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Wheel of Fortune (US game show): Wikis


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Wheel of Fortune
Wheel of Fortune season 27 title card.JPG
Wheel of Fortune 2009-2010 (Season 27) title card.
Format Game show
Created by Merv Griffin
Directed by Dick Carson (1983-2000)
Mark Corwin (2000-present)
Presented by Pat Sajak and Vanna White
Narrated by Jack Clark (1983-1988)
M. G. Kelly (1988-1989)
Charlie O'Donnell (1989-present)
Country of origin  United States
No. of episodes 5,200+ (as of March 2010)
Executive producer(s) Merv Griffin (1983-2000)
Harry Friedman (1999-present)
Producer(s) Nancy Jones (1983-1997)
Harry Friedman (1997-present)
Karen Griffith (1997-present)
Steve Schwartz (1997-present)
Location(s) NBC Studios
Burbank, California (1983-1989)
CBS Television City
Hollywood, California (1989-1995)
Sony Pictures Studios
Culver City, California (1995-Present)
Running time approx. 22 minutes
Production company(s) Merv Griffin Productions (1983-1984)
Merv Griffin Enterprises (1984-1994)
Columbia TriStar Television (1994-2002)
Sony Pictures Television (2002-Present)
Califon Productions (1983-Present)
Distributor King World Productions (1983-2007)
CBS Television Distribution (2007-Present)
Original channel Syndicated
Picture format NTSC (480i),
720p/1080i (HDTV)
Original run September 19, 1983 – Present
External links
[[1] Official website]

Wheel of Fortune is an American television game show created by Merv Griffin, and hosted by Pat Sajak and Vanna White. Three contestants (occasionally three pairs of contestants) compete against each other to solve a word puzzle for cash and prizes.

The show first aired in 1975 on daytime network television. The current version has been syndicated in prime time access since September 19, 1983. Its 27th season premiered on September 14, 2009. It is the longest-running syndicated game show in American television history and the second-longest in either network or syndication (behind the current CBS version of The Price Is Right, which began airing in 1972). It is also the third longest running first-run syndicated program in the United States, behind Entertainment Tonight (which began in 1981) and the now-canceled Soul Train (which aired new episodes from 1971-2006). The show is produced by Sony Pictures Television and distributed by CBS Television Distribution.



Pat Sajak, a former weatherman,[1] has hosted the syndicated Wheel of Fortune since its 1983 inception. Co-host and letter-turner Vanna White also reprised her role from the daytime version. Jack Clark was the first announcer on the nighttime version until just before his death in July 1988. Disc jockey M. G. Kelly filled in until original daytime announcer Charlie O'Donnell returned in February 1989; Johnny Gilbert, Don Pardo and Don Morrow have filled in at various times as well.[2] Clark and O'Donnell have also worked as warm-up acts for the studio audience.


Before the syndicated version began in 1983, Sajak had hosted the daytime version of the show on NBC, taking over that role from Chuck Woolery in 1981. When it debuted, the nighttime Wheel offered a larger prize budget than its daytime counterpart,[1] such as a $5,000 wedge on the Wheel. By 1986, the show had the highest ratings of any syndicated television series in history,[1] and in 1987, it was renewed for another five seasons at that point.[3]


The game is essentially a variation of hangman, the show's main premise being word puzzles, which are presented with an appropriate category and none of the letters revealed. Games typically include three contestants, each of whom spins the Wheel to determine the cash value of a letter in each turn, or buy a vowel for $250. The Wheel also contains special spaces which affect the course of gameplay, as well as special prizes. While other non-cash wedges have varied in the show's history, the Wheel has always featured Bankrupt and Lose a Turn, both of which forfeit the contestant's turn, with the former also eliminating any cash and/or prizes earned within that round. Since 2000, the show has also featured Toss-Up puzzles, which are filled in one letter at a time and can be solved after ringing in with a buzzer.

At the end of the game, the highest-scoring contestant plays a bonus round. Here, he or she is given a smaller, partially filled-in puzzle and asked for additional letters to assist in solving it within a ten-second time limit. A correct solve earns a bonus prize which is determined by spinning a smaller wheel prior to the beginning of the bonus round.


The Wheel of Fortune set, as seen in 2006.

Various changes have been made to the basic set since the show's premiere in 1983, including changes to the color of the floor and various additions of lights/strobes to the puzzle board and contestant backdrops.

In 1996, a large video display was added center stage, which was then upgraded in 2003 as the show began the transition into high-definition broadcasting. The set decorations change with each weekly set of themed programs. Dick Stiles was the show's first art director, and the production is currently designed by Renee Hoss-Johnson.

The show was originally taped at NBC Studios in Burbank, the same place where its daytime counterpart was taped. In 1989 the show moved to CBS Television City, remaining there until 1995 when production moved to its current home at Sony Pictures Studios.


Puzzle boards

Until 1997, the show used a manually-operated puzzle board composed of 48 trilons in four rows (11, 13, 13 and 11, respectively). The board was surrounded by a double-arched border of lights which flashed at the beginning and end of the round. When a letter was placed in the puzzle, its space would light up and Vanna White would turn the trilon to reveal it. On February 24, 1997, the show adopted a computerized board composed of 52 monitors (adding one space to each row). To illuminate a letter during regular gameplay, White simply touches the edge of the monitor, although the board may be controlled remotely to reveal letters or solutions. The new puzzle board made Toss-Up puzzles possible and also facilitated an evolution of the hostess' role, which was originally justified by the need to turn letters. The old puzzle board was offered to the Smithsonian Institution, but was rejected as they did not have enough space. The old puzzle board was eventually donated to The National Museum of Television History. [4]

The current Puzzle Board.

The digital board also no longer requires taping to stop in segments that feature more than one puzzle. Producer Harry Friedman was unhappy that with the prior board, taping for a 30 minute show could take as long as an hour. While the viewers at home saw a seamless transition to the next puzzle, what actually happened was a show stop down, during which the board would be wheeled off stage while the new puzzle was loaded in by hand out of sight of the contestants, who would typically stand in some place on the sound stage where they could not see the board. With the new board, no stop downs were necessary, meaning tapings could finish more quickly at a lower cost to the production company.[5] In 2003, the gold panels were replaced with the current LED & glass light extension. In 2007, the current puzzle board was revamped with new flat screens.

Contestant area

Various changes have been made to the backdrops seen behind the contestants.

The contestants stand behind a large, padded railing that provides leverage when spinning the wheel. The area behind the contestants originally contained colored shapes (red for Player 1, yellow for Player 2, and blue for Player 3) that provided a backdrop as well as an additional scoreboard for displaying the amount a contestant had placed "on account" (see Shopping). In 1996, the backdrops were removed in favor of a display that fit the theme for that week's set of tapings. In 1998, a video wall replaced the themed backdrops displayed behind the contestant. This video wall was upgraded in 2003.

Until 2002, the show used eggcrate displays to display scores. The eggcrate displays were replaced by LCD monitors in 2002 and again were replaced by flat-screen plasma[citation needed] displays in 2007. Also beginning in 2002, special animations play on these monitors if a contestant lands on "Bankrupt" or "Lose a Turn".

The Wheel

Season 26 (2008-2009) Wheel configuration.

When the syndicated version of the program premiered in 1983, the values on the wheel were comparative but slightly higher than those used for the daytime version of the show. While the daytime top-dollar values in 1986 for rounds one, two and three were $750, $1,000 and $2,000, respectively, the top-dollar values on the syndicated version were $1,000 for both rounds one and two and $5,000 in round three.

The Wheel mechanism weighs two tons (4,000 lbs.)[6] and is surrounded by light extensions. Until 1997, the Wheel was spun automatically during the show's opening and closing and featured alternating gold lights and panels. These were replaced by a metallic blue circle surrounded by gold panels, with several similar paneled spikes going around the Wheel and the Wheel no longer spun automatically during these segments. The current LED and glass light extension debuted in 2003.

Prior to 1996, three different dollar value configurations were used during each show. There have never been amounts under $100 on the syndicated Wheel and the only cash space not to end in "50" or "00" was a $175 wedge that was subsequently removed in 1985. The current configuration is based on the one formerly used in Round Three (Round Two prior to 1987). In 2008, the configurations were revamped slightly, with the addition of a few new colors and dollar values.

From 1983-1984, the lowest value on the wheel was $100. This was increased to $150 in 1985 and to $250 in 1996. The lowest value has been $300 since 1999.

Theme music

From 1983-2000, the show's theme music was "Changing Keys" by Griffin. Over the years, the theme was re-recorded several times in various arrangements from jazz to big band. The arrangements were by Griffin's longtime musical director, Mort Lindsey, with some of Lindsey's sidemen including Plas Johnson, Nick Ceroli and Jack Sheldon participating in the recordings.[citation needed]

Since 2000, the main theme of the show has been "Happy Wheels" by the late Steve Kaplan, which was remixed in 2002 and 2004 by Kaplan and in 2006 by Frankie Blue.[7] Since 2006, a theme by John Hoke and Frankie Blue has been used.[8]

Episode status

All syndicated episodes of Wheel of Fortune exist, and many have been shown on GSN.

Winnings records

Michelle Loewenstein became the first contestant to win $1,000,000 on October 14, 2008[9] after the top prize was increased on September 8[10] of that same year. Lowenstein's grand total was $1,026,080.


Board games

Numerous board game versions of the game show have been released by different toy companies. The games are all similar, however, incorporating a wheel, a puzzle display board, play money and various accessories like Free Spin tokens.

  • Milton Bradley released the first board game in 1975. In addition to all the supplies mentioned above, the game included 20 prize cards (to simulate the "shopping" prizes of the show; the prizes ranged in value from $100 to $3,000). Two editions were released.
  • Pressman Toy Corp. released several different editions between 1985 and 1991. They also released two Deluxe versions in the mid-1980s that featured a real spinning wheel which allowed dollar amounts on the wheel to be changed for each round (with the help of extra wedges).
  • Tyco/Mattel created three editions between 1992 and 1998.
  • Parker Brothers released their own version in 1999.
  • Pressman, which currently retains rights to the home game, has released four editions since 2002 including a 20th Anniversary edition, a Simpsons Edition and a Disney Edition. The "Disney Edition" has a "hidden Mickey"-shaped wheel in the same style as the company's Deluxe Editions, albeit with only a few specific spots to place certain Disney-related prizes.
  • Endless Games released a card game version of the show in the summer of 2008.
  • Irwin Toys released a tabletop version in 2009.

Video, arcade, slot and online games

Mobile game

In 2005, Info Space Games teamed up with Sony Pictures Mobile to create the mobile game Wheel of Fortune for Prizes. Players competed against others across the U.S. in multi-player tournaments for a chance to win daily and weekly prizes.


External links

Simple English

Wheel of Fortune is a game show on television. It was created by Merv Griffin in 1975. It was originally hosted by Chuck Woolery from 1975 until 1981. Pat Sajak has been hosting the show since 1981. The show has been aired in syndicated format since 1983.


The game combines hangman with a wheel that gives away cash and prizes. At the beginning of the show, there is a $1000 toss-up puzzle. During a toss-up puzzle, one letter at a time appears on the board. Contestants can ring in to solve the puzzle before the last letter is revealed. An incorrect solution disqualifies that contestant for the rest of that round. A second toss-is worth $2000 and determines who starts round one. The contestant who wins the second toss-up starts the first round. There are 24 spaces on the wheel. A contestant who lands on a cash space is credited with that amount multiplied by how many of a particular letter is in the puzzle. A contestant can buy a vowel for $250. Any contestant who lands on lose a turn loses is or her turns but not his or her winnings accumulated during the round. If a contestant lands on Bankrupt, he or she will lose all of his or her winnings accumulated during the ongoing round as well as a Wild Card. The Wild Card is used to call for more consonants while the wheel is still on the cash space a contestant landed on. If a contestant lands on Free Play, he or she won't lose his or her turn for an incorrect guess or incorrect solution. A consonant is worth $300 for a Free Play. The top dollar value on the wheel is $2500 in round one, $3500 in the second and third rounds, and $5000 from the fourth round on. The first round is the Jackpot round. The jackpot starts at $5000. It increases in value by adding the value of each cash space landed on during that round. Round three is the mystery round. Two mystery wedges are added to the wheel. One hides $10,000 and the other hides a Bankrupt. A contestant who lands on a mystery wedge calls for a letter. He or she may take $1000 per letter occurrence or turn over the wedge. If one wedge was turned over, the other acts as a regular $1,000 cash space and can't be turned over. A third toss-up puzzle, worth $3000, determines who starts the fourth round. When time runs short, a bell sounds. The host spins the wheel. Remaining consonants are worth $1000 plus the value in front of the left-most contestant. The contestants take turns calling for letters. A vowel is called with no cost. Then, the contestant in control has three seconds to solve. The contestant with the most cash at the end of the game advances to the bonus round. The contestant spins the bonus wheel. A category is announced. A bonus puzzle is revealed. The contestant is given the letters R S T L N and E. The contestant then calls for three more consonants and a vowel. If a contestant has a Wild Card in the bonus round, a fourth consonant is called. The contestant who has solved the puzzle wins the prize they have selected. Any contestant who fails to solve the puzzle automatically loses. The host then reveals the prize concealed in the envelope regardless of the result.


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