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A timeline for Season 20 of Wheel of Fortune, which aired in first-run from September 2, 2002 through May 30, 2003.

Season Changes

The original Mystery Wedge.

  • The Wheel is slightly altered again:
    • The second Bankrupt in Round 3 moves to the purple $600 next to $3,500.
    • The Gift Tag moves to $700.
    • The $10,000 Wedge is moved again, to Round 1 on the orange $800.
    • The Round 3 Prize is again retired.
    • The pegs are changed to shorter, bronze-colored ones. Perhaps as a result, the Wheel is now slightly looser than in Seasons 17-19.
  • The Mystery Wedges debut in Round 3:
    • Initially they are worth $500 per letter; this amount may be kept, or forfeited for a chance to see if the reverse contains a prize or a Bankrupt.
    • If one is landed on, a synthesized chord and "tinkle" effect sound.
    • If one is flipped over, the other functions as a $500 space for the rest of the round.
    • They are initially located over the green $500 and the orange-yellow $500.
    • The initial wedge design is black, with a gold question mark in a blue circle at the top of the wedge, and "$500" written in golden yellow underneath.
  • The long-standing practice of generally using a short puzzle in Round 1 seems to disappear around this point. In addition, puzzles using only one line and/or fewer than ten letters disappear from the main game almost entirely.
  • Several changes are made to the music package:
    • The closing version of "Happy Wheels" is slightly re-orchestrated with more saxophones instead of electric guitars.
    • Both puzzle-solve cues are changed, with the main cue extending the final note from the Toss-Up solve cue.
    • The Toss-Up cue is rearranged with a faster tempo and ticking percussion added.
    • There is now a music cue for the Final Spin.
    • The Bonus Wheel music is rearranged.
    • A second music cue is added to the Bonus Round, between the end of the Bonus Wheel music cue and the start of the timer.
  • As of this season, almost all Wheel Prizes are trips, cash awards, or credit towards purchases from a sponsored company.
  • The eggcrate score displays are replaced with computer-generated panel displays. These displays are colored the same as the respective arrows below them, with an "embossed" texture of the Bankrupt-$600-$400-$300-Lose A Turn section of the Wheel as a background. Scores are displayed in a white Impact font. Whenever a score is altered, it swivels as it morphs to the new score. If a contestant hits Bankrupt or Lose A Turn, those words are shown on the display (in the color scheme of the wedge) for a few seconds. At the start of each show, the scoreboards each show one word in the show's title (though not in the logo's font); upon the first letter being revealed in the $1,000 Toss-Up, they disappear via an "explosion" graphic.
  • Karen Griffith and Steve Schwartz became senior producers.
  • Possibly in relation to the score display change, the scoreboard frames now remain off regardless of turn, although the contestant arrows below still blink.
  • The extra cash amounts added to the Bonus Wheel for the Big Money Week of February 18-22, 2002 become permanent. When they are described by Charlie leading out of the final round, there is an animation of the Bonus Wheel slowly spinning, as each amount's envelope flies out and opens revealing the new values. After the $50,000 envelope opens, the camera cuts to center stage for the announcement of the $100,000 cash prize. This lasts until at least the end of Season 23. The bonus round win graphics for cash prizes ranging from $30,000 to $50,000 are like the $25,000 win graphic first used last season. Also, in early episodes of this season, the bonus round cash spiel is "How's this for cash, you could win anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000, or of course, the big $100,000!" The spiel is later chaged to "There's lots of reasons to win cash, from $25,000 to $50,000, or you could spin and win $100,000!"
  • Contestants who finish with $0 are now given $500 cash instead of parting gifts, to alleviate the cost of travel.
  • The opening is now blue rings in a reddish background, forming a maroon version of the two-row logo. Once it's complete, the "Wheel! Of! Fortune!" chant is heard. The logo then zooms up to the Wheel-shaped "O" in "of" to cut to the studio. Sometimes the logo has the accompanying text "20th Anniversary" below it, similar to the bug (see below).
  • For this season only, the shot during the intro starts at a "20th Anniversary" monitor hanging over the middle of the audience.
  • The category strips are a blue rectangle with a green border, with the font changing to Alternate Gothic.
  • "Bonus" categories now frequently appear in Round 3 as well as Round 2.
  • For this season only, the category strip in the Bonus Round flies onscreen with a "whoosh" sound effect, and RSTLNE spins onscreen one letter at a time.
  • For this season only, there is a "20th Anniversary" bug on-screen. The same logo also spins onscreen to form the contestant window in the Bonus Round.
  • For this season only, the video wall behind the contestants has gold borders.
  • All sixth episodes this season retain the name of their respective weeks.
  • From now through Season 30, the last week of the season is always composed of sixth episodes.
  • If a contestant has friends and/or family members in the audience, they are now shown standing at the front of the audience before the Bonus Round.

September 2002

  • For the first few weeks of the Mystery Round's existence:
    • During the Round 2 outro, Charlie announces, "The all-new Mystery Round is full of surprises, and it's coming up next!"
    • Charlie's original spiel at the start of the round is "The Mystery Round: it's all or nothing. What's on the other side of the Mystery Wedge? It could be a Bankrupt..." followed by a phrase that varies from day to day, then the name and value of the prize. An animation of the Wheel stopping, followed by both wedges dropping onto the Wheel, appears as Charlie says the first sentence; as he says "Bankrupt", the right one flips over to reveal a Bankrupt and the slide whistle sounds. A spinning silver question mark then wipes to a graphic of the prize as its value appears.
    • When Pat describes the Mystery Wedges, a unique low-angle shot of the Wheel is used, panning from one wedge to the other.
    • If a contestant flips over a Mystery Wedge, Pat flips over the other one at the end of the round (sometimes spinning the Wheel backwards to do so). However, he does not do this on September 2.
  • For the first two weeks, at least one shot of the board in Round 1 is done differently than normal: instead of cutting from the contestant area to a full shot of the board, the camera pans over to it. This sometimes results in part of the board being cut off when a letter is revealed.
  • September 2 is Hot Cars Week.
  • On September 2:
    • The Gift Tag is accidentally placed on the red $800. It stays that way for Round 2, only slightly moved to the left to make room for the Prize wedge.
    • There are two sets of duplicate categories: the $2,000 Toss-Up and Round 2 are Phrase, while the $3,000 Toss-Up and the Bonus Round are Thing.
    • The very first Mystery Wedge is flipped. The other side is Bankrupt.
    • In Round 3, after contestant Kelly hits Bankrupt and uses her Free Spin, the overhead shot of the following spin is obviously dubbed in: not only does the shot show the red arrow instead of the yellow, but the $10,000 Wedge and a different Gift Tag (on the red $900) are visible.
  • On September 3, during the Bonus Round, Pat steps into the shot of the puzzle board to confirm what letters Louis called.
  • On September 4, Vanna wears a sleeveless top and pants.
  • On September 5:
    • The Round 4 puzzle METRIC AND STEREO SYSTEM is only the second known instance since 1989 of Same Name spelling out AND.
    • The bonus puzzle A JOY RIDE is misspelled ("joyride" should be one word).
  • On September 6, the Round 2 puzzle JULIA ROBERTS MARRIES IN NEW MEXICO uses the second through fourth rows of the board for no particular reason.
  • September 9 is Viva Las Vegas. During this week, the Gift Tag is on the red $900.
  • On September 9:
    • There is a $17,450 Jackpot win, likely a record.
    • The Mystery Prize is won for the first time. Contestant Mark calls the last consonant in the puzzle on the Mystery Wedge, and the "only vowels remain" beeps sound before he is asked whether he wants to flip the wedge. After he flips it over, the Bankrupt slide whistle and Mystery chord both sound for no particular reason.
    • There is a $100,000 loss.
  • On September 10:
    • Charlie's post-Round 2 announcement of the Mystery Round is edited out.
    • The $2,000 Toss-Up, Round 3, and the Bonus Round are Phrase.
    • Round 3 is YOU HAVE TEN SECONDS GOOD LUCK, a phrase often said by Pat before the Bonus Round timer starts.
    • Against normal practice at the time, the "only vowels remain" beeps sound in the Speed-Up.
    • Contestant Margie mispronounces the first word of the Speed-Up puzzle JALAPENO & DR PEPPER but is ruled correct. This ruling ends up affecting the outcome.
    • Pat and Vanna only say goodbye at the end. This and the lack of post-Round 2 announcement are likely due to the episode running overtime.
  • On September 11, contestant Keith solves the Speed-Up puzzle TOBEY MAGUIRE AS SPIDER-MAN with only the B and S's showing.
  • On September 12:
    • The Gift Tag is accidentally placed on the red $900, and ends up coming loose. This results in it being adjusted twice: it is placed over the dollar sign instead of the 9 in Round 2, and is placed back over the 9 in Round 3 (albeit shifted to the left to accommodate the adjacent Mystery wedge).
    • After contestant Dana fails to identify the place described by Round 2's Where Are We? puzzle GLAZED DECAF PLEASE BAKER'S DOZEN, Pat asks contestant Jim to provide the right answer of doughnut shop, since he is a police officer.
    • Contestant Al (who does not solve the bonus puzzle) misses the $100,000 by one envelope.
  • On September 13:
    • David spins the Wheel just after the Final Spin bells sound. He is allowed to complete his turn, and Pat does the Final Spin immediately afterward.
    • The Round 4 puzzle MARTIAL & CULINARY ARTS is the last use of Same Name in Round 4 or later until a single occurrence in Season 22.
  • All ten Bonus Rounds are lost on the weeks of September 2 and 9. Overall, Season 20 starts with 13 consecutive Bonus Round losses, the longest known losing streak until May 2013.
  • September 16 is Southern Hospitality.
  • On September 16:
    • No vowels are bought in Round 2.
    • Donny Osmond makes a cameo after the Round 2 puzzle TV GAME SHOW HOST to promote the debut of Pyramid.
    • Charlie's post-Round 2 introduction of the Mystery Round is now accompanied by footage of contestants removing the wedges from the Wheel, which is displayed on a monitor in the middle of the audience.
    • The Bonus Round timer is changed slightly.
    • Wheel, Jeopardy!, and other shows previously produced by Columbia TriStar Television are now produced by Sony Pictures Television.
  • On September 17:
    • The Round 2 puzzle FIRST-CLASS POSTAGE GETS A HIKE (Headline) is followed by a bonus question asking for the price of first-class postage. Contestant Briana gives the correct response of 37 cents.
    • There is an $8,600 Jackpot win.
  • Starting September 18 and lasting until about December, most two-word bonus puzzles begin to display on only one line instead of two.
  • On September 19:
    • The scoreboards and arrows turn off after contestant Joseph's first spin in Round 1. This is fixed before his second spin.
    • Likely due to the above, the overhead shot of the second spin is clearly dubbed in from Round 3, as the Mystery Wedges are visible.
    • Rounds 1 and 2 each have a "null" cycle that is edited out. The first one is referenced by Pat saying "No L, either" despite no prior wrong letters being aired, and the second results in an extra $1,200 being added to the Jackpot after the second aired spin.
    • There is a $7,650 Jackpot win. The aforementioned Jackpot increase does not affect the outcome.
  • On September 20, the second-place contestant has $20,300.
  • September 23 is Wheel Loves L.A.
  • On September 23:
    • There is a rare instance of a "bonus" question being multiple-choice: after the Round 2 Slogan puzzle BREAKFAST MADE RIGHT, contestant Robin is asked whether it is the slogan of Kellogg's, General Mills, or Post, and she does not give the correct response of Post.
    • Vanna brings out Giovanna in the final segment.
  • On September 24:
    • The Round 3 puzzle THE OK CORRAL IN TOMBSTONE ARIZONA uses the second through fourth rows for no particular reason; it is also improperly punctuated, as "O.K." should contain periods.
    • Contestant Leigh is accidentally credited with $10,250 instead of $3,250 when he solves Round 4. This error is never acknowledged or corrected on-air, but it ultimately does not affect the outcome.
  • On September 26, Vanna wears a sleeveless top and pants.
  • On September 27:
    • Rhyme Time makes its second known appearance in the Bonus Round.
    • Contestant Sharon's letters fill in the bonus puzzle FINE WINE completely.
    • Charlie joins Pat and Vanna in the closing segment, and he does the "promotional consideration provided by..." tag from center stage.
  • September 30 is Florida Week.
  • On September 30, contestant Sylvia solves the bonus puzzle YUGOSLAVIA with only the S, L, and A's revealed. A clip of this is seen on the ceremonial 4,000th episode.

October 2002

  • October 1 begins the Play! Watch! Win! Sweepstakes, which lasts until December 31. During this period, viewers may submit each day's bonus puzzle on the show's website. The grand prize is a trip for two to Los Angeles with $1,000 spending cash and a chance to audition.
  • Sometime in October, the show begins sporadically doing "Wheel Changes Lives" in the closing segment, in which Pat and Vanna read letters from former contestants.
  • On October 1, contestant Jon-Paul is the second known contestant to have a hyphenated name.
  • On October 3:
    • Vanna wears a sleeveless top and pants.
    • Interestingly, both Rounds 2 and 3 (BOW STERN RUDDER & MAST and ZIP CODE OF CONDUCT) have a word that has no letters in common with any of the other words in the puzzle.
  • On October 7:
    • Pat forgets to ask Jason who he has in the audience until the answer to the bonus puzzle is revealed.
    • The correct letter ding is used instead of the usual chime when the Bonus Round envelope is selected.
    • There is a $100,000 loss.
  • On October 9:
    • Contestant Angela spins over the Final Spin bells; she is allowed to complete her spin, but hits Lose a Turn.
    • Round 4 inexplicably goes to Speed-Up with only one consonant remaining.
    • Against normal practice at the time, the "only vowels remain" beeps sound in the Speed-Up.
  • On October 11, Round 5 inexplicably goes to Speed-Up with only one consonant remaining.
  • October 14 is California Dreamin'.
  • On October 18:
    • There is a $10,350 Jackpot win.
    • Pat and Vanna do the closing chat from the puzzle board, and Vanna uses the bonus puzzle to demonstrate how it works.
  • October 21 is Wheel Takes Manhattan.
  • On October 23:
    • In Round 1, Pat forgets to ask contestant LaMar if he wants to use his Free Spin after a wrong letter, even though he picked it up only one turn prior; he uses it in Round 2 without being prompted.
    • Both Rounds 1 and 2 are completely filled in before being solved.
    • Where Are We? permanently reverts to using three clues as it did prior to 1996 (in this case, Round 2's answer QUIET PLEASE STACKS DEWEY DECIMAL SYSTEM, the correct answer being library).
    • Against normal practice, the buzzer sounds after a wrong answer in Round 2.
    • After the wrong answer, the next shot of the board appears to have been added in post-production, as the D's that were called on the previous turn are absent from the puzzle in that shot only.
    • After contestant Dawn solves Round 2's Where Are We? puzzle for $300, her score is not bumped up to the house minimum before she is asked to identify what the puzzle describes; it is not known if this was normal practice by this point, or a one-time error. This does not affect the outcome, as Dawn wins regardless.
    • Round 4 (HENNY PENNY) is a rare instance of a puzzle with only one vowel.
    • Eight consecutive wrong letters are called in the Speed-Up, including a repeated C and an R that Pat incorrectly acknowledges as a repeat. Altogether, 10 wrong letters are called.
    • Also against normal practice, the "only vowels remain" beeps sound immediately after the last consonant is called in the Speed-Up. This also leads to a rare instance of a contestant losing their turn in the Speed-Up with only vowels remaining; with only the E's missing, LaMar gives a wrong answer and Dawn solves, both without calling a letter first.
  • October 28 is Hallowheel. During this week, a promo for the Wheel Watchers Club appears during the interviews.
  • On October 28, the Prize is a trip to Space Camp with several New Line Entertainment movies on DVD; said Prize's copy is preceded by a trailer for Jason X, one of the movies included in the bundle.
  • On October 29, during the closing chat, Pat and Vanna hand out Halloween candy to their children.
  • On October 31, a contestant loses $27,850 to Bankrupt.

November 2002

  • An episode possibly around this point has the only known aired instance of nobody even ringing in on a Toss-Up (specifically, a $3,000 Toss-Up of WHAT A RELIEF); if any subsequent instances occurred, they were likely edited out and replaced with new Toss-Ups, as this is confirmed to have been done on a Season 31 episode.
  • The weeks of November 4-18 are taped at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle on August 9, 10 and 11. During these weeks:
    • The intro includes shots of the Space Needle when it had the Wheel painted on its top in 1995 in honor of the show's last trip to Seattle.
    • The Mystery Round bumper is shown against a sparkling background.
    • The old Bonus Round timer is used.
  • On November 4:
    • Contestant Ashley wins two cars: a Ford Focus ZX 3-door from the Mystery Wedge, and a Mercedes C230 in the Bonus Round.
    • Eight wrong letters (including two repeated consonants) are called in the Speed-Up.
    • The close-up shot of the Mystery Wedges is used for the last time.
  • On November 7:
    • Contestant Jeremy spins the wheel before the puzzle for Round 1 is revealed.
    • The ding does not sound when the T is revealed in Round 1.
  • On November 8:
    • Vanna wears a shirt and pants.
    • Three females play.
    • After contestant Cloretta solves the Speed-Up puzzle CINEMATOGRAPHY, she screams and celebrates with Pat, after which he asks, "Can we get a witness?" This was seen in some retrospectives.
  • On November 11, Columbia TriStar Domestic Television is re-branded Sony Pictures Television.

SonyPicturesTelevision2002Logo.jpeg

  • November 11 is College Week. During this week:
    • The University of Washington marching band plays music bumpers.
    • All of the trips are sponsored by American Airlines.
  • On November 11:
    • The Round 3 puzzle JAMES TAYLOR'S YOU'VE GOT A FRIEND is on the second through fourth rows of the board for no particular reason.
    • The $1,000 Toss-Up is Thing, and Round 4 is Things.
  • On November 12, contestant Jesibel solves the bonus puzzle WAKE UP with only the E and P showing. A clip of this was seen on the ceremonial 4,000th episode.
  • On November 13, $3,500 is accidentally placed on the Wheel for Round 1.
  • On November 14, Round 3 is the third known instance since Season 7 of Same Name spelling out AND; despite this, Round 2 uses an ampersand even though AND still could have fit on the board (WEEKEND UPDATE ANCHORS JIMMY FALLON & TINA FEY).
  • November 18 is Family Week.
    Gift Tag on $350.png
  • On November 21, the Gift Tag comes loose and covers the dollar sign on $350. This is corrected in Round 2, so the placement of the Prize wedge is not affected.
  • On November 22:
    • The Prize is an $11,000 trip to Mexico.
    • After contestants Renee and Mary solve the Speed-Up puzzle NURSERY SCHOOL, Pat tells Mary, "The only reason I'm laughing is because your mother is patting my rear end!" This was seen in several retro clips.
  • November 25 is Cornucopia Week.
  • On November 25:
    • As this is the sixth episode from Viva Las Vegas, the Gift Tag is on the red $900.
    • In an unusual move, Round 4 (WILL SMITH & TOMMY LEE JONES AS MEN IN BLACK) is the longest puzzle. This is the last time to date that a puzzle in Round 4 or later uses more than two rows.
    • The $2,000 Toss-Up, Round 3, and the Bonus Round are Thing.
  • On November 27 and 28, two contestants in a row get no help from their Bonus Round letters.
  • On November 29, Contestant Paul (who does not solve the bonus puzzle) misses the $100,000 by one envelope.

December 2002

  • December 2 is Family Week, despite there having been one just two weeks before in Seattle. This one is called Family Vacations, and has the Universal Studios Orlando background, similar to the week of May 22, 2000. This Family Week has a sixth episode. It was originally scheduled for the week of December 30, but rescheduled to avoid being pre-empted by the Rose Bowl on ABC affiliates.
  • On December 2, the post-Round 2 announcement of the Mystery Round is removed.
  • On December 3:
    • The $2,000 Toss-Up is Things, and the $3,000 Toss-Up is Thing.
    • No vowels are bought in Rounds 1 or 4.
    • Round 5 (TEENAGERS) is a rare instance of a puzzle shorter than ten letters.
    • The contestant window in the Bonus Round does not appear until Vanna starts revealing the letters that the contestants called.
  • On December 4:
    • There is an edit after contestants Ray and Matthew buy a repeated I in Round 3. It is likely that Pat did not acknowledge it as a repeat, and this error was edited out.
    • The $3,000 Toss-Up is HAPPY NEW YEAR, indicative of the episode's originally-planned airdate.
    • Contestants Bonnie and Karen sweep the game and win $100,000 in the Bonus Round. This is believed to be the first sweep since the introduction of Toss-Ups.
  • On December 5:
    • Round 4 and Bonus Round are On the Map.
    • Round 4 (INDONESIA) is a rare puzzle shorter than ten letters and one with only three unique consonants; despite this, a fifth round is played.
    • The right-letter ding does not sound when the R (the only letter provided by RSTLNE) is revealed in the bonus puzzle.
  • On December 6:
    • Vanna wears a shirt and pants.
    • There is a $12,100 Jackpot win.
    • For the first of only two known times, a contestant or team is asked to be more specific when answering a bonus category's question. After the Round 3 Where Are We? puzzle COLUMNS HONEST ABE NATION'S CAPITAL, they guess Washington, D.C. Upon being asked to be more specific, they do not provide the right answer of the Lincoln Memorial.
  • December 9 is Fiesta Week.
  • On December 12:
    • Vanna wears a sleeveless shirt and pants.
    • Rene solves the Speed-Up puzzle TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT just after the buzzer, after which Bea calls a letter and solves. Pat then tells the contestants that the scores are tentative because they need to check the tape in regards to Rene. After the commercial break, it is determined that Rene was beaten by the buzzer, so Bea is present in the Bonus Round.
    • There is a $100,000 loss.
  • On December 13:
    • In Round 2, there appears to be an edit after contestant Meer calls a repeated N, possibly suggesting that his call was initially misheard as M. Against precedent, the buzzer (likely added in post-production) sounds afterward.
    • There is a $7,500 Jackpot win.
  • December 16 is Shopping Spree. During this week, the Round 2 Prize is a shopping spree.
  • On December 16, two changes are made to the Wheel (barring episodes taped before the change):
    • Lose a Turn and all of the three-digit cash wedges are changed to variants of Clarendon. The lettering on Lose a Turn is placed higher than before, with "LOSE" almost touching the Wheel's rim.
    • The permanent Bankrupt wedge now uses smaller text. The second Bankrupt is not altered to match until Season 24.
  • Also on December 16, the frames of the puzzle board begin to show signs of wear.
  • On December 18, there are two contestants named Kristi/Chris.

The new, skinnier Wheel font.

LoseATurnJanuary2003.png

  • On December 20, Round 3 (JOHN TRAVOLTA AS DANNY ZUKO IN GREASE) is the first of only two known instances of Star & Role using a descriptive phrase.
  • December 23 is Happy Holidays. During this week, the phrase “Happy Holidays” is projected onto the center of the wheel.
  • The weeks of December 23 and 30, due to being taped out of order, use the previous font for the wedges.
  • On December 24:
    • Pat forgets to take away contestant Jessica's Gift Tag after she hits Bankrupt in Round 4.
    • Vanna's stepfather, Herbert White Jr., makes an appearance during the closing segment.
  • On December 27:
    • The $2,000 Toss-Up is SPIN TO WIN.
    • The Gift Tag is a one-year membership to 24 Hour Fitness.
    • Both Rounds 1 and 2 are completely filled in before being solved.
    • Rounds 2 and 3 are Christmas-themed, despite the episode airing after Christmas. This would suggest that this week was moved forward to compensate for the Family Week originally slated to air this week being moved backward.
  • December 30 is San Francisco Salute.
  • On December 30:
    • Although the bonus puzzle is not solved, the entire answer fills in all at once and the board's borders flash.
    • There is a $100,000 loss.
  • Sometime during the week of December 30, a contestant solves KELSEY GRAMMER AS DR. FRASIER CRANE with only the R's and S's revealed.

January 2003

  • Sometime this year, possibly during Sweethearts Week in February, Michelle Stafford and Peter Bergman make guest appearances.
  • January 6 is NFL Players Week. During this week:
    • The highest-scoring team wins a trip 5-day trip to San Diego to attend Super Bowl XXXVII.
    • The set features football-themed decorations in places, and the floor features the Players Inc. logo.
  • On January 6, the category strip for Round 1 does not appear until after the first spin.
  • On January 7, all three teams are male-female combos.
  • On January 9, all three teams are male-female combos.
  • On January 10:
    • Once again, all three teams are male-female combos.
    • In the final segment, Charlie reveals the highest scoring team of the week (contestant Cynthia and John Riggins).
  • January 13 is the first Big Money Week to occur only once in a season.
  • The weeks of January 13 and 20, due to being taped out of order, use the previous font for the wedges.
  • On January 14, there is a $100,000 loss.
  • On January 16, the "only vowels remain" beeps sound twice in Round 3.
  • January 20 is American Travel.
  • On January 20, the beginning of the Mystery Round spiel changes to "If you land on a Mystery Wedge, what will you do? One of the wedges is a Bankrupt." The last sentence still varies from day to day, and the animation is unchanged.
  • On January 23, a contestant solves the bonus puzzle BLACKBIRD while Vanna is still revealing the letters that he called.
  • January 27 is Teen Best Friends. During this week:
    • The 1997-2002 cue is used when the Rounds 1-4 puzzles are solved.
    • The Mystery Round prize is a $10,000 gift certificate from Sony Style.
    • The house minimum and consolation prize for two-person teams are increased to $1,000 (except for NFL Players' week).
    • The "new" Wheel fonts are used and the puzzle board shows signs of wear, suggesting that this week was taped after the weeks of January 13 and 20.
  • On January 27:
    • There is a $7,000 Jackpot win.
    • For the first known time since the introduction of the $500 consolation prize, a contestant or team wins no cash whatsoever; contestants Hannah and Peri of the red team solve Round 3 for only the Prize Wedge, a trip to Colorado, and they do not solve any other puzzles.
  • On January 31:
    • Vanna wears a shirt and pants.
    • The second B in the bonus puzzle BATHROBE fails to light up before contestants Robert and Sherri Lynn solve it.

February 2003

  • The weeks of February 3-17 are taped at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville.
  • On February 3:
    • The shot of the board during the Bonus Round changes slightly: instead of being static, it now slowly zooms in until the timer starts.
    • The lettering on Lose a Turn is fixed.
    • In Round 3, contestant Eric calls the last consonant in the puzzle on the Mystery Wedge, and the "only vowels remain" beeps sound before he is asked whether he wants to flip the wedge.
    • Eric wins two cars: a Hyundai Accent in the Mystery Round, and a Chevy Impala in the Bonus Round. This does not happen again until February 2012.
    • The second-place contestant has $18,455.
    • The Bonus Round cue is altered slightly to add bells.
    • Eric's letters fill in the bonus puzzle SNOWPLOW completely; unusually, Pat immediately asks him to say the answer instead of jokingly waiting for the timer to start.
  • On February 5:
    • A "null" cycle is edited out of Round 1, as referenced to Pat saying "Try it again, Scott" and "Sheerin, back to you" despite them being their first turns aired.
    • The Prize is a $3,500 Visa gift card.
    • Contestant Scott jumps up and down with his fists in the air after solving Round 2, causing Pat to back away from him. This clip was shown on the 4000th episode.
  • On February 6, three females play.
  • On February 7:
    • All three contestants hit Lose a Turn consecutively in Round 3.
    • After contestant Tim hits Lose a Turn in Round 3, the words are not shown on his score display.
  • All five Bonus Rounds are won on the week of February 3.
  • February 10 is Sweethearts Week, and the Hershey's Pot of Gold sweepstakes are held for the last time. Prizes include five Mercedes SLKs; trips to Paris, the Mexican Riviera, and Hawaii; a Sony plasma TV; and Hershey's gift baskets. As before, the sweepstakes form is found in Sunday, February 9's newspaper, as well as online.
  • On February 10, the chord does not sound when contestants Cyndi and Mark land on one of the Mystery Wedges.
  • On February 13, contestants Annie and Fred fill in the bonus puzzle SHRUBS completely.
  • February 17 is first Country Music Stars Week, with teams consisting of a contestant and a country music singer. The singers are Wynonna Judd, George Jones, and Alison Krauss on Monday; Lorrie Morgan, Darryl Worley, and Mark Wills on Tuesday; Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Charley Pride, and Richie McDonald on Wednesday; Ricky Skaggs, Brenda Lee, and Joe Nichols on Thursday; and Barbara Mandrell, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Pam Tillis on Friday. During this week:
    • In the intro, Charlie names each singer while footage is shown of one of their music videos.
    • The singers have special oval-shaped blue nametags with a star at the top.
  • On February 17:
    • Alison Krauss and her teammate Darlene solve the bonus puzzle BOOKWORM with only the R and M revealed.
    • Steve Azar makes a guest appearance in the closing segment.
  • On February 20, six consecutive wrong letters are called in the Speed-Up.
  • On February 21, there is a $100,000 loss.
  • February 24 is Cruisin' Fun.
  • On February 25:
    • The Round 3 Clue Puzzle THIS SHIP RAN AGROUND WITH GILLIGAN & COMPANY (Minnow) is the longest known puzzle without an E in it.
    • The second Bankrupt is not used in Round 4, despite it not beginning as a Speed-Up.
  • On February 27:
    • The answer to Round 3 reveals like an unsolved bonus puzzle: the letters fill in one at a time in a zig-zag pattern instead of all at once, and the board's gold frame does not flash.
    • Contestant Shari manages to win with just the $10,000 Wedge and the $3,000 Toss-Up.
  • On February 28:
    • Vanna wears a suit.
    • The Round 3 puzzle PEOPLE MAGAZINE'S SEXIEST MAN ALIVE (Person) is followed by a bonus question asking who was the 2002 choice for Sexiest Man Alive. Contestant Roxanne does not provide the correct answer of Ben Affleck.
    • The Round 4 puzzle CONNECTING ROOMS is categorized as Things instead of Places.
    • The $1,000 Toss-Up, Round 4, and the Bonus Round are Things.

March 2003

  • The Wheel Watchers Club, a rewards program where viewers can earn points by watching the show and exchange them for prizes, debuts early this month. It is powered by My Sony, which later becomes the current Sony Rewards.
  • March 3 is a week of sixth episodes.
  • On March 4:
    • Contestant Alberto makes an incorrect guess of SLEEPING DOPEY on the $3,000 Toss-Up, SLEEPING BEAUTY, a moment which has been seen in several retrospectives.
    • The bonus puzzle is a redundant answer of CHURCH HYMN.
  • March 10 is Lap of Luxury.
  • On March 13:
    • Vanna wears a shirt and pants.
    • For the first of only two known times, the Mystery Prize is a trip: specifically, a $16,310 Mediterranean cruise.
    • Round 3 is a rare instance of a "bonus" category's question being multiple-choice: after the Slogan puzzle THE CLEAR ALTERNATIVE TO CELLULAR, Pat asks Mimi whether it is the slogan of Cingular, AT&T, or Sprint PCS, and she gives the right answer of Sprint PCS.
    • For the first time since the introduction of Toss-Ups, there is a tie, which is broken by a fourth Toss-Up with no cash value.
    • Round 4 is Thing, while the tiebreaker Toss-Up and Bonus Round are Things.
  • March 17 is Bahamas Week. During this week, the floor is blue.
  • On March 17:
    • For the third of only three known times, there are three sets of duplicate categories: the $1,000 and $3,000 Toss-Ups are Around the House; Round 1 is Things, while Round 5 is Thing; and Round 2 and the Bonus Round are Fictional Characters.
    • There is a $6,250 Jackpot win.
    • The chord does not sound when Janice hits a Mystery Wedge in Round 3.
    • The bonus puzzle GUMBY & POKEY is a rare instance of an ampersand in the Bonus Round.
  • On March 18:
    • The Gift Tag is erroneously placed on $350. It is picked up in Round 1, so the location of the Wheel Prize is not affected.
    • During Round 2, an overhead shot of a spin is obviously edited in, as it shows a Gift Tag on $700.
    • There is a $9,000 Jackpot win.
    • After the Bonus Round is lost, Pat forgets to open the envelope. He shows it in the final segment.
  • On March 20:
    • The $2,000 Toss-Up and Bonus Round are On the Map.
    • There is a $7,350 Jackpot win.
    • Contestant Christi solves the bonus puzzle HAMBURG with only the M and R showing.
  • On March 21, the Who Is It? puzzle SHE JUST WON A SEVENTH U.S. FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIP (Michelle Kwan) may be the longest puzzle ever used on the show in terms of overall spaces, as it uses 47 of the 52 spaces (45 letters and 2 periods). In terms of letters used, it is only the second-longest known answer, as 46-letter puzzles appear in January 2005 and October 2007.
  • March 24 is Hawaii Week.
  • On March 27, there is a $100,000 loss.
  • March 31 is Spring Fling.
  • On March 31, Round 2 is I'D LIKE TO SOLVE THE PUZZLE.

April 2003

  • April 7 is NASCAR Week.
  • On April 9, contestant Janice sweeps the game but loses a Dodge Intrepid in the Bonus Round.
  • April 14 is First Class Getaways.
  • April 21 is Salute to Chicago Week. Various set pieces used during the show's visit to Chicago the season before are used this week.
  • April 24 begins a 20 Cars in 20 Days sweepstakes in honor of the nighttime version's 20th season. Home viewers can enter each week's bonus puzzle on the show's website, or via postcard, for a chance to win one of 20 different Lincoln or Mercury cars. This is promoted each day at the top of the show, and again before the Mystery Round.
  • On April 24:
    • There is a $10,800 Jackpot win.
    • Round 3 is a Before & After of THE LAND OF THE FREE SPIN. Coincidentally, it is solved by Amy who uses the Free Spin in that round.
    • There is a $100,000 win. Contestant Byron solves JOCKEY with only the O and E revealed.
  • The weeks of April 28-May 12 are taped at the San Diego Convention Center. During these weeks:
    Wheel of Fortune 2003.jpg
    • The gold frames are absent from the top and sides of the board, leaving only the bottom frames. This would suggest that these are the last taped episodes of the season, and in turn that the board was getting readied for its overhaul in the next season.
    • The floor is blue.
    • The floor features a sculpture of an orca splashing out of the water until the Bonus Round.
    • The second sentence of the Mystery Round spiel changes again to "One of the wedges—you're Bankrupt."
  • On April 29:
    • Contestant Kelly lands on the Free Spin on her first turn, but Pat accidentally tells her that she has some money. The staff corrects him after she gets to spin again, causing him to spin the wheel back to the Free Spin so that she can pick it up.
    • For the first known time, a contestant (Lori Ann) wins the Mystery Round with only the Mystery prize.
    • John solves the Round 4 puzzle SANFORD AND SON with only the S's revealed.
  • On April 30:
    • Three females play.
    • Contestant Lisa hugs Pat after solving the puzzle JOAN & MELISSA RIVERS, after which Pat pretends to fall down. This clip has been shown in many retrospectives including the 4000th show and the 25th anniversary.
    • There is a $100,000 loss. This results in season 20 holding a record for the highest number of grand prize losses, with eight. This record is tied in season 25, and broken in season 26.

May 2003

  • On May 1, contestant Kara accidentally breaks her buzzer after the $2,000 Toss-Up by jumping in celebration while holding it. It is fixed in time for the $3,000 Toss-Up. This was seen in the 4,000th episode and the 25th anniversary flashbacks.
  • On May 2, Pat forgets to mention the category (Phrase) in Round 4 until after the Final Spin.
  • May 5 is Armed Forces Week. During this week, the Marine Band San Diego plays music during Pat and Vanna's introduction, and "God Bless America" over the credits.
  • On May 5:
    • The Prize is a $10,000 trip to the Caribbean.
    • Contestant Jessica starts the Jackpot Round with a wrong letter on the Prize wedge, but $3,000 is showing on her scoreboard. After control returns to her, she lands on the Prize again, calls a correct letter, then buys an A. It is not known what caused the discrepancy, as her previous round total was $6,100. This ends up not mattering, as she later hits Bankrupt.
  • On May 6, Pat and Vanna do not sign off.
  • On May 7:
    • Three males play.
    • Contestant Gervy and Pat slap each other's butts, and then Vanna slaps Pat's butt during the closing chat; this has been seen in several retrospectives.
    • Pat accidentally accepts an incorrect response from Evan in the Speed-Up, but notices this before he can finish walking over to congratulate him. As a result, he returns to his spot and gives Evan an additional three seconds.
  • May 12 is College Week.
  • On May 12, contestant Sarah mentions that her mother won a trip on the show in 1977, which resulted in her marriage and Sarah's birth. A clip of this appeared on several retrospectives.
  • On May 15, against normal practice, the "only vowels remain" beeps sound in the Speed-Up.
  • May 19 is Wheel Goes to the Movies. During this week, the Round 2 Prize copy is preceded by a movie trailer.
  • On May 20:
    • During the Round 2 Prize copy, an onscreen caption misspells the name of the Beverly Wilshire hotel as "Bevery".
    • The Round 2 puzzle MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU is inexplicably categorized as Phrase instead of Quotation.
    • Rounds 2, 4, and the Bonus Round are Phrase.
    • Pat forgets to ask who Jason has in the audience until after opening the bonus envelope.
    • After the Bonus Round is not solved, Pat accidentally holds the envelope toward himself when announcing its contents. Near the end of the segment, he reopens the envelope so that it can be seen by the camera.
  • On May 21:
    • No vowels are bought in Round 3.
    • Rounds 2 and 4 are Phrase.
    • There is a $100,000 win.
  • May 26 is It's Summer Time!
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