Lifespan: January 1975 - Present
Hosts: Chuck Woolery, Pat Sajak, Rolf Benirschke, Bob Goen
Announcers: Charlie O'Donnell, Don Morrow, Jack Clark
Hostesses: Susan Stafford, Vanna White
Produced by: Merv Griffin Productions
Front Game Rules
Three players compete. In each round, a Hangman-like puzzle is shown to the players. At the start of each turn, the players spin a large wheel to determine a dollar value, then call a consonant. If the letter appears in the puzzle, the player gets the amount on the wheel for every occurrence in the puzzle; otherwise, play passes to the next contestant. Also in each turn, a player can elect to "Buy" a vowel, deducting $250 from the player's score ($100 in Goen's version). The player that manages to solve the puzzle correctly wins the amount s/he had built up in the round.
|Also on the wheel were "Free Spin", "Lose a Turn" and "Bankrupt" spaces. Landing on the first gave the player a marker s/he could use later on if s/he had to, landing on the second ended the player's turn, and landing on the third ended the player's turn and reset his/her score. Prizes were placed on the wheel as well: to claim it, the player had to land on that prize, call a letter in the puzzle, hang on to the prize without hitting Bankrupt, and solve the puzzle. (The Free Spin was later converted into a prize like this, although it wasn't forfeited on a Bankrupt.) Later on in the show, one round was dubbed the "Jackpot round", where each spin added to a growing Jackpot which could be earned by a player if s/he landed on the Jackpot space, called a letter in the puzzle, and immediately solved the puzzle.
|In the early years, solving a puzzle meant that whatever cash you earned could be used in one of the showrooms on the stage, each offering countless prizes. Players bought prizes using his/her winnings as currency. When it got to the point that a player couldn't afford anymore prizes, s/he could have the rest of the money converted into a Service Merchandise gift certificate or put on account for the next round. From 1987 on, however, money won in each round was kept as cash.
|When time was running out, the host would give the wheel a final spin, dictating the value of each consonant in that round. (Vowels were worth nothing.) Each player then took turns calling a letter, and then had 5 seconds to solve the puzzle if that letter was in the puzzle. (Starting in 2000, $1000 was added to the amount spun for each letter.) At the end of the game, whoever had accumulated the most money was deemed the champion.
At the start of the 2000 season, three toss-up puzzles were played, with the letters filling in themselves and players chiming in when they wanted to solve. The first toss-up was worth $1000, the second was worth $2000 and the right to start the first round, and the third was worth $3000 and the right to start the fourth round.
End Game Rules
The champion of the day was given one more puzzle to solve. The player began by choosing five consonants and one vowel, which were then revealed in the puzzle, and the contestant then had 10 seconds to solve the puzzle. Later on, the contestants were given the almost routine combination of R-S-T-L-N-E for free, and asked for three more consonants and a second vowel.
|In the early form of the bonus round, while players still shopped after each round, certain prizes were marked with stars; the contestant chose one of those prizes to play for in the bonus round. When the shopping format was dropped, the players simply chose one of five stand-alone prizes (including $25,000 cash) as their reward in the bonus round. Starting in the '90s, the players randomly selected one of the five prizes by choosing an envelope represented by the letters "WHEEL". Recently, players spun a mini-wheel to select that envelope, with prizes including three different cars, and amounts of money ranging from $25-$50K, along with one envelope worth $100K.
"Wheel of Fortune" was put on the air as a concession to Merv Griffin for NBC's cancellation of the perennial quizzer "Jeopardy!" back in 1975 before its contract had ended. Seems like Merv made out nicely on the deal - Wheel became the highest-rated daytime game show, and it along with J! returned in syndication, where they now place 1-2 in ratings year after year.
Prior to 1996, the puzzles were put on trilons, with each letter being turned independently. That year, the change was made to electronic touch-screens.
Loogaroo Looks it Over
Wheel of Fortune
Gameplay: 3 pts.
C'mon. You can't tell me you don't stop on this show and try to solve the puzzle.
Host: 3 pts.
Pat and Vanna have perfect chemistry. Chuck and Susan did admirably well, too.
Presentation: 2 pts.
A terrific embodiment of glitz and flash. The theme music is as memorable as any game show theme (or at least, it was).
Execution: 2 pts.
Every year, they add a little tweak, and it's helped serve to add freshness and variety to the show.
Total Score: 10 pts.
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Front Game: HORIZONTAL & VERTICAL BLINDS
Bonus Round: HOMEBODY