Given the number of years Wheel of Fortune has been on and the scope of this Wiki, it is no surprise that there are some frequently-asked questions about various elements. This page will attempt to answer some of them.

If you have any questions for this page, feel free to ask on the talk page. You may also want to see Misconceptions and Myths, which addresses and responds to various rumors that have come up over the years.


Was the show always called Wheel of Fortune?Edit

The show was originally called Shopper's Bazaar when it was first developed in 1973. The more familiar title appears to have been introduced in early August 1974, as a Variety blurb from July 31 uses the original name.

Does the 1973 pilot still exist?Edit

While creator Merv Griffin and Lin Bolen (then NBC's Vice President of Daytime Programming) did not like it, admitting its shortcomings during the show's E! True Hollywood Story, Shopper's Bazaar nonetheless exists and can be found online. Interestingly, Wheel is aware of this fact.

The most likely reasons why it has never aired on television are its length (30+ minutes without commercials) and music rights, as instrumental versions of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and "Spinning Wheel" were used as the main and commercial outro themes, respectively.

When was the "Wheel! Of! Fortune!" chant introduced?Edit

August 8, 1983, the same day "Changing Keys" became the main theme. The nighttime show, which began taping in early July 1983, had the chant from its first episode.

How many versions have there been?Edit

In the United States, three: the original 1975-91 daytime series, the 1983-current nighttime run, and the 1997-98 spinoff Wheel 2000. There was also Wheel of Fortune - Live!, a traveling show during the late 1990s.

The show has been exported to quite a few countries since 1975; info on them can be found here, including two adaptations of Wheel 2000.

So why did the daytime version end?Edit

The daytime show's demise can be traced back to several factors, all following Pat's departure:

  • His replacement by Rolf Benirschke, a former football player who had rarely been on television and never hosted a game show until doing an audition for Merv's Winfall (which led to one for Wheel). While a genial person, Rolf was visibly nervous and unfamiliar with some of the game's rules; this was not helped by a single pre-emption which caused his first four shows to air the same week as Pat's last day.
  • The Price Is Right continuing to climb the Nielsen ratings and, despite being head-to-head with the show's first half, Wheel managing to remain consistent in the audience figures it had prior to Pat's departure. While it is likely that some of the Wheel audience tuned out after Pat left, this was clearly not enough to move the show out of its #2 slot, though Price's increases caused it to become a progressively more distant #2.
  • Due to the ratings, NBC and Merv were unable to come up with a license fee agreement. NBC cancelled the show, kicking them out from Burbank after the June 30, 1989 episode despite the studio contract being scheduled to expire in 1990. CBS quickly picked up Wheel for a July 17 return, giving it an audiovisual makeover, a new host in Bob Goen, and switching the format to a scaled-down version of the play-for-cash style the nighttime show had been using since October 1987.
  • At about this point, the game show genre as a whole (more specifically, in regard to the networks) began a downslide that would not fully manifest until 1994. Upon moving to CBS, the Wheel ratings began falling, which did not stop even after returning to the NBC schedule in January 1991.
  • Following the return to NBC, the show held at least three play-by-phone contests in an attempt to boost ratings; none worked, and may have been seen as a last-ditch grab for ratings.
  • The show was drawing older demographics than most advertisers were looking for at the time (generally those aged 18-49), resulting in fewer sponsors (or at least a smaller diversity of them) as 1991 progressed.

Daytime Wheel took its last bow on September 20, 1991 after three weeks of repeats.

What about Wheel 2000?Edit

While the child-oriented version followed in its adult predecessors' footsteps by consistently being #1 among CBS' children's programming, it finished (after its last first-run episode on February 7, 1998) in 46th place overall with approximately 350,000 viewers. This was still better than the average for the entire lineup CBS was offering that season, which continually ran a distant fourth with a 0.5 (about 190,000 viewers).

On January 8, with five episodes left to air, CBS announced that it would be overhauling its weekend schedule, replacing everything with new cartoons by Nelvana (Anatole, Mythic Warriors, Birdz, and Flying Rhino Junior High). Birdz ran for just one season of 13 episodes, while the others got two seasons and 26 episodes.

The demise of Wheel 2000 has actually left at least one notable effect on the adult version: while Jep! (a child-oriented version of Jeopardy!) also ran for one season but paved the way for regular Kids' Weeks, the adult Wheel has not used children as contestants since the mid-1990s My Favorite Teacher weeks; this was particularly obvious in a 2011 Family Week sponsored and promoted by Wendy's, as the fast-food chain had done so solely through their Kids' Meals.

During the New York City tapings of March 2013, two children in the audience asked Vanna White and current announcer Jim Thornton if there would be a Kids Week; the response from Jim was that Wheel would consider it.

How many daytime episodes were made?Edit

Not counting the three pilots, 4,215. This number was given by Peter Tomarken during GSN's first day in 1994, just before the nighttime Wheel debut was shown.

Wheel 2000 had 22 episodes and two pilots.

When did the daytime and nighttime versions tape?Edit

The daytime Wheel began taping in December 1974, and the original NBC run most likely wrapped in mid-June 1989. The CBS version taped from July 14, 1989 through about December 1990, with the return to NBC being taped from about January-August 1991.

Nighttime Wheel began taping on July 6, 1983, over a month before "Changing Keys" became the main theme on the daytime show, although it is believed the latter changed its cues at the same point taping-wise. This version taped at Television City from about August 1989 through May 1995.

(The reason why the taping period for the daytime show at Television City is uncertain is due to the official Television City website, which has a list of what shows taped in which studios going back to September 1953. For whatever reason, the list does not count the daytime and nighttime versions of Wheel separately, a trait also present with The Price Is Right, Card Sharks, and Family Feud among others.)

Where did the show tape?Edit

Wheel has had three permanent taping locations:

  • NBC Studios (Studio 4), Burbank, California: January 6, 1975 - June 30, 1989
  • CBS Television City (Studio 33), Los Angeles, California: July 17, 1989 - June 23, 1995
  • Sony Pictures Studios, Culver City, California: September 4, 1995 - present

Does the nighttime Wheel air on network television?Edit

The nighttime version has always been syndicated, which means that it airs on stations that pay the syndicator (currently CBS Television Distribution) a fee to "subscribe" to an official feed of the show, which in turn provides the stations with the episodes and promos for each week of the season. This also applies to Jeopardy!, which did not have a concurrent network run when it was revived in 1984.

Wheel and Jeopardy! have not aired in first-run on network television for many years.

Does Wheel always air before Jeopardy!?Edit

No. Since the two shows are syndicated, they don't have a "set" time slot, and as such many affiliates do air Jeopardy! first. In most markets based in the Central and Mountain Time Zones, Jeopardy! airs several hours before Wheel in the morning or afternoon, instead of the two being paired in an hour block. In many cases, the two are also carried on separate stations, though they are never scheduled to air at the same time. In the Central Time Zone, Wheel airs almost-exclusively at 6:30 PM, except for the Lake Charles, Louisiana area, where FOX affiliate KVHP airs the show at 6:00 PM instead.

Also, unlike Wheel, a secondary feed of Jeopardy!, consisting entirely of repeats from the previous season, is carried by some markets under the title Daytime Jeopardy!

What is the earliest time that Wheel airs?Edit

In the United States, Wheel's earliest airings are typically at 7:00 PM Eastern time on various affiliates based in the East Coast (as well as the aforementioned KVHP at 6:00 PM Central). However, on Thursdays during NFL season and on days with World Series games, FOX affiliate WXIX in Cincinnati, Ohio airs the show at 6:00 PM Eastern, an hour earlier than usual. Green Bay, Wisconsin's FOX affiliate WLUK also airs the show early at 5:30 PM Central on these days.

In North America overall, Wheel's earliest airing is on CJON (branded on-air as "NTV"), a station based in Newfoundland, Canada, at 5:00 PM local time, or 3:30 PM Eastern time — three and a half hours before the earliest U.S. airings. This station is also carried on various digital and satellite TV providers across Canada.

On rare occasion, a local station may choose to air Wheel in an earlier time slot if its regular time slot is planned to be pre-empted, although it is more common for Wheel to air overnight, not at all, or sometime the following day or weekend. The earliest known local airing of Wheel was in March 2019 when The CW affiliate KNOE-DT3 in Monroe, Louisiana aired four episodes at 5:30 AM Central time on their respective days due to their usual station, CBS affiliate KNOE, pre-empting Wheel's time slot with NCAA March Madness.

Jeopardy!'s earliest known airing is at 9:30 AM Central time on CBS affiliate WAKA based in Montgomery, Alabama.

Are the episodes that air on Saturdays new?Edit

With only one exception, no. The episodes shown on Saturdays (or Sundays) are always repeats from the previous season. These repeats usually have no relation to the episodes aired during the previous weekdays, and, with rare exception, are not second repeats of episodes that were included in that season's summer rerun period. Originally, new SPIN ID drawings were edited into these shows, though this practice stopped in November 2013.

The only exception was on November 12, 2016, in which a new episode, originally scheduled for Friday the 11th, was aired. This was due to the second through fifth shows of that week (Veterans Week) being delayed by one day due to Election Day coverage pre-empting Wheel in most of the United States on Tuesday, November 8. Any stations that did air Wheel that day showed the repeat that was originally scheduled for Saturday the 12th.

While the aforementioned episode is the only national first-run Saturday airing of Wheel to date, sometimes local stations will independently use a similar tactic for airing episodes if there is a pre-emption, with the Friday episode airing on Saturday and the weekend repeat airing on Sunday or not at all. Until 2005, ABC affiliates in the West Coast would air a week's episodes from Tuesday through Saturday on weeks with Monday Night Football, with some showing the weekend repeat in late-night time slots on Mondays. This was mentioned in a clause in various Wheel sweepstakes rules at the time.

Unlike weekday airings of Wheel, stations are allowed to air weekend repeats outside of the usual evening time slot if need be, sometimes airing them earlier, later, or on Sundays instead, usually when other programming pre-empts the Saturday time slot. During College Football season, the weekend run often gets pre-empted on ABC and CBS affiliates due to games running over their network time slots and causing Wheel, often scheduled afterwards, to get pre-empted in part or in full due to either the game itself, or by a delayed local newscast or postgame show being forced to take over the rest of the time slot. Some affiliates do not air the weekend run of Wheel at all until after College Football season ends, or schedule it in an alternate time slot. Consequently, the new episode that aired November 12, 2016 was not seen in several markets.

A small number of affiliates opt to regularly schedule Wheel's weekend repeats on Sundays instead of Saturdays and/or on different stations than the weekday shows. A few stations even switch the time slots for Wheel and Jeopardy! on Saturdays only. As of 2019, there are still three affiliates that do not carry Wheel's weekend feed at all: WWLP in Springfield, Massachusets, WHSV in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and WLIO in Lima, Ohio.

Have vowels always cost $250?Edit

On the nighttime show (and Wheel 2000, which used points), yes.

For the daytime show, it was dropped to $200 on July 17, 1989 (when it switched to the play-for-cash format) and again to $100 sometime between early January and July 5, 1990.

Has the show always run for 30 minutes?Edit

No. From November 3-7, 1975, and again from December 1 of that year through January 16, 1976, Wheel aired for an hour from 10:30-11:30 AM. The former was for NBC's Daytime Gigantic Game Gala, while the latter may have been in response to the ratings of the one-week stint.

Rather than have three contestants play for an hour, the show used a tournament-style format. Unfortunately, very little of the hour-long era is known to exist and available information is limited primarily to recollections that date as far back as 1997, so the below descriptions may not be entirely correct:

  • Three contestants (including the returning champion, if applicable) played a three-round game during the first half-hour with $500, $1,000, and $1,500 as the top values (it is known that the week of November 3 used $1,000 in Round 1). Immediately afterward, a second set of contestants played a three-round game much like the first.
  • The winner of each game then played a one-round "Head-To-Head All-Cash Showdown" with $2,000 as top value and the puzzle chosen in front of the puzzle board (reading WHEEL OF FORTUNE) from one of three bowls marked by category. This round was also the first appearance of the Prize wedge, albeit differently to its successor, as it was placed back on the Wheel if a contestant picked it up and hit Bankrupt.
  • The winner of this round played a Bonus Round where s/he chose from Easy, Medium, Hard, or Difficult, which corresponded to the puzzle's difficulty (seemingly, the presence of common consonants) and offered larger prizes for the higher difficulties. The contestant picked four consonants and a vowel, after which they were given the category and 15 seconds to solve the puzzle.

The hour-long era was not forgotten by the show, however: five winners from this period and four from the preceding half-hour shows were invited back for a special tournament called "NBC's All Star Dream Machine Championship" in early 1976, believed to have been held the week of January 19. Further, on the June 7, 1976 episode Chuck specifically asks an offstage staff member what the single-round record winnings are "for a half-hour show".

Today, however, the hour-long shows are a very obscure footnote in the show's history.

What was the Big Month of Cash?Edit

A special event from October 5-30, 1987 on the nighttime version, in which the shopping element was temporarily dropped four weeks into Season 5 in favor of playing for cash, including a $25,000 cash prize being offered in the Bonus Round. It also saw the debut of a new game structure: where the top Wheel values had previously been a minimum of three rounds with $1,000/$1,000/$5,000 as the top values in each, the game was now a four-round minimum with top values of $1,000/$2,500/$3,500/$5,000.

The change was deemed such a success that the show opted to continue it "by popular demand" on November 2, renaming it the Big Bonanza of Cash. The "Big Bonanza" title and spiel were dropped sometime between February 12 and March 23, 1988, subtly noting that cash was here to stay.

Why are relatively few daytime episodes out there?Edit

Until the 1970s, television was generally seen as one-time programming, usually by networks but also by individual companies: if a show was not viable for repeats either on a network, in syndication, or in other countries, the tapes were usually wiped and reused. Kinescopes did not come into general use until about the late 1940s, while videotape did not come into professional use until about 1956; further, early videotapes were bulky and expensive, hence the process of wiping.

The wiping process affected well over a thousand shows, including Wheel; the last network to quit was NBC, in 1980. According to a King World representative in 2006, it was policy at Merv Griffin Productions/Enterprises to wipe and reuse the tapes, a policy that was eventually stopped sometime in 1985.

Aside from this, Game Show Network has never held the rights to air the daytime version, only airing three episodes (one each from 1976, 1982, and 1989) as part of a marathon after Merv's death in 2007, and even then there has been some suspicion among fans that GSN's copies came from the Paley Center for Media.

A list of daytime episodes that we know to exist can be viewed here, which also includes a list of what post-1985 episodes are known to circulate among collectors. Additions and corrections are of course appreciated.

Which version is referenced in Billy Joel's 1989 historical song We Didn't Start the Fire?Edit

While the show's placement between "Russians in Afghanistan" and "Sally Ride" covers the 1979-83 timeframe, the lack of any 1980-82 events would appear to suggest the nighttime show (despite it debuting about three months after Ride's space trip in June 1983).

Did the 5,000th show that aired on December 21, 1989 count both versions?Edit

Yes. During the final segment, Vanna and Bob namedropped Merv and their predecessors (Chuck Woolery, Susan Stafford, Summer Bartholomew, Pat Sajak, Rolf Benirschke, and Alex Trebek) for their contributions to this number and, by extension, Wheel's 15 years on the air. While Edd Byrnes was not mentioned, this was likely because his contributions to the franchise were limited to the 1974 pilots, neither of which aired.

During these namedrops, a short clip was shown from the celebration party with Merv, Bob, Pat, and Charlie O'Donnell visible.

The daytime version did not reach 5,000 episodes, and the syndicated version alone did not reach this milestone until 2009.

When did the show first use themed weeks?Edit

The earliest known instance is Brides Week, known to have been held three times: January 24-28, 1977 (three grooms played on the 26th); February 6-10, 1978; and June 8-12, 1981 (promoted on the June 8 episode of Blockbusters). The 1977 week is also the earliest known appearance of Summer Bartholomew, who modeled several wedding gowns for those shows.

While Brides Week is the most concrete example, arguments could be made for the week of November 3, 1975 (due to being a series of "test" hour-long episodes aired as part of NBC's Daytime Gigantic Game Gala) or NBC's All Star Dream Machine Championship (early 1976).

This said, the concept did not become a permanent part of the show until about Season 14.

When were the first road shows taped and aired?Edit

The first example of what are generally considered "road shows" are the nighttime weeks of November 14 and 21, 1988, which were taped on October 26-27 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Before this, Wheel taped a week of shows at the Ohio State Fair in 1983 in advance of the syndicated version's debut. While these aired on at least four stations in the state during the week of August 29, they appear to have been "mock" games created for locals to play and by all indication are not considered part of the official episode count. Presumably as a result, they were also not aired by GSN when the network had the rights to Season 1.

What was the 1950s Wheel of Fortune?Edit

A Peter Arnell series hosted by Todd Russell with Hal Simms as announcer, which aired on CBS from October 3, 1952 to December 24, 1953. The theme was Kay Starr's 1952 rendition of "Wheel of Fortune", which had previously run 22 weeks (nine at #1) on Billboard's best-seller chart.

Unlike contemporary games Queen For a Day and Strike It Rich, which simultaneously helped and exploited the poor and downtrodden for ratings to the dismay of both contemporary and modern critics, Wheel invited good Samaritans to share their stories to America (including Duane Dewey, the first person to receive a Medal of Honor from President Dwight D. Eisenhower) and spin a vertical carnival-style Wheel...although exactly how the game was played is unclear, as nothing is known to exist outside of three publicity shots. One of the set pieces was a Jackpot Wheel with various cash values (at least $300, $400, $500, $600, $800, $900, and $1,000) and question amounts (at least "1 out of 2", "2 out of 3", "3 out of 3", "2 out of 4", "3 out of 4", and "4 out of 4"); the "out of" signs likely corresponded to the values and question difficulty: easier questions and/or less right answers for $300 and $400, harder and/or more for $900 and $1,000.

While Merv's format was not based on Arnell's, much as the A&Q concept of Jeopardy! was not based on Gil Fates' 1941-42 CBS Television Quiz, the two Wheels nonetheless have marked similarities – the 1950s Wheel offered cash and prizes, had its logo in the center of the Wheel (as a permanent decoration rather than a graphic, with "Wheel" and "Fortune" curved in the same manner as Merv's logo), asked questions for money (not used by Merv's format until 1990), did hour-long episodes (a regular feature each Friday), won awards (an "Award of Merit" presented on-set by Robert C. Preble), spun off a nighttime version (July 7 to September 15), upped its top value ($2,500 by September 18), and even changed hosts (Mike Wallace took over sometime between May 25 and September 18). Further, the concept of a vertical Wheel was used for the Shopper's Bazaar pilot in 1973.

Wheel appears to have ended due to its competition, primarily NBC's educational series Ding Dong School, with the nighttime version falling against Break the Bank.

It should be noted that another series called The Wheel of Fortune, hosted by Jack O'Reilly, aired on Mutual Radio in at least mid-1955. This was not a game show, however, but rather a preview of new record releases.

Was the show inspired by a casino game called Wheel of Fortune?Edit

While it is true that Merv's idea of the show came from a casino game, he based it off of Roulette, which involved a horizontal wheel similar to the show. The casino game that bears a similar name to the show is also often referred to as the Big 6 Wheel and is spun vertically (as in Shopper's Bazaar) and also has money on it, except the money used are dollar bills ($1, $2, $5, $10, and $20); and like Roulette, players must bet on which bill they think the wheel will stop on by placing chips on the appropriate bill on the table.

On Pioneers of Television: Game Shows (which aired on PBS in 2008), footage was shown of a Merv interview where he states that, when he needed to provide an interesting and unique way to award money, he looked back at one of his childhood memories: "the big spinning wheel game at the annual church picnic".

What books have been written about the show, or by those associated with it?Edit

Note that this is likely an incomplete list. A special thanks to The Game Show Home Game Home Page for much of the below information.

  • Wheel of Fortune (David R. Sams and Robert L. Shook, 1987; published by St. Martin's): A paperback with bios of Pat and Vanna, plus the then-current (as of August 1, 1987) rules, some trivia, and some behind-the-scenes photos.
  • The Official Wheel of Fortune Puzzle Book (1987, published by Bantam): Mostly contains puzzles, but also has an intro by Merv and some text by then-current producer Nancy Jones.
  • How to Beat the Wheel of Fortune (William J. Ryan, 1988; seemingly self-published): Not much is known about this paperback, although it presumably contains hints and strategies per the title.
  • Winning on the Wheel (1995, published by BK Enterprises): A large spiral-bound book originally sold online, containing over 500 puzzles along with the expected tips.

The below are books written by those associated with Wheel, which in turn contain some recollection of their experiences with the show:

  • Vanna Speaks (Vanna White, 1987; published by Warner): An autobiography that was a modest hit, although it was the subject of quite a few jokes at the time. Also released on cassette as part of Warner Audio's "Books on Tape" line, read by Vanna.
    • During the publicity period of Vanna Speaks, Marianne Robin-Tani wrote an unauthorized paperback biography of Vanna, simply called Vanna White (1987; published by St. Martin's).
  • Kookie No More (Edd Byrnes, 1996): An autobiography detailing Byrnes' troubled childhood and how he rose above it, going on to fame starting in 1958 before spiraling downward into a two-decade bout with alcoholism and substance abuse. One portion recounts his experience with Wheel, admitting that he was drunk during the 1974 pilots because he was "scared to death" about doing the show, even though he was recommended for the role by NBC.
  • Alive & Kicking (Rolf Benirschke, 1996 {updated 1999}): An autobiography about Rolf's life, including his time in the NFL and his early bouts with Ulcerative Colitis, which he was diagnosed with in 1978. Chapter 20 discusses his Wheel tenure, including how he was chosen, and that "Looking back [at my time on Wheel], I have no regrets."
  • Stop the Wheel, I Want to Get Off! (Susan Stafford, November 2010; seemingly self-published): An autobiography on Susan's life, including her tenure with Wheel.

Does Vanna get to keep all the dresses she wears?Edit

Generally, no. As she has noted several times over the years, she typically buys dresses she likes after wearing them.

Is Pat's hair real, or a toupee/hairpiece?Edit

It is real. Pat has joked at least once about this question, noting that when he's asked he responds with "If I was going to wear a hairpiece it'd be a better one than this."

For April Fool's Day 2008, Pat tricked Vanna into thinking he did wear a hairpiece. As seen later that week, he achieved the illusion by wearing a real hairpiece over a bald wig.

Is this Wiki affiliated with Wheel?Edit

This Wiki is made by fans, for everyone. We are not affiliated with the show, for better or worse.

Is the show aware of this Wiki?Edit

While Wheel has not yet made a definitive statement on the matter (and will likely never do so), some of the classic clips shown during the intro in Season 30 were events mentioned on this Wiki, although that in and of itself isn't really conclusive since many of the same events are also mentioned on the TV Tropes pages for Wheel (although this Wiki and those pages do share at least four regular editors).

The largest indicator that the show is aware of us is the retro Bonus Round on February 20, 2013 (THE HIMALAYAS, 1989). It was quickly discovered by fans that the footage was from Rolf Benirschke's first episode on January 10, something that would not have been known (let alone considered out-of-the-ordinary, as Rolf is not visible in the footage) by the general public, partly since Wheel is not known to have acknowledged his tenure since late 1989 and the episodes have never been in reruns.

It is known that the show is aware of our sister site, the Buy A Vowel Boards (which has a link to this Wiki at the top of each page), as forum moderator MarioGS (contestant Robert Santoli) asked both Pat Sajak and John Lauderdale about it during the taping of his episode (aired March 25, 2016), and contestants at tapings are often asked by a legal representative if they are already members, to ensure that multiple members, if present, are not placed on the same episode.

Where can I watch episodes?Edit

While we have a collection of video links here (although we do not host any videos ourselves), we cannot guarantee that all of the links will work, as Sony sometimes blocks or removes videos from sites (particularly YouTube).

Sony has never publicly released episodes on DVD or any other format, so the only sources are the collectors' trading circuit and videos uploaded by contestants or their relatives; as a result, the audiovisual quality varies.

Contestant-Related QuestionsEdit

What did the host mean by "Just before the show we drew numbers to see who would start our game."?Edit

Just before each episode, the contestants for said show would draw numbers from a container – a "1" put that player at the leftmost (red) position, "2" for yellow, and "3" for blue. This applied to all contestants, regardless of whether they were civilians or celebrities. Currently, contestants use markers 1-3 and a narrow bottle from a kelly pool setup to determine positioning.

Since the introduction of Toss-Ups, play order is determined by the outcome of Toss-Ups. This said, the players do still draw numbers to determine which arrow they go to, with the addition of drawing numbers to determine which episode of that taping day their group (itself presorted by the show) they will be on: generally, 1-6 for most Culver City tapings or 1-5 for road shows and some Culver City tapings.

Pat once joked about this in a September 1982 show: as he gave the "drew numbers" spiel, he held up a cue card with a "4" drawn on the back and said "This is the number I drew, and that made me a loser."

I was a contestant on Wheel before. Can I be on the show again?Edit

Short answer: No. The "Contestant FAQs" page on the show's website states that "Our rule is that you can be on the show only once in a lifetime. There are a lot of people who want to spin the Wheel!"

Long answer: Being on the American Wheel at any point in its history – including Wheel 2000 and the unaired 2012 Lottery Experience Games (it is not certain if this also applies to the 1973-74 pilots or the 1983 Ohio State Fair shows) – renders you ineligible for the rest of your life. The "Show FAQs" page on the show's website goes into a bit of detail about this, specifically mentioning Wheel 2000 and the daytime show, name-checking Chuck Woolery, Bob Goen, and Pat Sajak; the names are followed by "or other hosts", which covers at least Rolf Benirschke and Alex Trebek.

This rule was introduced sometime between late August 1983 and the end of 1998, likely when the Friday Finals were dropped at the beginning of Season 16. A contestant named Janet played on October 8, 1980 and a 1983 nighttime episode, while a player named Paul was told after his appearance on #S-52 (taped August 28, 1983) that he could try out for Wheel again the following year. According to a 1998 recollection, a contestant was removed from the contestant prep room for having been on the show in the 1970s.

On rare occasions, a contestant is brought back due to an error on their previous game. Known instances include September 8, 1988 (nighttime); another Season 6 episode with an uncertain date; April 2, 2004; February 28, 2008; November 30, 2018; and April 6, 2020.

I/a friend/a relative was on Wheel. Can you find my/their episode(s)?Edit

Hopefully! Share as much info as you know about the episodes in question (especially if you know the episode number, recording date, airdate, player names, and {if applicable} the week theme), either on this Wiki or our sister site the Buy A Vowel boards (free registration required), and we'll do our best. If you have any paperwork related to your appearance, that can help as well.

At best, it'll already be online; at worst, especially if it's the daytime show pre-1985, it may be gone. Stranger things have happened, though.

I/a friend/a relative was on Wheel. Can I/we share our story with you?Edit

Of course! We're always interested in hearing stories of players' experiences on Wheel, both on the show itself and in the auditions. The aforementioned Buy A Vowel boards have a Spinning Stories section dedicated to this, and has quite a few former, upcoming, and hopeful contestants among its member base.

I/a friend/a relative was on daytime Wheel and have the episode(s), but they aren't listed here as being known to exist/circulate. Can I/we send a copy to you?Edit

Sure! As with the above, contact us through this Wiki or by posting on the Buy A Vowel boards, and we'll work something out. Note that we're interested regardless of quality, length, or even whether it has audio (or is audio-only), though in no circumstances will we trade money for footage.

Even if an episode is listed on the aforementioned page, if you have more than what we know to be available to the public, we'd love to hear from you.

I/a friend/a relative used to work on Wheel. Can I/we share our stories with you?Edit

By all means! Like with contestants, we're always interested in memories of staff associated with Wheel. As with the above, contact us through this Wiki or by posting on the Buy A Vowel boards.


What is the font used for the show's logo?Edit

The font appears to be based on "Chesty" (also known as "Bust"), though some characters differ slightly in appearance in comparison to it. Other characters and words that do not appear in the logo have been displayed in the font on rare occasions (such as "WHEEL AROUND THE WORLD" during said week in Season 28), though the font does not appear to be available to the general public.

As a side note, the font used for the Shopper's Bazaar logo (as well as the puzzle board letters and credit roll of the 1973 pilot) is Hopkins, while the unique mid-show bumper logo used in daytime from at least 1983-87 (as well as at least one ticket in July 1989) used an unknown font.

What is the font used on the Wheel?Edit

According to a March 2008 Chicago Tribune article regarding various facts about the Wheel itself, the current font is a customized version of Clarendon bold/black.

Originally (or at least, beginning in 1974), the Wheel font was "Fortune", also known as "Chesterfield" and "Volta". As the series continued, the appearance of certain parts of the Wheel changed slightly: most noticeably, the 7's were modified to have a flat bottom instead of a rounded one at some point between October 1978 and March 2, 1979; later on, more numbers started changing such as the 8's and 0's.

This modified font remained until January 2003, when all numbers (but not letters since Bankrupt kept the same appearance) were modified once again: only the 7, 8, and $ look identical to their counterparts in the previous font, while the 1 (only seen on the back of the $10,000 Wedge in Seasons 24-25), 3, 4, 6, and 9 are identical to Clarendon, which is the font used for the current Lose A Turn and the front and the $10,000 sides of the Mystery Wedges.

What is the font used for the category strips?Edit

Since September 2008, the category strips have been in Gotham.

Like many other things about the show, the font has changed over time:

  • The first known variant, art cards shown sporadically during at least the first half of 1976, used Helvetica Bold.
  • The second style was a computerized monospaced font, used from some point in 1977 to January 1985.
  • In January 1985, the displays were replaced by a succession of Helvetica chyrons until early 1993. For the first several weeks of use, they varied in appearance, particularly in the weight of the font, and the presence or absence of drop shadows or outlines. For a few weeks around January-February 1993, the strips once again became slightly less bold in appearance.
  • Around February 1993, the strips changed to Gill Sans, although from April 1994 to February 1995, road shows used the same variant of Helvetica seen around January-February 1993. The episodes taped in Norfolk, Virginia in May 1995 used Gill Sans.
  • In Season 13, the strips changed to Clearface. This changed to Triplex for the first three months of Season 14, followed by Franklin Gothic Medium Condensed from December 16, 1996 through the end of Season 17.
  • The strips were switched to Arial for Season 18, then Kabel Bold for Season 19. Seasons 20-22 used Alternate Gothic, which changed at the start of Season 23 to Trade Gothic (the Bonus Round strips retained the former font until October 24, 2005). Seasons 24-25 used Cosmos.


How many times was the nighttime Jackpot won?Edit

At least 118 have been counted so far among circulating episodes and other confirmations: the first on September 26, 1996 (also the only known instance of it being won for the $5,000 starting amount) and the last on June 10, 2013.

The highest known Jackpot win was $16,000 on October 5, 2006. The highest unclaimed Jackpot is believed to be $23,250 on September 19, 1997.

How many times has the ½ Car been won?Edit

108, the first on September 28, 2011 and the last on June 4, 2019.

  • Season 29: 9/28/11, 10/4/11, 10/5/11, 10/24/11, 11/15/11, 11/30/11, 12/20/11, 1/9/12, 1/25/12, 2/6/12, 2/8/12, 2/10/12, 3/5/12, 3/26/12, 4/9/12, 4/18/12, 4/25/12, 6/6/12.
  • Season 30: 9/25/12, 10/10/12, 10/15/12, 12/4/12, 12/13/12, 12/25/12, 1/1/13, 1/3/13, 1/11/13, 1/15/13, 1/17/13, 1/21/13, 2/5/13, 4/10/13, 4/11/13, 4/24/13, 5/3/13, 5/10/13, 5/21/13, 6/7/13, 6/14/13.
  • Season 31: 10/2/13, 10/9/13, 10/16/13, 10/29/13, 11/29/13, 12/6/13, 12/31/13, 2/13/14, 2/24/14, 3/5/14, 3/17/14, 3/21/14.
  • Season 32: 10/20/14, 10/27/14, 10/28/14, 11/27/14, 12/15/14, 12/17/14, 12/29/14, 1/5/15, 1/21/15, 1/30/15, 3/13/15, 3/17/15, 3/26/15, 3/30/15, 4/6/15, 4/10/15, 4/13/15, 4/14/15, 4/20/15, 4/24/15, 5/11/15, 5/12/15, 5/14/15, 5/18/15, 5/22/15, 6/2/15.
  • Season 33: 9/25/15, 11/6/15, 12/7/15, 1/12/16, 2/25/16, 4/8/16, 4/11/16, 4/13/16, 4/26/16, 5/3/16, 5/18/16.
  • Season 34: 9/13/16, 9/14/16, 10/18/16, 10/27/16, 12/15/16, 3/7/17, 3/24/17, 3/28/17.
  • Season 35: 9/28/17, 12/21/17, 1/30/18, 3/27/18, 4/19/18, 6/1/18.
  • Season 36: 11/27/18, 12/20/18, 1/24/19, 3/15/19, 4/30/19, 5/21/19, 6/4/19.

Interestingly, there have been nine instances of a contestant winning the ½ Car but not the game, and six instances of a contestant winning the car with three tags. There have also been eight instances of a contestant winning the ½ Car in the main game and a car in the Bonus Round.

What is the biggest one-round record to date?Edit

$54,000, set on February 18, 2005 and tied on two occasions (October 24, 2005 and February 7, 2007). All three were in the Speed-Up round.

The largest known win for a regular round is $44,300, set on the March 31, 1987 nighttime show. The puzzle was AN AMERICAN SUCCESS STORY.

That said, $54,000 is not the most money that could have been won. That record is $62,400, also for a regular round, accumulated during Round 3 on December 5, 1985; the contestant called a wrong letter, and control did not return to her. According to at least one recollection, another contestant missed out on claiming over $60,000 by accidentally omitting a word when attempting to solve the puzzle sometime in the same season. Yet another contestant on April 3, 2002 accumulated $45,900 in a Speed-Up but did not claim it.

What is the main-game record to date?Edit

$91,892, set on December 26, 2014.

What is the highest total for a contestant who did not win?Edit

The highest known total for a second-place contestant is $35,000, on October 12, 2009. Interestingly, all of this was earned through Toss-Ups and the Speed-Up.

The highest known third-place total is $20,050, on February 27, 2017.

What is the lowest winning score?Edit

The lowest confirmed winning score is $600, on September 28, 1984 (nighttime). On two known daytime episodes (March 30, 1987 and July 21, 1989), the winning contestant had only $1,000. Interestingly, the contestant on March 30, 1987 had swept the game, possibly making this the lowest combined winnings in a single episode. In none of the above episodes was the Bonus Round won.

Following the retirement of shopping on nighttime, the lowest confirmed winning score is $2,450 on September 4, 1995 and November 10, 1998, but the Bonus Round was won both times. The lowest known total for a player who did not win the Bonus Round is $3,200 on October 31, 1991 and May 4, 1998. In another episode (taped in December 1987), there were two contestants who tied with only $1,900 each.

According to one recollection, there was a daytime contestant who won with just $575 (on a 1980s NBC episode).

On a side note, the lowest possible winning score in the show's history was $100 due to not only being the original house minimum, but the fact that Bankrupt took away all money put "on account" and the last round of the game guaranteed at least $100 in prizes would be won. The lowest possible winning score today is $6,000, the current minimum value of Prize Puzzle prizes.

How many $100,000 winners are there to date?Edit

39, the first being on December 19, 2001:

  • Season 19: 12/19/01.
  • Season 20: 12/4/02, 4/24/03, 5/21/03.
  • Season 21: None.
  • Season 22: 2/3/05.
  • Season 23: 11/14/05, 11/21/05, 1/24/06, 2/6/06, 2/28/06, 5/15/06.
  • Season 24: 12/5/06, 2/13/07, 5/30/07.
  • Season 25: 12/21/07, 3/24/08.
  • Season 26: 10/24/08, 11/17/08, 3/23/09, 4/14/09.
  • Season 27: 3/18/10, 3/23/10.
  • Season 28: 10/7/10, 12/16/10, 5/17/11.
  • Season 29: 4/26/12, 4/30/12.
  • Season 30: 10/17/12, 11/21/12, 12/28/12, 4/2/13, 6/11/13.
  • Season 31: 6/4/14.
  • Season 32: 2/23/15.
  • Season 33: 4/28/16, 5/25/16.
  • Season 34: 12/1/16.
  • Season 35: 3/21/18.
  • Season 36: 11/16/18.
  • Season 37: None.

Note that this only counts those who won the $100,000 cash prize in the Bonus Round, rather than exceeding $100,000 otherwise.

Interestingly, two puzzles have each led to a pair of $100,000 wins: BRAINS AND BRAWN on January 24, 2006 and December 16, 2010, BACK IN A FLASH on May 15, 2006 and April 26, 2012.

So far, Season 21 and 37 have failed to provide at least one $100,000 winner, in turn partially contributing to 2004 being the only calendar year not to have a winner until 2017.

How many $1,000,000 winners are there to date?Edit

Three: Michelle Loewenstein on October 14, 2008 (total of $1,026,080), Autumn Erhard on May 30, 2013 (originally scheduled for the 31st; total of $1,030,340), and Sarah Manchester on September 17, 2014 (total of $1,017,490).

As an aside, the largest non-millionaire record is $147,000, set on December 28, 2012 through a $100,000 win. This is also the largest all-cash record.


Who was the first host?Edit

This depends on whether the 1974 pilots are included. If one goes by the name Wheel of Fortune, then Edd Byrnes was the first host. If only aired episodes count, then Chuck Woolery was the first host; Chuck also hosted the 1973 pilot.

Based on questions asked to audience members by Thornton, Wheel takes the stance that Chuck was the first host.

Who was the first hostess?Edit

Susan Stafford, who had been a syndicated radio host beginning around 1971. According to Thornton, who sometimes asks this question to audience members during tapings, nobody at the show's current base of Culver City has ever been able to give the correct answer – a fact he brings up during road shows, where he does get the right answer.

Who was the first announcer?Edit

Mike Lawrence if one includes the Shopper's Bazaar pilot; Charlie O'Donnell otherwise.

If Chuck, Susan, and Charlie were so great, why did they leave?Edit

Charlie left in mid-1980 after then-NBC head Fred Silverman announced the show was to be cancelled on August 1. He signed a commitment to the upcoming Toni Tennille Show shortly before the cancellation was overturned and, under the belief that "a handshake is my word", opted to stay with it.

Chuck left due to a salary dispute with Merv, wanting a pay raise from $5,000 per week to $10,000 per week, in line with what other emcees made and because Wheel was drawing a 44 share at the time. Merv offered $7,500 per week, and NBC offered to pay the remaining $2,500 per week before Merv threatened to move the show to CBS. NBC withdrew the offer, and Chuck's last episode aired December 25, 1981.

Susan departed because she wanted to do humanitarian work. She took a trip to India in Summer 1982 and, after seeing the plight many people were in, felt that turning letters for the past seven years was not really a way for a grown woman to live her life; many have noted that Susan seems visibly distracted in the available footage from the September-October timeframe. While her last regular episode aired October 22, Stafford returned to fill in for her successor for the daytime week of June 16, 1986.

Has anyone announced the show besides Charlie O'Donnell, Jack Clark, or Jim Thornton?Edit

In order of appearance:

  • Don Morrow filled in as announcer in August 1980 between O'Donnell's departure and Jack's hiring.
  • Charlie filled in for Jack in 1985 due to scheduling conflicts caused by Jack announcing on The $25,000 Pyramid, a show that he soon left to prevent the conflict.
  • Beginning on May 9, 1988, Charlie began filling in for Jack on nighttime, while both he and Johnny Gilbert filled in on daytime; this was due to Jack becoming too ill to continue announcing. In addition, Pat and Vanna read most of the fee plugs for reruns in Summer 1988 and at least one repeat of the weekend feed during Season 6, although at least one rerun from mid-1988 has a very weak-sounding Jack doing the fee plugs.
  • M. G. Kelly announced both versions from roughly September 5, 1988 to February 17, 1989, barring the two nighttime weeks taped at Radio City Music Hall (aired November 14-25, 1988), which were announced by Don Pardo. This was also Pardo's only game show announcing role since the end of Jackpot in 1975.
  • Gilbert filled in for Charlie on the weeks of November 27 and December 4, 1995. This period is notable for an exchange between him and Pat on the 29th: at the top of the show, Pat joked that Wheel "isn't like Jeopardy!, where if you finish in second place with $10,000, you get a lounge chair!", to which Johnny replied "But it's a $10,000 lounge chair."
  • Gilbert also did part of the intro on April 1, 1997.
  • Following Charlie's death on November 1, 2010, the show underwent a rotation of guest announcers consisting of Gilbert, Rich Fields, Jim Thornton, Lora Cain (the only guest with no game show announcing experience), Joe Cipriano, and John Cramer.

How did Pat Sajak and Vanna White get the roles?Edit

Pat, then a weatherman at KNBC, was noticed by Merv for his quirky and odd sense of humor. However, then-head of NBC Fred Silverman rejected the decision, claiming Sajak was "too local"; Merv opted to cease tapings until Pat was hired, which only happened after Silverman left the network.

Vanna was selected from hundreds of applicants to do on-air auditions to replace Susan, and was chosen due to her chemistry with Pat. According to Vanna, the only reason Merv would give her is that she turned the letters better than anyone else.

So what happened to Susan?Edit

She devoted her life to charity work and medicine, earning a B.A. in Nutrition and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, plus a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Pacific Western University. Her official website has a full list of her accomplishments.

Susan also had a longtime relationship with Dan Enright of Barry-Enright Productions, along with being the company's Vice President of Public Relations; following Enright's death in May 1992, Chris Sohl (the company's Vice President of Business Affairs since 1988) became the head of the company and promoted Susan to Executive Vice President, which in turn was followed around January 1993 by the company becoming Stafford-Enright Productions.

Unfortunately, her association with Wheel was quickly forgotten after Vannamania took off: a 1987 Chicago Tribune interview with her began by outright assuming the reader did not know who she was, while Susan herself became a bit annoyed and bothered that most people would say "You mean you were Vanna White before Vanna White?" upon telling them what she used to do.

Susan's Wheel-related obscurity was only further proven during a 1991 episode of the Nostalgia Channel game show Let's Go Back (created and hosted by Scott Sternberg, who later made Wheel 2000), when a question asking for the person Vanna replaced was met with silence yet, when asked who Pat replaced, a contestant immediately gave the correct answer; after Sternberg said Susan's name, the same contestant could be heard saying "forgot that".

The 1995 book Popular Culture, Educational Discourse, and Mathematics evidently did not see anything prior to Vanna's hiring, as it stated that Wheel "broke ground" by declaring Vanna a "hostess" and giving her equal billing with Pat, despite Susan having the former during her tenure and the latter at least three times (once with Chuck in 1978, again with him in 1981, and once with Pat in 1986).

Wheel itself has very rarely acknowledged Susan's contributions, and she was not credited on the Byrnes footage that aired on the ceremonial 3,000th nighttime episode in 1998.

Who have been the producers and executive producers?Edit

  • Producers: In the 1973 pilot, this and the directing were handled by Bill Carruthers. For the 1974 pilots, the role was given to John Rhinehart, with Nancy Jones being promoted to co-producer when the show debuted.
    • In April 1976, Rhinehart announced his departure from Wheel, and was promoted to being NBC's West Coast Daytime Program Development Director the next month. As a result, Nancy became the sole producer.
    • In 1995, Nancy was dismissed over concerns by Sony that Wheel had become "tired and dated" under her watch. Around the same time, Harry Friedman was contacted by an old friend, Sony Pictures Entertainment's then-CEO Alan Levine; shortly afterward (but not directly as a result of being contacted by Levine), Friedman became the show's producer for the last tapings of Season 12.
    • By June 2, 1997, Karen Griffith and Steve Schwartz became co-producers. They remain at those positions today.
  • Executive Producers: Originally Merv, until Friedman was promoted to co-executive producer in September 1999. Merv retired the next year, leaving Harry as the sole executive producer.

Are Pat and Vanna on Facebook or Twitter?Edit

Both Pat and Vanna have verified Twitter accounts at @patsajak and @TheVannaWhite.

Chuck Woolery and Bob Goen also have Twitter accounts, the latter also having a Facebook account. There are also official Facebook and Twitter accounts for the show itself; the latter often offers a "Twitter Toss-Up" where a puzzle is tweeted with an increasing amount of letters revealed, in the manner of a Toss-Up puzzle, until the entire answer is filled in.

Why was Pat absent from all home adaptions of Wheel prior to 2010?Edit

Shortly before the release of the Wii and DS versions, Pat stated on his now-defunct website that despite his celebrity status, he wanted his family to be as normal as possible. He felt his children were not old enough to understand why his image was on a product.

This said, Pat did appear in his own games for the PC prior to this point, most notably Pat Sajak's Lucky Letters (released January 9, 2007). Furthermore, he made a small cameo in Wheel of Fortune 2003, released in 2002 by Infogrames for the PC, via the Season 19 intro which was used in the game.

I attended a Season 28 taping with Charlie announcing, but it aired after he died and someone else was announcing. What happened?Edit

Following Charlie's death on November 1 and the tribute that aired on the 5th, it was decided that the eight weeks that had yet to air with him announcing (November 8, 22, and 29; December 20 and 27; January 3; February 7; and March 28) would be dubbed over by various guest announcers. While the official reason was that it was "a tough decision, but it would have been too sad to hear Charlie's voice so close to his death.", his voice was retained on repeats of the first two months of Season 28 and all weekend repeats of Season 27.

Any references by Pat to Charlie were also dubbed over, and when Pat threw to the substitute the camera would fade to a wide shot where his mouth was not as visible. This also resulted in the last two appearances of Rock On!, where the category had been said by Charlie, being replaced with Pat just saying the name of the category. Also during this time, most of the SPIN IDs were read by Vanna. During the post-Season 28 summer reruns of episodes predating Charlie's death, the new SPIN IDs were read by one unknown female voice, and the Mystery Round sponsor by another; these voices are believed to have been Kelly Miyahara and Sara Whitcomb Foss of the Jeopardy! Clue Crew, although the closed captioning alternatingly mis-credited these announcements to Charlie, Jim, or Vanna, or simply as "Woman".

The dubbing was generally considered by fans to be unnecessary, redundant, and primarily disrespectful, saying that a short tribute graphic/explanation would have sufficed and that viewers (including those who had attended the taping sessions) were being cheated. By comparison, the midseason deaths of Johnny Olson and Rod Roddy were handled by The Price Is Right through airing the rest of Johnny's work and keeping both men's work intact for later repeats (though dubbing on Price would be far less feasible due to the much higher level of host/announcer interaction).

Why did most of the Summer 2011 repeats have Jim announcing episodes someone else had done during the season?Edit

According to Wheel, which had announced Jim's hiring just after Season 28 ended, they had dubbed over the other substitutes to "establish" their new announcer. It has been speculated that this was actually the show either unwilling to pay royalties to the other substitutes and/or thinking their work so inferior to Jim's that their episodes were not worth rerunning unless he was dubbed over them, primarily due to how few episodes most of the substitutes got compared to Jim.

On some of these occasions, Jim was dubbed over someone who had been dubbed over Charlie, resulting in three people doing the exact same work: one which was taped prior to his death, one which was the result of not willing to air the first, and one which was likely the result of not willing to rerun the second.

On February 27, 2013, the retro clip in the opening was a set of outtakes from the intro of March 14, 2011 involving Tillman the skateboarding bulldog. While these clips aired during Season 28, Cramer (that week's guest announcer) was dubbed over by Jim despite no episodes from that week being rerun in Summer 2011 or as weekend repeats in the 2011-12 season. The fact that this was done long after "establishing" Thornton indicates that the official reason for the Summer dubbing was in fact false.

Who won the "Vanna for a Day" contest in 2011?Edit

Katie Cantrell, whose role as "Vanna for a Day" essentially amounted to being treated like Vanna for a day. Her role on the show amounted to a single episode (March 24, 2011), and even then not the entire show – Katie only did Rounds 2 and 3 plus a car pose after Round 4, a period that by no stretch of the term could fall under the definition of "day" and essentially renamed the contest "Vanna for Two Rounds".

Sets and SoundsEdit

Does the studio audience chant the show's title during the intro?Edit

With a few rare exceptions, such as certain road shows (most recognizably the Radio City Music Hall stint in November 1988), the chant is actually a recording that has been in use since August 8, 1983. However, the producers sometimes have the audience perform the chant before taping anyway, even though it does not make it into the aired episode.

A similar pre-recorded chant was used on Wheel 2000, likely made during its first pilot.

How big are the Wheel's wedges?Edit

Per Adam Nedeff, who worked at the show as a prize coordinator, each wedge is about 12 inches across the top, five inches at the base, and 28 inches long. These figures are not exact, however, as the wedges are curved to fit the Wheel's shape.

The show has also done wedges in other sizes, most notably the mini $1,000 wedge given out in special cases such as VIP packages.

I've seen the word "Goody" used in relation to the show. What is it?Edit

The official name for Prize wedges since at least the mid-2000s, although it and the alternate spelling "Goodie" had been used in various international versions for many years beforehand.

This said, the show itself is not known to have used this term and one other ("Wedge Ledges", the official name for the contestant arrows) on the air. For this reason, as well as the sake of clarity, this Wiki avoids using either.

How many touch screens does the puzzle board have?Edit

52: 12 on the top and bottom rows, 14 in each of the two middle rows.

Why did the puzzle board switch from using trilons to using touch screens?Edit

During Harry Friedman’s first taping as producer, he immediately noticed that it took about an hour to tape a 30-minute show due to the manual, trilon-based puzzle board that had been in use since 1974 and expanded in 1981. After each puzzle was solved, the puzzle board had to be rolled offstage, with a privacy screen thrown over it while the crew unloaded the last puzzle and loaded the individual letter slides for the next puzzle, and then roll the puzzle board back onstage for the next round, a process that could (according to Friedman) take as much as 15 minutes, and thus, required taping to stopdown in order to allow this task to be completed.

Accordingly, as his first order of business, Friedman began asking around what needed to be done to make the puzzle board electronic. The solution ultimately appeared on February 24, 1997 in the form of a newly-built four-row puzzle board that features the touch screens mentioned above. Not only did the new puzzle board eliminate the lengthy stopdowns between puzzles and improve the pace of each taping, it also would pave the way for further enhancements in gameplay, including the introduction of Toss-Ups starting in Season 18.

How big were the old puzzle boards?Edit

The original 1974 board used 39 trilons, spread across three rows. On December 21, 1981, this was expanded to 48 trilons across four rows (11 on the top and bottom, 13 in each of the middle two); four more trilons were added to the corners by March 29, 1982, bringing the total to 52. However, these extra four were blocked by the frame of the puzzle board and could not be used.

The road-show board, used from 1988-97 (plus a brief stint at home base for the first few weeks of Season 13), always had 48 trilons due to lacking the extra four in the corners.

What happened to the four-line trilon boards?Edit

The home-base board was reportedly offered to the Smithsonian, but rejected due to its large size. On Pat's now-defunct website, he stated that the board was "gone". Both the studio and road-show boards no longer exist, except for a single trilon with a W slide (displayed backwards) in Sony Studios' Wheel Hall of Fame.

At least some of the other letter slides were sold in auctions, autographed by Vanna and/or Pat; two of these slides (an N and a zero) were shown to Vanna in a 2013 interview she did for the WWLP show Mass Appeal, as the interviewer's grandmother had purchased them.

When was the curtain introduced?Edit

Sometime between January 6 and November 3, 1975. The original curtain had vertical strings of lights, which were removed sometime between June 7, 1976 and January 24, 1977.

Interestingly, the background of the Season 30 logo had what appears to be vertical strings of lights.

So what was at center stage before the curtain?Edit

A set of panel doors similar to those of Let's Make a Deal, inside a border that resembled the puzzle board (using a 10×5 grid of transparent squares). The doors opened after each round to reveal the prize platform for that round and, once Charlie finished describing the purchased prizes, the doors closed and "hookers" (stagehands with large hooks) pulled the platform out of the way to set up for the next round.

The Milton Bradley games released in 1975 use photos which indicate that, rather than the curtain immediately replacing the doors, Wheel temporarily went back to the original 1974 method of pulling away the puzzle board for shopping rounds.

When was the "logo on overhead Wheel shot" opening introduced?Edit

The first Byrnes pilot in 1974, remaining through at least May 20, 1976. It was dropped by June 7 of that year, but returned on August 8, 1983 (with the transparent wedges becoming white in January 1985).

After this, the shot remained until sometime between July 21 and August 22, 1989.

Why is the center of the Wheel green?Edit

Originally, this was used for chroma-key zooms during the intro (a practice dropped sometime between May 20 and June 7, 1976) and close. For at least the 1974 pilots and 1975 premiere, the center also changed color for each spin.

The center of the Wheel has likely remained green for the sake of familiarity, though the shade of green has changed over time: from 1974-86, it was dark green. When the Wheel's color scheme was overhauled in 1986, the center became lime green (like the Prize wedges at the time). The current shade, teal, has been used since Season 14.

When was the chroma-key closing shot used?Edit

The first Byrnes pilot in 1974. It was dropped sometime between March 15 and April 6, 1978, but returned sometime between January 2 and March 20, 1980.

It appears to have been used less and less frequently as the 1980s progressed. Its last known use on the nighttime version is the first Big Month of Cash episode (October 5, 1987), while its last known daytime appearance is the first show of Teen Week on December 21.

Why did some road-show bonus puzzles use the top two lines?Edit

Most likely to increase visibility in larger venues. This practice was done from about 1990-95; by the Hawaii shows in early 1996, two-line bonus puzzles once again used the middle two rows.

What were the different main theme songs?Edit

Wheel has used quite a few themes over the years, but only really four during the show's run:

  • September 1973 (Shopper's Bazaar Pilot): An instrumental version of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.
  • August 28, 1974 (Edd Byrnes Pilots): "Give It One", by Maynard Ferguson and Alan Downey, from Ferguson's 1972 album M.F. Horn Two.
  • January 6, 1975 - August 5, 1983: "Big Wheels", by Alan Thicke. This theme was released on Varèse Sarabande's 2000 compilation Best of TV Quiz and Game Show Themes.
  • On August 8, 1983, the show's theme became "Changing Keys", composed by Merv Griffin and Mort Lindsey. The theme had six different iterations over the years:
    • Version 1 (August 8, 1983 - approx. September 1984): Used for Season 1 and the earliest episodes of Season 2.
    • Version 2 (approx. September 1984 - June 30, 1989): Re-orchestrated to add a glissando to the beginning and make the instrumentation less "chirpy". The theme now began at the first bar during the intro, instead of the 56-second mark. However, some episodes continued to use the first version as a commercial outro until at least the end of 1984. This version is the most widely circulated, as it appears on Varèse Sarabande's 1998 compilation Classic TV Game Show Themes. Likely for this reason, it continues to be played at Wheelmobile auditions to this day.
    • Version 3 (July 17, 1989 - June 12, 1992): Rearranged to have the melody on saxophone and jazz guitar, backed by organ and percussion. An "opening" version, with a crescendo at the beginning, was added sometime between July 21 and August 22, 1989.
    • Version 4 (September 7, 1992 - June 17, 1994): A slower, less "powerful" version of the 1989 re-orchestration, still utilizing a saxophone but this time including an electric guitar solo. As stated below, the closing alternated between this and the previous theme.
    • Version 5 (September 5, 1994 - June 13, 1997): Rearranged yet again, with a big-band orchestration and a very different melody. This version was performed by Mort Lindsey's orchestra. A variant using the original melody played between Pat and Vanna's sign-off and the end of the fee plugs, and was also used for intros during the Celebrity Award Winners week of May 1, 1995.
    • Version 6 (September 1, 1997 - June 2, 2000): Rearranged again, this time by Steve Kaplan. Had a similar melody to the 1994 version, but with a slower tempo saxophone and electric guitar solo.
    • There were also specialized remixes, including a lap steel guitar rendition for Hawaii episodes in February 1996, and a marching band rendition for both the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower episodes in May 1995 and the San Francisco episodes in November 1996. Interestingly, both used the Seasons 1-11 melody.
    • From 1995-2008, a special theme song of unknown origin was added for road shows.
  • On September 4, 2000, the show's theme changed to "Happy Wheels", also composed by Steve Kaplan. This theme has also had several iterations:
    • Version 1 (September 4, 2000 - May 31, 2002): Used for Seasons 18-19.
    • Version 2 (September 2, 2002 - June 9, 2006): A new rearrangement which sampled the first few bars from the 1997 "Changing Keys".
    • Version 3 (September 11, 2006 - December 30, 2016): A new re-orchestration by Frankie Blue. On September 10, 2007, a different cue composed by John Hoke began to be used for the opening.
  • The Soap Stars week of February 27, 2006 used a unique opening theme composed by Michael Andreas. Sporadically since then, certain other theme weeks have used different music in place of the opening theme.
  • A new theme composed by John Hoke debuted on January 2, 2017.

Was the 1989 "Changing Keys" really used until 1994?Edit

Yes, although its use was sporadic following Season 9. In Seasons 10-11, the 1989 closing theme was used interchangeably with the 1992 version for the credits, while the Music Stars Week of May 2-6, 1994 used the 1989 opening theme for the only time since the end of Season 9.

Why does the theme to Merv Griffin's Crosswords sound so familiar?Edit

The Crosswords theme was a remixed version of "Buzzword", a popular Wheel prize cue composed by Merv. The cue debuted as part of the 1989 music package, and remained on the show well into the 1990s.

When were the current sound effects introduced?Edit

On July 17, 1989, as part of the show's audiovisual makeover that coincided with its move from NBC to CBS, a new set of sound effects debuted on the first daytime episode with Bob Goen as host. These included the current "puzzle reveal" chimes, "wrong letter" buzzer (taken from Bumper Stumpers), Bankrupt slide whistle, "only vowels remain" beeps, Final Spin chimes, and the Bonus Round timer beeps and double-buzz (later also carried over to On the Cover in 2004).

Why does the Wheel no longer spin automatically during the opening and closing?Edit

The Wheel's automated spinning was discontinued in early 1997 by Harry Friedman at the request of Pat, who later stated on his now-defunct website that he believed it was "a bad idea" for Wheel "to demonstrate that we had the ability to automatically spin the Wheel."

This said, the automated spinning initially only stopped for the intro after January 6; the automation was not stopped for the credits until after February 24.

On "America's Game" weeks, the set changes every episode. Why is that?Edit

"America's Game" weeks are compilation weeks, consisting of "sixth episodes" taped from the various themed weeks at Wheel's home base of Culver City, California. Tapings at Culver City usually consist of six episodes: five with a specific theme name (such as Endless Summer) and one called America's Game.

This practice has led to other oddities other than the set changing rapidly, such as a single Teen Best Friends or Family Week episode airing in the middle of a week, or the sixth show airing before the other five of that taping day.

On a side note, "America's Game" is itself a theme, usually with at least one puzzle (generally the $1,000 Toss-Up) themed to America. Despite this, sometimes other puzzles will be themed towards the original taping (such as the sixth show of Teacher's Week often having multiple teacher-themed puzzles).

Puzzles and CategoriesEdit

What was the first letter ever revealed?Edit

S, on the 1973 pilot. It was also the first letter given.

When did the "plural" categories debut?Edit

At least Things and People debuted in 1975, as no pluralized categories are used in the First Edition game but are in the Second. The very small presence of Things and People, amounting to about four of the 168 puzzles (with Things only appearing once), suggests that the concept was very new.

The absence of Fictional Characters, Events, and Places suggests that they were not yet in use, and there is no proof they were used prior to September 1984; September 16, 1994; and December 6, 1984 respectively. Likewise, the only confirmed instance of Phrases is sometime in Season 17 (although it is still on the official category list). Titles was apparently used sometime not long before Season 21, as its appearance in a January 2004 episode was preceded by Pat saying it was not that category's first appearance. Occupations does not appear to have been used before February 10, 2004, or Landmarks before April 29, 2014.

That said, there are many gaps in the available episodes, which leaves the possibilities wide open.

Has the show always used punctuation in its puzzles?Edit

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Punctuation was actually nonexistent through at least part of 1975, as confirmed by multiple personal recollections and both Milton Bradley games. The earliest known use of punctuation is the hyphen of HANKY-PANKY, sometime in 1977.

The first known puzzle to contain an apostrophe is THERE IS NOTHIN' LIKE A DAME on June 1, 1979. The first known instance of multiple punctuation marks is not until SLEIGHBELLS RING ARE YOU LIST'NIN' on December 24, 1980.

Other punctuation marks were gradually introduced since then:

  • Ampersands on July 18, 1989 (Goen's second episode), although they appear to have been exclusive to Same Name at first; the first known instance of an ampersand outside Same Name is the March 9, 1990 nighttime puzzle ROGER & ME. Despite this, Husband & Wife does not appear to have used them until much later.
  • Question marks with the debut of Fill In the Blank (by December 25, 1992), although other puzzles do not seem to have used them until sometime between September 5, 1997 and February 9, 2001.
  • Periods between May 15 and October 20, 1995.
  • Slashes have only been used three known times: October 26, 1995 (confirmed by Pat as such), April 25, 2002, and December 16, 2009.
  • Exclamation points are uncertain, and a bit complicated – while the show is not known to have used them until May 13, 2004, exclamation points had been used many times during that period through cameos on other shows:
    • The 1990 CBS special Happy Birthday Bugs! 50 Looney Years has Vanna standing in front of the puzzle board reading TH--THAT'S NOT ALL FOLKS!, indicating that Wheel had at least one exclamation point slide by this point.
    • Sometime in the mid-1990s, it was used again for a THANKS ALEX! message after a Jeopardy! category involving the puzzle board.
    • A late-1990s promo had HAPPY HALLOWEEN! displayed on the board
    • Another Jeopardy! category on October 4, 2001 also had an exclamation point appear.
  • Number signs with the debut of Fill In the Number (April 7, 1998), although they appear to have been exclusive to that category and dropped after it was retired on April 28, 2004.
  • Commas are only known to have appeared once, sometime between April 7, 1998 and April 2002 (the Fill In the Number puzzle ##,### LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA). In a grammatical context, they are not used.
  • Colons by December 28, 2004.
  • In addition, a dollar sign was used on the February 9, 1987 Newsweek cover with Vanna.
  • While no puzzle has used an asterisk, they are used on the board in-studio: starting in Season 35 with the rule change to allow contestants to pick one of three categories, said categories are displayed on the board and preceded by asterisks. However, the board is never seen on-camera during this.

Has anyone ever solved with no letters showing? Edit

The only confirmed instance to date is, interestingly enough, a bonus puzzle: BABY BOY on October 22, 1992.

In addition, several contestants have solved Toss-Up puzzles the instant the first letter was revealed, likely knowing the puzzle beforehand (it is not possible to ring in before the first letter is revealed). Also, several contestants have obviously known the answer before spinning, the first known example being a contestant on a 1976 episode who clearly knew the answer to the Round 3 puzzle DICK CLARK before any letters were revealed, as he called C and K first.

The 1987 book Wheel of Fortune by David R. Sams and Robert L. Shook mentions that as of August 1, 1987, there had been only three instances of a puzzle being solved with one letter (specifically citing an undated instance where I BEFORE E EXCEPT AFTER C was solved with only the T's revealed); the other two are likely CLEVELAND OHIO and BUFFALO NEW YORK early in the nighttime run, both solved with only the N revealed, although according to one recollection, another contestant sometime in 1985 solved TUTTI-FRUTTI ICE CREAM with only the T's revealed. The book makes no mention of a puzzle being solved with no letters, although it is possible that one happened between then and BABY BOY.

Have there ever been any puzzles without A, E, I, O, or U?Edit

At least one: the bonus puzzle MYTHS on April 9, 2004.

What is the most known instances of a single letter in a puzzle?Edit

The record appears to be SUMMERTIME SUMMERTIME SUM SUM SUMMERTIME on October 11, 2013, with eleven M's.

Previously, the record for a single consonant appeared to be THREE LITTLE KITTENS THEY LOST THEIR MITTENS on December 1, 2011, with ten T's. The record for a single vowel appears to be PLEASE LEAVE A MESSAGE AFTER THE BEEP on September 4, 1995 (with at least two other uses after then), I FEEL THE NEED THE NEED FOR SPEED on December 31, 2013, and WHERE THE DEER AND THE ANTELOPE PLAY VIDEO GAMES on April 11, 2016, each with ten E's.

What was the shortest puzzle ever used?Edit

The shortest known main-game puzzles are OZ DOG (in the category Clue) sometime in the early 1990s and SCRAM (in the category Slang; used as a Speed-Up) on March 24, 1995. The shortest Bonus Round answer, and shortest puzzle overall, is AX sometime in Season 11. The shortest known bonus puzzle under the original five-and-a-vowel rules is believed to be CHER, although its airdate is unknown.

The shortest maingame puzzles to be used on the electronic board are likely TAILOR and PAYDAY on May 4 and 21, 1999, respectively; the former was in Round 1, and the latter was a Speed-Up used in Round 5. Several Toss-Ups over the years have been only six letters long, as well. The shortest bonus puzzles known to be used on the board are likely any of a vast number of four-letter answers used between roughly 1997-2001 (the last known being BALI in November), plus FAWN on May 27, 2005.

What is the longest puzzle ever used?Edit

The answer varies, depending on whether one counts just letters, or total number of spaces used:

  • Counting by overall number of spaces, the longest is SHE JUST WON A SEVENTH U.S. FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIP (Who Is It?, the answer being Michelle Kwan) on March 21, 2003, using 47 of the 52 monitors (45 letters plus two periods).
  • Counting only letters, the longest is HERSHEY BAR GRAHAM CRACKER GOOEY ROASTED MARSHMALLOW (also the only appearance of What Are We Making?, the answer being S'mores) on October 23, 2007, at 46 letters.

The longest known puzzle on the three-line board is SLEIGHBELLS RING ARE YOU LIST'NIN' (Quotation) on December 24, 1980, using 30 of the 39 trilons (28 letters plus two apostrophes).

The longest known Bonus Round answer is SILVER WEDDING ANNIVERSARY in January or February 1985 (nighttime), using 24 of the 48 trilons (not counting the four corner trilons which could not be used at all).

The longest known puzzle on Wheel 2000 is LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (V.I.P.'s), using 18 of the presumed (as unused spots were not represented) 40 spaces.

As an aside, the longest puzzle on the 1973 Shopper's Bazaar pilot (which used a different style of three-line board) was GREENWICH VILLAGE (Place) in Round 3, using 16 of the 45 spaces.

Which categories have been used the least?Edit

Besides the aforementioned What Are We Making?, Composer/Song and Show/Song were used only once each around March 1996.

The April Fool's Day 1997 game also used a joke category of "Really Long Title" in Round 3, and three episodes from the first Retro Week in December 1999 created unique categories by prefacing the Round 1 category name with "60's", "70's", or "80's".

The official category list includes a category called "Where Are We Going?", which is not known to have ever been used on the show to date.

What is the most that has been lost to a wrong letter?Edit

As mentioned above, $62,400 by contestant Terri on December 5, 1985. She had racked up that much money in Round 3 with most of the Quotation puzzle THE THRILL OF VICTORY AND THE AGONY OF DEFEAT filled in. The wrong letter in this case was an S.

Terri also lost out on $10,000 during the Speed-Up round.

What is the record for most amount of wrong letters called in one round?Edit

The record appears to be 18 (including an incorrect vowel), set during the Round 3 puzzle OXIDIZED (Megaword) on March 15, 1995. Interestingly, no repeated letters were called.

What is the most that has been lost through a wrong answer?Edit

The highest known loss is $33,450 by contestant Becki on September 19, 2007. She had racked up that much in the Mystery Round (Round 3 at the time) with most of the Place puzzle GLEAMING WHITE SAND BEACH filled in. She opted to solve, but added -ES to the end. As it was also the Prize Puzzle, she lost a $6,296 Caribbean trip as well.

Sometime during Season 3, a contestant is believed to have lost out on over $60,000 by forgetting the seventh word of the puzzle STAR LIGHT STAR BRIGHT FIRST STAR I SEE TONIGHT.

What is the most amount of puzzles ever used in a single episode?Edit

12, set on March 9, 2020, (five Toss-Ups, six main-game rounds, and the Bonus Round) and tied on April 8, 2020.

Previously, 11, set on March 19, 2002 (seven main-game rounds, three Toss-Ups, and the Bonus Round) and tied on June 2, 2004, September 22, 2005, October 9, 2015 and December 23, 2015. The seven main-game rounds also appears to be the record for that particular part of the game, with one recollection of a seven-round game near the end of Season 7 and another of ones "around" Seasons 8 and 13. It is also believed that a Goen episode had seven rounds in the rather non-conventional fashion of six rounds and a tiebreaker.

The record during the shopping era appears to be six, set in October 1978 (on a special all-cash episode of an Armed Forces Week) and tied on April 1, 1983 (five main-game rounds and the Bonus Round). Note that this does not count the hour-long episodes, which always had eight puzzles per episode (three in the first game, three in the second game, the Head-To-Head round, and the Bonus Round).

What is the least amount of puzzles ever used in a single episode?Edit

Three, set on the first taped episode of Wheel 2000 (two main-game rounds and the Bonus Round).

When the show debuted in 1975, games had a minimum of three puzzles. This increased to four when the Bonus Round was permanently introduced in December 1981, five after shopping was dropped, six once the Puzzler was introduced in 1998, and seven when the Preview Puzzle debuted in 1999. The Toss-Ups replaced the Puzzler and Preview Puzzle, initially retaining the seven-puzzle minimum until increasing it to eight at the beginning of Season 19.

Has a puzzle ever been misspelled?Edit

On several occasions, a puzzle has been misspelled or contained improper punctuation. Known examples include:

  • BLUE BIRD OF HAPPINESS on an All-Star Championship episode from January 1976 (should be "Bluebird")
  • BACHELOR'S-BUTTON on a nighttime episode from January or February 1984 (Thelma/Sam/Lisa; should not be hyphenated)
  • SWEAT SHIRT on an episode from early 1985 (Kathy/Marty/Molly; should be one word)
  • CHARLIE AND AMERICAN PRIDE on a nighttime episode between March and June 1989 (Liz/Victor/Leo; should be "Charley")
  • FOG HORN on November 25, 1992 (should be one word; the correct spelling was used on February 7, 2003)
  • JINGLE-BELL ROCK on December 18, 1996 and December 20, 2004 (should not be hyphenated)
  • AMUSEMENT-PARK FUN HOUSE on September 9, 1997 (should not be hyphenated)
  • CANDLEWICK on an episode between January and June 2000 (should be two words)
  • ON-LINE SHOPPING on January 14, 2002 (should not be hyphenated)
  • PIECE OF MIND on November 14, 2003 (should be either "peace of mind" or "a piece of your mind")
  • BABY'S HIGHCHAIR on February 5, 2004 (should be "high chair")
  • CAESAR'S PALACE on April 7, 2009 (should not have an apostrophe)
  • WAIT A WHILE on April 26, 2010 (should be "awhile")
  • COFFEE-TABLE BOOK on January 24, 2012 (should not be hyphenated)
  • BABYPROOFING on November 28, 2013 (should be hyphenated)
  • WIND-CHILL FACTOR on January 27, 2014 (should not be hyphenated)
  • SALTED PUMPKINSEEDS on October 31, 2014 (should be "pumpkin seeds")
  • COLLECTING PINECONES on October 19, 2015 (should be "pine cones")
  • WINNIE THE POOH on September 30, 2016 (should be hyphenated)

Has the Prize Puzzle ever been Before & After or Same Name?Edit

Yes, at least three times:

  • On September 9, 2004, the puzzle LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL WITH BUTTER awarded a trip to New Orleans, relating to the "let the good times roll" portion of the answer (although Pat jokingly tied it into the "roll with butter" portion).
  • Less than a month later, on October 5, the puzzle was SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE WITH BLEACH.
  • Less than a month after that, on November 1, the puzzle was IT'S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD SERIES OF POKER and awarded a trip to Las Vegas.

Gameplay ElementsEdit

How are contestants chosen?Edit

Since 2000, contestants are chosen primarily through Wheelmobile events held throughout the year at public or semi-public venues such as arenas, theaters, shopping malls, etc. At these events, people may fill out a form and drop it in a bin. Five names at a time are drawn at random to come onstage; traveling host Marty Lublin interviews all five, who then play a Speed-Up round. Morgan Matthews is typically the co-host, although Tracey Wilson, Heidi Jackson, and Whitney Kirk sometimes hold this role instead. Auditions use a three-line board where one side of each square is a dry-erase surface, on which the hostess writes a letter if it is in the puzzle. As with the real game, a category strip and Used Letter Board are present. After a puzzle is solved, five more names are drawn (plus extra names if called contestants fail to come onstage), and the cycle repeats for an hour. Wheelmobile events typically last for six one-hour segments over the course of two days. Everyone who appears onstage receives a Wheel-themed prize, which is selected before the interview segment by Marty spinning a small wheel.

Those who show the most potential onstage, along with randomly-drawn names among those who did not get onstage, as well as those who submitted audition forms or videos online, are then invited to second-level auditions. These consist of mock games hosted by a different traveling crew; unlike the Wheelmobile games, these feature a vertical Wheel, of which each contestant is given two or three spins before "hitting" Bankrupt or Lose A Turn, and a projected board rendered on a computer. After everyone has gotten a chance to play, the contestants then take a written test, consisting of 16 puzzles (four each in four different categories, alternated between two sets). Once the tests are reviewed, some of the contestants are eliminated; those who remain play another set of mock games, including interviews.

What were the limits for returning champions?Edit

Originally, players could stay on for a maximum of five games. This was decreased to the more familiar three-day limit sometime between June 7, 1976 and July 5, 1977, which also applied to the nighttime show from Seasons 7-13. For Seasons 14-15, returning champs were removed in favor of having the Friday Finals format each week (in which an extra prize or prize package was awarded to the finalist who won the Bonus Round), after which the show returned to the one-and-done format that had been in place for Seasons 1-6 (along with Wheel 2000).

The winnings limit was initially $100,000 in Season 7, increasing to $125,000 sometime between February 1990 and December 1992. Once the $100,000 top prize debuted in October 2001, the limit became $200,000, which was never reached (the closest anyone got was $142,550, won by Jack Wagner and contestant Christine Denos on February 28, 2006) before the limit was removed in 2008 with the Million-Dollar Wedge.

How many $100,000 winners are there to date?Edit

39, the first being on December 19, 2001. Two puzzles have led to a pair of $100,000 winners: BRAINS AND BRAWN on January 24, 2006 and December 16, 2010, and BACK IN A FLASH on May 15, 2006 and April 26, 2012.

How many $100,000 losses are there to date?Edit

101, the first being on January 14, 2002. Two puzzles have led to a pair of $100,000 losses: PUNCH BOWL on October 7, 2002 and March 15, 2010, and QUALITY TIME on February 18, 2005 and September 21, 2010.

How many $1,000,000 winners are there to date?Edit

Three: Michelle Loewenstein on October 14, 2008, Autumn Erhard on May 30, 2013, and Sarah Manchester on September 17, 2014.

How many $1,000,000 losses are there to date?Edit

Five: Whitney Shields on April 2, 2015, Frank Harary and Laurel Haim on November 15, 2017, Eva Klentos on December 21, 2017, Kaia Lacy on January 11, 2019, and Kristen Andrews on January 16, 2019.

How does the Million-Dollar Wedge work?Edit

The Million-Dollar Wedge offers a chance at $1,000,000 in the Bonus Round. In order to win said prize, the contestant must do the following:

  • Call a correct letter after landing on the wedge.
  • Solve the current round's puzzle without hitting Bankrupt to claim it.
  • Avoid hitting Bankrupt for the rest of the game.
  • Have the highest total at the end of the game to go to the Bonus Round.
  • Land on the one envelope with the $1,000,000 prize (replacing the normal top prize of $100,000) in the 24-envelope Bonus Wheel.
  • Solve the Bonus Round puzzle.

What is the most that has been lost to Bankrupt on a single hit?Edit

The most lost in spendable cash is likely $30,600 on April 20, 2010, an episode which had $46,900 overall ($45,900 plus the Gift Tag) lost to Bankrupt.

The most ever lost by a single contestant appears to be $35,000 (the $10,000 Mystery Wedge and $25,000 from the Big Money Wedge), on April 23, 2008.

What is the most that has been lost to Bankrupt in one show?Edit

$49,175, on January 8, 2015. This included a single contestant losing $44,275, which included the value of the ½ Car as she was holding both tags at the time. The $49,175 total also includes the Gift Tag and a third ½ Car tag.

What is the record for most penalty wedge hits in one show?Edit

Likely 13, on September 26, 2008 (Teen Best Friends) – 11 Bankrupt hits and two Lose a Turn hits. The yellow contestants hit Bankrupt five times while the other two teams hit it three times each and Lose a Turn once each. 11 is also likely a record for most Bankrupt hits in one show.

During the shopping era, did the show charge more for prizes than they sold for at retail?Edit

No. The show used the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP for short, and also known as "list price" or "sticker price") for all items, whether it be a $17 vase or a $17,000 car.

This was addressed on-air at least once, during a May 1981 episode: after a contestant asked this following the description of a $259 magazine rack she had bought, host Chuck Woolery noted that it was a good question and stated that "They are retail prices that are quoted to us, and that's what we charge." Chuck's comments afterward suggest that this was a common question at the time.

Why did some games in the 1990s have only three rounds?Edit

Three-round games were sometimes done to accommodate for home viewer sweepstakes, thus meaning that the Round 2 template and $2,500 (then the top dollar for Round 2) were not used. They were also done occasionally on road shows in the mid-1990s due to time constraints, although the Cash and Splash Sweepstakes instead opted for putting both $2,500 and $3,500 on the Wheel for Round 2, which used the Round 3 template.

Notably, the three-round structure led to a unique instance on the Season 15 premiere (September 1, 1997) where, due in part to an extended intro, Round 3 began as a Speed-Up. As a result, the Round 3 template (with $3,500 and only one Bankrupt) was retained, and the Jackpot was not used.

Does the Wheel have to make a complete revolution?Edit

No, although if a spin seems unusually "light" Pat will usually stop the Wheel and ask the contestant to spin again.

However, the Bonus Wheel does have to make at least one complete revolution; if it does not, the original spin is edited out, and the contestant re-spins. This led to an incident on September 28, 2006 where a contestant's spin was determined not to have made a complete revolution until after the bonus puzzle was revealed; as a result, the original puzzle was discarded, and she re-spun to play a different puzzle.

Does the studio audience see the other side of a Mystery Wedge during the player's choice?Edit

No. Only the home audience sees the Bankrupt or $10,000/car/prize, depending on the wedge (and the era of the wedge). While this would appear to be done to prevent audience influence toward the contestant's decision, the studio audience is encouraged to tell the player to flip it over.

Has the host ever hit Bankrupt or Lose A Turn on the Final Spin?Edit

Many times, along with Free Play. It only seems like Pat never does because those invalid spins have been edited out since 1997, when they were only edited out sporadically before that point. Before this point, Pat had also hit Prize wedges, and even Surprise, on occasion.

Back when invalid Final Spins were aired, there was a running gag from 1977 through at least May 1985 where the Bankrupt slide whistle would play if it was hit.

Bad Final Spins have sometimes led to the host having to re-spin more than once. Among those that aired were:

  • On October 8, 1980, Chuck landed on Lose A Turn twice in a row.
  • On an episode sometime around January 1989, Pat landed on Bankrupt twice, and hit $1,500 on his third attempt.
  • On a Bob Goen daytime episode, according to one recollection, Bob hit Bankrupt multiple times on the Final Spin, and requested that Vanna do the Final Spin for him as a result.
  • On June 14, 1990, Pat hit Bankrupt three times in a row, with his fourth attempt landing on $5,000.
  • On January 25, 1994, Pat again hit Bankrupt three times in a row, with his fourth attempt landing on $1,500.

There is an easy way to tell if an invalid Final Spin was edited out: if the red arrow flipper's location in the close-up does not match where it was heading in the wide shot of the Wheel, there was an edit.

What happened if someone used the Double Play and hit a prize or token?Edit

The official rules stated that landing on a Prize wedge, Surprise, or Free Spin gave that player the choice of taking the token back or applying it to their next spin. The sole exception to this was the $10,000 Wedge, which doubled its value (and which was successfully done on at least one episode).

How many people have tried to solve on Free Play?Edit

Two: November 24, 2010 and May 10, 2012. The first was correct, while the second was not.

What gets edited out of shows, if anything?Edit

Most frequently, the overhead shots of the Wheel may be trimmed to show only the Wheel coming to a stop.

From about the late 1990s onward, cycles are often edited out of rounds if all three players consecutively make moves that do not affect their score or the answer (i.e., cycles consisting entirely of wrong consonants, Lose A Turn, and/or Bankrupts that do not take anything away), in order to allow as much time for gameplay as possible. In the fandom, this is referred to as a "null" cycle. This is known to have been done since at least the introduction of the electronic puzzle board in 1997, although it appears that it did not become semi-regular until around 2003. Such edits are usually harder to discern, outside of paying close attention to the Wheel's position and/or a reference made by Pat to a turn that was edited out (e.g., informing a player that a letter was already called, despite the first call being edited out). On rare occasions, turns are edited out that do affect gameplay. By Season 28, "null" cycles began to be edited from Speed-Ups as well; these are often masked by a brief jump-cut to Pat, and such edits sometimes result in the Speed-Up music skipping or playing over itself.

Also, as mentioned above, the Final Spin is edited and reshot if Pat lands on anything other than a cash amount, although this was not the case prior to 1997.

On occasion, an edit may occur if a contestant solves the Speed-Up or Bonus Round on the buzzer, usually so that the tape can be reviewed. Generally, the answer is accepted only if the contestant started directly on or before the buzzer, and proceeded continuously without stopping. At least once, a Speed-Up was thrown out due to such a call being required on the first turn, only for the review to show that the contestant did not beat the buzzer.

Several episodes have had a puzzle edited out due to either a technical error (such as the wrong letter lighting up, or a part of the set malfunctioning), a scoring error, the host accidentally accepting a wrong answer, or an audience member shouting out the answer. According to several sources, the contestants are awarded a cash bonus of $100 (not counted toward their final score) if a round is discarded for any reason other than audience interference.

Starting in Season 35, individual wrong letters on Free Play may also be edited out, even if not part of a "null" cycle.

Finally, several episodes dating back to at least 2002 have had spins from other rounds or even other episodes dubbed in, due to the overhead Wheel shot not catching the actual spin.

When and why did the Bonus Round start offering RSTLNE?Edit

RSTLNE was first offered on both versions (daytime and nighttime) on October 3, 1988. The rule change was made because, under the original rules of asking the contestant for five consonants and a vowel, nearly every contestant would choose those letters. To compensate, the time limit was reduced from 15 to 10 seconds, and the puzzles made slightly harder.

Have any bonus puzzles used at least one each of RSTLNE?Edit

Plenty of times prior to the aforementioned 1988 rule change, but there are only a few known examples from afterward:

  • TRADING PLACES (April 1, 1997)
  • QUEST FOR KNOWLEDGE (February 1, 2010)
  • BOUNTIFUL HARVEST (November 6, 2013)
  • OVERWHELMING SUPPORT (November 15, 2013)
  • QUIRKY PERSONALITY (December 18, 2013)
  • DOWNRIGHT HYSTERICAL (December 15, 2015)
  • BROWSING THE AISLES (January 21, 2016)
  • LIGHTING FIXTURES (March 8, 2016)
  • VERY INSIGHTFUL (April 19, 2016)
  • UPBEAT PERSONALITY (September 19, 2016)
  • COUGARS IN THE WILD (October 23, 2018)
  • FLIPPING THROUGH PAGES (January 11, 2019)

Has RSTLNE ever revealed every consonant in a puzzle?Edit

This has happened at least once, with the puzzle TIARA on October 13, 1994. It is also believed that ONION was a bonus puzzle at some point, but the exact date is unknown.

This also happened on an episode of Wheel 2000 with the puzzle EINSTEIN.

Similarly, there have been at least four bonus puzzles where E was the only vowel: WEEKEND sometime in 1991, GEM on February 25, 1993, WHY ME sometime in early 1993, PEBBLE on May 13, 1997 and CHEWY JERKY on March 21, 2018.

Have any bonus puzzles not used RSTLNE?Edit

While sporadic, a few did not contain RSTLNE. The first known instance was GUM on a Bob Goen-hosted daytime episode in 1991, and the last known instance is PIKACHU sometime in 2001.

What happens if a contestant accidentally calls one of RSTLNE in the Bonus Round?Edit

The player is informed that said letter is "part of the original package" and prompted for another letter. There is no penalty for repeating a previously-given letter, although we do not advise doing it deliberately.

The only known exception to this was on Wheel 2000, where any repeat calls were silently counted against the contestant.

Does Y ever have to be bought?Edit

No. Y is always a consonant in Wheel's context, meaning that contestants must spin to call it even if the puzzle uses Y as a vowel.

What happens if a Toss-Up is not solved?Edit

If the $1,000 Toss-Up is not solved, then the red contestant is interviewed first; if the $2,000 Toss-Up is not solved, then the red contestant starts Round 1 (regardless of whether s/he won the first Toss-Up). When the $3,000 Toss-Up went unsolved, this meant that the contestant who started Round 1 would also start Round 4.

Since the introduction of the Triple Toss-Up in Season 37, the game continues as usual should either of the first two Triple Toss-Ups go unsolved. It is not known what would happen if the third were to go unsolved, although it is presumed that the same ruling for the $3,000 Toss-Up would apply.

Has there ever been a Toss-Up where no one even rang in?Edit

The only known aired instance is a $3,000 Toss-Up of WHAT A RELIEF, sometime in Season 20.

On March 31, 2014, the original $1,000 Toss-Up REST AREA also went to the last letter without anyone ringing in; however, this puzzle was instead edited out and replaced with a new one.

What is the record for the most amount of Bankrupt/Lose A Turn hits in one round?Edit

The record for Bankrupt is believed to be six, achieved on at least March 27, 1979 (Round 2), December 30, 2008 (Round 3), October 4, 2011 (Round 2), November 28, 2013 (Round 3), March 18, 2015 (Round 2), November 25, 2015 (Round 1), and April 10, 2018 (Round 2). It was also hit six times in Round 3 of the third Second Chance Lottery Promotion taped after Season 34.

The record for Lose A Turn appears to be four, achieved on an episode circa April 1985 (nighttime), November 6, 1987 (daytime), November 13, 1989 (nighttime), October 21, 2010, and October 21, 2013. Interestingly, on the 1985 episode, three of the four were consecutive hits by the same contestant, who used two Free Spins in the process.

Has there ever been a "perfect" main game?Edit

For the sake of clarity, a "perfect" main game is one where no Bankrupts or Lose A Turns are hit, no wrong letters are called, nobody gets buzzed out, nobody missolves, and all three Toss-Ups are won. During the era of "bonus" categories and questions, this required giving the right answers to those as well.

This is not known to have happened at all, although the closest known example is December 13, 1982: nobody hit Bankrupt or Lose A Turn and no mistakes were made, although a contestant did get buzzed out in the Speed-Up.

The closest occurrence of a contestant playing a perfect game happened in the first week of Season 26, where a player swept the game and won the Bonus Round. The only time he would have lost his turn was when he hit a Bankrupt on the Million-Dollar Wedge in Round 1, but he had obtained the Free Spin earlier in the round and immediately used it.

What is the smallest amount by which a contestant has won or lost?Edit

The smallest known margin of victory is $3, which occurred on June 3, 2014. Prior to that, many contestants dating back to at least 1989 have won by margins of $50. A win by $30 almost occurred on October 2, 2012, after a contestant tried to solve in the Speed-Up without calling a letter first.

In the first Byrnes pilot, a scoring error occurred in Round 4, and a contestant would have won by $40.

What happens if the game ends in a tie?Edit

Originally on the daytime version, it was believed that ties resulted in the tied contestants returning the next day as co-champions, as was the case on non-tournament episodes of Jeopardy! prior to 2014. Likely around the introduction of the Bonus Round, and definitely by November 1986, a tie game simply meant that no Bonus Round was played and all three contestants returned the next day. The continuation game did not count towards a champion's three-day limit, and according to at least one recollection, this once resulted in a contestant playing for five days due to two consecutive ties. Known tie games include November 13, 1986, the aforementioned 1987 episodes, and twice in 1989 during Rolf Benirschke's tenure as host. Benirschke's first tie quickly became infamous, as it resulted in him looking at the camera and admitting that he did not know what to do.

Tie games on the nighttime show were originally broken by a Speed-Up round between the tied contestants. If a Speed-Up had already occurred, the tiebreaker had its own Final Spin (referred to as a "Final Final Spin" by Pat). Known tie games include a show taped in December 1987; October 5, 1993; and February 17, 1998. The former had the tiebreaker in its own segment, resulting in the Bonus Round moving to the final segment and Pat signing off immediately afterward, while the latter had the tiebreaker immediately after Round 5 with the rest of the game paced as normal. The nighttime procedure was also used for daytime weeks with the Friday Finals format, and at least twice had to be done at the beginning of Friday shows to break a tie at third place. According to one recollection, at least one tie occurred on daytime during the Goen era, using the same rules (while also resulting in an extremely rare occurrence of a seven-round game). It is also believed that at least one tie on Wheel 2000 was handled in the same fashion.

Since the introduction of Toss-Ups, ties are broken by an additional Toss-Up. This has only happened four times: March 13, 2003, March 2, 2006, May 25, 2016, and one of the unaired Second Chance Lottery Promotion episodes. While the tiebreaker round had no cash value on the former two episodes, it was valued at $1,000 on the 2016 episode and the Second Chance episode.

What happens if a contestant asks to buy a vowel, then calls a consonant instead?Edit

If any rule exists for this, it has been applied inconsistently:

  • On October 23, 1995, a contestant who asked to buy a Y had $250 deducted and lost his turn.
  • On November 7, 2000, a contestant asked to buy a W, then a zero, before calling O. After a stopdown, it was determined to rule it as a bought O and hold the contestant to W on their next spin.
  • On May 18, 2001, a team that asked to buy a T had $250 deducted and lost their turn.
  • On May 30, 2011, a contestant who also asked to buy a T merely lost her turn; in addition, the T had already been revealed in the puzzle.
  • On May 15, 2012, a contestant who asked to buy an N corrected himself to say I; Pat ruled it as I, but the ruling ended up not mattering as the I was already revealed.
  • Starting from at least September 18, 2012, it appears that accidentally buying a consonant is now disregarded, judging from Pat's comment of "We'll take the first vowel we heard.", and corroborated by similar incidents on at least September 27 and December 19, 2013.

Why have some non-team episodes had more than three people onstage?Edit

Contestants who are not physically able to spin the Wheel themselves are allowed to have a friend or family member serve as a "designated spinner"; said spinner may only spin the Wheel for them, and may not otherwise assist in gameplay.

At least twice, a "designated spinner" was incorporated into a team week, obviously without the gameplay limitations on the person doing the spinning. This happened on an episode from the Family Week of May 23, 2011, in which a mother and her wheelchair-bound son competed as a team. While the mother was the only one of the two to spin, her son did not call any letters, and his only contribution to gameplay was solving Round 1 with her. A second instance of a "designated spinner" during a team week occurred on November 17, 2017.

This does not apply to the Bonus Wheel, as that is smaller in size so the contestant is usually able to spin that themselves.

In what may be a unique occurrence, a wheelchair-bound contestant on an April 2018 episode had her husband serve as a "designated spinner". As she proceeded to the Bonus Round, she was able to spin the Bonus Wheel by herself, but her husband was still present to help push the chair.

During a week with teams, what happens if each member calls a different letter during a turn?Edit

If one member of the team says one letter, and his/her teammate declares another letter at the same time, then Pat will ask them to decide which of the two letters they want to call.

Has a puzzle ever been thrown out?Edit

Very rarely, a puzzle may be discarded. This is often due to an audience member shouting out an answer, a wrong letter being revealed (supposedly a frequent occurrence during Susan Stafford's tenure, as she often tended to turn the letters before they were lit), or the host accidentally ruling an incorrect answer as correct. The earliest known instance of a discarded puzzle was on the January 6, 1975 premiere episode (as indicated by a disclaimer read by Charlie O'Donnell during the closing credits of the episode).

According to the 1987 book Wheel of Fortune by David R. Sams and Robert L. Shook, puzzles that were discarded for any reason other than audience interference resulted in each contestant receiving a $200 gift certificate; the exception was Round 1, which was simply reshot without such a bonus. The book also states that if a wrong answer was accidentally ruled correct, the two opponents to the contestant who gave the answer received a $200 bonus. Prior to the gift certificates being introduced in 1975, winnings from discarded rounds were still awarded to the contestant anyway.

At least three episodes (all nighttime) have had visible indication of a puzzle being discarded: a September 1988 episode where the introduction of the original, thrown-out puzzle (Phrase) was accidentally left in, with the replacement puzzle (a one-word People) not being seen until after the Final Spin; and October 6, 1989 and April 16, 1991, where the blanks seen on the board in the opening shots clearly do not match up to the actual Round 1 that was played.

On an episode taped in Chicago on April 12, 2002 (which aired the following month), a letter was lit up in Round 3 despite not being called. After the contestants had their backs turned, the letter was revealed and Pat announced to the audience that they would discard the puzzle and restart the round.

Similarly, on March 8, 2011 the original Round 3 (a Before & After of VINEGAR AND OIL TANKER) was discarded, apparently because a contestant accidentally called a letter before spinning but the letter lit up anyway. As a result, she was given back the Wild Card that she had used on $3,500 in the discarded round, which she ended up taking to the Bonus Round.

It is not known how "bonuses" for discarded puzzles were handled immediately after the retirement of shopping. According to a contestant who was on in March 2007, all three contestants received $100 cash bonuses after a round was discarded due to an incorrect answer accidentally being accepted.

A round in May 2013 that began as a Speed-Up was thrown out due to a contestant solving the puzzle so closely to the buzzer that his answer could not be determined by ear; as a result, there was a stopdown before his answer was determined to have come after the buzzer, necessitating the discarded puzzle. The Speed-Up was redone with a new puzzle and the same Final Spin value. Other times, if a contestant solved the Speed-Up on or after the buzzer, the rest of the round would proceed as normal until solved, and Pat would announce that the scores were tentative so that the contestant's answer could be checked. The aforementioned Speed-Up was likely discarded due to the answer having come on the first turn, instead of much later in the proceedings.

One of Rolf Benirschke's first daytime episodes is known to have had a Bonus Round thrown out due to him accidentally accepting an incorrect answer. Pat has accidentally accepted at least one wrong Bonus Round answer as correct (EXACTLY ALIVE on April 3, 2012, when the actual answer was EXACTLY ALIKE), in which case the Bonus Round was simply redone with a new puzzle following a ten-minute stopdown. At least twice (May 8, 1996 and March 23, 2005), a letter was revealed in the Bonus Round that should not have been; both contestants gave the correct answer and were allowed to keep their bonus prizes.

If an audience member shouted out the answer to a question asked by a "bonus" category, the bonus was simply discarded. This is known to have happened at least three times.

As mentioned above, Toss-Ups are thrown out if no one rings in, although this was not originally the case.

At least three episodes have had puzzles edited out for other reasons:

  • The November 2, 1992 episode (from the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco) edited out Round 2 because the answer was VANNA'S PREGNANT; since she had a miscarriage sometime after its recording on September 11, the round was replaced with a short spiel narrated by Charlie which gave some details on the taping, bookended by footage of Pat explaining what had occurred in the round. Vanna's A&E Biography episode showed behind-the-scenes footage of her revealing the puzzle after it was solved, then being surprised by Merv Griffin holding balloons in celebration.
    • One main source of contention in recent years is that Pat states Round 2 was played during the video, which is not only misleading but could be misconstrued by those who do not know why it was removed as meaning the round was too boring (or replaced arbitrarily) rather than sadly outdated. During the credits, Charlie notes that the episode had been edited for broadcast, but does not clarify.
  • November 16 and 17, 2005 (taped at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans shortly before Hurricane Katrina) respectively had Round 1 and the $1,000 Toss-Up edited out, as their answers were deemed insensitive to hurricane victims. On the original airings, these rounds were replaced with clips of Pat and Vanna asking viewers for donation to hurricane relief funds; Summer reruns of these episodes restored the Toss-Up from November 17 (THE LOUISIANA SUPERDOME), but replaced the "missing" Round 1 from November 16 with another clip of Pat and Vanna thanking those who donated.

What happens if only vowels remain in a puzzle, but no contestant has enough to buy one?Edit

Each contestant is given one chance to solve the puzzle. Should all three fail to solve, the puzzle is thrown out.

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