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A timeline for Season 14 of Wheel of Fortune, which aired in first-run from September 2, 1996 through June 13, 1997.

Season Changes

  • The three-day champion rule is replaced by the Friday Finals (which has previously been used for special weeks such as Teen, College, and two-player team weeks). Each contestant plays for one day on Monday-Thursday, and the week's three highest winners (regardless of whether or not they made it to the Bonus Round) compete on Friday.
  • The last of Merv Griffin's music cues are retired, largely in favor of stock music from the Network Music Ensemble. This lasts until Season 18.
  • The turntables are retired.
  • The $25,000 sign is retired. When the cash is won, a $25,000 graphic now "flips" into place on the screen.
  • Prize values are now in a green serif font.
  • "Changing Keys" is no longer used as the commercial outro cue, except for the break after the last round.
  • The "bonus" category award is increased to $2,000, resulting in $1,000 Slogan being renamed Slogan.
  • "Bonus" categories now appear in Round 2 almost exclusively.
  • If a puzzle that is not in a "bonus" category comes with an additional question, it is now indicated by the High Rollers chimes instead of the four low-pitched beeps.
  • For the first time since Season 1, some fee plugs are now pre-recorded by the company.
  • Charlie's spiel is slightly changed to "From the Sony Studios, it's America's Game: Wheel of Fortune! And now here are the stars of our show: Pat Sajak and Vanna White!"
    • The opening variant of "Changing Keys" is shortened by several bars.
    • The intro first used in May 1996 is retained, featuring a CGI flyover of Sony Pictures Studios. In the background, a yellow version of the two-row logo can be seen on a black rectangle. On top is the Columbia TriStar logo, in between "COLUMBIA" on the left and "TRISTAR" on the right. A few seconds into the intro, the circular concrete of the studio entrance transforms into a Wheel graphic, which contains no Bankrupt or Lose A Turn spaces. Four gold squares with the two-row logo on the reverse zoom around to show Pat, Vanna, and a CGI version of the now-retired $25,000 sign, using the previous season's graphics as a backdrop. The graphic then zooms up to the fourth square as Pat and Vanna make their entrances. During the "Wheel! Of! Fortune!" chant, the logo is seen in a purple background.
  • A video screen is added at center stage, near where Pat and Vanna walk out. It typically features that particular week's theme until the closing segment, where it is replaced by the show's logo. Throughout the game, it is also used to show the Wheel in mid-spin, a moment from the game, or footage of the prizes (including Bonus Round prizes).
  • The backdrops are randomized to fit each week's theme.
  • For the first few months of the season, some shots of the board use much different camera angles than usual, most notably a low-level angled shot of the puzzle board from stage right, from which the board can not be read clearly. Some of these shots appear to be achieved with hand-held cameras.
  • Predating the template changes on September 16, several other changes are made to the Wheel:
    • Double Play is retired.
    • The $10,000 Wedge is now used only in Round 2.
    • The Round 4 Wheel Prize is retired, although Friday Finals beginning March 14 use a Prize in Round 3 instead of Surprise. Also, Charlie once again describes all Prizes.
    • The $3,500 wedge that was used on road shows the previous season becomes permanent.
      Season 14 Surprise Wedge.png
    • Surprise is changed to its final design: plain black text (in the same font) with each letter outlined in a thin silver holographic film on a sparkly deep pink background.
  • The Bonus Round envelope inside flaps change from light green to silver.
  • When Charlie recaps the Bonus Round prizes after the last round, the $25,000 is now represented by an envelope modeled by Vanna.
  • Repeated categories in the main game become noticeably less frequent.
  • The house minimum is increased to $500.
  • For this season, a www.sony.com URL appears between the credits and the copyright date in the same font as the credits.
  • For this season only, the $25,000 envelope in the Bonus Round is sparkly green inside.

September 1996

  • During the week of September 2:
    • The four bonus prizes other than the $25,000 are four different models of Acura cars each with a trip.
    • The $10,000 Wedge uses the old style font.
  • On September 2:
    • There is a cold open where Pat and Vanna walk out and discuss the new season.
    • The category strips are changed to the Triplex font on a multicolored pastel rectangle.
    • After contestant Jim buys the I in Round 1, the trilon does not light up for several seconds. Pat tells Vanna to turn it anyway, and it lights up shortly after it is turned.
    • Jim fills in the entire Round 1 puzzle TEMPTING OFFER by himself.
    • Rounds 1 and 2 are played entirely by the person who began them, although the Free Spin is used in Round 2.
    • Contestant Valerie only spins once, landing on Lose a Turn in Round 3, and she does not play in the Speed-Up. As a result, her scoreboard does not light up the entire game.
    • The post-Bonus Round total is changed to white Times New Roman numbers on the same pastel background used for the category strips. Between September 2 and 27, it also flashes.
  • Between September 2 and 13:
    • The $10,000 Wedge is placed over the "regular" Bankrupt for Round 2, leaving no other Bankrupts on the template for that round.
    • The Prize wedges feature dark green Clarendon text on a glittery greenish-brown background.

Season 14 Prize Wedge.png

  • Between September 2 and November 8, there is an additional prize package if the Friday Finals winner also wins the Bonus Round; Charlie announces one or more items from the package before Round 3 of the Monday-Thursday episodes. The first one is a Lloyd Flanders wicker outdoor furniture package worth $12,098 consisting of a grill and steaks, Klein bikes, and a trip to Palm Springs.
    • Until October 4, the wipe for the Friday Finals prize copy is a rotating cube with the opening logo on it.
  • On September 3:
    • The ding does not sound when the T is revealed in Round 1.
    • Headline debuts in Round 2. Until Season 18, it uses a folded-up newspaper as its category wipe instead of the "rolling Wheel" one.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 4.
  • On September 4:
    • Vanna wears a suit.
    • Jeanette Russo (the champion on June 6 and 7) appears for her third episode.
    • The Round 3 Prize is a pair of Klein bicycles, modeled by two unknown women.
    • Jeannette spins over the Final Spin bells. She's allowed to complete her turn, after which Pat does the Final Spin.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 5.
    • For the first known time in the show's history, all three contestants win at least $10,000.
    • Though there is no mention made of Jeanette's winnings nor her appearances, she retires with a total of $100,100 despite not winning her third game.
  • On September 5:
    • Classic TV debuts in Round 1. Until Season 18, it uses a console TV as its category wipe instead of the "rolling Wheel" one. It is not known why the puzzle MISSION IMPOSSIBLE was not categorized as Title, as the film adaptation was released in May.
    • In Round 2, $1,000 Slogan is renamed to just Slogan.
  • On September 6:
    • Round 1 is the debut of Proper Name, thus eliminating Pat's "person does not always mean proper name" disclaimer.
    • I'LL GIVE THE WHEEL A FINAL SPIN is the Round 2 puzzle.
    • The Round 5 puzzle KILOMETER is a rare instance of one shorter than ten letters.
  • Between September 2 and 9, six bonus puzzles in a row are Thing.
  • During the week of September 9:
    • The video wall is not used.
    • The $10,000 Wedge uses the old style font.
    • The Friday Finals Bonus Round winner's extra prize is a home theater package including a Sony projection TV, Direct Satellite System, Handycam camcorder, 200-disc CD player, MiniDisc recorder, LaserDisc player, and Sony surround sound speaker system, worth $11,547.
  • On September 9:
    • The camera closest to the blue contestant becomes noticeably crooked.
    • Show Biz debuts in Round 2. Until Season 16, it uses a drawing of crossed spotlights as its category wipe instead of the "rolling Wheel" one. The puzzle TALK SHOW HOST LEEZA GIBBONS is a rare instance of the category also being part of the answer. This puzzle also establishes the precedent that Show Biz may be used for the name of a famous person, a usage which becomes frequent throughout the next two seasons.
    • Six rounds are played.
    • The bonus puzzle OWL is the last instance of a three-letter bonus puzzle.
  • On September 10:
    • Who Is It? is changed to use only one sentence like Clue, as opposed to using three like Where Are We? or Fill In the Blank.
    • When Vanna goes to reveal the ampersand in Round 2, it accidentally turns off before turning back on again, causing the ding to sound twice.
    • Rounds 1 and 2 are played entirely by the contestants who began them.
    • In Round 3, the "only vowels remain" beeps fail to sound until after contestant Dan starts to solve.
  • On September 11:
    • There is a cold open in which Pat says, "If you listen very carefully, sometime during the next half-hour, you will hear someone on Wheel of Fortune utter the words 'kewazinga bubinga'." This is in reference to one of the bonus prizes, a Steinway piano with a bubinga finish.
    • Contestant Darla is credited with $2,050 instead of $2,300 after solving Round 1 due to a vowel accidentally being deducted from her score twice. This does not affect the outcome.
    • Vanna models the Round 2 Prize, a home spa.
    • In Round 4, the "only vowels remain" beeps fail to sound until after contestant Trisha starts to solve.
  • On September 12:
    • Round 1 (HOTEL ROOM) is a rare instance of a puzzle shorter than ten letters.
    • During contestant Tim's first spin in Round 2, the camera accidentally focuses on the blue arrow instead of the red one.
    • Round 4 inexplicably goes to Speed-Up with only one consonant remaining (specifically, the D in GANDER GOOSE & GOSLING), even though finishing the game without a Speed-Up would have taken considerably less time. Perhaps due to this, Pat initially mistakes the Final Spin bells for the "only vowels remain" beeps.
    • Unusually, a bird's-eye view of the contestant area is used coming out of Round 4.
    • At the end of the show, Pat and Vanna discuss the upcoming Jackpot round. Pat holds the Jackpot wedge upside-down and announces that "beginning next week we have our Topkcaj..." before Vanna grabs the wedge and turns it right-side-up.
  • On September 13:
    • Kim is credited with $3,750 instead of $3,500 after solving Round 2 due to a vowel not being deducted from her score.
    • Round 3 (QUINTUPLETS) is a very rare instance of a one-word puzzle in any round other than the first or last one.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 4.
    • At the start of the Bonus Round, the four prizes are shown in a split-screen which disappears with a digitized "swirling" effect; the same effect is then used again to reveal the Friday Finals prize package.
  • The Friday Finals Bonus Round winner's extra prize for the week of September 16 is an $11,442 camping package consisting of an Academy Broadway tent, REI outdoor wear, a Meade telescope, and a Jayco trailer.
  • On September 16:
    • Pat no longer mentions the top dollar values until Round 4.
    • The Wheel is overhauled:
      Yellow 1000 Wedge.png
      • A template based on the one formerly used only in Round 3 is now used throughout the entire game (albeit with only one Bankrupt in Rounds 1 and 2), and the minimum value is increased to $250. These changes result in the retirement of $150, $200, $750, and $1,500. The space which holds the $10,000 Wedge in Round 2 and the second Bankrupt in Rounds 3+ (between the red $600 and green $500) is now an orange-yellow $300. All of the top dollar figures in each round now occupy the spot originally occupied only by $1,000. In addition, $600 returns to being present in Rounds 1-2 for the first time since October 1987 while $550 is present in Round 1 for the first time in its existence.
      • In the template formerly used in Round 3, the peach $900 becomes orange, the red $300 becomes green, the blue $250 becomes orange-yellow, the yellow $900 becomes red, the pink $200 is increased to $250, the orange $400 becomes yellow, the peach $200 is increased to an orange $250, the red $500 becomes green, the pink $600 becomes red, the blue $200 is increased to a pink $250, the red $600 (formerly between $1,000 and $300) becomes purple, the pink $300 becomes orange, the peach $700 becomes green, the blue $450 becomes pink, the purple $150 is increased to $350, $250 and $500 between Lose A Turn and Bankrupt swap colors, and the blue $400 becomes yellow. In addition, all of the yellow, pink, and purple wedges become brighter, while peach and blue are no longer used (although blue returns in Season 24).
      • The Jackpot wedge debuts in Round 3. Initially placed over the orange $300, it starts out as a shiny red color with "Jackpot" written on it in Cooper Black with gold letters. Initially, the Jackpot total is displayed in the upper-left hand corner, in black Avant Garde Gothic numbers on a pastel background. The Jackpot starts at $5,000 and has the value of every cash amount spun added to it; to claim the Jackpot, a contestant must land on the wedge, call a correct letter, and solve the puzzle in the same turn. If the Jackpot is won, a red-and-blue fireworks graphic appears on the upper-left corner of the screen; this turns into a group of small sparkly stars which go from top to bottom as the shot transitions from the board to the contestant. For the first week of its existence, Vanna announces the Jackpot Round from a post-production shot of her at the puzzle board.

        The original Jackpot wedge.

      • Free Spin moves to the green $300, where it stays until it is retired.
      • Lose a Turn is now very light yellow, nearly white.
      • The Prize wedges no longer have glitter.
      • The Round 2 Prize moves to $350.
      • Surprise moves to the yellow $400 two wedges counterclockwise from Lose a Turn.
      • The Wheel's center is now teal.
        NarrowFontBankrupt.png
    • After Round 1 is solved, Pat asks art director Dick Stiles to confirm that the color of Lose a Turn has been changed.
    • The music cue for the first Wheel prize (a trip to Hawaii) is the same lap steel guitar version of the original "Changing Keys" melody from the previous season's Hawaii episodes.
    • When Charlie describes the Bonus Round prizes, the footage for each prize slides onscreen against a striped blue background.
    • The $25,000 envelope's upper flap changes from green to silver.
    • Contestant Grace says the correct answer to the bonus puzzle HUNCH quietly, and manages to make three more guesses before Pat realizes that her answer has been accepted.
  • From September 16-27, the second Bankrupt is "off model", using Clarendon instead of the normal Bankrupt font. This may have had to do with the fact that Bankrupt was never an individual add-on wedge before and that most of the add-on wedges at the time used the Clarendon font.
  • On September 17:
    • Vanna wears a suit.
    • Contestant Adam is credited with $2,550 instead of $2,300 in Round 1 due to a correct vowel not being deducted from his score.
    • Vanna models the Prize, a collection of Jacques Moret bodywear, while using an exercise bike. As she does, the designer's name appears in Gill Sans on a chyron; this is the first of only two known uses of a Gill Sans chyron after their retirement at the end of Season 12.
    • Before Round 3, Vanna models a piece of REI outdoor wear from the Friday Finals package via footage of her wearing it while rowing a kayak outdoors.
    • In Round 3, contestant Kyle starts to spin while contestant Adam is turning in his Free Spin. Pat then stops Kyle and resets the Wheel so that Adam can continue his turn.
    • The Round 5 puzzle SALT TO TASTE has only three unique consonants.
    • Round 5 inexplicably goes to Speed-Up with only the L missing from the above puzzle, even though finishing without a Speed-Up would have taken considerably less time.
  • On September 18, Vanna models the Round 2 Prize, a sculpture by Michael Maiden. The footage of this Prize was previously used on November 28, 1995.
  • On September 19:
    • Round 1 and the Bonus Round are Thing, while Round 4 is Things.
    • The Surprise is a $6,000 Fred Joalier gift certificate.
    • Unusually, Pat does not take the winning contestant Suzie to center stage to show off the bonus prizes; instead, he announces all of them from the contestant area while pictures of them scroll across the bottom half of the screen in a manner similar to the opening graphics.
  • On September 20:
    • Surprise is placed on the yellow $400 between the pink $250 and $550 instead of the one two wedges counterclockwise from Lose a Turn.
    • The "rotating cube" wipe is now used to display the Friday Finals prize package at the start of the Bonus Round.
  • During the week of September 23:
    • The video wall is not used.
    • The Friday Finals Bonus Round winner's extra prize is a $12,425 fantasy golf package including an Andiamo luggage, medal wood Fila golf clubs, and trips to the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort in Phoenix, Arizona and Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Virginia.
  • On September 23:
    • The opening is slowed down and altered to remove the CGI $25,000 sign. Although there are still four squares present, the zoom now happens on the third one.
    • The Jackpot readout now scrolls upward whenever its amount increases.
    • Round 1 is Things, while Round 5 and the Bonus Round are Thing.
  • On September 24:
    • There is a cold open where Vanna says that viewers have asked where the puzzles come from, and that Pat is sitting with a puzzle writer. This cuts to a shot of Pat sitting on-set and eating a banana while telling a joke to a stuffed gorilla and then asking whether "OBNOXIOUS BEHAVIOR" would be a Thing or Phrase. This clip has been seen in several retrospectives.
    • The winning contestant (Clarence) has only $3,750 before the Bonus Round.
  • On September 25:
    • After contestant Lynn solves the Round 2 puzzle, her score goes from $2,000 to $1,750 and back to $2,000 again.
    • Although a repeated R is called in Round 3, it is not acknowledged as such.
    • In the post-game chat, Vanna and Pat discuss Pat's disclaimer about "Person does not always mean proper name".
  • On September 26, the Jackpot is won for the first time by contestant Jeremy, who solves GREEN EGGS AND HAM BY DR. SEUSS with only the G's revealed. This is also the only time it is ever won at its base value of $5,000.
  • On September 27, contestant Tammy retires with $54,064 despite losing both Bonus Rounds.
  • During the week of September 30:
    • The $10,000 Wedge uses the old style font.
    • The Friday Finals Bonus Round winner's extra prize is an $11,385 designer entertaining package including an antique hutch, a David Orgell crystal, and Paul Revere silver tea service and tableware.
  • On September 30:
    • The "off model" Bankrupt is fixed.
    • There is a $12,350 Jackpot win. In a rather rare occurrence, it comes with only vowels remaining.
    • A closed-captioning promotional plug is added after Round 2. It is usually read by Vanna.
    • There is a jump cut to a side view of the set as contestant Priscilla calls X in the Speed-Up, suggesting an edit. After that is a rare instance of a contestant losing their turn with only vowels remaining.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used.
    • Round 4 and the Bonus Round are Place.
    • The end-game total stops flashing.
    • Charlie no longer signs off during the credits.
    • The credits end with the copyright tag followed by "Created by Merv Griffin", then the King World and Columbia TriStar Television logos, all with the theme continuing to play underneath. This remains until mid-Season 20.
  • In a very unusual streak, all but one of the bonus puzzles in the month of September is only one word (TOW TRUCK on September 26 being the exception).

October 1996

  • On October 1:
    • There is a cold open in which Pat points out that someone won the Jackpot yesterday while pretending to put his arm around Vanna.
    • The Round 3 puzzle SAFE-DEPOSIT BOX OF DIAPERS (Before & After) is improperly hyphenated.
    • Contestant Jeff finishes with only $4,650.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
  • On October 2:
    • Contestant Mark Anthony's name tag just says "Mark" as his full name is too large to fit on it.
    • After the Round 2 puzzle MATCHMAKER MATCHMAKER MAKE ME A MATCH (Quotation), Mark Anthony is asked for the musical that provides the quotation. He does not provide the right answer of Fiddler on the Roof.
  • On October 3:
    • Eleven wrong letters are called in Round 4 with nine of them called in the Speed-Up Round.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 4.
  • On October 4:
    • Surprise is on $350 in Round 1. This is corrected in Round 2.
    • The Round 2 Prize is a Hobie Wave sailboat.
    • In an unusual move, the closed captioning sponsor is Tiger's electronic Family Feud game.
    • Pat does not hear the Speed-Up bells until Mark Anthony is just about to spin in Round 4.
    • Contestant Jennifer's post-game total is not shown onscreen.
  • During the week of October 7:
    • The CGI $25,000 sign is removed from the intro.
    • The "burst" contestant backdrops are used for the first of only a handful of weeks this season.
    • The Friday Finals Bonus Round winner's extra prize is a $12,131 ski package that includes Hart skis, Lib-Tech snowboards, Cabela's outdoor gear, and a trip to Vermont.
  • On October 7:
    • After the Round 2 puzzle JOHNNY'S TONIGHT SHOW FAREWELL (Show Biz), contestant Susan is given a multiple-choice question asking for the year it took place (1991, 1992, or 1993), and chooses the right answer of 1992. This is first known instance of a "bonus" question being multiple-choice. This is also a rare instance of the category also containing part of the answer.
    • Rounds 2 and 3 are played entirely by the contestants who began them.
    • The wipe for the Friday Finals prize description is dropped; instead, the prize footage now appears on the video screen using one of several different wipes before dissolving to a full shot.
    • There is an $8,650 Jackpot win.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 4.
    • Susan finishes in second place with $22,650, the highest known second-place total at this point. Interestingly, all of it is won in the aforementioned Round 2.
  • On October 8, the Surprise is a rare Beatles '65 album signed by all four members of the band.
  • On October 9:
    • The Prize is a Mangavox TV which displays the Season 13 opening as Charlie describes it.
    • There is an unclaimed Jackpot of $23,050.
  • On October 11:
    • Contestants Susan and Doug, who competed against each other on October 7, both compete in the Friday Finals. This is the first of only ten known times where the same two contestants compete against each other twice.
    • There is a rare instance of a contestant losing their turn with only vowels remaining: with only the O's and U missing from the Round 3 puzzle WHOLE HALF & QUARTER NOTES, contestant Desiree gives a wrong answer.
    • Pat's Final Spin lands on Bankrupt.
    • The "rotating cube" wipe for the Friday Finals prize package at the start of the Bonus Round displays the week's theme instead of the show's logo.
  • During the week of October 14:
    • The $10,000 Wedge uses the old style font.
    • The "burst" contestant backdrops are used.
    • The Friday Finals Bonus Round winner's extra prize is a $12,277 high-tech and home entertainment package including a Panasonic plain paper fax, business card reader and Motorola answering phone machine, a Dynamark security system, a Sony satellite system, and a Sony LaserDisc player.
  • On October 14:
    • The crooked camera is fixed.
    • During contestant Kevin's first spin in Round 3, the camera accidentally focuses on the blue arrow instead of the red one.
    • An extra $20 is accidentally added to the Jackpot from the third spin onward.
    • Robb sweeps the game but loses $25,000 in the Bonus Round.
  • On October 15:
    • Vanna wears a suit.
    • During the post-game chat, Vanna is shown clothes shopping in Beverly Hills. This clip has been seen in many retrospectives including the 3000th episode.
  • On October 16:
    • Contestant Mark loses his turn after he calls an E as a consonant, even though there is an E in the puzzle. Normally the buzzer only sounds a wrong letter if they were not in the puzzle.
    • Proper Name appears in the Bonus Round for the first time.
  • On October 18:
    • The Surprise is a $10,406 trip to Greece.
    • The Friday Finals prize wipe once again displays the show's logo.
  • During the week of October 21:
    • The $10,000 Wedge uses the old style font.
    • The bonus prizes (other than the $25,000) are a Ford Mustang convertible and three trips: Tahiti, Bora Bora, and an Orient cruise.
    • The Friday Finals Bonus Round winner's extra prize is a $13,059 water fun package including Zodiac sports watches, Brownie's underwater gear, a Konica underwater camera, and a Yamaha Waverunner III personal watercraft.
  • On October 21, after the Round 2 puzzle AND ALL THE MEN AND WOMEN MERELY PLAYERS (Quotation), Pat asks contestant Abby for first line of the quotation. She does not provide the correct response of "All the world's a stage".
  • On October 22:
    • 22October1996JackpotPostProduction.png
      The close-up shot of the Jackpot wedge at the start of Round 3 appears to have been done on in post-production on the Round 1 template, as it is on $350 and both $1,000 and Surprise are visible. The wedge is in the correct spot during the actual round.
    • The Bonus Round timer beeps accidentally begin to sound when the bonus puzzle is revealed.
  • On October 23, there is a $7,700 Jackpot win.
  • On October 24:
    • There is a cold open in which Pat says "By the way, no animals were harmed during the taping of this episode."
    • There is a $6,450 Jackpot win.
    • Round 4 is a Same Name with three "names".
    • For the last time until 1998, a puzzle in the Speed-Up uses all four rows.
    • Due to the size of the above puzzle and the style of the category strip, the shot of the puzzle board during the Speed-Up is much taller than usual, causing the contestant scoreboards not to be seen.
  • On October 25, the Round 3 puzzle PLOP PLOP FIZZ FIZZ OH WHAT A RELIEF IT IS (Classic TV) is a rare instance of a puzzle with four Z's in it.
  • During the week of October 28:
    • The $10,000 Wedge uses the old style font.
    • The Friday Finals Bonus Round winner's extra prize is a $12,425 fantasy golf package including an Andiamo luggage, medal wood Fila golf clubs, and trips to the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort in Phoenix, Arizona and Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Virginia.
  • On October 28:
    • Round 2 (ER WINS OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES EMMY) is categorized as Headline instead of Show Biz.
    • The Round 3 puzzle DARTH VADER PRINCESS LEIA & LUKE SKYWALKER (Fictional Characters) uses a hanging indent on SKYWALKER. This is only known use until Season 35 of such a feature in a puzzle not in the categories Fill In the Blank, Who Is It?, or Where Are We?
  • On October 29:
    • The title card is preceded by a cold open in which Pat states, "Boy, if you didn't watch Wheel yesterday, here's what you missed." followed by footage of him and contestant Linda jumping up and down. After the footage, Pat is seen jumping up and down while saying "Could happen again tonight. You never know." This was seen in several retrospectives.
    • There is a $15,550 Jackpot win. In a rather rare occurrence, it comes with only vowels remaining.
  • On October 30:
    • There is a cold open in which Pat and Vanna discuss the previous episode's Jackpot win, followed by a "ripple" effect which reveals a clip of the previous day's Round 3 puzzle being solved.
    • Rounds 1 and 4 are Place; the former, RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL, is inexplicably in that category instead of Landmark.
    • There is a $8,450 Jackpot win.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
    • During the closing chat, Pat and Vanna look up "goulash" in the dictionary due to that being the bonus puzzle.
  • On October 31:
    • There is a cold open in which Pat and Vanna show off jack-o'-lanterns with their likenesses carved into them.
    • Vanna wears a shirt and pants.
    • Contestant Brad solves the Round 2 Fill In the Blank puzzle SMARTY- ? BELL-BOTTOM ? ANTS IN YOUR ? by saying "pants" in place of each question mark. He is credited with a correct answer and given the $2,000 bonus for correctly filling in the blank. Likely because of this, the High Rollers chimes do not sound.

November 1996

  • On November 1:
    • Darlene solves Round 3 for $34,750, the largest known one-round, non-Speed-Up win of the 1990s.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
    • Darlene retires with $119,351. Pat starts to disrobe after her Bonus Round win, a moment which has been seen in various retrospectives. In relation to the above, he does the closing chat in a bathrobe, which causes Charlie to laugh.
  • November 4 is Best Friends Week. During this week:
    • The $10,000 Wedge uses the old style font.
    • The Friday Finals Bonus Round winner's extra prize is a trip to Hawaii, an RV Roncato Luggage package, cameras, and a pair of Klein bicycles, valued at $18,684. The copy uses the "cube" wipe, suggesting an out-of-order tape date.
    • The "burst" contestant backdrops are used.
    • For the last time, the glass block backdrops are used behind the bonus prizes.
  • On November 4:
    • The Surprise is a $10,476 trip to Tahiti.
    • When Charlie describes the Roncato luggage from the aforementioned Friday Finals package, that designer's name appears onscreen with a Gill Sans chyron. This is only the second known use of such a chyron since their retirement at the end of Season 12.
    • The second-place team has $15,000, all claimed in the Speed-Up.
  • On November 5:
    • There is an $11,250 Jackpot win.
    • Round 4 and Bonus Round are Place.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used.
  • On November 6:
    • There is a cold open in which Pat promotes the theme and then says "Hope you saw the show last night. It was a scream" followed by footage of the previous episode's red team screaming.
    • Every main game puzzle has a punctuation mark: Round 1 has a hyphen, Round 2 has an apostrophe, and Rounds 3 and 4 have ampersands.
    • Round 2 (WHERE THE WIND COMES SWEEPIN' DOWN THE PLAIN) is categorized as Where Are We? (Oklahoma) instead of Quotation.
    • Round 4 is the first appearance of Proper Names.
  • On November 7, Round 2's Fill In the Blank puzzle ? -FACED ? OF A KIND ? -WAY STREET (Two) does not have its question marks aligned underneath each other, even though such an arrangement could have fit on the board.
  • On November 8:
    • Vanna wears a sleeveless top and pants.
    • Pat accidentally says that it is Family Week instead of Best Friends Week before Round 1. After this, he walks over to the stagehand who holds the cue cards, displays one reading "Best Friends Week", then rips it up.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 1.
    • Coincidentally given the upcoming road shows, the Round 2 Prize is a trip to San Francisco.
    • Pat's final spin lands on Bankrupt.
    • Rounds 3, 5 and the Bonus Round are Thing.
  • The weeks of November 11 and 18 are taped at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. During these weeks:
    • The bonus prizes are displayed on the video wall.
    • Pat comes down with laryngitis during these taping sessions, which becomes evident by the 15th and especially during the week of the 18th.
    • The Jackpot display changes to a red semicircle with "Jackpot" in gold letters along the curve, and the total in white numbers underneath.
    • The $1,000 space becomes brighter.
  • On November 11:
    • The Friday Finals bonus prize is dropped, except for a small number of special episodes.
    • The Round 2 prize is a Sharper Image gift certificate with which a $2,795 massage chair may be purchased; Vanna models the chair with an unknown man at a Sharper Image store.
    • Contestant Colleen finishes second with $15,370.
    • Pat and Vanna do not sign off.
  • On November 13:
    • In a rather rare occurrence, contestant Steve manages to go from $0 to a winning score in Round 4 without ever hitting $5,000.
    • When Pat describes the Bonus Round prizes, each one is revealed with a "page turn" wipe.
  • On November 15:
    • In Round 1, the board's lights suddenly stop working after contestant Jon calls B. As a result, the B's in the puzzle NOB HILL STREET BLUES fail to light up, the dings do not sound, and Vanna stands in front of them for several seconds before turning them anyway. When Jon solves on the next turn, the remaining letters also fail to light up, and the board's border does not flash.
    • Round 3 is ONYX JADE & TOURMALINE, despite JADE being used as a bonus puzzle on October 2.
    • In Round 3, after contestant Sharon calls T, Pat runs up to the puzzle board to adjust the ampersand in the puzzle due to it being crooked.
    • The Surprise is an $11,100 electric piano.
    • Rounds 1 and 4 are Before & After, while Round 3 is Things and the Bonus Round is Thing.
  • November 18 is College Week. During this week:
    • The University of California marching band plays "Changing Keys" live during the intro, but with the 1983-94 melody instead of the then-current melody. They also play various fight songs as bumpers and during the credits.
    • The intro features all of this week's contestants doing the "Wheel! Of! Fortune!" chant from outside the studio. Also visible in the shot is a custom-designed Wheel of Fortune bus made by Transportation Displays Incorporated (now Outfront Media).
    • Some of the contestants also model the Prizes.
    • There is a big circle of college pennants on the floor in the center of the stage.
    • From this point onward, unless noted otherwise, any College Weeks have the contestants introduce themselves while walking from center stage, followed by a local college's cheerleading squad (and often the mascot) introducing Pat and Vanna.
    • All three contestants appear onstage during the credits.
  • On November 18:
    • Every main game puzzle has a punctuation mark: Round 1 has a period and an ampersand, Round 2 has two periods, Round 3 has an ampersand, and Round 4 has a hyphen.
    • The Round 2 Prize is a Tommy Hilfiger and Nike shopping spree worth $2,500.
    • Pat and Vanna do not sign off.
  • On November 19:
    • Vanna wears a suit.
    • The right-letter "ding" can be heard during contestant Amber's second spin in Round 1.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
  • On November 20:
    • Free Spin comes loose in Round 1, exposing the 3 on the green $300. This is fixed in Round 2.
    • The Round 2 Prize is a $2,000 gift certificate to Gap.
    • The Round 2 puzzle MADONNA GIVES BIRTH TO A BABY GIRL (Headline) is followed by a trivia question asking for the name of the child; contestant Danielle does not give the right answer of Lourdes.
    • Danielle sweeps the game (except for the bonus question) and wins a $20,000 MasterCard in the Bonus Round.
  • On November 21:
    • The Round 2 Prize is a Sharper Image electronics gift certificate worth $2,500.
    • The category strip disappears briefly during Round 2.
    • Pat and Vanna trade places during the Bonus Round so that he can rest his voice. While doing so, he turns the M in the bonus puzzle SYNONYM so hard that it rattles loudly. This has been seen in several retrospectives.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
  • On November 22, Pat uses hand gestures throughout Round 4 due to his laryngitis: holding up four fingers to indicate Round 4, pointing to the $5,000 space and the puzzle, pointing to the contestants when it is their turn, hitting the railing with his fist for wrong letters and a Bankrupt, holding up fingers to indicate how many of the called letter is in the puzzle, and a series of gestures for the Final Spin spiel until the Speed-Up begins.
  • November 25 is Winter Wonderland Week.
  • On November 25:
    • The four Bonus Round prizes that are not the $25,000 are now displayed on the video wall at the start of the Bonus Round, and sometimes after the final round as well; in both cases, any prize that is won has the word "WON!" appear in white letters over its graphic.
    • Vanna wears a suit.
    • The $10,000 Wedge uses the old style font.
    • Pat and Vanna do not sign off.
  • On November 26:
    • Pat almost forgets to acknowledge the apostrophe in Round 1.
    • The introductory shot of the Jackpot wedge appears to have been added in post-production, as it is shown on $450 and the yellow $1,000 can also be seen, despite the actual round having a correctly placed Jackpot wedge and $3,500.
    • The Round 4 puzzle HARRY S. & BESS TRUMAN is a rare instance of Husband & Wife being used for a couple who is not alive at the time of taping.
    • After the final round, footage of 7NEWS News anchor Tony Zarrella promoting one of the bonus prizes appears on the video wall.
    • The bonus puzzle WATCHBAND is misspelled (it should be two words).
  • On November 27:
    • Vanna wears a suit.
    • The Round 2 Prize is a $2,000 Cabela's gift certificate.
  • On November 28:
    • Contestant David fills in the bonus puzzle PALACE completely.
    • Perhaps due to David solving before the timer can start, an extra ding is heard while he is saying the answer.

December 1996

  • December 2 is Escape to Hawaii Week.
  • On December 2, the Round 3 puzzle DAZZLING DISPLAY OF CHRISTMAS LIGHTS is categorized as Phrase instead of Thing.
  • On December 3:
    • In Round 1, contestant Brad's arrow is still flashing after contestant Andrew takes his turn.
    • The pastel Jackpot display appears for a split-second at the start of Round 3 before the curved display appears; also, the curved display uses a thinner font than usual. This would suggest that the pastel display was used during taping, but replaced with the then-current one in post-production.
  • On December 4:
    • Vanna wears a suit.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 1.
    • Round 3 (POLAR KOALA & CHICAGO BEARS) is the last instance to date of Same Name using three "names"; it is also factually inaccurate, as koalas are not bears.
    • There is a $12,250 Jackpot win that comes with only vowels remaining.
  • On December 5, although a repeated P is called in the Speed-Up Round, it is not acknowledged as such.
  • On December 6, contestant Andrew appropriately solves the bonus puzzle VEHICLE and wins a vehicle (specifically, a Chrysler Sebring).
  • December 9 is Beverly Hills Week. During this week:
    • The "burst" contestant backdrops are used.
    • On Monday-Wednesday, the Prize is a $2,500 shopping spree for designer products, modeled by Vanna walking into a location of the store in question: Louis Vuitton on Monday, Gianfranco Ferré on Tuesday, Hammacher Schlemmer on Wednesday.

The second Jackpot wedge.

  • On December 9:
    • Pat tries to keep Vanna from walking to the puzzle board and then calls her a "striking woman". A clip of this appeared on the ceremonial 3,000th and 4,000th episodes.
    • An audience member can be heard shouting out the letter K during one of Jerry's turns in Round 2, and he calls a K (which is in the puzzle) on the following turn; surprisingly, this is not commented on.
    • The Jackpot wedge is redesigned with "Jackpot" written in a semicircle at the top of the wedge and written again vertically down the middle of the wedge. The letters are now yellow in a thinner, sans-serif font, and the top of the wedge is black.
    • The Jackpot readout is blank when the puzzle is revealed.
    • There is an $11,000 Jackpot win.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 4.
    • When the Bonus Round prizes are displayed on the video wall, the word "WON!" no longer appears over the graphic of any prize that is won.
    • During the closing chat, Vanna shows behind-the-scenes footage of her CD Santa's Last Ride which consists of her singing "Making Toys" with Tony Danza.
  • On December 10:
    • In Round 2, Pat inadvertently gives away the answer to the Fill In the Blank puzzle ? -KICKER ? SETTING ? YOUR BETS (Place) by saying "I can't hold Paul Newman's place" after contestant Joyce solves.
    • There is a $9,200 Jackpot win.
  • On December 11:
    • Tom's wife, Christine, competed on September 24, although this is not mentioned.
    • Vanna wears a suit.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 4.
    • Tom sweeps the game but loses a BMW Z3 Blue in the Bonus Round.
    • Somewhat coincidentally given the circumstances of the week, the bonus puzzle is JACKPOT.
  • On December 12:
    • Vanna models the Round 2 Prize, a home spa.
    • When contestant Lea lands on the Jackpot wedge, it comes loose and partially exposes the orange $300, after which Pat fixes it.
    • There is an $8,550 Jackpot win.
    • The Round 4 puzzle FM RADIO ANNOUNCER uses three rows, even though it could easily fit on two.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used.
    • At the end of the show, Vanna sings "Holiday Time" from the above CD to several children, including her son.
  • On December 13:
    • Vanna models the Prize, a Bang & Olufsen stereo system.
    • There is a $6,950 Jackpot win. This results in not only the sole instance of the Jackpot being won four times in one week, but also in Gregg becoming the only contestant to win it twice.
  • On December 12 and 13, Lea wins a total of three trips: a Queen Elizabeth II cruise to London on Thursday, and trips to Paris and Beverly Hills on Friday. Excluding shopping episodes, this is one of four known instances where a contestant wins three trips, which is very likely the highest number of trips won by a single contestant.
  • December 16 is Family Week. During this week, the "burst" contestant backdrops are used.
  • On December 16:
    • The category strips are changed to a blue oval with a white outline, spanning about two-thirds the width of the screen, and the font is changed to Franklin Gothic Demi Condensed; none of the wipes are changed.
    • The video wall no longer displays the bonus prizes.
    • Contestant Jeff says the first two words of the Speed-Up puzzle ACCESSORIES SOLD SEPARATELY, and his mother Terri does not say the last word until several seconds after the buzzer. After this, contestants Mary and Lise call P and solve, and Pat tells Jeff and Terri that their answer will not be accepted due to them pausing. Likely due to it not affecting the outcome, Pat announces in the final segment that Jeff and Terri will be awarded the $2,400 they had accumulated in that round anyway.
  • On December 17, Who Is It? uses three clues for the last time.
  • On December 18:
    • No vowels are bought in Round 1.
    • The Round 1 puzzle JINGLE-BELL ROCK is improperly hyphenated.
    • Charlie reads the closed captioning plug.
    • Just before the credits, Charlie plugs the video game adaptations for Sega Saturn and Panasonic 3DO, saying that they are coming soon. Although originally planned for an October 1 release, these games are never released.
    • The bare Round 1 template is seen, complete with yellow $1,000, as the Wheel spins during the credits.
  • On December 19:
    • Vanna wears a suit.
    • There are two contestants named Karen, but on different teams.
  • On December 20:
    • Once again, Vanna wears a suit.
    • Contestants Elvia and Karen compete in the Friday Finals after having won $78,265 on their first episode. This is the highest known score for Friday Finals competitors in teams and the highest overall.
    • There is a $10,800 Jackpot win.
    • Neither Bankrupt nor Lose a Turn is hit.
  • December 23 is the first Happy Holidays Week, which is the name of the Christmas week episodes for the next several years. During this week:
    • The video wall is not used.
    • Various Christmas songs are used as bumpers.
    • One of the bonus prizes is a "Christmas stocking", whose contents are not revealed unless it is won.
    • A clanging bell replaces the bonus puzzle envelope chime.
  • On December 23:
    • In Rounds 1 and 2, the puzzle reveal chimes are followed by sleigh bells. Likely due to Pat mocking it both times, this is dropped for the rest of the episode.
    • Rounds 1 and 3 are played entirely by the contestants who began them, although Free Spin is used in Round 1.
    • During Round 4 (HEBREW ALPHABET), a wide shot of the set is used when the T is revealed, and another when an incorrect M is called; even more unusually, the first shot does not have the category strip but the second one does.
    • After the final round, Royal Norman of 11Alive Atlanta promotes one of the bonus prizes, a trip to a Rock 'n Roll Fantasy Camp event in Atlanta.
    • The bonus puzzle SPRIG OF HOLLY is only the first one this entire season to use more than two words.
  • On December 24:
    • Vanna's outfit includes a shawl, which Pat removes from her after they walk out.
    • Mike Levine of the Canadian rock band Triumph is a contestant. He wins $3,500 but does not win the game.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 5.
    • Contestant Romy wins the "Christmas stocking", which consists of a Panasonic camcorder, a trip to Hawaii, and $10,000 cash, valued at $20,158.
  • On December 25:
    • No vowels are bought in Round 4.
    • The winning contestant (David) finishes with only $4,650.
    • A rock version of "Jingle Bells" plays over the closing credits.

      The blue category strip and curved Jackpot display on a rerun from the week of December 30.

  • On December 26:
    • Before Round 3, Pat points out that contestant Bob is wearing a musical tie, and asks him to demonstrate it.
    • Rounds 1 and 3 are Before & After (the last time that category is used more than once in an episode).
    • Against normal practice, the buzzer sounds on a wrong answer in Round 3.
    • Once again, Royal Norman promotes the Fantasy Camp prize after the final round.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
  • On December 27, the Surprise is the Beatles memorabilia with autographs signed by each of the four members.
  • Reruns air during the week of December 30. These reruns are edited to have the curved Jackpot display and the blue oval category strips.

January 1997

January 3.

  • On the January 3 rerun of the October 11 episode, the replacement category strip in Round 2 uses Helvetica text from the first letter reveal onward.
  • January 6 is Wheel into 1997 week. During this week:
    • The original Jackpot wedge design is used.
    • The "burst" contestant backdrops are used.
  • On January 6:
    • The Wheel is tightened.
    • The low-level angled shots of the board are no longer used.
    • In Round 2, Becky forgets to pick up the Free Spin after hitting it on her second spin. Three turns later, Pat walks over to the other side of the Wheel, removes the Free Spin, and climbs on the Wheel to give it to her. While doing so, he asks for an overhead shot; he also accidentally moves the Wheel one peg and is not reset before Becky spins again.
    • Rounds 1-3 and 5 are played entirely by the contestants who began them, although Free Spin is used in Round 2.
    • Contestant Mike finishes second with $17,150.
    • When revealing the Bonus Round prizes, Vanna accidentally holds the $25,000 envelope upside-down, causing Charlie to laugh.
    • Except where noted, the Wheel no longer spins automatically during the opening and credits. According to Pat, the automation was removed because he "thought it was a bad idea to demonstrate that we had the ability to automatically spin the Wheel".
  • On January 7:
    • The Surprise is a Hammerman gift certificate used to purchase a 3.5 carat diamond frog pin.
    • After the Round 2 puzzle FIRST SUPER BOWL & THE GRADUATE (The 60's), contestant Kiva is given a multiple-choice question asking for the year it took place (1965, 1966, or 1967), and does not choose the right answer of 1967.
    • Round 4 (A CORD OF FIREWOOD) has a redundant A, something that would happen more frequently starting in Season 18.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 4.
    • In an unusual move, the Bonus Round prize won is an Amtrak trip for two anywhere in the United States plus $12,000 cash, valued at $17,000.
  • On January 8:
    • The Round 5 puzzle MASSEUSE is both a rare instance of a puzzle shorter than ten letters and of one with only two unique consonants, tying the record for the fewest known.
    • Six rounds are played without a Speed-Up.
    • Rounds 5 and 6 are Occupation, the first known duplication of that category in the main game.
  • On January 9:
    Reversed$10000Wedge1-9-97.png
    • After a repeated E is bought in Round 1, Pat acknowledges it only as a wrong letter even though there is an E in the puzzle.
    • Shane accidentally asks for a "brother" in Round 2. Pat has him try again, and he calls B.
    • The $10,000 Wedge is accidentally placed upside-down in the same round. Shane lands on the left edge of it (meaning he would have landed on Bankrupt under normal circumstances) and calls C. Only $1,000 is added to his score at first, but it is "corrected" after his next turn, as Pat tells him he has $12,400; however, this ends up not mattering as he does not solve. Pat acknowledges the mistake before the start of Round 3, and jokes about it for the rest of the game.
    • The Fill In the Blank in the above round does not use a hanging indent for the last word of ? CITIES ? BROTHER ? -ENGINE AIRPLANE, even though such an arrangement could have fit on the board.
    • The numbers on the Jackpot display are thinner, and the display itself is much smaller.
    • The Wheel spins during the credits, but not the opening.
  • On January 10:
    • Round 4 and the Bonus Round are Place.
    • The bonus puzzle EGYPT is a very rare instance of E being the only vowel in a bonus puzzle.
    • Contestant Greg retires with $140,685.
  • January 13 is Alpine Ski Adventure week.

    The third Jackpot wedge.

  • On January 13:
    • There is a cold open in which Vanna tells Pat that she is pregnant (with her daughter, Giovanna). As was the case when she was pregnant with Nicholas, she often wears suits or maternity clothes for the next several months of taping.
    • The category strip becomes thinner and shorter, also now matching the length of the category name instead of being a uniform size; once again, the wipes do not change.
    • The lap steel guitar rendition of "Changing Keys" is used as a music bed for the Surprise (a trip to Hawaii).
    • The top of the Jackpot wedge becomes the same color as Prize wedges.
    • The end-game total graphic changes to a blue oval with white numbers in the same font as the category strips. This style is also kept through Season 17.
    • Contestant Ginger solves the Speed-Up puzzle THAI RESTAURANT with only the T's and R's showing.
    • Round 4 and the Bonus Round are Place.
  • Between December 25 and January 15, eleven bonus puzzles in a row are only one word.
  • On January 16:
    • The second Bankrupt is accidentally placed on the Wheel for Round 1, but is not hit. This error is also seen in the closing automation.
    • During Round 5, contestant Kevin's flipper briefly stops on $250, but can barely be seen flipping over to $400 just before he calls a letter. Although he is initially credited with $250 per letter, his score is corrected immediately after the round goes into Speed-Up. The difference in score causes him to win.
    • The week's theme is seen on the video wall in the closing instead of the show's logo.
  • On January 17:
    • The Round 1 puzzle SNOOPY & WOODSTOCK is a rare instance of a puzzle with only one vowel.
    • The Free Spin comes partially loose in Round 2.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
  • January 20 is the first NFL Players Week, with teams consisting of a contestant and an NFL player. This is the first time that celebrities and contestants compete together. During this week:
    • Charlie's intro is altered to "From the Sony Studios, it's NFL Players Week on Wheel of Fortune!"
    • This and all subsequent weeks with celebrity/civilian teams have the contestants receive their winnings in cash and prizes as normal, while a cash amount equal to the contestant's winnings (with a minimum of $5,000) is donated to a charity of the celebrity's choice.
    • The Friday Finals winner receives a $15,000 trip to Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans, regardless of whether or not the Bonus Round is won.
    • The contestants' name tags are football-shaped.
    • During the interviews, the NFL players' names are displayed on a category strip, albeit in mixed-case instead of all-caps.
    • Pat asks each player about his charity after each of the first three rounds is solved, starting with the team that solved Round 1 and then wrapping around.
    • The Bonus Round prizes are displayed on the video wall.
    • Except for Season 19, the rerun of NFL Players Week is always the last of the Summer reruns, most likely to coincide with the upcoming NFL season.
    • The "burst" backdrops are used for the last time.
  • On January 20:
    • In Round 1, Pat forgets to mention the apostrophe until after Joey Galloway and contestant Paul begin to spin. He does not acknowledge this until after the Wheel stops.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 1.
    • Free Spin is accidentally placed upside-down.
    • The Round 2 Puzzle PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME IN CANTON OHIO is categorized as Place instead of Landmark.
    • After Bill Romanowski and contestant Jackie solve Round 2, a clip is shown of John Elway acknowledging that Bill is donating to the John Elway Foundation.
    • The second Bankrupt is now removed if Round 4 begins as a Speed-Up.
    • Before the Bonus Round, all four of the Bonus Round prizes are shown with a split-screen effect.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used.
    • Round 2 and the Bonus Round are Place.
    • Pat and Vanna do not sign off.
  • On January 21:
    • Vanna wears a sleeveless top and pants.
    • All three teams are male-female combos.
    • The board's borders do not flash after Round 4 is solved.
  • On January 22:
    • In a very rare occurrence, the Round 2 Prize is food: specifically, $2,000 credit to Lobster Gram, Omaha Steaks, and Dessert of the Month.
    • Vanna forgets to turn the W in the Round 2 puzzle WHERE THE DEER AND THE ANTELOPE PLAY after it is solved. She fixes it after an offstage voice can be heard acknowledging this. Pat then blames this on her being pregnant, resulting in booing and jeering from the audience.
    • Round 4 (PRESS BOX) is a rare instance of a puzzle shorter than ten letters.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used.
  • On January 23:
    • All three teams are male-female combos.
    • During contestant Cheryl's interview, footage is shown of her teammate Bill Bates calling her on a radio show and informing her that she has been selected.
    • The Jackpot Round (HAWKEYE HOT LIPS & TRAPPER JOHN) is inexplicably categorized as Classic TV instead of Fictional Characters, due to the characters appearing in the book and film adaptations of M*A*S*H prior to the TV series.
  • On January 24:
    • Once again, all three teams are male-female combos.
    • The Surprise is a $10,095 jet boat.
    • Contestant Jackie and Bill Romanowski solve the Speed-Up puzzle ELMER FUDD & BUGS BUNNY with only the M and D's showing.
    • Pat forgets to have the contestants draw one of the Bonus Round envelopes until he is reminded from offstage.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used.
  • January 27 is California Dreamin'. During this week:
    • Three of the bonus prizes are trips with a car: a trip to Palm Springs with a Saab 900 SE, a trip to San Diego with a sailboat, and a trip to Malibu with a Toyota RAV4.
    • Various California-themed songs play after Round 3: "Fun, Fun, Fun" by the Beach Boys on Monday, "California Girls" by the Beach Boys on Tuesday and Friday, "One Double One Oh" by Dick Dale on Wednesday, and "California Dreamin'" by The Mamas & the Papas on Thursday.
  • On January 27:
    • Both Rounds 2 and 3 are completely filled in before being solved.
    • There is a $16,450 Jackpot win. In a rather rare occurrence, it comes with all the letters filled in.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
    • Contestant Kerry sweeps the game and wins a trip to San Diego and a sailboat in the Bonus Round.
  • On January 28, six rounds are played.
  • On January 29:
    • The Round 2 puzzle THE SKIPPER GILLIGAN & MR. & MRS. HOWELL has two ampersands and two periods. Not counting the question marks in Fill In the Blank puzzles, this appears to be a tie for the most punctuation ever revealed on the trilon board. This is also the first of only six known puzzles to have more than one ampersand.
    • Every main game puzzle has a punctuation mark: an apostrophe in Rounds 1 and 3, the aforementioned Round 2, and an ampersand in Round 4.
    • Lose a Turn is hit five times in Round 3, tying the record for the most known hits in one round.
    • There is an unclaimed Jackpot of $20,900.
  • On January 30, neither Thing nor Phrase is used.
  • On January 31:
    • After the Round 2 puzzle SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE HITS THE AIRWAVES (The 70's), contestant Cheryl is given a multiple-choice question asking for the year it began (1974, 1975, or 1976), and chooses the right answer of 1975.
    • There is an $8,200 Jackpot win.
    • Pat does not hear the Speed-Up bells until after Cheryl starts to spin, at which point he stops the Wheel and does the Final Spin.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
    • Contestant Karen retires with $102,570.
    • Pat video tapes the post-game chat with his camcorder.

February 1997

  • February 3 is Sweethearts Week. During this week:
    • The Round 2 Prizes are cruises on Princess Cruises. Their logo also appears at the top of the wedge except on Monday, where the words "Princess Cruises" are instead written in white Times New Roman text.
    • The post-Round 2 bumper features one of the couples inside a heart, against a pink background with the words "Sweethearts Week" written in cursive.
    • The Bonus Round window is also shaped like a heart.
    • There is an extra prize if the winner of the Friday Finals wins the Bonus Round: ten one-carat princess cut diamonds along with compact disc and audiocassette copies of the 1996 album Diamond Music (by Karl Jenkins with the London Philharmonic and Smith Quartet), valued at $20,000.
    • Except on Friday, a love song is used as the post-Round 3 bumper: "Opposites Attract" by Paula Abdul on Monday, "I Got You Babe" by Sonny & Cher on Tuesday, "We Go Together" by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John on Wednesday, and "I Just Called to Say I Love You" by Stevie Wonder on Thursday. Friday instead uses a stock cue called "Sitcom Pop" by the Network Music Ensemble.
  • On February 3:
    • In Round 1, the husband of the red team (Jeff) starts to call C, but his wife (Annie) cuts him off and calls M. Pat asks Harry which letter should be accepted, and Harry says that he heard M, which is not in the puzzle. There also appears to be an edit during this turn, as the buzzer does not sound.
    • Rounds 1 and 4 are Phrase. The latter, LOVE HANDLES, is inexplicably in that category instead of Things, which Pat addresses after the puzzle is solved.
  • On February 4:
    • No vowels are bought in Round 2.
    • Pat and Vanna do not sign off.
  • On February 5:
    • None of the puzzles have T in them, something which Pat comments on in Round 4.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 2.
    • Round 4 (POPEYE & OLIVE OYL) is a rare instance of a puzzle with none of the five most common consonants.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
  • On February 6:
    • Vanna wears a suit.
    • Free Spin comes loose in Round 1, exposing the 3 on the green $300.
    • There is a $6,400 Jackpot win.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 4.
    • Coincidentally given the upcoming road shows, the bonus puzzle is PHOENIX.
  • On February 7:
    • There are two contestants named Christine, but on different teams.
    • The Round 2 Prize is a $10,200 Alaskan cruise.
    • The Jackpot is increased to start at $10,000 on Friday Finals episodes.
    • Round 3 is a Before & After of VANNA WHITE WEDDING DRESS.
    • The "home base" trilon puzzle board is used for the last time.
  • The weeks of February 10 and 17 are taped at the Blockbuster Desert Sky Pavilion (now Ak-Chin Pavilion) in Phoenix. Unusually for a road show, neither week is rerun during the Summer. During both weeks:
    • The video wall is framed by two zig-zag shaped signs, which spell out "PHOENIX" and "ARIZONA" in illuminated white letters.
    • The Bonus Round prizes are not shown onstage, so Charlie promotes them over video footage after the last round.
      Prize West.jpg
    • The Prize wedges use an Old West-style font, with no glitter.
      1997 Arizona W-H-E-E-L Holder.png
    • The W-H-E-E-L envelope holder is turquoise and red, with a pattern on it resembling a Navajo weaving.
    • The Bonus Round window is also shaped like a Navajo weaving.
  • During the week of February 10 (taped January 24):
    • Vanna introduces the episodes with "From the Valley of the Sun, it's Wheel of Fortune from Phoenix!" "Maximum Drive" by Network Music Ensemble then plays over footage of Phoenix, followed by a timpani roll under Charlie's intro.
    • After Round 3, there is a bumper consisting of the traditional logo with a cactus on either side. "Phoenix" is written above it, and "Week" below it, both on red rectangles.
      S-2647 Slate.png
  • On February 10:
    • The end-game total graphics change from white-on-blue like the category strips to white-on-green.
    • There are two jump cuts to Pat during the Speed-Up; it is unknown what caused this, but it is very unlikely that any turns were edited out, as there is no record of this happening in a Speed-Up until Season 28.
    • In the Speed-Up, five consecutive turns are lost with only the vowels remaining in the puzzle BUT IT'S A DRY HEAT, although Pat does not acknowledge that only vowels remain until the third turn. This ends up affecting the outcome, as contestants Jackie or Saul could have won had Pat acknowledged this earlier.
  • On February 11:
    • No vowels are bought in Rounds 1 or 4.
    • A light bulb on contestant Alison's eggcrate display is burned out.
    • The second shot of the board in Round 3 uses the thicker oval category strip from December and January.
    • In Round 4, the Final Spin bells sound just as Rick begins his second spin. Pat does not seem to notice the bells, as after a wrong letter, he starts to prompt Allison before doing the Final Spin.
  • On February 13, neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
  • On February 14:
    • The first three turns are lost in Round 1 (a Bankrupt and two Lose a Turns).
    • Once again, neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
  • All five Bonus Rounds are lost on the week of February 10, part of a seven-day losing streak.
  • February 17 is Family Week. During this week, Vanna opens the show with "From Phoenix, Arizona, it's Family Week on Wheel of Fortune!" "Chicaloosa County" by Network Music Ensemble plays over footage of Phoenix, followed by a timpani roll under Charlie's intro.
  • On February 17:
    • There are two contestants named Jennifer/Jenna, but on different teams.
    • Contestants Jessica and Jennifer are credited with $800 instead of $550 in Round 1 due to a vowel not being deducted from their score.
    • Rounds 1, 2 and 4 contain apostrophes.
  • On February 18, during the contestant interviews, footage is shown of Vanna surprising the blue team with the news that they have been selected for the show.
  • On February 19:
    • The Round 2 Prize is a Jaycee camper, modeled by Vanna and two unknown people.
    • Contestants Jerry and Debby solve the bonus puzzle LANGUAGE before the timer can start.
    • The Bonus Round is won for the only time in Phoenix.
  • On February 20:
    • No vowels are bought in Round 1.
    • After the Round 2 puzzle ARIZONA BECOMES THE FORTY-EIGHTH STATE (Event), contestants Alina and Dani are given a multiple-choice question asking for the year it took place (1870, 1890, or 1912), and choose the right answer of 1912.
    • In Round 4, the Final Spin bells sound just as Alina and Dani begin their third spin. Pat does not seem to notice the bells until after the next turn.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
  • On February 21:

    Goodbye, trilons...

    • Vanna wears a shirt and pants.
    • All three teams are male-female combos.
    • The gray parallelogram name tags are used for the last time.
    • Round 1's puzzle IRISH & JET SETTER is the last instance of Vanna revealing punctuation on the puzzle board.
    • Appropriately, the answer to Round 2's Clue puzzle MYTHOLOGICAL BIRD RISING FROM ASHES is Phoenix.
    • The show uses a trilon puzzle board for the last time. The last official puzzle on it is the bonus puzzle POUND SIGN.
    • Pat and Vanna do the closing chat from the puzzle board and mention that it will be changing next week, after which Vanna reveals the words FOR SALE. This clip has been seen in many retrospectives
  • February 24 is Tropical Paradise week.
  • On February 24:

    ...Hello, monitors.

    WOF Bonus.jpg
    • The electronic puzzle board debuts, bringing with it a myriad of changes and notable events:
      • Charlie's intro is just "Ladies and gentlemen: Pat Sajak and Vanna White!" (which became the official intro in Season 19), with no chant, music, or animation. Pat and Vanna walk out, discuss the new board, and show time-lapse footage of the old board being dismantled before walking to their respective places. After the contestant interviews, a curtain reveals the new board while the puzzle-solve cue plays.
      • The new board's appearance differs from its predecessor in various ways. The frame appears as a group of spikes rather than as a pair of arches, although they still flash whenever a puzzle is solved; the green "unused" spaces are a different shade and have the logo; there are black frames between each monitor; and the font for the letters is changed from Rockwell Condensed to Helvetica Condensed.
      • Blank spaces and punctuation marks are now revealed automatically as Pat announces the category (including the Bonus Round), although for the first few weeks, Pat still acknowledges punctuation marks where applicable.
      • When a letter appears in the puzzle, its monitor changes from white to blue, and Vanna touches the right side of the monitor to reveal it.
      • When a puzzle is solved, the remaining letters (if any) fill in all at once and the border flashes in a manner similar to the previous board. This also applies to the Bonus Round if that puzzle is solved.
      • The first puzzle on the new board is VALENCIA SPAIN, and Vanna's first letter on this board is S.
      • At the end of the episode, Vanna uses the bonus puzzle COOL WHIP to demonstrate how the new board works.
    • Concurrently with the changes to the puzzle board, several other changes are made:
      • The Used Letter Board is now a monitor which also displays the contestants' scores, the category, the timer for Speed-Ups and the Bonus Round, and the Jackpot total during that round.
      • The gray parallelogram name tags are replaced by white-on-blue, oval-shaped name tags with white outlines that closely resemble the category strips in use at the time. The font also changes from Helvetica Condensed to Helvetica Black.
      • From this point until early Season 39, every week now has a unique theme.
      • The W-H-E-E-L envelope holder changes to gold lights (similar in style to the puzzle board's frame) and green letters.
    • The $10,000 Wedge is on $350, and the Round 2 Prize is on $700. Also, in Round 4, Surprise is moved to the $400 between $250 and $550. Given that several other episodes between now and late March have the Prize, Surprise, and/or $10,000 Prize on different wedges than usual, this appears to be a short-lived experiment with wedge placement.
    • Contestant Joel calls the last consonant in the Speed-Up puzzle PREGNANT PAUSE, but no acknowledgement is given that only vowels remain until after both he and contestant Jim give wrong answers, at which point an offstage voice can be heard saying "vowels only". This does not affect the outcome.
  • For the first week of the electronic puzzle board's existence only, bonus puzzle answers fill in all at once regardless of whether or not they are solved.
  • On February 25:
    • Surprise is placed on the yellow $400 between the pink $250 and $550.
    • Although a repeated T is called in Round 1, it is not acknowledged as such.
    • The Round 1 puzzle DONNY & MARIE OSMOND is categorized as The 70's instead of Family.
    • The Round 2 Prize is on the orange $300 and the $10,000 Wedge is on $450. The Prize is properly placed on $350 in Round 3.
    • There is a $6,750 Jackpot win.
    • Contestant Jennifer's total is $10,750 after Round 3. Before the start of Round 4, Pat acknowledges that there was an error in her score and says she now has $11,050.
    • Although the Bonus Round is not solved, the board's border still flashes when the answer is revealed.
  • On February 26, the Round 2 Prize is on $450 and the $10,000 Wedge is on the orange $300. Although the closeup does not show the $10,000 wedge.
  • On February 27:
    • The $10,000 Wedge is on the red $900 and the Round 2 Prize is on the green $300; the latter is made possible due to Free Spin being claimed in Round 1.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
  • On February 28:
    • Nancy is credited with $2,150 instead of $2,400 in Round 1 due to an incorrect vowel by Mark two turns prior accidentally being deducted from both of their scores instead of just Mark's.
    • The $10,000 Wedge is on the pink $250 between the yellow $400 and the red $900 and the Round 2 Prize is on $800.
    • The Round 2 puzzle WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME (Title) is followed by a question asking what show the song is from. Nancy provides the correct answer of Cheers.
    • There is a $12,450 Jackpot win.
    • Pat accidentally says the category for the Speed-Up is Phrase (the category of Round 4), but an offstage voice can be heard correcting him.
  • Between February 25-28, four contestants in a row get no help from their Bonus Round letters.
  • Around this point, the show begins editing out turns if all three contestants consecutively make moves that do not affect the puzzle, score, or cardboard in possession (i.e., incorrect consonants, Lose a Turn, and/or Bankrupts that do not take anything away). This is henceforth referred to as a "null" cycle.
    • Such edits not necessarily due to Rounds 1-3 running overtime, and some games that have edited-out turns may still end without a Speed-Up (at least until Speed-Ups become permanent in Season 18).
    • If a "null" cycle occurs in the Jackpot round, the Jackpot is usually adjusted in post-production to exclude the edited-out turns unless it is won, although this is not always the case for the next year or so.
    • On very rare occasions, cycles that do affect score or cardboard in possession may be cut as well.

March 1997

  • March 3 is Africa & Egypt week.
  • On March 3:
    • Four changes are made to the puzzle board:
      • The font is made slightly thinner.
      • The borders between each monitor change from all-black to black with a thin green line.
      • In the Bonus Round, the letters uncovered by the "three more consonants and a vowel" now reveal much more quickly than they did on the 24th.
      • If a bonus puzzle is not solved, the remaining letters fill in one at a time, using a zig-zag pattern if the puzzle is on two rows.
    • The $10,000 Wedge is on $350 and the Round 2 Prize is on the orange $300.
  • On March 4:
    • Surprise is on $350, the $10,000 Wedge on the red $600, and the Prize on the orange $300. The Prize is won, so the Jackpot ends up in its correct place for Round 3.
    • Rosie O'Donnell makes a cameo after TALK SHOW HOST ROSIE O'DONNELL is the Round 2 puzzle. She then helps Vanna touch letters in Round 3.
    • The above Round 2 puzzle is also a rare instance of the category also containing part of the answer (Show Biz).
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used.
    • Round 3 and the Bonus Round are Event.
  • On March 5:
    • The Round 2 puzzle FIRST FEMALE SECRETARY OF STATE SWORN IN (Headline) is followed by a trivia question asking for the name of the person. Contestant Vyky does not provide the correct answer of Madeleine Albright.
    • The $10,000 Wedge is on $450 and the Round 2 Prize is on the orange $300. The latter is corrected in Round 3.
    • Round 4 (PROVO UTAH) is a rare instance of a puzzle shorter than ten letters.
  • On March 6:
    • The $10,000 Wedge is on $350 and the Round 2 Prize is on $700.
    • There is a $6,550 Jackpot win.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
  • On March 7:
    • Contestants Michael and Vyky, who competed against each other on March 5, both compete in the Friday Finals. This is the second of only ten known times where the same two contestants compete against each other twice.
    • The Round 2 Prize is properly placed on $350 and the $10,000 Wedge is on $700.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 5.
    • Howard Stern makes a guest appearance at the end of the show to promote his film Private Parts. The rerun of this episode in the summertime replaces his appearance with a new closing segment.
  • March 10 is South America week.
  • On March 10:
    • The Round 2 Prize is on $800 and the $10,000 Wedge is on $450.
    • The second Bankrupt comes loose, partially exposing the orange-yellow $300 in Round 3.
    • Contestant Ed solves the bonus puzzle BUGLE despite getting no help from his extra letters. After it is solved, Pat pretends to frisk him; this becomes a running gag for the next several years whenever a contestant manages to solve a bonus puzzle with very few letters revealed.
  • On March 11:
    • The $10,000 Wedge is on the orange-yellow $250 and the Round 2 prize is on the pink $250 between the yellow $400 and the red $900.
    • The Round 2 Fill In the Blank puzzle ? PARADE ? BUNNY ? SUNRISE SERVICE (Easter) does not use a hanging indent, even though such an arrangement could have fit on the board.
  • On March 12:
    • After Round 1 is solved, Pat notices a bug on the Wheel and scoops it off with his answer card.
    • The $10,000 Wedge is on the red $900 and the Round 2 prize is on the yellow $400 between $550 and the pink $250.
  • On March 13:
    • Nearly eight years after the daytime show dropped the shopping rounds and nearly a decade after nighttime stopped using them, Pat stops reminding contestants that "we're playing for cash".
    • The Prize is a Mangavox TV which displays the Season 13 opening as Charlie describes it.
    • The $10,000 Wedge is on the yellow $400 between $550 and the pink $250 and the Round 2 prize is on the orange $250.
    • There is a $9,450 Jackpot win.
    • The bonus puzzle DATES & FIGS is a rare instance of an ampersand in the Bonus Round. This was also the first such use of it since the introduction of the new puzzle board.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
    • Vanna brings in her son, Nicholas, in the final segment.
  • At a taping session on March 13, former contestant Raymond Taylor makes an unauthorized appearance in the studio audience and is forced to leave. He refuses and is physically ejected from the stage. Taylor is later banned from Sony Pictures Studios.
  • On March 14:
    • The Round 2 prize is on $550 and the $10,000 Wedge is on the red $900.
    • The Round 2 Fill In the Blank ? YOUR DOG ? YOUR TONGUE ? YOUR APPETITE (Curb) does not use a hanging indent, even though such an arrangement could have fit on the board.
    • The Surprise is no longer used during Friday Finals; instead, a second Prize is added for Round 3. This wedge is placed on the Surprise's normal place on the yellow $400 near the Lose a Turn.
    • Round 3 (DIET-AND-EXERCISE GURU RICHARD SIMMONS) is improperly hyphenated.
    • For the last time, the Wheel spins automatically during the credits.
  • March 17 is the first Spring Break Week. During this week, Charlie's intro is "From the Sony Studios, it's Spring Break Week on Wheel of Fortune!"
  • On March 17:
    • The Round 2 prize is on $550 and the $10,000 Wedge is on the pink $250 between the yellow $400 and the red $900.
    • Contestant Ron lands on Surprise in Round 2 and calls a correct letter, but Pat does not tell him to pick it up. This does not affect the outcome, as he does not solve the puzzle. He ends up hitting it again in Round 3 but calls a wrong letter on that turn.
    • The bonus puzzle IN A JIFFY is only the second one this entire season to use more than two words.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
  • On March 18:
    • There are two contestants named Crystal, although one of them goes by Kristi.
    • The Prize is a Klipsch speaker system and a Zenith TV which displays Rosie O'Donnell's appearance from the March 4th episode as Charlie describes it.
    • The Round 2 Prize is on the yellow $400 between $550 and the pink $250 and the $10,000 Wedge is on the orange $250.
  • On March 19:
    • The Prize is a $2,500 Tommy Hilfiger & Nike Shopping Spree.
    • The $10,000 Wedge is on the red $900 and the Round 2 prize is on the yellow $400 between $550 and $250.
  • On March 20:
    • The $10,000 Wedge is on $350, and the Round 2 prize is on $700. The Prize is properly placed on $350 in Round 3.
    • The Round 2 Prize is a $2,700 Sharper Image gift certificate, with which limited-edition Star Wars merchandise may be purchased.
    • After contestant Pleshette wins the above Prize in Round 3, a stagehand gives Pat a Darth Vader helmet, which he then hands to her.
  • On March 21:
    • Contestants Chad and Pleshette, who competed against each other on March 20, both compete in the Friday Finals. This is the third of only ten known times where the same two contestants compete against each other twice.
    • The $10,000 Wedge is on the red $900, and the Round 2 Prize is on the yellow $400 between $550 and the pink $250.
    • Round 3's puzzle, MIKE CONNORS AS MANNIX, is the first instance of a puzzle in the format of Star & Role instead being categorized as Classic TV. Given that this happens several more times by the end of the season, this would suggest that Star & Role was put on hiatus.
    • The buzzer does not sound on a wrong letter (D) near the end of Round 3.
    • Unusually, Round 4 (LEATHER-BOUND ORGANIZER) is the longest puzzle.
  • Reruns air during the week of March 24.
  • March 31 is the first European Vacation week, a tradition which occurs once a season until Season 19.
  • On March 31:
    • The Round 2 Prize is on the red $900 and the $10,000 Wedge is on the yellow $400 between $550 and the pink $250. Although the closeup does not show the $10,000 wedge.
    • Rounds 1 and 2 are played entirely by the contestants who began them.
    • After the Round 2 puzzle NIXON RESIGNS FORD BECOMES PRESIDENT (Headline), contestant Carol is given a multiple-choice question asking for the year it took place (1972, 1973, or 1974), and does not choose the right answer of 1974.
    • When Round 4 goes to Speed-Up, the "only vowels remain" beeps accidentally sound instead of the bells, which themselves sound immediately afterward.

April 1997

  • On April 1, Pat and Vanna play for charity as an April Fools' joke, with Alex Trebek hosting, and Pat's wife, Lesly Sajak, as hostess, as a result, there is no third contestant. Conversely, Pat hosts that same day's Jeopardy!, whose first round features Wheel-themed categories. On this episode:
    • The European Vacation set is retained.
    • Charlie's introduction begins normally, after which Johnny Gilbert takes over by saying, "And now, here is your host, Alex Trebek!" Alex makes his entrance solo, and then welcomes the viewers before introducing Lesly. The puzzle-solve cue sounds when Lesly walks out.
    • Alex mentions that he filled in as host for a week in 1980, a fact that he previously confirmed on a 1991 episode of To Tell the Truth.
    • After Alex's opening dialogue with Lesly, Johnny introduces Pat and Vanna using the Jeopardy! "Now entering the studio are today's contestants" catchphrase and that show's then-current arrangement of the opening theme. As they are introduced, their names appear on the category strips.
    • Vanna mentions that she has only spun the Wheel once before, despite at least three confirmed instances of her having done so (January 1984, November 1989, and an unknown daytime episode during Bob Goen's tenure as host).
    • Instead of drawing numbers, Pat and Vanna do a coin toss before the show to see which of them gets to spin first.
    • Rounds 1 and 4 are Phrase.
    • Round 1's answer is PAT I'D LIKE TO SOLVE THE PUZZLE.
    • The $10,000 Wedge is properly placed on orange-yellow $300.
    • Pat and Vanna solve Round 2, VANNA MAKES HER WHEEL DEBUT, together. It is followed by a clip of her first official episode on December 13, 1982.

      Something to say when you have nothing to say.

    • Round 3 is SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS, in the joke category of "Really Long Title" and hyphenated twice to fit on the board. It is also given a "bonus" question asking for the musical it came from, and Pat gives the correct answer of Mary Poppins. This is the only time this season a "bonus" question is used in Round 3.
    • Alex's Final Spin moves only five wedges.
    • The Speed-Up round has Pat and Vanna's images inside red and yellow boxes on a green background, rather than a zoomed-in version of the usual shot.
    • The Y in the Round 4 puzzle IT'S NOT AS EASY AS IT LOOKS refuses to reveal when Lesly touches it, and is only revealed when Vanna solves it immediately after.
    • Pat and Vanna play the Bonus Round together and win $25,000. Their combined winnings are split 50/50 between their two charities (The Boy Scouts of America and the American Cancer Society, respectively). This is also the only other point in the entire game in which Charlie is heard.
    • The bonus puzzle, TRADING PLACES, is believed to be the first bonus puzzle under three-and-a-vowel rules that has at least one each of R, S, T, L, N, and E.
    • No credit is given for Alex's wardrobe, but ones for Vanna, Pat, and Lesly are.
  • On April 2:
    • The Round 2 prize is on the orange-yellow $300 and the $10,000 Wedge is on the orange $250. The former moves to $350 in Round 3.
    • An extra $950 is added to the Jackpot before the first letter is revealed. It is possible that a "null" cycle was edited out (against normal practice for the Jackpot rounds, especially ones where the Jackpot is won), as the letters S and T are not called on air and do not appear in the puzzle.
    • There is a $9,300 Jackpot win. The aforementioned Jackpot increase affects the outcome, as the contestant (Amy) who wins it wins the game by $820; interestingly, both contestants end up making the Friday Finals anyway.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 4.
    • Contestant Jim finishes in second place with $21,050.
    • The bonus puzzle blanks are already on the board at the start of that segment.
  • On April 3:
    • The Round 2 prize is on $550 and the $10,000 Wedge is on the pink $250 between the yellow $400 and the red $900.
    • There is a $7,300 Jackpot win.
  • On April 4:
    • Contestants Amy and Jim, who competed against each other on April 2, both compete in the Friday Finals. This is the fourth of only ten known times where the same two contestants compete against each other twice.
    • The Free Spin becomes loose after contestant Jim spins on his first turn but it is fixed before Round 2.
    • The Round 2 prize is a Broyhill desk with a Sony computer, which is shown running the 1994 Wheel of Fortune PC game.
    • The Round 2 Prize is properly placed on $350 and the $10,000 Wedge is on the orange $250.
    • There is a $12,300 Jackpot win.
    • In Round 4, the "only vowels remain" beeps fail to sound until after Carol starts to solve.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
  • April 7 is English Countryside Week.
  • On April 7:
    • The name tags become slightly narrower.
    • With only a couple of exceptions, the Prizes, Surprise, and $10,000 Wedge return to their usual spots.
    • The Surprise is Marilyn Monroe memorabilia which includes a framed check signed by Marilyn from 1948, and a photo of that actress striking a pose.
    • There is a $7,600 Jackpot win.
    • Round 4 goes to Speed-Up with only the X missing from the puzzle GET TO THE CRUX OF THE MATTER.
    • After contestant Khautusha solves Round 4 for $250, her score is not increased to $500, and Pat does not mention the house minimum. Just before the Bonus Round, Pat acknowledges the error and says Khautusha will receive the full $500.
  • On April 8, all of the puzzles are very short, with Round 2 (KING KONG & GODZILLA) being the longest at only 16 letters.
  • On April 9:
    • Surprise is placed on the yellow $400 between the pink $250 and $550 instead of the one two wedges counterclockwise from Lose A Turn.
    • In Round 3, the buzzer accidentally sounds on a correct letter.
    • Contestant Bob wins despite losing $16,500 ($6,500 cash and the $10,000 Wedge) in Round 2.
  • On April 10, there is a $7,700 Jackpot win.
  • On April 11:
    • No vowels are bought in Round 3.
    • Although contestant Ellen loses the Bonus Round, her husband comes onstage anyway.
  • April 14 is the first Puerto Rico week, a tradition that continues until Season 17. During this week:
    • Charlie's intro is "From the Sony Studios, it's Escape to Puerto Rico Week on Wheel of Fortune!"
    • The Friday Finals Bonus Round winner's extra prize is a $15,000 dream vacation to Las Casitas Village in Puerto Rico. It is awarded regardless of whether or not the winning contestant solves the bonus puzzle.
  • On April 14:
    • Round 4 (KIWI FRUIT) is a rare instance of a puzzle shorter than ten letters.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 4.
    • All of the puzzles are very short, with Round 2 (WHEN IT RAINS IT POURS) being the longest at only 18 letters.
  • On April 15:
    • Round 5 (HUDSON BAY) is a rare instance of a puzzle shorter than ten letters.
    • Contestant Lesleigh solves the above puzzle with only the D and S showing.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used.
  • On April 17:
    • After Round 2's Clue puzzle SONG LYRICS BY FRANCIS SCOTT KEY, contestant Carmen offers a guess of "the national anthem"; when Pat asks her to be more specific, she does not give the intended answer of "The Star Spangled Banner". This is a very rare instance of someone who answers a "bonus" question being asked to be more specific.
    • No vowels are bought in Rounds 3 or 4.
  • On April 18, the Round 3 puzzle BERT ERNIE & OSCAR THE GROUCH is inexplicably categorized as Show Biz instead of Fictional Characters.
  • All five Bonus Rounds are won on the week of April 14.
  • April 21 is Canadian Rockies week.
  • On April 21:
    • The Round 2 Prize is a shopping spree at Mall of America.
    • After the Round 2 puzzle DO A LITTLE DANCE MAKE A LITTLE LOVE (The 70's), contestant Beth is asked what is the next line. She provides the right answer of "Get down tonight". It is also not known why the puzzle was not categorized as Next Line Please.
    • In Round 4, three consecutive letter reveals are shot with the crane for no particular reason.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
  • On April 22:
    • In Round 1, contestant Joe immediately picks up the Surprise after landing on it, but this ends up not mattering as he calls a correct letter.
    • There is a $7,500 Jackpot win.
    • Both Rounds 2 and 4 are completely filled in before being solved.
    • The bonus puzzle BIKE is the first four-letter bonus puzzle to be used on the monitor-based board. These are shortest known answers used during the lifespan of this board lasting until November 2001.
    • Contestant Kim sweeps the game and wins $25,000 in the Bonus Round.
  • On April 23:
    • There is a $10,650 Jackpot win.
    • Once again, several letter reveals in Round 4 are shot with the crane.
    • Contestant Steve finishes second with $20,050.
  • On April 25:
    • Three females play in the Friday Finals.
    • A "null" cycle appears to have been edited out of Round 4, as evidenced by Pat commenting about the number of lost turns after only the second one.
  • During the week of April 21, all five winners are female.
  • April 28 is the first Wheel Across America week. This theme is later called America Travel, and renamed again to Road Trip in Season 28.
  • On April 28:
    • In Round 2, contestant Tracey fills in the entire puzzle BILLIE JO BOBBIE JO & BETTY JO (Classic TV) by herself, although a "null" cycle appears to have been edited out. It is then followed by a trivia question asking for the hometown of those characters, and she does not provide the right answer of Hooterville.
    • Rounds 1-4 do not have S in them.
    • Despite solving the first three puzzles for a combined $17,750, Tracey finishes in second place.
  • On April 29:
    • A "null" cycle is edited out of Round 1, as referenced by Pat saying "Ardis, try it again" despite it being her first aired turn.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 1.
    • Round 3 (THE TONIGHT SHOW'S KEVIN EUBANKS, in the category Show Biz) is a rare instance of the category also containing part of the answer.
    • Contestant Ardis sweeps the game and wins a Saab 900 SE Turbo convertible in the Bonus Round.
    • None of the puzzles have an L in them.
  • On April 30:
    • Pat erroneously says "We'll be back" after Round 4 is solved, but quickly realizes his mistake and begins congratulating the contestants on their winnings.
    • As a joke related to the above gaffe, Pat has contestant Ray announce the values of the remaining bonus prizes.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.

May 1997

  • On May 1:
    • Contestant Jonathan spins $3,500 three times in Round 3, but loses $18,550 to Bankrupt.
    • The Jackpot reaches $20,900, but it is not won.
    • No vowels are bought in Rounds 4 or 5.
    • Jonathan spins just as the Final Spin chimes sound. He is allowed to complete his turn, after which Pat does the Final Spin.
  • May 5 is a special week where celebrities and their mothers play together. During this week:
    • Charlie introduces each celebrity as he or she walks onstage, and then the celebrity introduces his or her mother.
    • Pat interviews the red team after Round 1, the yellow team after Round 2, and the blue team after Round 3. This continues to be the case with celebrity episodes until Season 17's Soap Opera Stars Week.
    • During their interviews, their names appear on the category strips, albeit in mixed-case instead of all-caps.
    • A unique set of contestant backdrops is used, composed of three interlocking golden rings.
    • All contestants receive a house minimum of $5,000 and the Bonus Round is played for $25,000.
    • "Special thanks to all our moms" and "Happy Mother's Day" are added to the credits.
    • After each round (except on Friday due to the Friday Finals), childhood photos of the celebrites are shown, followed by a clip of a work in which said celebrity appeared:
      • May 5: footage of Al Roker on The Today Show, Trisha Yearwood in the music video for her single "Everybody Knows", and Brook Lee being announced as winner of the 1997 Miss USA pageant
      • May 6: Tia and Tamera Mowery in Sister, Sister, Ben Savage in Boy Meets World, and Kathy Ireland in her workout video Kathy Ireland's Advanced Sports Fitness
      • May 7: Thomas Calabro in Melrose Place, Marla Maples Trump being introduced with George Hamilton as co-host of the 1997 Miss USA pageant, and Victoria Rowell in The Young and the Restless
      • May 8: Bonnie Hunt in Jerry Maguire, Nick Van Exel playing basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers, and Steve Burton in General Hospital
  • On May 5:
    Season 14 Sponsored Jackpot Wedge.png
    • The Jackpot round begins to have sponsors whose logos are also displayed on the Jackpot wedge, replacing the curved horizontal "Jackpot" text; in addition, sponsor plugs are used. The first is Pizza Hut.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 2.
    • Following the sponsor plugs, Charlie now announces "And we've added this prize to the Wheel..." for all Round 3 Prizes. This lasts until the end of Season 22.
    • After Trisha Yearwood and her mother call the last consonant in the Round 4 Speed-Up, no acknowledgement is given that only vowels remain until after they lose their turn.
  • On May 6:
    • For the only known time, a team consists of three people (Tia and Tamera Mowry, plus their mother).
    • Kathy Ireland and her mother solve the bonus puzzle BUTTON UP despite getting no help from their extra letters. Also, the camera cuts away from the puzzle board before the answer fills in.
  • On May 7, there are two jump cuts to Pat during the Speed-Up. The first is due to him being amused by a wrong answer given by Thomas Calabro, and the second is after Victoria Rowell gives another wrong answer.
  • On May 8:
    • The Free Spin comes loose in Round 1, exposing part of the 3 on the green $300. This is fixed in Round 2.
    • Twice in Round 1, Bonnie Hunt's mother accidentally calls a vowel after spinning.
    • In Round 2, Bonnie starts to spin again before Vanna can reveal the letter that was called. Bonnie then stops the Wheel in mid-spin, causing her and Pat to joke around for several seconds before he tells her to "spin the damn Wheel."
    • Round 4 (KANGAROO'S POUCH) is inexplicably categorized as Place instead of Thing.
  • On May 9:
    • No vowels are bought in Round 4.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
  • The weeks of May 12 and 19 are taped at the San Diego Convention Center. Neither is rerun during the Summer.
    • As this is the first road show since the introduction of the electronic puzzle board, it should be noted that the show no longer has a separate puzzle board for use on road shows.
  • During the week of May 12:
    • Two different opening montages are used:
      • On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, there is a shot of Vanna saying "From San Diego, it's Wheel of Fortune!" from the orca exhibit at SeaWorld San Diego.
      • On Tuesday and Thursday, the opening montage is outtakes of Vanna walking through a door and introducing the San Diego Chargers, who follow behind her and do the "Wheel! Of! Fortune!" chant. A clip of this appeared on the ceremonial 3,000th episode.
    • The Marine Band San Diego plays music as bumpers.
  • On May 12:
    • The Round 2 Prize is $2,000 credit to Cabela's.
    • Against normal practice, the buzzer sounds on a repeated letter in Round 3.
  • On May 13:
    • Contestant Kelly sweeps the game and wins a Chevrolet Corvette in the Bonus Round.
    • The bonus puzzle PEBBLE is a very rare instance of E being the only vowel in a bonus puzzle.
  • On May 14:
    • An unknown couple models a pair of tennis rackets which are included in the Round 2 Prize.
    • The Bonus Round timer beeps are accidentally cued up twice, causing them to play over themselves with a slight delay.
    • The winning contestant (Sammy) finishes with only $2,200.
  • On May 15:
    • The Round 2 Prize includes a subscription to Dish Network, the copy of which includes a plug for Game Show Network.
    • There is an $8,300 Jackpot win.
    • No vowels are bought in Round 4.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
  • On May 16:
    • Three females play in the Friday Finals.
    • During Round 2, after contestant Kari hits Bankrupt, Pat walks over to remove the Prize wedge from her arrow himself, as opposed to asking her to pass it to him as usual.
    • The letter dings accidentally sound on the first turn of the Speed-Up.
    • Kari solves the Bonus Round puzzle VOGUE before the timer can start.
    • Once again, Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
  • May 19 is College Week. During this week:
    • The contestants do the title chant from the campus of San Diego State University.
    • The San Diego State University marching band plays music bumpers and "Changing Keys" (again with the pre-1994 version of the melody).
    • Unusually, the bonus puzzles on May 20, 21, and 23 (SCHOLAR, PEP SQUAD, and HIT THE BOOKS respectively) are all themed to the week.
  • On May 19:
    • Round 3 (UPPERCLASSMEN) is a very rare instance of a one-word puzzle in any round other than the first or last one.
    • The bonus puzzle IN A BIG HURRY is only the third one this entire season to use more than two words.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
  • On May 20:
    • Contestant Nathan Kravetz, who was 76 at the time, is the oldest contestant to have competed on College Week.
    • Nathan fills in the entire Round 1 puzzle TRAINED SEAL OF APPROVAL by himself.
    • The Round 2 Prize is a pair of Yamaha scooters.
    • Nathan incorrectly solves Round 3 (WHO YOU GONNA CALL GHOSTBUSTERS) as WHO YOU GONNA KILL GHOSTBUSTERS, a moment which has been recalled by many fans.
    • There is a $9,600 Jackpot win. In a rather rare occurrence, it comes with only vowels remaining.
    • For no particular reason, there is a jump cut to a shot of the contestant area after the first turn of the Speed-Up.
  • On May 22:
    • Rounds 2 and 3 are played entirely by the contestants who began them.
    • Neither Bankrupt nor Lose a Turn is hit.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
  • On May 23:
    • The ding is accidentally used on the first turn of the Speed-Up.
    • The aforementioned bonus puzzle HIT THE BOOKS is only the fourth one this entire season to use more than two words.
  • May 26 is New York Week.
  • On May 26:
    • No vowels are bought in Round 1.
    • The $10,000 Wedge is on the orange $300.
  • On May 27:
    • Round 1 (THE ODD COUPLE) is categorized as Classic TV, instead of Title.
    • Contestant Jennifer's name tag falls off after she solves Round 1. Pat picks it up and puts it back on.
    • Contestant Jill accidentally asks for a "grow" in Round 2 instead of a G, but corrects herself after Pat asks her to try again.
    • After the Round 2 puzzle I WON'T GROW UP (Quotation), contestant Jill is asked what show is that song from. She does not provide the right answer of Peter Pan.
    • There is a $6,950 Jackpot win.
  • On May 28:
    • Contestant Dan solves the Round 4 puzzle RAYMOND BURR AS PERRY MASON with only the R's and N's showing.
    • Six rounds are played without a Speed-Up.
    • The first I in the Round 6 puzzle HAIR STYLIST refuses to reveal for several seconds, and Vanna ends up hitting the monitor with her fist. Pat and Vanna mention this in their chat, and it is replayed during the credits.
    • Vanna also has difficulty revealing the L and C in the bonus puzzle POLICY. After the contestant fails to solve, the remaining letters fill in much more slowly than usual.
  • Between May 27-29, neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game for three consecutive episodes.
  • On May 30:
    • Contestant Jessica fills in the entire Round 1 puzzle TAKING AN I.Q. TEST by herself.
    • The Bonus Round (FARGO) is categorized as Title, instead of Place, in reference to the 1996 movie.

June 1997

  • June 2 is Far Away Places Week.
  • On June 2, Karen Griffith and Steve Schwartz become co-producers.
  • On June 3, the Round 2 puzzle FIRST AMERICAN WOMAN TRAVELS INTO SPACE (The 80's) is followed by a trivia question asking who the puzzle describes. Contestant Sina does not provide the correct response of Sally Ride.
  • On June 4:
    • The Round 4 puzzle GUMBY & POKEY is a rare instance of a puzzle with none of the five most common consonants.
    • The Round 5 puzzle JOT IT DOWN is a rare instance of a puzzle shorter than ten letters.
    • Contestant Kristie fills in the bonus puzzle NO-SHOWS completely.
  • On June 6:
    • Contestants Stephanie and Jeffrey, who competed against each other on June 5, both compete in the Friday Finals. This is the fifth of only ten known times where the same two contestants compete against each other twice.
    • For no particular reason, the post-Round 4 bumper is a shot of the puzzle.
  • June 9 is Endless Summer Week.
  • On June 9, there is a rare instance of RSTLNE revealing more than half of the bonus puzzle (WRINKLE).
  • On June 10:
    • In Round 1, contestant Darren asks to buy a U after all the vowels in the puzzle have been bought. It is ruled as a lost turn (before he uses his Free Spin) and the $250 is deducted, although the buzzer does not sound.
    • 11 wrong letters are called in the Speed-Up.
    • Darren fails to solve the bonus puzzle WORDS with only the W missing.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
    • Pat and Vanna do not sign off.
  • On June 11:
    • Round 2 is only the second instance of Where Are We? using only one clue instead of three (THE LAND OF ENCHANTMENT, the correct answer being New Mexico). Although the category continues to use three clues occasionally until Season 20.
    • There is a $7,400 Jackpot win.
    • The bonus puzzle JULY is inexplicably categorized as Thing instead of the more logical Event.
  • On June 12, neither Thing nor Phrase is used.
  • On June 13:
    • The audience accidentally applauds after contestant Charlene gives a wrong answer in Round 3, and there appears to be an edit before contestant Johanna spins.
    • Both Rounds 1 and 3 are completely filled in before being solved.
    • The bonus puzzle UP FOR GRABS is only the fifth one in the entire season to use more than two words.
    • Neither Thing nor Phrase is used in the main game.
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