Wheel of Fortune is an American television game show created by Merv Griffin. Three contestants (occasionally three pairs of contestants) compete against each other to solve a word puzzle, similar to those seen in the game hangman. The name of the show comes from the large wheel that determines the dollar amounts and prizes won (or lost) by the contestants.
The show first aired in 1975 on daytime network television. The current version, in its 26th season, has been syndicated in prime time access since September 19, 1983 and has been the most watched syndicated program since May 1984. 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). The show is produced by Sony Pictures Television and syndicated by CBS Television Distribution (which was formerly King World Productions).
Pat Sajak and Vanna White have hosted this version of the show since its debut, and Charlie O'Donnell has served as announcer since early 1989. Jack Clark served as the show's announcer until his death in July 1988; M. G. Kelly and Don Pardo filled in between 1988 and 1989 before O'Donnell, who had previously announced the daytime version, arrived.
Before the taping begins, the players draw numbers to determine their positions on stage. Play proceeds from right to left from the contestant's perspective: from the red player to yellow, then to blue, then back to red.
The game uses a wide variety of categories for its puzzles. Some are generic, such as "Place" or "Thing." Puzzles frequently refer to popular culture or common items encountered in everyday life. Some novelty categories involve word games which are unique to the show, or allow a solving player to earn an additional cash prize by answering a question related to it. Prize Puzzles (discussed below) offer a player a trip to a destination described by the puzzle.
The game contains three Toss-Up Puzzles. Players are given the category and the hostess activates the board. Letters are randomly revealed until a player buzzes in and solves the puzzle. An incorrect guess disqualifies the player for the rest of the puzzle. The player solving the first Toss-Up wins $1,000 and is introduced first by the host. The player solving the second Toss-up wins $2,000 and starts the first round of the game. A $3,000 Toss-Up is played to decide which player will start Round 4.
Spinning the Wheel
The wheel has 24 spaces. These represent cash values, prizes, penalty spaces, three strategic elements for use in the game and two features that are specific to particular rounds of the game (see below). A player who does not land on a penalty space asks for a consonant. If it is not in the puzzle, play proceeds to the next player. If the letter appears in the puzzle, the hostess reveals all instances of it, and the player is credited with cash or a prize. All descriptions of players being credited with cash or prizes in the remainder of this article assume that the player calls a consonant which appears in the puzzle.
Cash Spaces: A player who spins a cash value is credited with that amount, multiplied by instance of that letter in the puzzle (e.g., landing $500 and calling "N" results in $2000 for a puzzle containing four "N"s). The minimum cash value on the wheel is $300, and the top value (except as described below) is $2,500 (sometimes a sponsored double-wide wedge during Season 25) in Round 1, $3,500 in Rounds 2 and 3, and $5,000 from Round 4 onward.
Prize Spaces and Gift Tags: A player who lands on one of these and picks a correct consonant in the puzzle picks it up from the wheel and wins that prize or gift by solving the puzzle without hitting Bankrupt. If not claimed, these are removed from the wheel after Round 3. The gift tag is worth $1,000 toward purchases from the company sponsoring it, while the value of a prize is announced before the start of the round in which it is introduced.
Free Spin: The Free Spin token, available for the first three rounds, may be used once to continue the player's turn if he solves the puzzle incorrectly, selects a letter that is not in the puzzle, or lands on Bankrupt or Lose a Turn; its use is optional. Starting with the 25th season, a player claiming the Free Spin is also credited with $300 per letter. If not claimed, it is removed from the wheel after Round 3. A Free Spin cannot be used during the Speed-Up Round.
Wild Card: The Wild Card, which debuted with Season 24 in 2006, allows a player who spins a cash value and successfully picks a consonant to call a second consonant, without spinning again, for the exact same value at any single time later in the game. A contestant with the Wild Card loses it upon hitting Bankrupt, but if a contestant wins the game without using it, that contestant will be allowed to bring it with them to select an extra consonant in the Bonus Round. When claiming the Wild Card, the contestant receives no cash for a correct consonant. If not claimed, it is removed from the wheel after Round 3. Just like a free spin, a wild card cannot be used during the Speed-Up Round.
Lose a Turn: A player who lands on Lose a Turn loses his or her turn, but keeps any money and/or prizes. It remains on the wheel throughout the game.
Bankrupt: Bankrupt ends a player's turn, but also costs the player any money or prizes accumulated in the current round. A contestant with the Wild Card or the One Million Dollar Wedge loses that as well. One Bankrupt remains on the wheel throughout the game; a second Bankrupt appears in Rounds 2 and 3, and additional ones occur as indicated below.
One Million Dollar Wedge: This element, introduced on the premiere of Season 26 in 2008, features a design similar to that of the retired Bankrupt/$10,000/Bankrupt wedge (see below) and appears on the wheel for the first three rounds. The contestant claiming it in a given round, by landing on the central "One Million" section and choosing a correct consonant, must win that round, avoid Bankrupt for the rest of the game, and finish as champion. If this occurs, the $100,000 envelope on the Bonus Wheel (see below) is replaced with a $1,000,000 envelope, which is ultimately revealed after the round whether the player lands on it or not. The outer Bankrupt sections act like a regular Bankrupt wedge. If not claimed, it is removed from the wheel after Round 3.
Jackpot Wedge: Round 2 features a progressive jackpot, represented by an electrified blue wedge with pink illumination, which begins at $5,000 and increases by the value of each cash space landed on. A player who lands on the Jackpot space and calls a consonant which appears in the puzzle may try to win the Jackpot by solving the puzzle immediately. This element debuted on September 16, 1996 and has featured a sponsor since 1998. Since 2006, landing on the space adds $500 to the Jackpot and the contestant receives $500 per consonant in the puzzle. This means that the minimum possible prize by landing on the Jackpot wedge is $6,000 because a correct guess is required. From 1996 to 1998, on the Friday Finals episodes, the jackpot (then used in Round 3) started at $10,000.
Mystery Wedges: Since 2002, the 20th season, Round 3 has featured two special cash spaces with question marks. A player landing here may either take $1,000 per letter occurrence, or decline that money and turn over the wedge to reveal whether there's a prize or a Bankrupt. Originally, the Mystery prize was an economy car; it is now almost always $10,000 in cash. After one Mystery wedge is revealed, the other acts as a regular $1,000 cash space for the rest of the round. Since 2005, the secret identity of a Mystery wedge is shown to the home audience just before the contestant makes a decision whether to reveal it, although it is not always shown if the contestant picks it up immediately.
Buying a vowel
A player who has sufficient banked cash during the current round may choose to buy a vowel while in control of the wheel. The cost of the vowel, $250, is deducted from the player's score, and all instances of the requested vowel in the puzzle are revealed. If the purchased vowel is not in the puzzle, the player loses his or her turn in addition to the aforementioned cost.
The host will notify the players that there are no more vowels if all vowels contained in the puzzle have been revealed, even if all five vowels have not been called. Multiple vowels may be purchased until either the supply of vowels is exhausted or the player's bank falls below $250. At that time, the player must spin the wheel or try to solve the puzzle.
Solving the puzzle
The player whose turn it is may guess the solution to the puzzle. If correct, the round ends, the complete puzzle is revealed, and the solving player wins the cash and prizes accumulated. A player who guesses incorrectly loses his or her turn. Totals less than $1,000 are automatically increased to the "house minimum" of that amount (per player in games with two-member teams). Only the player who solves the puzzle keeps the winnings from that round. The puzzle must be read exactly as it appears, and pronounced correctly, although dialectal variations in pronunciation are generally accepted.
Bonus solution: Occasionally, the solving player is asked a question for an additional cash bonus, currently $3,000. A player may be asked to identify a person, location, concept or product associated with the puzzle. If the puzzle is the first part of a phrase or quotation, the player is asked to give the next line. Previously, players were also asked to fill in a blank or identify a number associated with the puzzle.
Prize Puzzles award the winner with an additional prize, usually a trip, which is somehow related to the solution (e.g. if the solution is "Fun in the Sun", the prize might be a vacation to a tropical island). Since the debut of Season 22 in 2004, one of the first three rounds has been a Prize Puzzle in every episode.
SPIN I.D.: Home viewers in the U.S. are given a chance to win some of the same prizes as the studio players, under the title "Wheel Watchers Club". Viewers who sign up on the show's website are given a "Special Prize Identification Number" (S.P.I.N.) A viewer whose number is revealed has 24 hours to go to the website and claim the prize, either the trip associated with a Prize Puzzle or a car won by the studio player in the Bonus Round. Sony Card holders who win the prize are awarded an additional $50,000.
Speed-Up Round (Final Spin)
At some point after the final Toss-Up in every episode, when time is running short, a bell rings to indicate the Final Spin of the Wheel. The host spins the Wheel, and all remaining consonants in the puzzle are worth $1,000 plus the value in front of the red player's position. The resulting minimum and maximum values per consonant are thus $1,300 and $6,000. If a penalty space or prize space is hit, it is edited out of the broadcast (as of 1999), and the host spins again. The Wild Card and Free Spin cannot be used after the Final Spin. The players take turns calling one letter each. Vowels do not affect the player's score in any way whatsoever. If the called letter appears in the puzzle, the player has three seconds (five seconds until 1998) after Vanna stops moving to try to solve the puzzle; unlike the previous rounds, contestants may give multiple guesses within the time limit.
Previous seasons, especially those prior to 1997, have often featured games in which a Speed-Up Round did not occur. After that year, and especially after the introduction of Toss-Up puzzles, Speed-Up Rounds have always been played, though game pacing and the skill of the players determines whether they occur as early as the fourth round or, very rarely, as late as the sixth or seventh round.
End of the game
The player who has accumulated the most cash and prizes wins the game and proceeds to the Bonus Round. Players who fail to earn any cash or prizes on the show are awarded a consolation prize, currently $1,000 ($2,000 during special weeks where two non-celebrity players--such as family members or friends--play in teams). If two or more players finish the game with the same score, they play an additional Toss-Up puzzle to determine the winner.
The show sometimes features themed weeks with celebrities paired with contestants. The celebrities play for charity. Each charity receives at least $10,000, and the winning celebrity's charity earns an amount equal to their partner's total. In earlier seasons, celebrities played alone, with the winner playing the Bonus Round for $25,000.
The day's top winner spins the Bonus Wheel, consisting of 24 spaces, each containing an unmarked envelope with a bonus prize. Currently, the prize can be a cash amount from $25,000 to $50,000 (in $5,000 increments), $100,000 cash, or a new car. A contestant who picks up and successfully retains the One Million Dollar Wedge throughout the main game has the opportunity to win a cash prize of $1,000,000 (which replaces the $100,000 prize).
The contestant is then shown a puzzle and then all of the instances of R, S, T, L, N and E which appear in that puzzle. The contestant then chooses three more consonants and an additional vowel. A contestant who has the Wild Card also chooses a fourth consonant. After all the letters are chosen, they are revealed if they appear in the puzzle. The player then has 10 seconds to solve the puzzle.
If the $1,000,000 envelope is on the bonus wheel, but is not landed upon, the host reveals its location after the round is completed.
Originally, when contestants played for prizes in the main game instead of cash, the day's top winner chose a bonus prize from among the larger prizes, designated by a gold star, that had not yet been won before playing the Bonus Round.
After the description of the bonus prize, the contestant was shown a puzzle and was asked to choose five consonants and one vowel. Those letters appearing in the puzzle were revealed and the contestant had 15 seconds to solve the puzzle.
Beginning in 1988, players were automatically shown the instances of R, S, T, L, N and E appearing in the puzzle and asked to choose three more consonants and one additional vowel. Additionally, the time limit in which to solve the puzzle was reduced to 10 seconds.
In 1989, because players were choosing the $25,000 almost every time, players no longer were able to select a specific prize to play for in the Bonus Round. Players now blindly chose one of five envelopes hidden behind each letter in the word "WHEEL." At this point, each prize could only be won once during each week of shows. Eventually, the $25,000 prize was available every day, regardless if it had been won on a previous show that week.
For the last two months of the blind draw (during Season 19), prize packages were scrapped in favor of three envelopes containing cars and the other two containing $25,000 in cash. Each car or the $25,000 could be won multiple times during the week.
In November 2001, the current prize selection format was introduced with a possible top prize of $100,000 that has since been won 16 times. Initially, three cars were available to win each week, with four envelopes for each car, eleven for $25,000 cash and one for $100,000. From late 2002 (when the additional $5,000 cash increments were introduced) through early 2008, two cars were available, with three envelopes for each car.
Retired Gameplay Elements
Prior to Season 5 (1987-88), the game was not played for cash. Money earned was used to shop for prizes (primarily cars, furniture, trips, furs, and jewelry). A particular prize could only be bought once per episode. Each round had a themed prize showcase. The most expensive prizes were available throughout the game and in the Bonus Round. The winner of a round could place all or part of his or her winnings "On Account," banking (and risking) it to save toward a more expensive prize. Unlike already-purchased prizes, winnings On Account were lost if the player hit Bankrupt or did not win another round of the game. A player who could not buy the least expensive remaining prize was offered a gift certificate
in the remaining amount for merchandise from a particular retailer (usually Service Merchandise
). In 1987, the show adopted a play-for-cash format, which sped up game play by removing the time-consuming shopping segments between puzzles.
Until 1989, and again since 1998, contestants have been limited to one appearance, though some have been allowed to return under special circumstances. From 1989 through 1996, winning contestants could appear on up to three episodes. From 1996 to 1998, a "Friday Finals" format, which had been previously seen on some specialty weeks, was used regularly. The top three winners from the week's first four shows would return to play on Friday, with a Jackpot beginning at $10,000 instead of $5,000. For the first season of this format, the weekly champion also received a prize package.
Puzzle and wheel elements
From 1983 to 1989, a tan Free Spin
space was part of the first-round wheel, allowing contestants to earn a "Free Spin" token at any time they landed in the space. Several contestants were known to land on the space several times in a row (and thus rack up several "Free Spin" tokens) without attempting to land on a dollar amount. It was removed, in favor of a single green token placed over a dollar amount, in the fall of 1989. Originally, prize wedges (and the green Free Spin token) were automatically picked up when landed on and the contestant then had the opportunity to choose a consonant for the amount underneath. The current rules for claiming a prize or strategic element were adopted in 1990.
From 1992 to 1998, a magenta Surprise space appeared on the wheel, representing a prize which was not announced unless it was won. Unique to the 13th season (1995-96), a Double Play token appeared on the wheel. A player who earned it could turn it in before a future spin to double the spin's value. From 1992 to 1995, some puzzles would contain a set of specially designated, red-colored letters, which could be unscrambled to form another word or phrase. These Red Letter Puzzles were introduced in 1992 as a basis for home viewers to win cash or prizes by guessing the word and submitting a contest entry, and kept through 1995 to provide studio players with additional winnings. From 1999 to 2000, a Puzzler was featured: the winner of a round was given an additional puzzle related to the same topic (for example, DAYTONA BEACH FLORIDA would lead to a Puzzler called AUTO RACING). In 1999-2000, a Preview Puzzle was shown to home viewers near the introduction of the show; it had no bearing on gameplay and was replaced by the Toss-Up Puzzles the following year.
From late 1994 through mid-2008, the Bankrupt/$10,000/Bankrupt wedge was featured at various times during the game. Replaced by the One Million Dollar wedge, this element consisted of a golden $10,000 section sandwiched between two Bankrupts. Landing on $10,000 meant the contestant put the wedge in his or her inventory. The money did not multiply per letter and could not be spent on vowels.
Two elements were featured exclusively during the 25th anniversary season (2007-08). The 25 Wedge, featured during round 2, represented a prize consisting of "25 of something," such as gift certificates from a sponsor, or even $2,500 cash (i.e., 25 $100 bills). Its identity was revealed when it was claimed off the wheel. The Big Money Wedge of round 3 was an electrified wedge (similar to the current Jackpot wedge) with a small flat-screen TV monitor initially displaying "Big Money". The monitor randomly displayed one of five values for each spin: $5,000, $7,500, $25,000, Bankrupt, or Lose a Turn. A contestant who landed on the wedge when it displayed a cash value was credited with the amount of money on the monitor at the time. The money was not multiplied by the frequency of the chosen consonant, but the Wild Card could be used to claim the money again and it could be spent on vowels. After the Big Money amount was claimed, the space became a regular $1,000 space.
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 White would turn the trilon to reveal it. In February 1997, the show adopted a computerized board composed of 52 monitors (adding one space to each row); to illuminate a letter, White simply touches the edge of the monitor. This board, which reveals a solution instantly, 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 digital board also no longer requires taping to stop in segments that feature more than one puzzle. With the prior board, after a puzzle was solved, Pat would face the camera and announce "Here is our next puzzle", and while the viewers at home saw a seamless transition to the next puzzle, what actually happened was a show stop down. During the stop down, the board would be wheeled off stage and the new puzzle loaded in by hand out of sight of the contestants. On some episodes, reflections of the puzzle board being whisked off could be seen. With the new board, no stop downs were necessary, meaning tapings could finish more quickly at a lower cost to the production company. The old board currently resides in the Smithsonian Institution. In 2007, at the start of season 25, the current puzzle board was revamped with new flat-screens.
Until 2002, the show used eggcrate displays
to display scores. These were replaced by LCD monitors, which also display special "Bankrupt" and "Lose a Turn" animations when those spaces are hit. The scoreboards were expanded in 2007 to flat-screen versions. These briefly featured the players' names, but were quickly redesigned for easier viewing. In place of the names, two flashing white arrows below the score indicate a player's turn.
The Wheel mechanism weighs two tons (4,000 lbs.) 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, resulting in its automation being discontinued. 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 during the shopping era), with $300 as the lowest dollar value on the wheel. In 2008, the configurations were revamped slightly, with the addition of a few new colors and dollar values.
The following is a list of some of the changes over the show's history.
Wheel Dollar Values, Cash Prizes and Gameplay Elements
- 1983: The top dollar value for the syndicated show is $5,000.
- 1984: The top dollar value for Round 1 is raised from $750 to $1,000.
- 1986: The lowest dollar value on the wheel is increased to $150 in Rounds 1 and 2 and $200 in Round 3 and onward.
- 1987: Shopping is replaced by playing for cash, increasing the number of rounds played in the game. $2,500 becomes the top dollar value for Round 2 and $3,500 for Round 3. The $5,000 wedge and $200 minimum value move to Round 4.
- 1989: The Free Spin wedge is replaced by a single green token placed on the wheel.
- 1990: Bonus solutions are introduced at a value of $500.
- 1992: Red Letter Puzzles are introduced.
- 1994: The Bankrupt/$10,000/Bankrupt wedge is introduced for Round 3 until claimed.
- 1995: The value of a bonus solution is raised to $1,000 and the "house minimum" for solving a puzzle is increased to $500. The Double Play token is introduced, appearing from Round 2 onward until claimed, but only lasts one season. The pink $1,000 wedge is replaced with a sequined green one that is used until 2000. The Red Letter Puzzles are removed.
- 1996: The value of a bonus solution is raised to $2,000. A single wheel configuration is now used for the entire game. The Lose a Turn wedge (formerly yellow in color) becomes white for enhanced contrast with the Bankrupt wedge. The yellow $750, $1,000 and $1,500 wedges are no longer seen during gameplay (though the yellow $1,000 wedge is seen on occasion at show's close). The lowest dollar value on the wheel is increased to $250. Round 3 becomes the Jackpot round, while the Bankrupt/$10,000/Bankrupt wedge appears in Round 2 only.
- 1999: $1,000 is added to the value of the final spin. Two weeks later, the lowest dollar value on the wheel is increased to $300.
- 2000: The top dollar value on the wheel is increased to $2,500 in Round 1 and $3,500 in Rounds 2 and 3. $1,000 Toss-Up Puzzles are introduced, with one before the contestant interviews and one before Round 4. Round 2 becomes the Jackpot round. The Bankrupt/$10,000/Bankrupt wedge returns to Round 3 exclusively.
- 2001: The Toss-Up puzzles are reconfigured and revalued to their current state.
- 2002: $500 cash is the new consolation prize (formerly "parting gifts"). The $500 Mystery wedges are introduced, appearing in Round 3. The Bankrupt/$10,000/Bankrupt wedge moves to Round 1.
- 2004: The value of the Mystery wedges is increased to $1,000.
- 2005: The "house minimum" and consolation prize are increased to $1,000.
- 2006: The Wild Card, available throughout the game, is introduced. The Jackpot wedge is now worth $500 per consonant.
- 2007: The Free Spin space is now worth $300 per consonant plus the token. The second Bankrupt wedge no longer appears after Round 3. The Big Money wedge is introduced in Round 3 for the 25th anniversary season and is redesigned and electrified shortly afterward.
- 2008: The One Million Dollar Wedge, available for the first three rounds, and the electrified Jackpot wedge are both introduced at the Season 26 premiere. To complement these additions, some colors and values of nearby cash spaces are revamped. The Bankrupt/$10,000/Bankrupt, '25', and Big Money wedges are all retired.
- 1983: In addition to the prizes that players shop for with their winnings, syndication brings the first (lime-green) prize wedge to the wheel beginning in Round 2.
- 1987: Shopping is discontinued and a second prize is placed on the wheel in Round 4. A cash prize of $25,000 is offered in the Bonus Round.
- 1990: To pick up a prize, a player must first choose a correct consonant.
- 1992: The Surprise wedge, available throughout the game, is introduced for the 10th anniversary and remains for six subsequent seasons.
- 1996: Only one prize wedge appears per game and its color is changed to gold.
- 1998: The Surprise wedge is discontinued. The prize wedge now features a distinct artistic design representing the prize and appears beginning in Round 1.
- 2000: The $1,000 gift tag is introduced and appears from Round 1 onward. The major prize space again appears beginning in Round 2.
- 2001: The top bonus prize is raised to $100,000 cash.
- 2002: A second gift tag appears on the wheel.
- 2003: Prize Puzzles are introduced.
- 2004: The SPIN I.D. is introduced for home viewers.
- 2005: The prize wedge is again placed on the wheel in Round 1, but only remains for the first three rounds. Additional themed gift tags (i.e. for Breast Cancer Awareness month) occasionally appear. Cars won in the Bonus Round are also given to a viewer with a winning SPIN I.D.
- 2006: With the introduction of the Wild Card, only a single gift tag remains on the wheel. A Sony Card holder with the winning SPIN I.D. receives $50,000 cash in addition to the Prize Puzzle prize or Bonus Round car won by the contestant.
- 2007: The 25 prize is introduced solely for the 25th anniversary season. It remains for the first three rounds during the first week, then appears exclusively in Round 2.
- 2008: The '25' prize is discontinued. The top bonus prize is raised from $100,000 to $1,000,000, but a player must earn the opportunity throughout the game to play for the increased amount. A single car is showcased in the bonus round.
- 1983: Sunburst backdrops with a series of glittery silver rays surrounding the colored center portions are used. The colored center portions have eggcrate displays in them to show the amount the contestant puts "on account".
- 1985: The silver rays on the sunburst backdrops are changed to brown jagged rays with a touch of gold.
- 1986: The backdrops' rays are given a neater, more rounded appearance. They remain this way until 1989.
- 1987: A neon "$25,000" sign is introduced to represent the new Bonus Round cash prize. Mock wheel configurations appear on the platforms where Bonus Round cars are presented.
- 1988: The neon "$25,000" sign is replaced with a grid-like version. Diamond-shaped backdrops, new set pieces of the wheel, including a louder click tone, and a new, extensively lit, Puzzle Board border are introduced and used for road shows.
- 1989: Production moves to CBS Television City. Chevron-shaped backdrops are introduced.
- 1990: A shiny black floor is introduced and the platforms no longer appear. The 1988 road show set pieces become part of the permanent set.
- 1991: The diamond-shaped road show backdrops are used full-time until 1992.
- 1992: Asterisk-shaped, firework-like backdrops are introduced in celebration of the 10th anniversary and last three more seasons. Matching towers for major prizes are also added. Sometime later that year, the lights for the towers and backdrops turned green every three rows, replacing some of the original white lights. The bright green color of the center of the wheel is changed to match the blue-green cash spaces.
- 1994: The puzzle board gets a new border with golden spiked lights.
- 1995: Production moves to Sony Pictures Studios. The puzzle border that was originally used for road shows is now used for the entire thirteenth season.
- 1996: A central video display is introduced and the backdrops are randomized, both at Sony and on the road. The "$25,000" sign is discontinued.
- 1997: The touch-screen puzzle board debuts in February and arrow-shaped spires are added to the wheel's lighting in September. The same board is now used on the road as at Sony. The wheel's automation is discontinued.
- 1998: The randomized backdrops are replaced with a large flat-screen display.
- 1999: The three-digit cash values on the wheel receive a shaded font for easier viewing.
- 2001: The glittered bonus wheel, gold with red letters reading 'WIN * $100,000 ** BONUS *** CASH ****', is introduced.
- 2002: The eggcrate score displays are replaced with new flat-screens that feature "Bankrupt" and "Lose a Turn".
- 2003: The show receives a new set featuring LED lights. The color of the letters on the Bonus Wheel is blue instead of red.
- 2004: A New LED Bonus Wheel is introduced.
- 2006: The wheel is redesigned for high-definition broadcasting, including the addition of new colors and glittered shading.
- 2007: The flat-screen score displays feature a taller font and the Puzzle Board is revamped with new flat-screens.
- 2008: The Bonus Wheel reads 'SPIN & WIN * AMERICA'S ** GAME ***' to concur with the new top prize.
From 1983 to 2000, the show's theme music was "Changing Keys" by the late program creator Merv Griffin, the music was slightly revamped in 1985 perhaps for its stereo broadcasts and remixed in 1989, 1992, (1993 on the weekend version) 1994, and 1997. Since 2000, the main theme has been "Happy Wheels" by the late Steve Kaplan
, remixed in 2002 (by Kaplan) and 2006 (by Frankie Blue). Since 2007, a 'celebration' theme (by John Hoke) has opened the show in place of "Happy Wheels" and is also used for Bonus Round wins.
Wheel of Fortune
's original home was 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
|| Set by
|| Air date |
| All time winnings, overall & team|
(returning champions format)
| Peter Argyropolous and |
|| February 1996|
| All time winnings, solo player|
(returning champions format)
| Mindi Mitola
|| September 1990|
| One-day team winnings
|| Christine Denos and |
|| February 28, 2006 |
| One-day solo winnings
|| Becca Rhine
|| February 7, 2007 |
All syndicated episodes exist and many have been seen on GSN, which is currently rerunning season 12 (1994-95).
Numerous board games version of the game 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 from 1985 to 1991. They also released two Deluxe versions in the mid-1980s that featured a real spinning wheel and to date is the only version that allowed the dollar amounts on the wheel to be changed for each round (with the help of extra wedges).
- Tyco/Mattel created three editions from 1992 to 1998
- Parker Brothers released their own version in 1999
- Pressman Toy Corp. has released four editions since 2002, including a 20th Anniversary edition, a Simpsons edition, and a Disney Version as well, and retains the rights at present.
- Endless Games released a card game version of the show during Summer 2008.
Video, arcade, slot, and online games
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.