite solving the first three puzzles for a combined $17,750, Tracey finishes in second place.
  • On April 29:
    • Contestant Ardis sweeps the game and wins a Saab in the Bonus Round.
    • None of the puzzles have L in them.
  • On April 30:
    • Pat erroneously says "We'll be back." after Round 4 is solved, but quickly realizes his mistake and begins congratulating the contestants on their winnings.
    • As a joke related to the above gaffe, Pat has contestant Ray announce the values of the remaining bonus prizes.

May 1997Edit

  • On May 1:
    • Contestant Jonathan spins $3,500 three times in Round 3, but loses $18,550 to Bankrupt.
    • The Jackpot reaches $20,900, but it is not won.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 4.
    • Jonathan spins just as the Final Spin chimes sound. He is allowed to complete his turn, after which Pat does the Final Spin.
  • On May 2, Surprise is not used; instead, an $8,500 framed document signed by Elvis Presley is offered in Round 3.
  • May 5 is a special week where celebrities and their mothers play together. During this week, "Special thanks to all our moms" and "Happy Mother's Day" are added to the credits.
  • On May 5:
    Season 14 Sponsored Jackpot Wedge
    • The Jackpot round begins to have sponsors whose logos are also displayed on the Jackpot wedge, replacing the curved horizontal "Jackpot" text; in addition, sponsor plugs are used. The first is Pizza Hut.
    • Following the sponsor plugs, Charlie announces "And we've added this prize to the Wheel..." for all Round 3 Prizes. This lasts until the end of Season 22.
    • There are fixed music bumpers leading into the commercial breaks after Rounds 2 and 3, a change which remains for the rest of the season.
  • On May 6:
    • For the only known time, a team consists of three people (Tia and Tamera Mowry, plus their mother).
    • Kathy Ireland and her mother solve the bonus puzzle BUTTON UP despite getting no help from their extra letters. Also, the camera cuts away from the puzzle board before the answer fills in.
  • On May 8:
    • The Free Spin is placed too high, revealing part of the 3 on the green $300.
    • Twice in Round 1, Bonnie Hunt's mother accidentally calls a vowel after spinning.
    • In Round 2, Bonnie starts to spin again before Vanna can reveal the letter that was called. Bonnie then stops the Wheel in mid-spin, causing her and Pat to joke around for several seconds before he tells her to "spin the damn Wheel."
    • Round 3 (BARBARA BILLINGSLEY AS JUNE CLEAVER) is categorized as Classic TV instead of Star & Role.
    • Round 4 (KANGAROO'S POUCH) is inexplicably categorized as Place instead of Thing.
  • The weeks of May 12 and 19 are taped at the San Diego Convention Center. Neither is rerun during the Summer.
  • May 19 is College Week. During this week, the San Diego State University marching band plays music bumpers.
  • On May 19:
    • Against normal practice, a short puzzle is used in Round 3 (UPPERCLASSMEN).
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the maingame.
  • May 26 is New York Week, taped in Culver City.
  • On an episode from the week of May 26:
    • Six rounds are played; interestingly, Phrase is not used.
    • Round 4 (RAYMOND BURR AS PERRY MASON) is categorized as Classic TV instead of Star & Role.
    • The first I in the Round 6 puzzle HAIR STYLIST refuses to reveal for several seconds, and Vanna ends up hitting the monitor with her fist. Pat and Vanna mention this in their chat, and it is replayed during the credits.
    • Vanna also has difficulty revealing the L and C in the bonus puzzle POLICY. After the contestant fails to solve, the remaining letters fill in much more slowly than usual.
  • On May 27, a contestant accidentally asks for a "grow" (part of the puzzle answer) in one round. Pat has the contestant try again, and she calls G.

June 1997Edit

  • June 2 is Far Away Places Week.
  • By the week of June 2, Karen Griffith and Steve Schwartz become co-producers.
  • On June 6, Surprise is not used; instead, a $10,388 trip to Egypt is offered in Round 3.
  • June 9 is Endless Summer Week.
  • On June 11 (known to have been rerun on May 30, 1998):
    • Round 2 is the first of two known instances of Where Are We? using only one clue (THE LAND OF ENCHANTMENT, with the answer being New Mexico, which contestant Melanie provides.)
    • There is a $7,400 Jackpot win.
    • The bonus puzzle JULY is inexplicably categorized as Thing instead of the more logical Event.
  • On June 13, three females play in the Friday Finals.

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