"If that's misinformation, then we'll just tell you all these lies, it doesn't matter." (Chuck Woolery on June 7, 1976, after being told that $8,325 was the half-hour single-round record.)
"...you know, we're not above spreading misinformation." (Pat Sajak on December 15, 1995, after expressing uncertainty that $73,150 was the one-day record.)
As with many TV shows, Wheel of Fortune has had a number of misconceptions and myths come up over its long history – some born from a lack of information and audiovisual evidence of the early years, others made by inaccurate reporters and websites. Several more were crafted by the show itself, or its employees, which have caused some backlash from the more devoted parts of its fanbase.
This page addresses the misconceptions, myths, and rumors, sorting fact from fiction. Note that this only counts deliberate exceptions, not accidental (i.e., misplaced wedges).
- 1 The Wheel
- 1.1 Myth: Bankrupt has always used its slide-whistle sound effect.
- 1.2 Myth: The lowest amounts ever used were $50♦ and $75♦, early in the Goen era.
- 1.3 Myth: The "logo on overhead Wheel shot" open was introduced in 1983, and dropped when the show moved to CBS.
- 1.4 Myth: The top value in Round 1 of the 1974 pilots was $500.
- 1.5 Myth: No Wheel layout has ever used more than one of the top dollar value.
- 1.6 Myth: The $2,000 space debuted in 1979.
- 1.7 Myth: Prize wedges debuted on the nighttime premiere.
- 1.8 Myth: The chroma-key Wheel shot of the host and hostess was introduced in 1980.
- 1.9 Myth: Until Celebrity Wheel of Fortune, the show has never used $950.
- 1.10 Myth: There have never been two adjacent cash wedges of the same value.
- 1.11 Myth: There have never been two adjacent wedges of the same color.
- 1.12 Myth: The diamonds for $50 and $75 were added on Goen's debut.
- 1.13 Myth: The current rules for obtaining a Prize/token debuted at the start of Season 8.
- 1.14 Myth: The current Lose A Turn wedge (used since September 16, 1996) is white.
- 1.15 Myth: The wedge underneath the top dollar value on the 1996 template was blank.
- 1.16 Myth: The Wheel's automation was discontinued at the beginning of Season 15 due to set changes.
- 1.17 Myth: The font of the Wheel wedges is "Fortune", also known as "Chesterfield" and "Volta".
- 2 Shopping
- 3 Puzzles and Categories
- 3.1 Myth: Nickname was only used from 1988-89.
- 3.2 Myth: The AT MY WIT'S END bonus puzzle (May 5, 1986) was lost, with the only guess being AT MY CAT'S END.
- 3.3 Myth: The 90's was first used in 2000.
- 3.4 Myth: The EAT FRESH puzzle (January 30, 2008) was the last appearance of Slogan.
- 3.5 Myth: The category that listed ingredients of a food item was "What Are You Making?"
- 3.6 Myth: What Are We Making? is the only "legit" category to be used once.
- 3.7 Myth: Until the debut of What's That Song?, no "$3,000 bonus" categories were used after Season 25.
- 3.8 Myth: The Prize Puzzle has never offered anything but trips.
- 4 Hosts and Hostesses
- 4.1 Myth: Edd Byrnes hosted the Shopper's Bazaar pilot.
- 4.2 Myth: Only one pilot, hosted by Byrnes, was taped on August 28, 1974.
- 4.3 Myth: Of the 1974 pilots, Edd and Chuck hosted one each.
- 4.4 Myth: On a 1974 pilot, Edd bullied a player who wanted to solve for $300 into spinning again.
- 4.5 Myth: The host and hostess on the cover of the 1975 board games are not Chuck and Susan Stafford.
- 4.6 Myth: During the shopping era, the hostess always entered from the middle of the curtain.
- 4.7 Myth: Other than Pat and a very brief appearance by Charlie, no male has ever been in the hostess' position.
- 4.8 Myth: The practice of introducing the host and hostess together began in Season 7.
- 4.9 Myth: Pat and Vanna White have hosted the show together since it began in 1981 on NBC.
- 4.10 Myth: Other than April Fool's Day 1997 and three weeks during Season 37, Wheel has never had a guest host.
- 4.11 Myth: Other than April Fool's Day 1997, Vanna has only spun the Wheel once.
- 4.12 Myth: Rolf Benirschke was responsible for the show's cancellation in 1989.
- 4.13 Myth: Rolf would prefer to not talk about his stint as host.
- 4.14 Myth: Merv hired Bob Goen immediately after the show moved to CBS.
- 4.15 Myth: Pat appeared only once on the daytime version after he left.
- 4.16 Myth: As the name indicates, "Vanna for a Day" winner Katie Cantrell got a full episode (March 24, 2011).
- 5 Gameplay Elements
- 5.1 Myth: Players had to land on Buy A Vowel to purchase vowels.
- 5.2 Myth: The Shopper's Special allowed the player to call as many consonants as possible to fill the puzzle within 30 seconds.
- 5.3 Myth: There has never been such a thing as a negative score.
- 5.4 Myth: The hour-long format debuted on December 1, 1975.
- 5.5 Myth: The five-and-a-vowel Bonus Round debuted on Pat's first show.
- 5.6 Myth: Players are required to spin the Wheel when control passes to them.
- 5.7 Myth: The Wild Card is forfeited if the player does not win the round after claiming it.
- 5.8 Myth: A player who hops on the Express cannot buy a vowel.
- 5.9 Myth: Players are allowed to solve immediately after spinning.
- 5.10 Myth: Money claimed from the daytime Jackpot was available for shopping rounds.
- 5.11 Myth: Big Month of Cash began on September 14, 1987 (the Season 5 premiere).
- 5.12 Myth: The Big Month of Cash marked the first time cash was ever offered on the show.
- 5.13 Myth: "Big Month/Bonanza of Cash" only applied from October 5-30, 1987.
- 5.14 Myth: The Friday Finals format debuted in 1996.
- 5.15 Myth: The Friday Finals were dropped after Season 15.
- 5.16 Myth: The concept of returning players was eliminated due to the sheer amount of contestant applications.
- 5.17 Myth: Players who have appeared on a version other than the syndicated run are allowed to play again.
- 5.18 Myth: The "Final Spin" graphic is used to mask any editing should Pat spin a non-cash wedge.
- 5.19 Myth: If nobody solves the $2,000 Toss-Up, Round 1 is started by the contestant who solved the $1,000 Toss-Up.
- 5.20 Myth: There was a $1,000,000 loss on September 17, 2013 and/or April 11, 2014.
- 6 Sets and Sounds
- 6.1 Myth: The 1981-89 Bonus Round timer cue was composed by Alan Thicke.
- 6.2 Myth: The first Bankrupt, "category reveal", "only vowels remain", buzzer, ding, and Final Spin sounds were created by Thicke.
- 6.3 Myth: The double-buzz in the Bonus Round is the same one used on The Price Is Right.
- 6.4 Myth: Merv Griffin's music package debuted on September 19, 1983, coinciding with the nighttime debut.
- 6.5 Myth: The changes made for Season 2 debuted on September 10, 1984.
- 6.6 Myth: The first two versions of "Changing Keys" always started from the beginning.
- 6.7 Myth: The third version of "Changing Keys" was the only theme the show used from 1992-94.
- 6.8 Myth: The third set of sunburst contestant backdrops debuted in September 1986.
- 6.9 Myth: The nighttime and daytime shows moved to CBS Television City at the same time.
- 6.10 Myth: The nighttime contestant backdrops began using the 1988 diamonds full-time in 1991.
- 6.11 Myth: The four-line trilon-based puzzle board resides in the Smithsonian Institution.
- 6.12 Myth: Outside the puzzle-solve cue that came from the original "Changing Keys", the end of the show's theme song was never heard on-air until September 2006.
- 7 Staff
- 7.1 Myth: Charlie became announcer in 1976.
- 7.2 Myth: Nancy Jones joined Wheel as producer in 1980.
- 7.3 Myth: Dick Carson joined Wheel as director in 1982.
- 7.4 Myth: Jack Clark announced through the end of Season 5.
- 7.5 Myth: M. G. Kelly was hired solely as an interim/fill-in announcer until Charlie could return.
- 7.6 Myth: M. G. Kelly was announcer for two years.
- 7.7 Myth: Charlie's last episode was October 29, 2010.
- 7.8 Myth: No reason was given for dubbing Jim Thornton over the other guest announcers in Summer 2011.
- 8 Others
- 8.1 Myth: Merv's concept was based on a 1950s game show also called Wheel of Fortune.
- 8.2 Myth: Merv's concept was based off a casino game also called Wheel of Fortune.
- 8.3 Myth: The Griffin logo used on the 1973-74 pilots was the one then in use on Jeopardy!
- 8.4 Myth: No 1977 episodes are known to exist.
- 8.5 Myth: The clip seen in the ceremonial 4,000th nighttime episode with the caption of "1983" is from 1983.
- 8.6 Myth: Augustus provided the host's wardrobe for the entire daytime run.
- 8.7 Myth: The daytime show did not air repeats until September 1991.
- 8.8 Myth: Nancy/Beverly/Karen and Beverly/Dorian/Bill aired on March 11-12, 1982.
- 8.9 Myth: The 1983 Ohio State Fair episodes were the first syndicated tapings.
- 8.10 Myth: The June 30, 1989 show was not announced as being any sort of finale.
- 8.11 Myth: The exact number of daytime episodes is unknown.
- 8.12 Myth: The daytime show kept the continual episode numbering for its entire run.
- 8.13 Myth: The daytime Teen Week that ended with Staci/Shawn/Sharon aired in February 1991.
- 8.14 Myth: Much like Classic Concentration, daytime Wheel continued in some form until December 31, 1993.
- 8.15 Myth: On November 6, 1997 (Celebrity Week), William Shatner quit the game out of anger.
- 8.16 Myth: The nighttime episodes celebrated as #3,000 and #4,000 were correctly numbered.
- 8.17 Myth: The font used for the show's logo is "SF Fortune Wheel".
- 8.18 Myth: The clip of a male contestant calling an incorrect N with CLAM _IGGER showing is real.
- 8.19 Myth: The screenshot showing a partially-revealed LUCK BE IN THE AIR TONIGHT answer which could ostensibly be an inappropriate answer is real.
- 8.20 Myth: The clip of a male contestant giving a vulgar incorrect answer to the puzzle BITCOIN IS THE FUTURE is real.
- 8.21 Myth: The Portland weeks in May 2012 were the show's inaugural trip to that city.
- 8.22 Myth: The show tapes in airing order.
Myth: Bankrupt has always used its slide-whistle sound effect.
Fact: The original slide whistle debuted sometime between June 7, 1976 and July 5, 1977. The current, lower-pitched whistle debuted on Bob Goen's first episode (July 17, 1989), which also introduced most of the other current sound effects.
Myth: The lowest amounts ever used were $50♦ and $75♦, early in the Goen era.
Fact: $0 was used on the Shopper's Bazaar pilot, and $25 from 1974-75. Prior to Goen, $50 had been used from 1973-75 while $75 was used from 1974-75.
Myth: The "logo on overhead Wheel shot" open was introduced in 1983, and dropped when the show moved to CBS.
Fact: A near-identical shot was done for the opening from the 1974 pilots through at least May 20, 1976, after which the Wheel zoomed in while Charlie O'Donnell introduced Edd/Chuck. This was discontinued by June 7, 1976.
Once the "chant" opening was introduced in August 1983, it remained through at least July 21, 1989 (Goen's fifth episode) with the new logo at the end, but was discontinued sometime between then and August 22.
Myth: The top value in Round 1 of the 1974 pilots was $500.
Fact: The top value was $350. A clip shown on the ceremonial 3,000th nighttime show, which had a layout with $500 as the top value (and also showed some resemblance to the 1975 Round 1 layout color-wise), was actually from Round 2 of the first Byrnes pilot.
Myth: No Wheel layout has ever used more than one of the top dollar value.
Fact: The Shopper's Bazaar pilot used three $450 wedges for the opening layout and two $500 wedges for Rounds 1-2. Rounds 3-4 had just one $1,000 wedge.
Sometime in 1975, by July 15, a second $500 wedge was added in Round 1 (this layout was used in the First Edition home game); a third was added, increased from $100, sometime between July 5, 1977 and an unspecified point later in 1977. Barring some minor font alterations and the change of a blue $400 to red, this layout remained until the top value was increased to $750 in 1979.
From 1974-75, and again since 1979, the top value of any round has been one-of-a-kind (and the only regular four-digit amount in any round since September 16, 1996).
Myth: The $2,000 space debuted in 1979.
Fact: $2,000 was used on the hour-long episodes in late 1975 and January 1976, where it was top value for the "head-to-head all-cash showdown" round which determined the day's winner.
On January 19, 1976, the wedge was retired until sometime between September 6 and November 13, 1979, when it returned to being the top value.
Myth: Prize wedges debuted on the nighttime premiere.
Fact: The concept dates back to the 1975-76 hour-long period, where one was placed on the Wheel for the aforementioned head-to-head round.
Myth: The chroma-key Wheel shot of the host and hostess was introduced in 1980.
Fact: It was used from the 1974 pilots through at least March 15, 1978. While dropped by April 6 (possibly when Dick Carson became director), it returned sometime between January 2 and March 18, 1980.
The ensuing years appear to have used it less and less frequently; its last known uses on each version are the first Big Month of Cash episode on October 5, 1987 (nighttime) and the first show of Teen Week on December 21, 1987 (daytime).
Myth: Until Celebrity Wheel of Fortune, the show has never used $950.
Fact: $950 was used on the 1987-89 boat rug (also notable for having two Lose A Turn wedges), the 1989-92 opening animation, and the turntables (including the blue wedge at right; as seen here) and its purple predecessor, seen here, through mid-1994. A yellow $950 space was also used in a press photo layout which had some oddities such as a yellow Bankrupt and a space worth $775. Strangely, $950 was the only multiple of $50 up to $1,000 to never be used in actual gameplay.
Even so, there are five known instances of it being a playable value prior to 2021: the 1991 games for MS-DOS, Macintosh, and Windows (as that Wheel used in those games was based on the 1989 opening), 950 points/markkas on Finland's Onnenpyörä, 950 pesos on the 2001 Philippine version, 950 reais on the current adaption of Brazil's Roda a Roda, and on Scopely's Wheel of Fortune Free Play for iOS and Android.
Myth: There have never been two adjacent cash wedges of the same value.
Fact: For the first half of 1988, the Free Spin wedge was covered by a noticeably "off-model" yellow $200 wedge in Round 2, despite being next to an "on-model" red $200 with another $200 very close by.
On the earliest Wheel 2000 tapings, the yellow 250-point wedge was adjacent to a double-width 250.
This was also technically true of the Jackpot wedge from Seasons 26-29, which offered $500 per consonant regardless of whether the Jackpot was not claimed and had a $500 on either side.
In Round 3 of Tiger's Wheel of Fortune Crossword, two $300 spaces are next to one another. This is also the case in Cube Rush mode of Sony's Wheel of Fortune: Cubed for iOS.
Since prize wedges started offering a face value of $500 at the beginning of Season 30, some red-colored prize wedges are placed on the red $800 next to the purple $500 in an effort to avoid two wedges of the same color.
Myth: There have never been two adjacent wedges of the same color.
Fact: Despite the show's current attempt to avoid such a thing, it has happened. In late 1984, the yellow $500 space covered the red $200 next to Lose A Turn in Round 3. Pressman's original board games also have the tan Free Spin space next to a tan $100 space.
Myth: The diamonds for $50 and $75 were added on Goen's debut.
Fact: They were added on his second show (July 18), likely to fill the space usually containing the third/fourth number(s) in larger values.
While present for at least the first six weeks, they were reduced in number from five to three on July 19, then two sometime between July 21 and 31, before disappearing entirely sometime between August 24 and September 18.
Myth: The current rules for obtaining a Prize/token debuted at the start of Season 8.
Fact: The original rules, where the item was obtained immediately and a letter called for the value underneath, remained through at least September 11, 1990. The current rules, which require a correct letter call before picking up the item, debuted by December 25.
Myth: The current Lose A Turn wedge (used since September 16, 1996) is white.
Fact: It is a very light shade of yellow.
Myth: The wedge underneath the top dollar value on the 1996 template was blank.
Fact: When the single template was introduced on September 16, the wedge underneath the top dollar value was the yellow $1,000. While never used in-game, it was seen during the credits on several episodes of Season 14 as well as the 1998 Andrews McMeel day-by-day calendar, 1999 Parker Brothers home game box, and 2008 Endless Games "Quick Picks" card game (where it appeared on the scorecard as an available value despite not actually having a card, possibly planned for the Mystery Wedge).
Another instance of its use on-set was on the Press Kit page of the site at the time, which can be viewed here. A third instance was on the "COUNT RUSHMORE" scene from the sitcom Friends. A fourth instance was when the Wheel was used on a transitioning scene on the 3,000th syndicated show.
The wedge was not blank until the template was revamped on September 7, 1998.
Myth: The Wheel's automation was discontinued at the beginning of Season 15 due to set changes.
Fact: It was phased out starting on January 6, 1997 by Harry Friedman at the request of Pat, who later stated on his now-defunct website that he "thought it was a bad idea to demonstrate that we had the ability to automatically spin the Wheel." During its final days, it was only used in the closing.
Myth: The font of the Wheel wedges is "Fortune", also known as "Chesterfield" and "Volta".
Fact: Fortune was only used for a period starting in 1974. As the series continued, the appearance of certain parts of the Wheel changed slightly: by March 15, 1978 the Bankrupt font became a bit bolder (most noticeably the R), and by April 6 became considerably bolder (most noticeably the U, now even). By March 2, 1979 the 7's were modified to have a flat bottom instead of a rounded one, and eventually more numbers started changing such as the 8's and 0's.
Though most Wheel templates were likely hand-painted, especially in the early days, Wheel stuck with the modified font until January 2003 when all numbers (but not Bankrupt, which kept the same appearance) were modified once again. In this new font, 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.
In a March 2008 Chicago Tribune article regarding various facts about the Wheel, the font was stated to be "a customized version of Clarendon bold/black". While the font likely exists, it is not available to the general public and must be obtained through licensing agreements with the show.
Myth: The option of a gift certificate or "on account" was in place from the start.
Fact: From 1974 to around mid-1975, "on account" was the only option. The gift certificates were introduced by July 15, 1975, and are subsequently present in Milton Bradley's First Edition home game.
Myth: Gift certificates and "on account" were only available if the player had less money than the lowest remaining prize.
Fact: "On account" was always available, including the ability to do so without buying anything (from 1974-75, players had option of putting their winnings "on account" or shopping). The gift certificates were likely only available if players had an amount lower than the lowest remaining prize, as this is the rule in the First Edition game and there were several instances of the host going into the options before being reminded from offstage about a remaining two- or low three-digit prize.
On many international versions, any money remaining carried over to the next round, similar to it being on account, only the player had to solve that round's puzzle in order to use that money in addition to any money awarded during that round.
It is no secret that several prizes were quite esoteric (Charlie's opening spiel on June 7, 1976 refers to them as "beautiful and imaginative gifts") and unlikely to be accepted by most players, which typically resulted in them appearing time and again; the ceramic Dalmatian was initially among this group, but became progressively more desirable during the 1980s.
Myth: Players had to buy their prizes in order from most to least expensive.
Fact: Contestants could bounce around if they wanted (and with careful planning, could avoid being stuck with an unwanted prize), but most purchased highest-to-lowest. The practice was likely suggested to help the announcer, as he had to sort his prize description cards into a lowest-to-highest order.
Puzzles and Categories
Myth: Nickname was only used from 1988-89.
Fact: It is known to have been used on May 31, 1979, and probably before then (although neither of Milton Bradley's games use it); based on the available footage of this episode, mostly consisting of Rounds 2 (HOW THE WEST WAS WON) and 3 (SIX FLAGS OVER TEXAS), it is believed that the Nickname puzzle was LONE STAR STATE.
As one of the lesser-used categories, Nickname's life has been extremely hard to determine due to a limited number of available episodes and no known examples between 1979-88. Its last known use was on December 18, 1994, although it is known to have been used during a spring 2002 audition in Chicago Ridge Mall.
Myth: The AT MY WIT'S END bonus puzzle (May 5, 1986) was lost, with the only guess being AT MY CAT'S END.
Fact: The contestant actually gave the correct answer very shortly after the guess, albeit with the first half before the buzzer and the second half afterward; as there were no more commercial breaks, a stopdown was done before declaring him a winner.
The myth stems from the "cat's end" guess being the only part shown on various specials, with the ceremonial 4,000th nighttime show adding a buzzer immediately after said guess, despite the fact that the moments right afterward are arguably more notable.
Myth: The 90's was first used in 2000.
Fact: The Nineties was used as early as November 22, 1994. The puzzle on that show, WORLD SERIES CANCELED, referred to the announcement made on September 14 of that year due to the MLB Strike.
Myth: The EAT FRESH puzzle (January 30, 2008) was the last appearance of Slogan.
Fact: Slogan was used once more, on February 19, although that appearance was taped before the January 30 show.
Myth: The category that listed ingredients of a food item was "What Are You Making?"
Fact: Stated by the Season 25 press release, which also pluralized Fictional Family, it was actually "What Are We Making?". (Similarly, the Season 29 press release referred to "TV Quote" as "Television Quote".)
It is, of course, entirely possible that the "wrong" names (discarding "Fictional Families") were the respective categories' titles during their developmental stages.
Myth: What Are We Making? is the only "legit" category to be used once.
Fact: Composer/Song and Show/Song were used once each in Season 13.
Myth: Until the debut of What's That Song?, no "$3,000 bonus" categories were used after Season 25.
Fact: Where Are We? was used in Season 26 on September 17 and November 28, 2008.
Myth: The Prize Puzzle has never offered anything but trips.
Fact: It is known to have awarded a home entertainment package on December 24, 2003; $3,500 "store credit" at TicketsNow.com on May 17, 2004; and a $5,000 HomeGoods shopping spree on January 28, 2010.
Hosts and Hostesses
Myth: Edd Byrnes hosted the Shopper's Bazaar pilot.
Fact: Chuck Woolery hosted Shopper's Bazaar, while Edd hosted the 1974 Wheel pilots.
This myth has a misconception of its own, due to the belief that it began around March 2001 on Pat's now-defunct website (this page from 2001-02, this page from 2003-08). In reality, a Variety blurb from July 31, 1974 states that Bazaar was the game show pilot Merv Griffin Productions was doing for NBC; "Wheel of Fortune" does not appear to have been used until September 12, and it is possible that the show was simply not renamed until sometime in August.
Myth: Only one pilot, hosted by Byrnes, was taped on August 28, 1974.
Fact: Stated by various sources, including the ceremonial 3,000th nighttime show, there were actually two pilots recorded that day. According to Mike Burger, who has viewed both pilots, Edd was "happy drunk" on one and "crazy drunk" on the other.
The aforementioned nighttime show used clips of Byrnes' first pilot, believed to be the "crazy drunk" one.
Myth: Of the 1974 pilots, Edd and Chuck hosted one each.
Fact: Byrnes was suggested by NBC for both pilots. As Shopper's Bazaar was considered to be poor in every aspect by Lin Bolen, Merv, and test audiences, it is likely that Chuck was thought to be part of the problem until network executives witnessed Byrnes' drunken performance.
Myth: On a 1974 pilot, Edd bullied a player who wanted to solve for $300 into spinning again.
Fact: While the commonly-held myth was that he said "No! You only have $300! You can't solve yet!", there is no evidence that he did so. The incident appears to have occurred on his first pilot: when contestant Roseanne wanted to solve for $1,300 in Round 3, Byrnes responded with "No don't guess, it's too early! Look at all the money you can make, you can make thousands of dollars! Be a gambler!"
This said, most of the second Byrnes pilot is not currently available to collectors, so this myth cannot be 100% debunked at this point.
Myth: The host and hostess on the cover of the 1975 board games are not Chuck and Susan Stafford.
Fact: While the host is clearly not Chuck (but resembles him), Susan confirmed in her book Stop the Wheel, I Want to Get Off! that Milton Bradley paid her $500 for her image on the cover.
Myth: During the shopping era, the hostess always entered from the middle of the curtain.
Fact: On the 1974 pilots and 1975 premiere, Susan came out to the contestants' left; by the All-Star Dream Machine week in January 1976, she began entering from Chuck's right. By May 20, she began entering from the players' right, but continued to introduce them until sometime between then and June 7.
The familiar curtain entrance, used for the rest of the original NBC run and on nighttime through October 2, 1987, was introduced by January 18, 1978. There are only a few known exceptions to this "rule":
- The respective final days of a pair of Armed Forces Weeks (one in 1978, the other in 1981) had Chuck and Susan introduced together.
- On Chuck's last show (December 25, 1981), and possibly that entire week, Susan entered from behind the puzzle board; this was likely done to show off the turntable, which debuted on the 21st.
- For certain Teen Week episodes (including June 20, 1986 and December 25, 1987), the host and hostess were introduced together.
- On Rolf Benirschke's first show (January 10, 1989), Vanna was introduced first and the curtain was not used.
Myth: Other than Pat and a very brief appearance by Charlie, no male has ever been in the hostess' position.
Fact: Arte Johnson filled the role for at least one episode in late September 1977. The appearance is believed to have been on the 30th, and it was most likely done to promote his game show Knockout, which would premiere on NBC the following Monday. The episode came during a stretch when Stafford was absent from the show for a month due to an injury; Summer Bartholomew filled in for all other episodes in this span.
Myth: The practice of introducing the host and hostess together began in Season 7.
Fact: While this was when it became a permanent fixture (on the nighttime show), the practice was used sporadically before that point.
- The earliest known instance is the last show of an Armed Forces Week in 1978, the first of only two known instances of such an intro in the Woolery era (the other being the last show of another Armed Forces Week, this one from 1981).
- The Friday shows of at least two daytime Teen Weeks (June 16-20, 1986 and December 21-25, 1987) had the day's contestants introduce the host and hostess.
- In addition, when the daytime show returned to NBC in 1991, Charlie introduced the host and hostess with "our host, Bob Goen, and our hostess Vanna White."
Myth: Pat and Vanna White have hosted the show together since it began in 1981 on NBC.
Fact: Stated by Robin Leach in his behind-the-scenes article on Season 28, absolutely nothing about it is true with the exception that the show did begin on NBC – the daytime show began in 1975, Pat joined in 1981, and Vanna became hostess in 1982.
Myth: Other than April Fool's Day 1997 and three weeks during Season 37, Wheel has never had a guest host.
Fact: Alex Trebek filled in on daytime at least twice – a week in August 1980, and at least one episode five years later. Trebek has confirmed the former both in a 1990 book on Jeopardy! and a 1991 episode of To Tell the Truth on which Charlie was a substitute announcer (although it is believed that Jack Clark had already begun announcing by that point).
Myth: Other than April Fool's Day 1997, Vanna has only spun the Wheel once.
Fact: She is known to have spun the Wheel at least three times before then – an early-1984 nighttime episode (Lloyd/Linda/Debbie) at the end of the show, the November 14, 1989 nighttime show where she (for the alternate final segment) played a round for charity while Pat turned the letters, and a daytime Final Spin after Goen got frustrated over repeatedly hitting Bankrupt.
It is not known which of these spins the 1997 episode referred to, if it was in fact referring to any of them at all.
Myth: Rolf Benirschke was responsible for the show's cancellation in 1989.
Fact: The show was cancelled due to NBC and Merv being unable to agree on a license fee, which in turn was due to The Price Is Right continually building its lead. Ratings were consistent during Rolf's tenure, with Wheel retaining the #2 slot (albeit a distant one) among daytime network games.
Myth: Rolf would prefer to not talk about his stint as host.
Fact: He devoted a chapter to his tenure in his 1996 autobiography Alive & Kicking, contributed to the show's E! True Hollywood Story in January 2005, and briefly talked about it during an October 2011 interview on Sports Talk (which showed a clip, albeit clearly not from a primary source, of Vanna introducing him on his debut).
Myth: Merv hired Bob Goen immediately after the show moved to CBS.
Fact: Although Rolf was initially informed that Merv wanted to keep him as host when the show switched networks, CBS fired him instead, and brought in Goen as the new host one week after the NBC finale.
Myth: Pat appeared only once on the daytime version after he left.
Fact: He appeared at least three times during the Goen era – on the CBS premiere; while interviewing Bob, Vanna, and Charlie on his short-lived late-night talk show; and in a brief clip from the celebration of the 5,000th overall show.
Myth: As the name indicates, "Vanna for a Day" winner Katie Cantrell got a full episode (March 24, 2011).
Fact: Katie only did Rounds 2 and 3 plus a car pose after Round 4.
Myth: Players had to land on Buy A Vowel to purchase vowels.
Fact: Players could, then as now, buy vowels during their turn so long as they had $250. Further, the wedge was never hit during either Shopper's Bazaar or the first Byrnes pilot (which also managed to avoid Bankrupt). More glaring is that the Byrnes pilots did not use Buy A Vowel in Round 1, although Bazaar and the first two 1975 layouts did.
From this, it has been surmised that Buy A Vowel was meant to skirt the line between help (like Free Spin) and hindrance (somewhere between Lose A Turn and Bankrupt), representing the "impulse buy" of shopping that could end up resulting in bad decisions, which may explain why it remained into the series.
According to multiple recollections, at some point the rules were altered to require landing on the wedge, which is also the case in the Milton Bradley games. Given that the standard rule is present on the January 6, July 15, and September 5 shows, it is possible that it was changed briefly and later reverted; alternatively, the recollections may have been mixing Buy A Vowel with the old Speed-Up rules, where vowels could not be picked either at all or for the first 30 seconds. In any case, the standard rule was made permanent when the wedge was finally retired by November 3.
In the end, due to a lack of available episodes from 1975, this myth cannot be 100% debunked.
Myth: The Shopper's Special allowed the player to call as many consonants as possible to fill the puzzle within 30 seconds.
Fact: Before the Shopper's Special was played, Chuck told the contestant she had 30 seconds to add one correct consonant to the puzzle and then solve it.
Myth: There has never been such a thing as a negative score.
Fact: A still from an early episode shows a contestant with a negative score. Buy A Vowel likely deducted the $250 regardless of whether the player actually had it. Although if this was the rule originally, it had been changed by September 5, 1975, to instead just cause the player to lose their turn.
According to one recollection, the still was seen during an electricity-related program at the 1982 World's Fair; the program showed a brief montage of things powered by electricity, one of which was a TV set tuned to Wheel.
Myth: The hour-long format debuted on December 1, 1975.
Fact: While the show regularly went hour-long on that day (through January 16, 1976), it had previously been used for the week of November 3 as part of the network's Daytime Gigantic Game Gala, a week which also had Chuck and Susan playing Celebrity Sweepstakes.
Sidebar: a 20-second clip of the November 3 show was used on the March 21, 2000 episode of The Roseanne Show, on which Chuck was a guest. Strangely, despite Woolery-era Wheel being very scarce at this point, it appears to have flown under the radar of alt.tv.game-shows and disappeared into obscurity until that portion of the Roseanne episode (specifically, its repeat on July 5, 2000) was uploaded to YouTube in August 2012.
Myth: The five-and-a-vowel Bonus Round debuted on Pat's first show.
Fact: It was in place by December 14, 1981 (Chuck Woolery's next-to-last week as host), though it was not made permanent until sometime between April 2 and June 18, 1982.
Myth: Players are required to spin the Wheel when control passes to them.
Fact: Players are allowed to solve the puzzle at the start of their turn, or buy a vowel if they have enough money. On Poland's original version, however, players were indeed required to spin upon receiving the turn.
Myth: The Wild Card is forfeited if the player does not win the round after claiming it.
Fact: Unlike all other current removable Wheel extras, the Wild Card is "won" immediately after calling a correct letter on it.
This myth led to an oddity on November 6, 2012: in Round 2, contestant Lindsay claimed the card, but did not solve the puzzle. Just before the retro Bonus Round was displayed, she could be seen handing it to Pat, thinking she lost it, and he reportedly took it anyway. It remained absent for the rest of the show, although it did not end up mattering: Lindsay's only spins after that point were $500 and $550, and she did not win the game.
However, the 2010 Nintendo DS video game adaptation of Wheel does follow this incorrect ruling.
Myth: A player who hops on the Express cannot buy a vowel.
Fact: During an Express run, players can still buy vowels, with the same $250 charge applied to them. However, buying an incorrect vowel still results in Bankrupt.
Myth: Players are allowed to solve immediately after spinning.
Fact: This appears to not be the case outside of Free Play, although that situation has only happened twice.
A rundown of the official rules in the 1987 book Wheel of Fortune (by David R. Sams and Robert L. Shook) indicates that at the time, players could indeed solve immediately after spinning. If the answer was correct, the contestant won the round but did not receive the dollar amount s/he landed on.
On November 29, 2017, a contestant asked to solve immediately after a spin, but Pat did not allow her to do so without calling a consonant first.
Myth: Money claimed from the daytime Jackpot was available for shopping rounds.
Fact: The Jackpot was a cash award treated as a Prize wedge, not unlike the $10,000 Wedge. It could not be spent on vowels, either.
Myth: Big Month of Cash began on September 14, 1987 (the Season 5 premiere).
Fact: It began on October 5, a fact that originally became apparent when GSN began airing Season 5 in early 1996 (while the original "Winnie" logo was still in use) and magnified when GSN's schedule for the Merv Griffin tribute marathon in 2007 listed the first BMOC episode as #S-796, the 16th show of the season. The date was confirmed through several contemporary articles promoting October 5 as the first play-for-cash episode. Further cementing matters is that no mention is made in-show about it being the beginning of a new season.
The first three weeks of Season 5 were very likely taped before the Summer break, although only one episode from this period is known to circulate.
Myth: The Big Month of Cash marked the first time cash was ever offered on the show.
Fact: The daytime show awarded cash in the Head-To-Head round on the hour-long shows, as well as during the last shows of a pair of Armed Forces Weeks in 1978 and 1981. The nighttime show is known to have offered cash at least once: specifically, $500 as the Wheel Prize, early in Season 1.
The daytime weeks of February 27, 1984 and February 10, 1986 (both Battle of the Sexes) offered, for the winner of the Friday Finals, a chance at $5,000 in the Bonus Round. From 1986-88, the daytime show used a Jackpot wedge in Round 3 that started at $1,000 and grew by $1,000 per day until won.
Myth: "Big Month/Bonanza of Cash" only applied from October 5-30, 1987.
Fact: "Bonanza" was first used on November 2 (when the changes became permanent), remaining until sometime between February 12 and March 23, 1988.
Myth: The Friday Finals format debuted in 1996.
Fact: The earliest known use of the concept is the All-Star Dream Machine Championship in January 1976, although the finals comprised two shows instead of one (not unlike Jeopardy! tournaments). The more familiar version was used as early as mid-October 1978 for Armed Forces Week, Teen Week, Couples Week, Family Week, and Battle of the Sexes Week, among others.
The concept was not officially called "Friday Finals" until September 1996, and in Seasons 14-15, the player who won the Bonus Round also won an extra prize (or prize package) that was promoted prior to the start of Round 3.
Myth: The Friday Finals were dropped after Season 15.
Fact: It was used one last time for the NFL Players Week of January 25, 1999. It is possible that this was the first taped week of Season 16, hence the oddity.
Myth: The concept of returning players was eliminated due to the sheer amount of contestant applications.
Fact: Pat stated on the Sony Rewards website that it was removed because skilled puzzle-solvers could repeatedly hit Bankrupt or Lose A Turn while unskilled solvers rack up a runaway lead.
While luck on the Wheel is arguably half the point of the game, Pat's explanation makes little sense as such an outcome can and has happened anyway. This is most noticeable through the Prize Puzzle, as some players have won the game through solving it rather than his or her own skill.
It should be noted that the concept was nixed after both the 1997 court order banning Raymond Taylor and the March 18, 1998 appearance of quickly-convicted child molester Matthew Fenwick.
Myth: Players who have appeared on a version other than the syndicated run are allowed to play again.
Fact: While this is true of sister show Jeopardy!, being on the American Wheel at any point in its history (including Wheel 2000, the unaired Lottery Experience Game shows, and possibly the 1973-74 pilots) renders you ineligible for the rest of your life. The show's website goes into detail on the "Show FAQs" page, but only says it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience on the "Contestant FAQs" page.
Players are not prohibited from mentioning other versions, however, and it has happened several times:
- Sarah (last name unknown; College Week of May 12, 2003) mentioned that her mother was on in 1977 and purchased a trip whereby she met the man she eventually married; hence, without Wheel, her daughter would not exist.
- Khalilah Heshimu (December 22, 2003) mentioned that her mother was on the show around 1986 and won some carpeting.
- Paul Hermosillo (November 27, 2008) mentioned that his mother played in 1977 (while pregnant with him) and bought a few prizes. Google searches reveal her name to be Gaylee Gillmore, and Paul's birthday to be October 3, 1977.
- Cheron Burns (December 8, 2009) mentioned that her father played in 1976; this article from December 3 mentions his name (Ron Burns) and that he purchased a trip to Bermuda which essentially became his honeymoon. Unfortunately, Ron is not present on any of the three surviving 1976 episodes.
- Erin Diamond (April 21, 2011) mentioned that her mother was on the show in 1978, with Chuck briefly name-dropped. She later revealed on her contestant blog that her mother won, and her Facebook page gives the name: Robbie Goldstein Diamond. Unfortunately, Robbie is not present on any of the eight surviving 1978 episodes.
- Jamie Oelrich (May 10, 2012) mentioned that her grandmother, Sharon, played during the Woolery era.
Further, the appearance limit was nonexistent through at least the end of August 1983: a contestant named Janet played on October 8, 1980 and #S-3 (taped in July 1983), while a player named Paul was told after his appearance on #S-52 (1983) that he could try out for Wheel again the following year. The rule was definitely in place by the end of 1998: according to one recollection, a 1970s-era contestant was removed from the contestant prep room for just that reason.
Myth: The "Final Spin" graphic is used to mask any editing should Pat spin a non-cash wedge.
Fact: Any edits made during the Final Spin can easily be seen when the camera angle changes to the overhead, close-up shot of the Wheel. This is most obvious if the red arrow is heading for Bankrupt, Lose A Turn, or Free Play and the close-up shot has it landing somewhere else entirely (such as a few wedges to the right of wherever the Wheel was headed originally).
Similarly, if the close-up shot has the arrow heading quickly toward a non-cash wedge, it will do one of two things: stop on the leftmost peg of the wedge immediately before it, or barely get past the non-cash wedge.
Myth: If nobody solves the $2,000 Toss-Up, Round 1 is started by the contestant who solved the $1,000 Toss-Up.
Fact: It is always started by the red player, regardless of who solved the $1,000 Toss-Up. It is not known why this is the case, although the 2009 PlayStation 3 version allows the winner of the $1,000 Toss-Up to start Round 1 if nobody solves the $2,000 one.
Myth: There was a $1,000,000 loss on September 17, 2013 and/or April 11, 2014.
Fact: While the Million-Dollar Wedge was picked up in Round 1 on September 17, 2013, contestant Paul Atkinson mispronounced the puzzle CORNER CURIO CABINET (categorized as Thing rather than Same Letter due to a strange absence of the latter category during the Season 31 Las Vegas tapings) on his next turn and lost the round, thus removing the wedge from play. The Bonus Round actually ended with a car win.
Video of the end of the round went viral due to mass assumption that the Million-Dollar Wedge worked like a Prize wedge (similar to its predecessor, the $10,000 Wedge). This assumption also caused the show to receive criticism over penalizing Paul as if the judgment was intentionally made to prevent such a supposedly-large payout. The round became a subject on several news and talk programs including Good Morning America, The Today Show, The Talk, The Five, and Conan, all of which implied a $1,000,000 loss (despite Good Morning America also doing a story about Autumn Erhard's $1,000,000 win back in May 2013, just four months earlier). Highly Questionable also discussed the incident with host Dan Le Batard thinking Paul lost three million dollars due to him calling three C's on the wedge.
Paul appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon at Fallon's request after expressing his sympathy for him on an earlier episode. Fallon repeatedly implied that $1,000,000 was on the line without Paul ever disputing him. Paul and his wife also appeared on Bethenny and were given a seven-day tropical vacation to compensate them for the supposedly-large loss.
For a time after the controversy, "wheel of fortune million dollar loser" began appearing as a top search suggestion on YouTube if one entered "wheel of fortune" into the search box.
It should be further noted that most sources that lashed back against Wheel thought Paul only mispronounced CURIO as CURRO (or said it too quickly). In reality, he said CORNO CURRO CABINET.
A similar situation and response occurred after the April 11, 2014 episode aired (also the 6,000th nighttime episode), where contestant Julian Batts mispronounced the fully-revealed Round 1 puzzle MYTHOLOGICAL HERO ACHILLES with the Million-Dollar Wedge (plus $5,100 and the Prize wedge) in possession. Video of this episode also went viral and was discussed across several outlets, many of which either implied an outright $1,000,000 loss or referred to the wedge as a "chance at" or "potential" $1,000,000 while mainly focusing on the above round despite Julian making a more costly misplay in Round 3, losing out on $13,500 cash and the ½ Car plus the Prize Puzzle trip. A live viewer poll on Good Morning America asked if Julian should have been given "the chance at the $1 million prize", with 75% of viewers voting "Yes". Highly Questionable showed footage of this episode with Le Batard once again assuming the Million-Dollar Wedge functions like a normal cash wedge.
While Julian still made it to the Bonus Round without hitting Bankrupt, the loss of the Million-Dollar Wedge did not end up mattering, as he lost $30,000.
The first actual $1,000,000 loss occurred on April 2, 2015, although interestingly there was little media response to it.
Sets and Sounds
Myth: The 1981-89 Bonus Round timer cue was composed by Alan Thicke.
Fact: It had previously been used on at least five other game shows - the think cue on Big Spenders (1974), the Bonus Round timer cue on Beat the Odds (1975), the arrow-spin cue on Give-n-Take (1975), the Bonus Round timer cue on Knockout (1977-78), and as the Lucky 7 endgame timer cue on Spell Binders (1978). All except Give-n-Take and Knockout were unsold pilots, with Beat the Odds having been a revival attempt (it had previously aired from 1961-63 and 1968-69).
While the assumption is understandable, given that all of the above shows are rather obscure and the cue was introduced on Wheel while Thicke's music package was in use, the fact that the cue remained when Merv's music package debuted proves the rumor false.
(Incidentally, three of the above shows - Big Spenders, Beat the Odds, and Give-n-Take - were produced by Bill Carruthers, who had previously produced and directed the Shopper's Bazaar pilot.)
Myth: The first Bankrupt, "category reveal", "only vowels remain", buzzer, ding, and Final Spin sounds were created by Thicke.
Fact: Again, this is untrue. At least the buzzer, ding, and "only vowels remain" beeps were used in the 1974 pilots, while they and the other sounds remained after Merv's music package debuted. (The Final Spin chimes in particular had previously been the end-of-round signal on Jeopardy!)
Myth: The double-buzz in the Bonus Round is the same one used on The Price Is Right.
Fact: While the two buzzers do have the same E-flat pitch, they are not exactly identical. In fact, the buzzer was taken from the 1989 Now You See It, which the Goen Wheel replaced the week after NYSI '89's cancellation.
Myth: Merv Griffin's music package debuted on September 19, 1983, coinciding with the nighttime debut.
Fact: Merv's cues replaced Thicke's on August 8, before any nighttime episodes were aired. Further, the nighttime show debuted between August 29 and September 19 depending on the market.
Myth: The changes made for Season 2 debuted on September 10, 1984.
Fact: At least the week of September 10 still used the original "Changing Keys", while at least two more weeks used the 1984 "Changing Keys" with the original sunburst backdrops; the second set of sunbursts debuted no earlier than October 1.
This, of course, was also the case on the daytime show, as the two versions usually changed things at the same time (such as retiring the Free Spin wedge on October 16, 1989).
Myth: The first two versions of "Changing Keys" always started from the beginning.
Fact: Until very early in Season 2, the theme actually started at the 0:56 mark; it would not be started from the beginning until the theme was re-arranged slightly into Season 2, at which point a synthesizer glissando was added to the intro.
As for the 1989 remake, two different versions were recorded: initially, it was a truncated version that started with a series of rapid drumbeats and the last four notes of the bridge. When the daytime intro changed in July or August 1989, an opening theme was added that started in the middle of the bridge (the version formerly used during the intro was kept as the closing theme).
Myth: The third version of "Changing Keys" was the only theme the show used from 1992-94.
Fact: The 1989 version was sometimes used on shows during that period, starting in December 1992. Its use gradually increased during Seasons 10-11, although mostly only on road shows or special weeks.
Myth: The third set of sunburst contestant backdrops debuted in September 1986.
Fact: While the Wheel colors changed by the Season 4 premiere, the 1984 backdrops were still present through at least the week of October 13. The third design debuted by November 13, as did the multicolored background that replaced the walls next to the turntable.
Strangely, the third backdrops and post-walls setup were used on the 227 episode that aired October 4.
Myth: The nighttime and daytime shows moved to CBS Television City at the same time.
Fact: The daytime show moved to CBS first, with the nighttime version following shortly afterwards. As the nighttime show had already wrapped taping for Season 6 while the show was still at Burbank, there was an overlap of the old and new elements (including theme, set, and sound effects) between July and September.
It is believed that the first Goen tapings were to sort things out, as none of the elements seen in the early daytime shows (most notably the intro, which was shot much the same way it had in Burbank) were present by the time the nighttime show began taping.
Myth: The nighttime contestant backdrops began using the 1988 diamonds full-time in 1991.
Fact: The diamond backdrops were only permanent from Seasons 8-9 (1990-92), but remained in use on road shows through the beginning of Season 13. Daytime, on the other hand, retained not only the chevron backdrops but the white floor and projected traditional logo through at least August 9, 1991.
The differences between the two versions were very likely done to make them distinct for viewers, as had been the case from 1987-89. Prior to the Big Month of Cash, the two versions were nearly indistinguishable from one another, especially in Round 2.
Myth: The four-line trilon-based puzzle board resides in the Smithsonian Institution.
Fact: While the board was reportedly offered to the Smithsonian, it was 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.
The fate of the 1974-81 puzzle board is unknown, although the trilons were retained and nine new ones were made (with another four added in 1982). The shapes of the respective boards, along with various side and back shots of the four-row version, suggest that the three-line board was simply altered rather than discarded.
As for the original 1973 puzzle board, it (along with the Wheel, Accounting Department, and set) was either recycled in some manner or destroyed altogether. Vertical Wheel layouts in the Shopper's Bazaar style were used through at least 1988 for auditions (since replaced by the Round 4 layout with proper fonts) due to being more visible and portable, and indeed the three Bazaar layouts may have actually been de-glittered and modified for such use: an appearance by Pat on Merv's talk show around 1984 has Sajak holding an audition-size Wheel template which not only heavily resembles the Bazaar Wheel, but also has Buy A Vowel present.
Myth: Outside the puzzle-solve cue that came from the original "Changing Keys", the end of the show's theme song was never heard on-air until September 2006.
Fact: There have been a few older episodes that allowed the theme to completely play through during the credits, the most notable example being the November 15, 1991 episode where the 1989 "Changing Keys" reached its very end.
Myth: Charlie became announcer in 1976.
Fact: Although this is stated by the "Show History" timeline infographic on the show's official website, Charlie became announcer starting with the 1974 pilots. He left on August 1, 1980 due to signing for other commitments in the wake of the show's announced cancellation (later retracted), but returned on February 20, 1989 after finishing out his work with Chuck Barris' company.
After his return, Charlie remained with Wheel until shortly before his death on November 1, 2010.
Myth: Nancy Jones joined Wheel as producer in 1980.
Fact: She was an assistant to producer John Rhinehart for the 1974 pilots, then co-producer from the 1975 debut before becoming the sole producer on April 29, 1976 (Rhinehart was promoted to West Coast Daytime Program Development Director in May, a position he left in late 1977). This is supported by several contemporary Variety articles announcing the change and the credit roll for NBC's All-Star Dream Machine Championship.
Although Nancy describes the basic Shopper's Bazaar format during a 1986 behind-the-scenes report for KDSK, which in turn would suggest she was present from the beginning, she is not listed in the credits of that pilot.
Jones remained producer until early June 1995, when she was replaced by Harry Friedman.
Myth: Dick Carson joined Wheel as director in 1982.
Fact: Stated by Carson himself on his last episode (May 21, 1999), this is untrue – he began in 1978 (replacing Jeff Goldstein), and furthermore is listed as director in the full credit roll on March 25, 1980.
Myth: Jack Clark announced through the end of Season 5.
Fact: Charlie O'Donnell started filling in on both versions on May 9, 1988. Charlie presumably continued to announce for the rest of the season, and Johnny Gilbert announced at least one week of daytime in August.
Jack returned on nighttime to do the first few weeks of replacement fee plugs, but soon became too ill to do even that; as a result, Pat and Vanna filled this role through the end of the Summer. At least one circulating rerun from this era features a very noticeably ill-sounding Jack doing the fee plugs.
Myth: M. G. Kelly was hired solely as an interim/fill-in announcer until Charlie could return.
Fact: While clearly looking like this from a modern standpoint, no contemporary news articles or behind-the-scenes TV reports (nor his formal introduction to nighttime viewers on the September 6 show) suggest that Kelly was anything less than the show's new announcer.
The circumstances of Kelly's departure and Charlie's return are uncertain, although Pat stated in an interview for the Archive of American Television that Kelly often had to re-record the prize copy due to frequent mistakes. Additionally, many fans of the show past and present have expressed dislike for Kelly's announcing style as being unenthusiastic. The tapedates of the 1,000th nighttime show and Rolf's first day (August 17 and December 14, respectively) suggest that the switch occurred during a Christmas/New Year's taping break.
Myth: M. G. Kelly was announcer for two years.
Fact: Stated on his official website, this is untrue (as mentioned above, he only did six months, albeit spread between two calendar years).
Myth: Charlie's last episode was October 29, 2010.
Fact: By the time Charlie fell ill in October (with Johnny Gilbert filling in for two weeks), he had recorded eight weeks that were scheduled to air at various points during the remainder of Season 28 (November 8, 22, and 29; December 20 and 27; January 3; February 7; and March 28). Following his death on November 1, it was decided to dub over them with various guest announcers; 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." However, his voice was retained on the repeats of the first two months of Season 28, and all weekend repeats of Season 27.
Fans generally considered the dubbing unnecessary, redundant, and above all disrespectful, saying that a short tribute graphic/explanation would have sufficed and that viewers were being cheated. Further, given how the during-a-season deaths of Johnny Olson and Rod Roddy were handled by The Price Is Right (airing the remainder of Johnny's work and keeping both men's work intact for repeats the following Summer), it has been speculated that the Wheel dubbing was instead a desire to keep up the misconception that they tape in airing order.
Myth: No reason was given for dubbing Jim Thornton over the other guest announcers in Summer 2011.
Fact: The official reason was because Wheel had announced his hiring and wanted to "establish" him. This is again unlike Price, which during the same timeframe aired mostly George Gray episodes but included shows with the other guest announcers intact.
Jim was also dubbed over several episodes which formerly had someone else dubbed over Charlie's original announcing, resulting in three people doing the exact same work. It has been speculated that these dubs were instead Wheel 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, pointing to the fact that three (John Cramer, Joe Cipriano, and Lora Cain) only got two weeks each and another (Rich Fields) got five weeks, whereas Jim got 10 weeks (half of which were originally Charlie's) and the last eight of the season. (Although Johnny Gilbert did three weeks, he was only brought in to substitute for a then-ill Charlie and not considered due to being 86 at the time.) It has further been speculated that Cramer, Cipriano, Cain, and likely Fields were only present due to favors being cashed in and were never seriously being considered.
Much later, 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 were aired originally, Cramer (that week's guest announcer) was nonetheless dubbed over by Jim despite no episodes from that week being rerun in Summer 2011. The fact that this was done at all long after "establishing" him indicates that the official reason for the aforementioned dubbing was in fact false.
Myth: Merv's concept was based on a 1950s game show also called Wheel of Fortune.
Fact: The 1950s Wheel was a Peter Arnell series which ran on CBS from October 3, 1952 to December 24, 1953 and was a rather different beast to Merv's game. Hosted by Todd Russell with Hal Simms as announcer, the show invited good Samaritans to share their stories to America (including Duane Dewey, the first person to receive a Medal of Honor from President Eisenhower) and spin a vertical carnival-style Wheel for cash or a nice prize; the "top value" was $1,000, awarded for correctly answering a trivia question. The theme was Kay Starr's 1952 rendition of "Wheel of Fortune", which had previously enjoyed 22 weeks (nine at #1) on Billboard's best-seller chart.
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-September 15, 1953), upped its top value ($2,500 by September 18), and even changed hosts (journalist Mike Wallace took over sometime between May 25 and September 18, though available information suggests this was temporary). Further, the concept of a vertical Wheel was used for the Shopper's Bazaar pilot in 1973.
A photo on Getty Images shows Russell next to a "Jackpot" Wheel, with values including $300, $400, $500, $600, $800, $900, and $1,000 with "1 out of 2", "2 out of 3", "3 out of 3", "2 out of 4", "3 out of 4", or "4 out of 4" underneath each (Russell blocks two values and two "out of" signs, so there may have been others, though one of the blocked "out of" signs is visible enough to be recognizable as a second "2 out of 4"). The "out of" signs appear to have 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.
Tweaked formats proved successful elsewhere:
- In Australia, the show aired on radio from 16 June 1957 to 1959 followed by the Nine Network from September 1959 to 1964. Originally hosted by producer Reg Grundy (and initially called Reg Grundy's Wheel of Fortune), he was replaced by Walter Elliott in 1962.
- A British version (using a format that is better known among Americans as the second Door #4 on the 1984-86 version of Let's Make A Deal) aired on ITV from 20 September 1969 to 1971, although one contestant claimed in the 2004 book The Dream Factory (made to mark the closure of the Northam studios where Wheel had taped) that the Wheel was rigged. Hosted by Michael Miles, who had recently wrapped a 13-year run on Take Your Pick (it ended due to a reorganization of the ITV licenses), the show ended due to his death on 18 February 1971.
In 1981, Grundy debuted an adaptation of Merv's Wheel to even greater success, running for 25 years. In 1988, STV (not to be confused with the 1969-71 version's Southern TV) adapted Merv's format for a 13-year run.
Much like 1975-85 episodes of Merv's format, the three 1952-71 iterations are likely gone. Three pictures exist of the American series (Russell and the Wheel, seen in the A&E Biography episode "TV Game Shows"; Russell and Arnell being presented the Award of Merit; the aforementioned "Jackpot Wheel" shot), while clips of the Australian version have been used in various retrospectives and the British version seems to have nothing at all.
Myth: Merv's concept was based off a casino game also called Wheel of Fortune.
Fact: While it is true that Merv's idea of the show came from a casino game, he based it off Roulette, which involved a horizontal wheel similar to the show. In fact, the Wheel used on the show has sometimes been referred to as a Roulette Wheel even though it uses arrows as opposed to an ivory ball. The casino game that bears a similar name to the show is also often referred to as the Big 6 Wheel (or Money Wheel in some cases) and is spun vertically (like on 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 dollar bill they think the wheel will stop by placing chips on the appropriate bill on the table.
According to Pioneers of Televisions: Game Shows, which aired on PBS in 2008, when he needed to provide an interesting and unique way to award money, Merv looked back at one of his childhood memories: "the big spinning Wheel game at the annual church picnic."
Myth: The Griffin logo used on the 1973-74 pilots was the one then in use on Jeopardy!
Fact: Shopper's Bazaar introduced a new Merv Griffin Productions logo of a completely different design, which became the company's official logo once Wheel debuted (although the nighttime Jeopardy!, which aired for the 1974-75 season, likely retained the "old" logo).
The "new" logo remained, barring some slight alterations, until November 28, 1983. The griffin of the 1973 design remained in the logo through about 2008, being replaced around 2010 by the current design (albeit one that bears no resemblance to any of its predecessors).
Myth: No 1977 episodes are known to exist.
Fact: At least three do:
- One taped by one of the day's contestants (William Silver). The episode, aired July 5, 1977, is held by him and remained well under the radar until he posted a comment on Daytime episodes known to exist on May 13, 2014, noting that his copy was on VHS tape with "bad sound quality and color" and wanting to know where to send it for archival purposes. He eventually was able to send a DVD copy to Wiki administrator Bryce Lozier in November 2020.
- Two taped by contestant Evan Silbert. A brief video clip (running 2:52), featuring snippets of both of his appearances, was posted to his Facebook page on April 23, 2016 (though it remained under the radar until a poster on Buy A Vowel boards posted a link to Silbert's page on April 21, 2017).
Another episode may exist, taped by one of its players (Beverly LaBerdia). This show, which aired between January and March, was held by Beverly and also remained well under the radar until December 9, 2012, when she made a post on Golden-Road.net asking for help in finding this and her appearances on The Hollywood Squares (early 1978) and The Price Is Right (April 23, 1981). A later post on January 3, 2013 indicated that, rather than being a recent loss which had led to the post, they (along with Beverly's U-Haul truck) had gone missing at a Motel 6 in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 25, 1981 (Memorial Day). As of this writing, their location has remained unknown for over three decades, making it unlikely (but by no means impossible) to resurface...assuming the episodes were not taped over or the tapes destroyed/wiped without being copied to another format.
Fact: Also seen in the ceremonial 3,000th nighttime show (minus the caption), it is the first nine seconds of the January 18, 1978 episode held by Paley Center.
Every element seen in the clip was changed by the nighttime debut: Charlie O'Donnell replaced by Jack Clark (August 1980), platforms of prizes replaced by a single large turntable (December 1981), and "Big Wheels" replaced by "Changing Keys" (August 1983). It is not known how such an error managed to make it on-air.
Strangely, other than this, two clips of Byrnes' first pilot, and the Bonus Round from Rolf's first episode, Wheel has not shown anything from non-Sajak eras.
Myth: Augustus provided the host's wardrobe for the entire daytime run.
Fact: It is not known who performed this service in the early years, although Augustus began doing so by January 18, 1978 and Wheel was not its only credit (among others, Bill Cullen's wardrobe on Chain Reaction, Gene Rayburn's wardrobe on Break the Bank, and Bill Rafferty's wardrobe on the 1987 revival of Blockbusters).
The company was replaced on daytime Wheel by Rick Pallack sometime between February 22 and June 30, 1989, but appeared at least four times in the Goen era and remained a regular provider of Pat's wardrobe on the nighttime show through at least May 29, 1992; by the Season 10 premiere on September 7, it had been replaced by Fred Hayman. By Season 16 Pat's wardrobe provider was Façonnable, and by Season 17 it switched to Bill Blass' Menswear.
While it may seem silly, Augustus' wardrobe credit was probably the most resilient thing about the show.
Myth: The daytime show did not air repeats until September 1991.
Fact: The weeks of June 29-July 3 and July 13-17, 1981 were used for reruns of Game Show Hosts Week (November 1980) and Teen Week (April 13-17, 1981), respectively. According to a contestant from the latter week, the contestants were sent new parting gifts by Wheel in the form of checks from the replacement sponsors, "who hoped we'd use the money to buy some of their product".
It is not known how long the practice was done, although it appears to have stopped by 1983.
Myth: Nancy/Beverly/Karen and Beverly/Dorian/Bill aired on March 11-12, 1982.
Fact: They aired on September 2-3, seven weeks before Susan's departure. The confusion stemmed from two promos: the Gimme a Break! episode originally aired March 11 on the former, an NFL preseason game between the Giants and Dolphins on the latter.
Further confirming that the March dates are wrong is that "March 11" has a commercial for the National Enquirer Fall TV Preview issue, and the voiceover that plugs Gimme a Break! also plugs the Fame episode originally aired March 25; according to the New York Times historical database, both episodes in question were rerun on September 2.
Aside from the above, this was around the point where Susan took a trip to India and began reconsidering her career, and several fans have observed that she looks distracted in these episodes.
Myth: The 1983 Ohio State Fair episodes were the first syndicated tapings.
Fact: Stated by Pat during some 1997 tapings at the same location, this is untrue – the nighttime show began taping on July 6, with the Ohio shows taped August 18-19.
Myth: The June 30, 1989 show was not announced as being any sort of finale.
Fact: While not stated outright, there are at least two signs that it was – most obviously, the credit roll is of the extended style (Music, Utility, Flyman, etc.) used on other NBC game show finales, with precedent going as far back as Go in January 1984. Less obvious is the Round 1 puzzle, TALK TO THE POWERS THAT BE.
Myth: The exact number of daytime episodes is unknown.
Fact: The total number, 4,215, was stated by Peter Tomarken during GSN's first day in 1994, just before the nighttime Wheel debut was shown.
It is known that #368 aired June 7, 1976; #785 on January 18, 1978; #1,701-1,705 on September 21-25, 1981 (Portland Week); #2,000-2,016 on November 18-December 13, 1982 (ending at Vanna's first permanent show); #2,044 on January 20, 1983; #3,000 on October 3, 1986; #3,421 on June 14, 1988; #3,563-3,568 on January 6-13, 1989 (Pat's last two shows and Rolf's first four); #3,649 on May 9, 1989; and #4,196 onward from August 5-30, 1991.
Episode #1,000 probably aired in November or December 1978; #1,600 in early 1981 (as Chuck mentioned the milestone on April 21); and #4,000 around November 7, 1990.
Myth: The daytime show kept the continual episode numbering for its entire run.
Fact: When the show moved to CBS on July 17, 1989, they began using a three-digit episode counter prefaced by "#C" (for example, #C115 aired December 27, 1989). The return to NBC on January 14, 1991 ditched this for a new three-digit counter prefaced by "#DT" (for example, #DT032 aired February 26).
It is not known why either was done.
Myth: The daytime Teen Week that ended with Staci/Shawn/Sharon aired in February 1991.
Fact: They aired August 5-9, the fourth-to-last week of first-run episodes. The false timeframe most likely stemmed from a commercial promoting a move of The Golden Girls to Saturdays from 8:00-9:00 PM, but there are three things which prove this is not February:
- Bob does not do the opening spin, which he stopped doing sometime between March 21 and May 23.
- A voiceover promo during the credits plugs Classic Concentration and Full House, the latter of which aired repeats on NBC's daytime schedule from June 3-September 6.
- While The Golden Girls aired twice on Saturdays in February, the second episode aired at 9:00 and did not take the 8:30 slot until August 10 (following a six-month period of frequent schedule changes).
The airdates come from the "tonight" promo which aired immediately after the Golden Girls one: namely, for the TV movie Joshua's Heart (originally aired September 10, 1990), which did not air on a Friday until August 9.
Myth: Much like Classic Concentration, daytime Wheel continued in some form until December 31, 1993.
Fact: Wheel ended its daytime run on September 20, 1991. There is no evidence that it continued past that point in any manner, local or otherwise.
This myth was perpetrated on Wikipedia in October-November 2008, when two IP-address editors changed the daytime version's article to say it ended first-run shows on January 15, 1993 (later changed to New Year's Eve 1993), even claiming that daytime adopted the "interlocking W's" backdrops on July 20, 1992.
(If anyone has proof otherwise, please let one of this Wiki's administrators know.)
Myth: On November 6, 1997 (Celebrity Week), William Shatner quit the game out of anger.
Fact: According to Pat, there were "technical delays" during the taping and Shatner "stayed as long as he could", but was forced to leave after Round 2 to catch a plane. He was replaced by Julie Pinson for the rest of the game.
Previously, some recollections claimed that Shatner quit the game after doing badly, while others claimed that he was angered by Pat continuously making Star Trek jokes.
Myth: The nighttime episodes celebrated as #3,000 and #4,000 were correctly numbered.
Fact: Wheel was wrong on both counts – "#3,000" (November 20, 1998) is actually #2,980, while "#4,000" (November 10, 2003) is #3,946...and a Monday. The milestones eventually aired, most likely with no fanfare or error recognition, on December 18, 1998 and January 23, 2004 respectively.
Similarly, while #5,000 was (loosely) celebrated on the correct date (February 27, 2009), it and the preceding four shows of that week were sixth-show tapings, meaning that none of them were the numbers they claimed to be.
It is possible that "#3,000" and "#4,000" are correct in terms of taping order, but the airdates above suggest Wheel intentionally jumped the gun for the sake of November sweeps.
Myth: The font used for the show's logo is "SF Fortune Wheel".
Fact: "SF Fortune Wheel" was created by font designer Derek Vogelpohl in 1999. The font used for the show's official logo appears to be based on "Chesty" (also known as "Bust"), though some characters differ slightly in appearance in comparison to both aforementioned fonts – notably, "Chesty" includes lowercase letters (though not the Wheel-shaped "o") while "SF Fortune Wheel" does not. 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.
The above said, "SF Fortune Wheel" has been used by the show for various reasons (such as "WINNER" during the Winner Wonderland Sweepstakes promos in December 2005, and in the original Wheel Watchers logo) as well as on show-related sources, mainly certain video game adaptations.
Myth: The clip of a male contestant calling an incorrect N with CLAM _IGGER showing is real.
Fact: The video, originally titled "Most Awkward Wheel of Fortune Moment Ever", and contestant are fake, using footage from December 8, 2009 (reran February 5, 2011, with the video originally uploaded to YouTube shortly thereafter) with the letters and category strip taken from various puzzles throughout it. The Wheel spins and Pat saying "No N." are from the beginning of Round 3, SOLD TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER (Phrase).
Myth: The screenshot showing a partially-revealed LUCK BE IN THE AIR TONIGHT answer which could ostensibly be an inappropriate answer is real.
Fact: The puzzle was Photoshopped, as can be seen by the fact that, if LUCK BE IN THE AIR TONIGHT were the right answer, the I in AIR would be revealed, which it is not (although some re-postings of the image erase the revealed I's). Also, AIR is center-aligned, which is never done by actual gameplay puzzles; the K is clearly an altered R; and the category strip reads Thing when such a puzzle would actually be a Phrase if it were used.
Myth: The clip of a male contestant giving a vulgar incorrect answer to the puzzle BITCOIN IS THE FUTURE is real.
Fact: This clip is an edit of the November 11, 1999 episode, during which a contestant tried to solve A GROUP OF WELL-WISHERS with "A GROUP OF PILL-PUSHERS". The original clip has been replayed on the show several times, and is often considered the most infamous wrong answer.
In the BITCOIN IS THE FUTURE clip, the puzzle and contestants' voices have been altered, as can be seen by the fact that the I in IS is not revealed. Also, the letters are in a different, much thinner font; the puzzle is displayed on the bottom three rows while most actual three-row puzzles span the top three; and the category strip reads People (as in the original clip) when such a puzzle would actually be a Phrase if it were used. Further, Bitcoin did not exist until nine years after this episode aired.
Myth: The Portland weeks in May 2012 were the show's inaugural trip to that city.
Fact: Stated in an official press release, and while true for the nighttime show and taping episodes there, it is overall the show's second trip. The first, in August 1981 for the week of September 21, mainly consisted of recording location footage and auditioning contestants to be flown to Burbank for Portland Week.
Myth: The show tapes in airing order.
Fact: The show tends to tape well out of airing order, a practice going as far back as the 1983-84 season (one episode from each of five different tapings were compiled together to make each week of Season 1, not unlike the sixth-show weeks today). This practice was best demonstrated in Season 28, when Charlie was dubbed over.