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A timeline for Season 15 of Wheel of Fortune, which aired in first-run from September 1, 1997 through June 12, 1998.

Season ChangesEdit

  • The opening graphic of Sony Pictures Studios is changed slightly, as is Charlie's opening narration: The intro no longer involves the circular Wheel graphic, and Charlie's opening is slightly altered to: "From the Sony Pictures Studios, it's America's Game!" On a light blue starry background, a new logo similar to the traditional logo appears, but with the Wheel inside, and no dots on the sides. Each word pops up during the opening chant. The background and logo then wipe away sideways to reveal a cut to the studio.
  • "Changing Keys" is rearranged again, this time by Steve Kaplan. It has a similar melody to the "big band" version, but a slower tempo and electric guitar solo.
  • The puzzle-solve cue is updated.
  • Throughout this season, Pat sometimes introduces the Jackpot round with "Put down that/those [random object(s)], Charlie, it's time for our Jackpot round!"
    Wheelgraphic
  • The base of the Wheel is now blue with four long, golden spikes. The top light layer is replaced with a new layer similar to the old one, but with smaller bulbs, one of which simply flashes during the chase pattern as the Wheel spins; this is seen from the front.
  • Some episodes have an ad for Game Show Network during the credits, a practice which remains through Season 18.
  • The credits and www.sony.com URL are done in Times New Roman, which remains until the end of Season 17.
  • On weekend repeats of this season from 1998-99, a www.wheeloffortune.com URL replaces the aforementioned Sony URL.
  • On some shows with a commercial break between Rounds 1 and 2, $2,500 and $3,500 are introduced in Rounds 2 and 3 respectively, resulting in $5,000 not being used if the game ends after only three rounds.
  • Between now and at least November 5, 1999, several games use very short puzzles in Round 1 and/or after Round 3. In the latter case, the use of such puzzles is not necessarily due to the first three rounds running overtime, and some of these games still end without a Speed-Up.
  • On an episode sometime this season, one of the Wheel Prizes is an $11,630 skiing trip to Crested Butte, CO. It is won.
  • According to one recollection, there is a tie sometime this season.

September 1997Edit

  • For the first few weeks, the Jackpot Round's sponsor is the Bravo Card.
  • The weeks of September 1 and 8 are taped at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus, Ohio. For these weeks:
    • There is a commercial break between Rounds 1 and 2.
    • For the first known time since the Radio City Music Hall episodes in 1988, the audience does the "Wheel! Of! Fortune!" chant instead of the pre-recorded chant.
  • On one of the Ohio State Fair episodes, a Speed-Up round is discarded due to the wrong letter lighting up.
  • September 1 is Family Week. Surprise is not used this week.
  • On September 1:
    • Pat walks out on his own and jokes that Vanna is late because she had to tend to her second child. She then drives onstage in a Hummer, which she says will be awarded as an extra if the winner of the Friday Finals wins the Bonus Round.
    • After Round 2, Charlie announces the prize that will be awarded to the winner of the Friday Finals: a trip for 10 to Hawaii.
    • Round 3 begins as a Speed-Up, resulting in the Jackpot and second Bankrupt not being used. $3,500 remains the top value, resulting in the only known time it is a possible Final Spin outcome. This is also the only known time since the 1974 pilots that only one Bankrupt is present in Round 3.
      First S15 W-H-E-E-L Prop
    • The W-H-E-E-L envelope holder is slightly altered to align the letters evenly.
    • John Sweeney, then-president of the AFL-CIO, makes a guest appearance in the final segment.
  • On September 5, for reasons unknown, the Jackpot wedge does not feature a sponsor logo, instead using the design first seen on December 16, 1996.
  • All five Bonus Rounds are lost on the week of September 1.
  • The week of September 8 is Bravo's Wheel & Win Sweepstakes. Game cards with puzzles matching those used on Wheel that week are eligible for prizes of up to $1,000,000.
    • ​A promo for the sweepstakes takes place in a restaurant where a man, apparently with Wheel on his mind, sees his table letter "H" light up. He looks down at his plate to see his food styled like the Wheel on the show. His thoughts get the best of him as he spins his table and shouts "Is there an H, Pat?" The scene cuts to the then-current Wheel layout, albeit filled with Universal Studios wedges. Interestingly, this Wheel also has a wedge worth One Million Dollars (not to be confused with the eventual Million-Dollar Wedge's reverse) placed where the Jackpot wedge would be in Round 3.
  • On September 8, the Round 1 puzzle ED & TRIXIE NORTON (Fictional Characters) is followed by a trivia question asking for Ed's career on The Honeymooners. The contestant provides the correct answer of underground sewer worker.
  • On September 9, the Round 1 puzzle AMUSEMENT-PARK FUN HOUSE is improperly hyphenated.
  • By September 9, Star & Role is once again an active category.
  • On September 10, contestant Angie sweeps the game but loses a trip to Tahiti in the Bonus Round.
  • By September 10, Who Is It? now uses only one sentence like Clue; this likely changed much earlier.
  • On September 11:
    • After contestant Sandy lands on $250 in Round 1, she says "Damn!" because she is looking at the wrong arrow and thinks she has landed on Bankrupt. Pat then corrects her and quips that "a little editing there and no one will know." She asks to solve, but Pat tells her to call a letter first; after doing so, she asks again to solve, and Pat says "We wish the hell you would!"
    • Round 2 is the second of two known instances of Where Are We? using only one clue (ORVILLE & WILBUR WRIGHT'S OHIO HOMETOWN, with the answer being Dayton).
    • For the first known time, a cycle of three lost turns is edited out despite not being "null"; the first lost turn is an incorrect A from Sandy in Round 2, evidenced by her score instantly changing from $2,500 to $2,250. Pat later references this by telling her that A had already been called despite no prior lost turns being aired.
  • September 13 is the debut of Wheel 2000, a special children's version hosted by David Sidoni. Further information on this show, including its own timeline, can be found on its article.
    • Pat and Vanna are known to have discussed this version at the end of at least one episode this season.
  • On September 15:
    Wheel of Fortune Envelope Holder

    Looks positively naked, now.

    • The W-H-E-E-L envelope holder is altered for the final time: there are no lights except the letters, resulting in a comparatively bare-bones prop.
    • Vanna shows off her newborn daughter, Giovanna.
  • On September 16:
    • Round 1's puzzle MAPLE & GOLD LEAF is a very rare main-game puzzle with none of the five most common consonants.
    • Round 1 begins with a "null" cycle that is edited out, as evidenced by the wide shot of the first spin heading for the red $900 only for the closeup to show it landing on the orange-yellow $300. Pat references the cycle by saying "We do have some L's." despite it being only the first aired turn of the game.
    • The top winner finishes with only $3,750.
  • On September 19:
    • Vanna wears a suit.
    • The Prize Puzzle debuts. Unlike the version used since 2003, it is used exclusively for Friday Finals and only in Round 1. The first puzzle used is EXPLORING MODERN CHINA (Event), which offers a trip to Shanghai.
    • Unusually for the era, there is no audience reaction when contestant Deanna hits $1,000 in Round 1.
    • The Round 2 Prize is a Triumph Thunderbird motorcycle.
    • Likely because of the Prize Puzzle, neither Surprise nor the Round 3 Prize is used.
    • Contestant Chris hits $3,500 three times in Round 3, but calls a wrong letter on the third hit.
    • There is an unclaimed Jackpot of $23,250, a likely record.
    • Ten wrong letters are called in the Speed-Up.
    • Pat and Vanna do not sign off.
  • All five Bonus Rounds are lost on the week of September 15.
  • On September 26:
    • Three males play.
    • The Prize Puzzle is SUN-DRENCHED BEACHES OF MEXICO (Places), offering a trip to Cancún.
    • Likely because of the Prize Puzzle, neither Surprise nor the Round 3 Prize is used.
    • For the first known time, a contestant solves incorrectly on the Jackpot wedge.
    • There is a $12,700 Jackpot win.
  • On September 29:
    • The Jackpot wedge is updated with a new logo encased in a semicircle. It is now light blue, and sponsored by NordicTrack.
      Jackpot Nordic Track
    • Six rounds are played.
    • There are two sets of repeated categories: Phrase in Round 3 and the Bonus Round, Occupation in Rounds 4 and 6. This is the first known duplication of the latter category.
  • On an episode early this season, contestant Ben solves the bonus puzzle PIGGY BANK just after the buzzer. Pat does not open the envelope, explaining that the answer will be checked during the commercial break and joking that because Ben is also an attorney, they don't want anybody coming after Wheel. It is verified during the post-game chat that the buzzer beat him, after which Vanna opens the envelope.

October 1997Edit

  • On October 3, the Prize Puzzle is used for the third and last known time this season: specifically, the Event puzzle WHITE WATER RAFTING IN IDAHO.
  • By October 6, the "bonus" category solve cue is changed to the final part of the opening.
  • On October 6:
    • Prize wedges begin using unique designs, typically with a graphic related to the prize.
    • There is a $7,650 Jackpot win.
  • October 20 is Broadway Week, taped in Culver City.
  • On October 20, Pat forgets to mention the category (Classic TV) in Round 2 until after the first spin.
  • On October 23:
    • When Round 2 is solved, the fanfare for correctly answering a "bonus" question is accidentally used instead of the puzzle-solve cue.
    • Contestant Millicent sweeps the game but loses a Lexus in the Bonus Round.
  • October 27 is Halloween Week, which begins the tradition of highly ornate Halloween sets. During this week, the set is decorated with animatronic gargoyles, smoke and lightning effects, and fake tombstones. This also begins the tradition of Halloween sounds replacing the chime when a Bonus Round envelope is selected.
  • On October 31, there is an unclaimed Jackpot of over $22,000.

November 1997Edit

  • November 3 is Celebrity Week, with the same round structure as the season premiere and no Friday Finals.
  • By November 3, the Jackpot wedge is re-colored sparkly red, otherwise retaining the design introduced by September 29. Likely by this point, it now has a different sponsor each week.
  • On either November 3 or 4, fitness guru Richard Simmons is one of the celebrities. He performs various antics throughout the game such as screaming when he lands on Free Spin and $1,000 in Round 1, placing the Free Spin token on his forehead after obtaining it as well as using it the same round, and changing vests between rounds whenever he solves a puzzle.
  • On November 5, Alicia Witt is one of the celebrities. Clips are shown of her appearance during the Teen Week of September 3, 1990.
  • On November 6, William Shatner leaves after Round 2, due to scheduling conflicts caused by technical difficulties that make the taping run much longer than usual. Julie Pinson takes his place for the rest of the game.
  • On November 7, there is a $7,950 Jackpot win.
  • The weeks of November 10 and 17 are taped at The Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre (part of Denver Center for the Performing Arts) in Denver.
    Jackpot99

    Jackpot with Aquafresh (2000).

  • By November 10, the Jackpot wedge now features lights around its semicircle.
  • November 17 is College Week. During this week, the University of Colorado marching band plays the original "Changing Keys" during the intro. The band also plays music going into and out of commercial.
  • On November 20:
    • The "bonus category" solve cue is used in Round 2 instead of the normal one; this is perhaps due to the below.
    • The Round 2 puzzle of ALPHA BETA GAMMA & DELTA (Things) is followed by a trivia question, asking for the last letter of the Greek alphabet. Paige does not provide the correct answer of Omega.
    • For the second known time, a contestant solves incorrectly on the Jackpot wedge.
  • On November 21, Surprise is not used, so a Round 3 Prize is added (an $8,916 Wurlitzer Jukebox). This would suggest that the Prize Puzzle is retired by this point; it does not return until September 11, 2003.
  • November 24 is Best Friends Week. The fourth Jackpot wedge is used during this week, suggesting that it was taped before the Jackpot wedge's redesign that debuted around September 29.
  • On November 24:
    • One team includes the show's only known deaf contestant, whose teammate doubles as a sign language translator. Clips of their interview are later used in the ceremonial 3,000th and 4,000th episodes, as well as Seasons 25 and 30.
    • The Round 2 puzzle TAXI'S ALEX TONY & REVEREND JIM (Classic TV) is followed by a trivia question asking who played Alex. Given the available footage, it is not known whether the correct answer of Judd Hirsch was given.

December 1997Edit

  • On an episode sometime this month:
    • For the first known time, two contestants have the same name (Bob).
    • One of the Bobs spins over the Final Spin bells. He is allowed to complete his turn, after which Pat does the Final Spin.
    • Pat's Final Spin lands on Bankrupt but is not edited out, the only known instance of this happening since the practice of editing out bad Final Spins began in February.
  • On December 5:
    • Two consecutive spins by Bruce in Round 1 are stopped in mid-spin by Pat, due to the Wheel slipping out of his hands.
    • The Round 2 Prize is accidentally placed on $450; neither it nor $350 is ever hit.
    • As the Round 2 puzzle is solved, a stagehand can be seen walking behind the puzzle board.
    • Surprise is not used; instead, a second Prize (a $7,100 Fred Joalier gift certificate which can be used to buy a diamond pendant and earrings) is added in Round 3.
  • December 8 is Puerto Rico Week. During this week, the floor is blue.
  • On December 9:
    • The Wheel's outer frame is misaligned throughout the first two rounds. It is fixed before Round 3.
    • There is an edit at the beginning of Round 5, as contestant Barbara's opening spin can just barely be seen heading for the Round 2 Prize, but the close-up shows her landing on the green $300. It is likely that a "null" cycle was edited out.
    • Six rounds are played.
    • Contestant Barbara fills in the bonus puzzle GARAGE completely.
  • December 22 is Happy Holidays Week, and the Surprise wedge is changed to have the word written out horizontally with a gift box below. When the Surprise is claimed and won, the box is opened to reveal a card that says "I've won [name of prize]. Tell me about it, Charlie!" which then segues into the prize description. The concept is very similar to the Prize Box on Wheel 2000, which at this point is still in first-run.
  • Reruns air during the week of December 29.

January 1998Edit

  • January 19 is NFL Players Week. During this week, the contestants' and NFL players' nametags are shaped like footballs.
  • On January 27, six rounds are played.

February 1998Edit

  • The weeks of February 2 and 9 are taped at the Las Vegas Hilton.
  • February 2 is Family Week.
  • On February 2:
    • A then-unknown Zak Bagans is a contestant teamed with his sister Meredith; they win $1,000.
    • The Oak Ridge Boys make a cameo after their name is the Round 2 puzzle (itself categorized as Show Biz instead of Proper Name). Pat interviews group member Joe Bonsall, who promotes their TNN variety show The Oak Ridge Boys Live from Las Vegas. Their song "Elvira" plays as they walk onstage, and again as the post-Round 2 bumper.
  • On February 4:
    • The Round 1 puzzle THE SPICE GIRLS is categorized as Show Biz insted of Proper Name, and uses three rows despite being small enough to fit on two; in addition, the group's name does not officially have "the" in it.
    • The Round 2 Prize has "VIDEO" in white Clarendon text on a magenta background, as opposed to a graphic. It is also placed on the orange $300, but it is picked up, so the placement of the Jackpot wedge is not affected.
    • Contestants Jennifer and Joanne win with $5,000, earned entirely from a single letter called in the Speed-Up.
  • On February 7, Wheel 2000 airs its last first-run episode.
  • Sometime during the week of February 9, a contestant accumulates $45,000 in a Speed-Up but does not win it. This would have tied the one-round record had it been claimed.
  • On February 9, 10, or 11, contestant Derek Rose wins a $105,000+ custom-built Shelby Cobra in the Bonus Round. This is the only six-figure bonus prize until the introduction of the $100,000 cash prize in October 2001.
  • On February 12:
    • The blue contestant, whose real name is Quentin, is referred to as Q throughout the show.
    • The Before & After puzzle BEFORE & AFTER-DINNER DRINK is the second known instance of the category also being part of the answer.
  • February 16-27 is the Come Spin and Win Sweepstakes, sponsored by Sears. Each week has a special "Play to Win" puzzle after Round 3, to which more letters are added throughout the week, and home viewers can submit the answer for a chance to win $1,000,000 in cash or $500 Sears gift certificates. The puzzles are FOUR SCORE AND SEVEN YEARS AGO and SHOW ME THE MONEY.
    • Viewers can find game pieces in TV Guide, at Sears stores nationwide, or in their Sunday paper. Each night, more letters will be added to the puzzle.
    • For answers, viewers may send a self-addressed stamped envelope to: "Play to Win" Sweepstakes Answers-Week (number), P.O. Box 9136, Bridgeport, New Jersey 08014 and must be received by March 6. Washington and Vermont residents may omit postage.
    • For entries, viewers may either submit their entries at a Sears store by February 28, or mail by March 13 to "PLAY TO WIN" SWEEPSTAKES, P.O. Box 9005, Bridgeport, New Jersey 08014.
  • By February 18, a transition is added between the shot of the $5,000 space and the shot of the Round 4 puzzle; the wedge now "zooms" out of the Wheel and turns on its side to form the edge of the picture.
  • On February 26:
    • All three of contestant Tammy's spins in Round 4 land on the red $900.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 4.

March 1998Edit

  • On March 9:
    • Debra's total score for Round 1 ($5,000 plus the Surprise, a $6,697 Maui trip) is never stated after the Surprise copy.
    • The Round 2 Prize is a $2,500 shopping spree at the Rand McNally Travel Store.
    • After the Round 2 puzzle MY NAME IS BOND JAMES BOND (Quotation), contestant Chris is asked for the title of the first James Bond movie: he is given the choices of Goldfinger, Dr. No, or From Russia with Love, and picks the right answer of Dr. No. This is the second of only four known instances of a "bonus" question being multiple-choice, the third not occurring until 2003.
    • Interestingly, Rounds 1-3 do not have T in them.
  • On March 18 (taped February 13), Matthew Fenwick, a then-wanted criminal on two counts of child molestation, appears as a contestant. He is arrested on the 20th after one of his alleged victims sees him on the show, then sentenced to 6½ years in prison on October 7.

April 1998Edit

  • On April 2:
    • The Jackpot round is sponsored by the Tiger Electronics portable Family Feud game, a very rare instance of a non-Sony game show being promoted on Wheel.
    • Seven consecutive wrong letters are called in the Speed-Up.
    • There is a rare instance of a contestant losing their turn in the Speed-Up with only vowels remaining; with only the vowels missing from THE GREEN HORNET & KATO, contestant Barry gives two wrong answers, after which contestant Darrell calls O and solves.
    • Darrell sweeps the game and wins a trip to Cancún and a convertible in the Bonus Round.
  • On April 7, Fill In the Number debuts.
    • On an episode between now and April 2002, a comma is used for the only known time: specifically, the Fill In the Number puzzle ##,### LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA.
    • On another episode believed to be from the same timespan, the puzzle # AND ## BLACKBIRDS BAKED IN A PIE is one of only two known Fill In the Number puzzles to have two different numbers in it.
  • On April 9:
    • The closed captioning is sponsored by the Tiger Electronics portable Family Feud game.
    • Contestant Dennis fills in the entire Round 3 puzzle PARACHUTE JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS by himself.
    • Dennis solves the Speed-Up puzzle BILOXI MISSISSIPPI with only the S's and P's revealed.
  • On April 13, the time limit in the Speed-Up round is reduced from 5 seconds to 3.
  • April 27 is AM-FM Week, with radio personality/civilian teams. During this week, the radio personalities' nametags feature a large silver star.
  • On April 27, the Round 2 Prize has "STEREO" in white Clarendon text on a blue background, as opposed to a graphic.

May 1998Edit

  • The weeks of May 4 and 11 are taped at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. During these weeks, the Bonus Round window is shaped like Texas.
  • On May 4:
    • Round 2 is the first known appearance of Who Are They?
    • Pat is visible in the shot of the board during the Bonus Round.
    • The winning contestant finishes with only $3,200, the lowest known winning total since the introduction of the electronic puzzle board.
  • On May 5:
    • Surprise is not used; instead, a second prize (a framed and signed photograph of the Project Mercury astronauts, valued at $3,750) is added in Round 3.
    • Round 4 begins as a Speed-Up.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 4.
    • Contestant Cheryl solves the bonus puzzle GEMINIS on the buzzer. Her answer is checked during the commercial break, and in the final segment, Pat tells her she has been ruled a winner.
  • On May 6:
    • There is a Jackpot win.
    • Contestant Richard chases Pat across the stage after solving his bonus puzzle, a moment which has been seen on several retrospectives.
  • On May 7:
    • No vowels are bought in Round 4.
    • The Round 3 Prize wedge has "ENTERTAINMENT" in white Clarendon text on a sky blue background, as opposed to a graphic.
    • Round 4 begins as a Speed-Up. The crowd applauds for the first two correct letters.
    • Immediately after being told from offstage that only vowels are left, contestant Sharon solves the Speed-Up puzzle without calling a letter first.
  • Given surrounding evidence, it appears that Surprise is not used at all during the week of May 4.
  • May 11 is College Week. During this week, the studio audience does the chant.
  • On May 14:
    • Surprise is placed on the yellow $400 between $250 and $550 instead of the one two wedges counterclockwise from Lose A Turn.
    • The chimes do not sound when Pat asks for the number in Round 2's Fill In the Number puzzle.
  • The week of May 18 is Wheel Goes to the Movies, a recurring theme which occurs in May for the next several seasons (always the first week after the May travel episodes).

June 1998Edit

  • During the week of June 1 (Summer in the City), various Summer-related songs play leading into the commercial break after Round 2.
  • On June 4, Pat gives all three contestants Wheel of Fortune baseball caps after the final round.
  • On June 5, Charlie appears on-camera.
  • During the week of June 8 (Endless Summer), Vanna has laryngitis.
  • On June 12, the Puzzler is believed to have been played for the first time. Unlike the "bonus" categories, it is worth $3,000.

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