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Wheel of Fortune (U.S. game show)

Wheel of Fortune (U.S. game show)

Overview
Wheel of Fortune is an American television game show
Game show
A game show is a type of radio or television program in which members of the public, television personalities or celebrities, sometimes as part of a team, play a game which involves answering questions or solving puzzles usually for money and/or prizes...

 created by Merv Griffin
Merv Griffin
Mervyn Edward "Merv" Griffin, Jr. was an American television host, musician, actor, and media mogul. He began his career as a radio and big band singer who went on to appear in movies and on Broadway. From 1965 to 1986 Griffin hosted his own talk show, The Merv Griffin Show on Group W Broadcasting...

, which premiered in 1975. Contestants compete to solve word puzzles, similar to those used in Hangman
Hangman (game)
Hangman is a paper and pencil guessing game for two or more players. One player thinks of a word and the other tries to guess it by suggesting letters.-Overview:...

, to win cash and prizes determined by spinning a large wheel. The title refers to the show's giant carnival wheel that contestants spin throughout the course of the game. The show first aired as a replacement for the original version of Jeopardy!
Jeopardy!
Griffin's first conception of the game used a board comprising ten categories with ten clues each, but after finding that this board could not be shown on camera easily, he reduced it to two rounds of thirty clues each, with five clues in each of six categories...

.
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Encyclopedia
Wheel of Fortune is an American television game show
Game show
A game show is a type of radio or television program in which members of the public, television personalities or celebrities, sometimes as part of a team, play a game which involves answering questions or solving puzzles usually for money and/or prizes...

 created by Merv Griffin
Merv Griffin
Mervyn Edward "Merv" Griffin, Jr. was an American television host, musician, actor, and media mogul. He began his career as a radio and big band singer who went on to appear in movies and on Broadway. From 1965 to 1986 Griffin hosted his own talk show, The Merv Griffin Show on Group W Broadcasting...

, which premiered in 1975. Contestants compete to solve word puzzles, similar to those used in Hangman
Hangman (game)
Hangman is a paper and pencil guessing game for two or more players. One player thinks of a word and the other tries to guess it by suggesting letters.-Overview:...

, to win cash and prizes determined by spinning a large wheel. The title refers to the show's giant carnival wheel that contestants spin throughout the course of the game. The show first aired as a replacement for the original version of Jeopardy!
Jeopardy!
Griffin's first conception of the game used a board comprising ten categories with ten clues each, but after finding that this board could not be shown on camera easily, he reduced it to two rounds of thirty clues each, with five clues in each of six categories...

. Griffin created two different pilot episodes, hosted by Chuck Woolery
Chuck Woolery
Charles Herbert "Chuck" Woolery is an American game show host. He has had long-running tenures hosting several different game shows. He was the original host of Wheel of Fortune from 1975–81, the original incarnation of Love Connection from 1983–94, and Scrabble from 1984–90...

 and Edd Byrnes.

The program began airing as a television network
Television network
A television network is a telecommunications network for distribution of television program content, whereby a central operation provides programming to many television stations or pay TV providers. Until the mid-1980s, television programming in most countries of the world was dominated by a small...

 version on January 6, 1975 on NBC
NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

, with Woolery and Susan Stafford
Susan Stafford
Susan Stafford was the original hostess of the game show Wheel of Fortune from January 6, 1975 until she left on October 22, 1982...

 hosting and Charlie O'Donnell
Charlie O'Donnell
Charles John "Charlie" O'Donnell was an American radio and television announcer, primarily known for his work on game shows...

 as the program's announcer. In 1980 and 1981, O'Donnell and Woolery departed from the show and were replaced as announcer and host by Jack Clark and Pat Sajak
Pat Sajak
Pat Sajak is a television personality, former weatherman, actor and talk show host, best known as the host of the American television game show Wheel of Fortune.-Early life:...

, respectively. In 1982, Vanna White
Vanna White
Vanna White is an American television personality and film actress best known as the hostess of Wheel of Fortune since 1982.-Early life:...

 replaced Stafford, who left the show to do humanitarian work. The nighttime syndicated version of Wheel of Fortune premiered on September 19, 1983, and is currently ongoing. Several months after Clark's death in 1988, O'Donnell returned as announcer until his own death in 2010, after which Jim Thornton replaced him. Sajak continued to host the daytime version until his departure in 1989 when he left to focus on his late night talk show, The Pat Sajak Show
The Pat Sajak Show
The Pat Sajak Show is an American late-night television talk show which aired on CBS from January 9, 1989 to April 13, 1990.-Cast:The show was hosted by Pat Sajak, best known as host of the game show Wheel of Fortune...

. Upon Sajak's departure from the daytime version, he was replaced by Rolf Benirschke
Rolf Benirschke
Rolf Joachim Benirschke is a former American football placekicker in the National Football League for the San Diego Chargers from 1978 to 1987, and was the host of the NBC daytime Wheel Of Fortune in 1989.-Early career:...

, who was then replaced by Bob Goen
Bob Goen
Robert Kuehl "Bob" Goen is an American game show emcee and television personality, best known for his work on Entertainment Tonight between 1993 and 2004...

 when the program switched networks from NBC to CBS later that year. The daytime version moved back to NBC in 1991, but was canceled eight months later.

While retaining most of the elements from the daytime version, the syndicated version of Wheel of Fortune has added many new gameplay elements and is the longest-running syndicated game show in United States television history, with over 5,000 episodes aired. In a 2008 article, TV Guide
TV Guide
TV Guide is a weekly American magazine with listings of TV shows.In addition to TV listings, the publication features television-related news, celebrity interviews, gossip and film reviews and crossword puzzles...

 named Wheel of Fortune as the "top-rated syndicated series."

Game history


At the time of Wheel of Fortunes debut, Jeopardy!
Jeopardy!
Griffin's first conception of the game used a board comprising ten categories with ten clues each, but after finding that this board could not be shown on camera easily, he reduced it to two rounds of thirty clues each, with five clues in each of six categories...

 (another of Griffin's creations) had just ended an 11-year run on NBC
NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

. Griffin conceived a hangman
Hangman (game)
Hangman is a paper and pencil guessing game for two or more players. One player thinks of a word and the other tries to guess it by suggesting letters.-Overview:...

-style game after recalling long car trips as a child, on which he and his sister would play hangman. After discussing the idea with Merv Griffin Enterprises staff, they thought that the idea would work as a game show if it had a "hook". He then decided to add a roulette-style wheel, because he was always "drawn to" such wheels when he saw them in casinos. He and Murray Schwartz, then the president of Merv Griffin Enterprises, consulted an executive of Caesars Palace
Caesars Palace
Caesars Palace is a luxury hotel and casino located on the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, Nevada, an unincorporated township in Clark County, Nevada, United States in the Las Vegas metropolitan area. Caesars Palace is owned and operated by Caesars Entertainment Corp....

 to find out how to build such a wheel.

In 1973, Griffin conceived a pilot
Television pilot
A "television pilot" is a standalone episode of a television series that is used to sell the show to a television network. At the time of its inception, the pilot is meant to be the "testing ground" to see if a series will be possibly desired and successful and therefore a test episode of an...

 episode, which was taped under the name Shopper's Bazaar and hosted by Chuck Woolery
Chuck Woolery
Charles Herbert "Chuck" Woolery is an American game show host. He has had long-running tenures hosting several different game shows. He was the original host of Wheel of Fortune from 1975–81, the original incarnation of Love Connection from 1983–94, and Scrabble from 1984–90...

. Unlike the actual show, this pilot had a vertically mounted Wheel. Edd Byrnes hosted the second and third pilots, which were both titled Wheel of Fortune. All of the pilots contained game elements which were either retooled or dropped before the time production began in 1975. Woolery was eventually selected to host, the choice being made by Griffin after he reportedly heard Byrnes reciting "A-E-I-O-U" to himself in an effort to remember the vowels. Susan Stafford
Susan Stafford
Susan Stafford was the original hostess of the game show Wheel of Fortune from January 6, 1975 until she left on October 22, 1982...

 turned the letters on the pilot episodes, a role that she also held when the show was picked up for series.

Broadcast history


Wheel of Fortune premiered on January 6, 1975, at 10:30 am (9:30 Central) on NBC
NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

. Lin Bolen
Lin Bolen
Lin Bolen is an American television executive with a long-tenured career. Bolen is most noted for her role as the NBC Daytime Television Programming Vice President, a position she held from 1972 until 1978...

, then the head of daytime programming, purchased the show from Griffin to compensate him for canceling another creation of his, Jeopardy!
Jeopardy!
Griffin's first conception of the game used a board comprising ten categories with ten clues each, but after finding that this board could not be shown on camera easily, he reduced it to two rounds of thirty clues each, with five clues in each of six categories...

, which had one year remaining on its contract and aired its final episode on the Friday before Wheel of Fortunes premiere. This version aired on NBC, in varying time slots between 10:30 am and noon, until June 30, 1989. NBC announced the cancellation of the show in August 1980, but it stayed on the air following a decision to cut The David Letterman Show from a 90-minute format to 60 minutes. The daytime version of Wheel of Fortune moved to CBS in 1989, and remained there until 1991, when it was moved back to NBC for its final eight months.

The current syndicated version premiered on September 19, 1983. When it debuted, the syndicated version offered a larger prize budget than its daytime counterpart, most notably in the addition of a $5,000 wedge to the Wheel. Although only nine local stations picked up the show at first, Wheel soon benefited from a rule enacted by the Federal Communications Commission
Federal Communications Commission
The Federal Communications Commission is an independent agency of the United States government, created, Congressional statute , and with the majority of its commissioners appointed by the current President. The FCC works towards six goals in the areas of broadband, competition, the spectrum, the...

, which freed the hour before prime time for local or syndicated programming on network affiliates; one year after entering syndication, it was available to 99 percent of the television market. Its success led to Griffin creating a syndicated revival of Jeopardy! with current host Alex Trebek
Alex Trebek
George Alexander "Alex" Trebek is a Canadian American game show host who has been the host of the game show Jeopardy! since 1984, and prior to that, he hosted game shows such as Pitfall and High Rollers. He has appeared in numerous television series, usually as himself...

. By 1986, Wheel had the highest ratings of any syndicated television series in history.

Currently produced by Sony Pictures Television
Sony Pictures Television
Sony Pictures Television, Inc. is an American and global television production/distribution subsidiary of Sony Pictures Entertainment. In turn, the latter is part of the Japanese conglomerate Sony.-Background:...

 and distributed by CBS Television Distribution
CBS Television Distribution
CBS Television Distribution is a global television distribution company, formed from the merger of CBS Corporation's two domestic television distribution arms CBS Paramount Domestic Television and King World Productions, including its home entertainment arm CBS Home Entertainment...

, it is the longest-running syndicated game show in American television history and the second-longest in either network or syndication (behind the current version of The Price Is Right
The Price Is Right (U.S. game show)
The Price Is Right is an American game show which was created by Mark Goodson and Bill Todman. Contestants compete to identify the pricing of merchandise to win cash and prizes. The show is well-known for its signature line of "Come on down!" when the announcer directs newly selected contestants to...

, which began airing in 1972).

Hosts and hostesses


After seven years as host, Chuck Woolery left Wheel of Fortune following a salary dispute with Griffin; his last episode aired on December 25, 1981. His successor, Pat Sajak
Pat Sajak
Pat Sajak is a television personality, former weatherman, actor and talk show host, best known as the host of the American television game show Wheel of Fortune.-Early life:...

, took over on December 28. Griffin said that he chose Sajak for his "odd" sense of humor; although NBC executive producer Fred Silverman
Fred Silverman
Fred Silverman is an American television executive and producer. He worked as an executive at the CBS, ABC and NBC networks, and was responsible for bringing to television such programs as the series Scooby-Doo , All in the Family , The Waltons , and Charlie's Angels , as well as the...

 initially rejected Sajak for being "too local", he was approved as host after Griffin said that he would not tape any more episodes until Sajak became host.

On January 9, 1989, Sajak left the daytime version to host a late-night talk show (The Pat Sajak Show
The Pat Sajak Show
The Pat Sajak Show is an American late-night television talk show which aired on CBS from January 9, 1989 to April 13, 1990.-Cast:The show was hosted by Pat Sajak, best known as host of the game show Wheel of Fortune...

) for CBS. He was replaced on that version by Rolf Benirschke
Rolf Benirschke
Rolf Joachim Benirschke is a former American football placekicker in the National Football League for the San Diego Chargers from 1978 to 1987, and was the host of the NBC daytime Wheel Of Fortune in 1989.-Early career:...

, who had an eight-year career as a placekicker of the San Diego Chargers
San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers are a professional American football team based in San Diego, California. they were members of the Western Division of the American Football Conference in the National Football League...

. Benirschke hosted the program for only six months, until NBC cancelled it on June 30. Bob Goen
Bob Goen
Robert Kuehl "Bob" Goen is an American game show emcee and television personality, best known for his work on Entertainment Tonight between 1993 and 2004...

 became the daytime version's host when it moved to CBS on July 17, 1989. This version briefly returned to NBC on January 14, 1991, replacing Let's Make a Deal
Let's Make a Deal
Let's Make a Deal is a television game show which originated in the United States and has since been produced in many countries throughout the world. The show is based around deals offered to members of the audience by the host. The traders usually have to weigh the possibility of an offer being...

, but left the air permanently on September 20 of that year.

Original hostess Susan Stafford missed a month of episodes in late 1977 after she fractured two vertebrae in her back, with Summer Bartholomew
Summer Bartholomew
Summer Robin Bartholomew is a model and actress who won the 1975 Miss USA pageant.Her first pageant experience came in 1973 when she won the Miss Oktoberfest title....

 filling in for her. Bartholomew and Cynthia Washington both filled in for Stafford again in May and June 1979 after she dislocated her shoulder in a car accident. Stafford left the show in October 1982. Bartholomew, Vicki Iovine
Vicki Iovine
Vicki McCarty Iovine is an American model, writer, and lawyer.-Biography:Iovine received her undergraduate degree in Journalism from University of California, Berkeley. She earned a law degree from Hastings College of the Law and an LL.B...

 (then known as Vicki McCarty) and Vanna White
Vanna White
Vanna White is an American television personality and film actress best known as the hostess of Wheel of Fortune since 1982.-Early life:...

 rotated as guest hostesses until White was chosen as the permanent hostess in December 1982. In the wake of the nighttime version's popularity, White became highly popular among the young female demographic. Sajak and White have hosted the nighttime version continuously since it began, except for two weeks in early 1991 when Tricia Gist, then the girlfriend of Griffin's son Tony, filled in for the honeymooning White.

In January and February 2011, the show held a "Vanna for a Day" contest. In this contest, home viewers submitted video auditions to take White's place for one episode, with the winner determined by a poll on the show's website. Katie Cantrell of Wooster, Ohio
Wooster, Ohio
Wooster is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio and the county seat of Wayne County. The municipality is located in northeastern Ohio approximately SSW of Cleveland and SW of Akron. Wooster is noted as the location of The College of Wooster...

 (a student at Savannah College of Art and Design
Savannah College of Art and Design
SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design, is a private, accredited and degree-granting university with locations in Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France.-History:...

 in Savannah, Georgia
Savannah, Georgia
Savannah is the largest city and the county seat of Chatham County, in the U.S. state of Georgia. Established in 1733, the city of Savannah was the colonial capital of the Province of Georgia and later the first state capital of Georgia. Today Savannah is an industrial center and an important...

) was named the contest winner in late February 2011. Cantrell took White's place for the second and third rounds on the episode that aired March 24, 2011.

Announcers


Charlie O'Donnell
Charlie O'Donnell
Charles John "Charlie" O'Donnell was an American radio and television announcer, primarily known for his work on game shows...

 was the program's first announcer until his departure in 1980, when he left to work on The Toni Tennille Show in wake of the announced but retracted cancellation of Wheel. O'Donnell was replaced by Jack Clark, who was on the show until shortly before his death in July 1988. Los Angeles radio personality M. G. Kelly took over as announcer when the nighttime version's sixth season started in September 1988. O'Donnell returned in 1989, and remained with the show until shortly before his death in November 2010. Don Pardo
Don Pardo
Dominick George "Don" Pardo is an American radio and television announcer. He is best known as the voice of the long-running late night sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live....

, Don Morrow
Don Morrow
Don Morrow is an American actor and announcer. He started his broadcast career while a student at Syracuse University on the GI Bill shortly after World War II. His first job was with Syracuse's first TV station WHEN as newscaster and announcer...

 and Johnny Gilbert
Johnny Gilbert
John L. "Johnny" Gilbert III is an American show business personality who has worked mainly on television game shows. Originally a nightclub singer and entertainer, he has hosted and announced a number of game shows from various eras, dating as far back as the 1950s...

 have occasionally served as substitute announcers. Gilbert, Rich Fields
Rich Fields
Richard Wayne "Rich" Fields is an American broadcaster, spokesman, announcer and meteorologist, best known for being the announcer of the American version of The Price Is Right from 2004–2010....

, Jim Thornton, Lora Cain, Joe Cipriano
Joe Cipriano
Joe Cipriano is an American voice over actor.-Career:Joe Cipriano began his career as a broadcaster in Waterbury, Connecticut , while still in high school. Since then he has worked for the NBC, ABC, Fox and CBS TV and radio networks...

 and John Cramer alternated as guest announcers after O'Donnell's death. On June 13, 2011, Thornton was confirmed as the permanent announcer when Season 29 began on September 19, 2011.

Production staff


Merv Griffin
Merv Griffin
Mervyn Edward "Merv" Griffin, Jr. was an American television host, musician, actor, and media mogul. He began his career as a radio and big band singer who went on to appear in movies and on Broadway. From 1965 to 1986 Griffin hosted his own talk show, The Merv Griffin Show on Group W Broadcasting...

 was responsible for creating the original version of Wheel of Fortune and also served as executive producer until his retirement in 2000.

John Rhinehart was the program's original producer from 1975 until his departure in 1980, when he became a producer on The People's Court
The People's Court
The People's Court is a US television court show in which small claims court cases are heard, though what is shown is actually a binding arbitration....

. He was replaced by Nancy Jones, who served as producer of the network version until its cancellation, and of the syndicated version from 1983–1995. Harry Friedman became executive producer in 1999, having worked as producer since 1995. As of 2011, the show uses multiple producers. Amanda Stern is the current producer of the show. Karen Griffith and Steve Schwartz, both longtime staffers, are the supervising producers.

Jeff Goldstein and Dick Carson each served long stints previously as director. Mark Corwin became the director of the current version in 1999.

Gameplay


The core game is based on hangman
Hangman (game)
Hangman is a paper and pencil guessing game for two or more players. One player thinks of a word and the other tries to guess it by suggesting letters.-Overview:...

, starting with a category and a blank word puzzle, with each blank representing a letter in the answer. Three contestants take turns spinning the Wheel to determine a dollar value and guess a consonant, earning the value multiplied by how many times the guessed letter appears in the puzzle. Calling a correct letter keeps the Wheel in the contestant's control, and a wrong letter passes control to the next player. The Wheel features two Bankrupt wedges and one Lose a Turn, both of which forfeit the contestant's turn, with the former also eliminating any cash or prizes the contestant has accumulated within the round. Also present are Free Play (which allows a contestant to make any move with no penalty, or call a free vowel), a Wild Card (to call an additional consonant after any turn or in the Bonus Round), a Gift Tag ($1,000 credit toward purchases from the sponsoring company), and a Million Dollar Wedge. Any contestant with at least $250 may buy vowels for that amount during a turn. A contestant must solve the puzzle in order to keep any cash or prizes accumulated during that round.

Each game features three Toss-Up puzzles, which reveal the puzzle one letter at a time and award cash to whoever rings in with the right answer. The second determines who starts Round 1, and the third determines who starts Round 4. Round 1 features a progressive cash Jackpot prize which is won if the contestant solves while on the wedge. Round 2 features two Mystery wedges, which may be flipped over to determine if they conceal a $10,000 cash prize or Bankrupt. Round 3 is a Prize Puzzle, which offers a prize to both the contestant who solves it and to a randomly selected member of the Wheel Watchers Club, the show's viewer rewards program. A Prize Wedge is available during the first two rounds. Two "½ Car" tags are placed on the Wheel during Rounds 1–3. If a contestant wins a round while holding two of these tags without hitting Bankrupt, he or she immediately wins a car.

Not counting Toss-Ups, games are played to no fewer than four rounds. The final round is always played at least in part as a Speed-Up. The host spins the Wheel to determine the value of each letter, with $1,000 added to the value of his spin, and vowels are free. Contestants call one letter at a time, and are given three seconds to attempt a solve if that letter appears in the puzzle. Play proceeds from the viewer's left to right, starting with the contestant who was in control of the Wheel before the Final Spin, until the puzzle is solved.

Originally, after winning a round, players spent their winnings purchasing prizes that were presented onstage. According to the E! True Hollywood Story
E! True Hollywood Story
E! True Hollywood Story is an American documentary series on E! that deals with famous Hollywood celebrities, movies, TV shows and well-known public figures...

 episode on Wheel of Fortune, Lin Bolen is credited with implementing the shopping concept and the idea to have the wheel horizontally mounted. This story sometimes conflicts with other accounts; for example, on an A&E Biography episode, Griffin said that his initial idea of the presentation of the show was "a stage full of prizes". The shopping element was eliminated from the syndicated version on the episode that aired October 5, 1987, both to speed up gameplay and to reduce the taxes paid by contestants.

At the end of the game, the highest-scoring contestant plays a bonus round
Bonus round
A bonus round or bonus game, known in the industry as an end game, is a special round in a game show or similar contest. The bonus round usually follows a main game as a bonus to the winner of that game...

. The contestant spins a smaller wheel with 24 envelopes to determine the prize. He or she is given a category and a puzzle for which every instance of R, S, T, L, N and E is revealed; after providing three more consonants and a vowel, the contestant has ten seconds to attempt solving the puzzle. Prizes in the bonus round currently include cash amounts ranging from $30,000 to $50,000 in increments of $5,000, an automobile with $5,000 cash, and a top prize of $100,000 (whose envelope is replaced with $1,000,000 if the contestant has the Million Dollar Wedge). Michelle Loewenstein became the show's first millionaire on the episode that aired October 14, 2008. Contestants who win the $1,000,000 may receive it in installments over 20 years, or in a lump sum
Lump sum
A lump sum is a single payment of money, as opposed to a series of payments made over time .The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development distinguishes between "price analysis" and "cost analysis" by whether the decision maker compares lump sum amounts, or subjects contract prices...

 of $660,000.

Sets and production information



Various changes have been made to the basic set since the syndicated version's premiere in 1983. In 1996, a large video display was added center stage, which was then upgraded in 2003 as the show began the transition into high-definition
High-definition television
High-definition television is video that has resolution substantially higher than that of traditional television systems . HDTV has one or two million pixels per frame, roughly five times that of SD...

 broadcasting. The set decorations change with each weekly set of themed programs. The production is currently designed by Renee Hoss-Johnson, with previous set designers including Ed Flesh
Ed Flesh
Edwin Albert Flesh Jr, known as Ed Flesh, was an American art director and designer who worked on a variety of television programs from the 1950s through the 1990s. He is best known for designing the Wheel used in the game show, Wheel of Fortune. In 1993, Flesh was nominated for a Daytime Emmy...

 and Dick Stiles.

The show was taped at Studio 4 in NBC Studios
NBC Studios
The NBC Studios in New York, New York is located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan, the historic GE Building houses the headquarters of the NBC television network, its parent General Electric, and NBC's flagship station WNBC , as well as cable news channel MSNBC.When NBC Universal relocated,...

 in Burbank from 1975 until NBC cancelled the daytime series in 1989. Production then moved to CBS Television City
CBS Television City
CBS Television City is a television studio complex located in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles at 7800 Beverly Boulevard, at the corner of North Fairfax Avenue...

 in Los Angeles, where it remained until 1995. Since then, Wheel has occupied Stage 11 at Sony Pictures Studios
Sony Pictures Studios
The Sony Pictures Studios are a television and film studio complex located in Culver City, California at 10202 West Washington Boulevard and bounded by Culver Boulevard , Washington Boulevard , Overland Avenue and Madison Avenue...

 in Culver City. Some episodes are also recorded on location, a tradition which began with two weeks of episodes taped at Radio City Music Hall
Radio City Music Hall
Radio City Music Hall is an entertainment venue located in New York City's Rockefeller Center. Its nickname is the Showplace of the Nation, and it was for a time the leading tourist destination in the city...

 in late 1988.

The production schedule for show tapings is typically one week on, and three weeks off per month. During the active week, five or six shows a day are taped in front of a live studio audience. At the end of the production week, 25 to 30 shows have been completed. This provides five to six weeks' worth of television programming.

The wheel


The first pilot used a vertically-mounted wheel which was often difficult to see on-screen. Set designer Ed Flesh, who also designed the sets for The $25,000 Pyramid and Jeopardy!
Jeopardy!
Griffin's first conception of the game used a board comprising ten categories with ten clues each, but after finding that this board could not be shown on camera easily, he reduced it to two rounds of thirty clues each, with five clues in each of six categories...

, designed the Wheel mechanism. Initially made mostly of paint and cardboard, the Wheel mechanism is framed on a steel tube surrounded with Plexiglass and more than 200 lighting instruments, and is held by a stainless steel shaft with roller bearings. Altogether, the Wheel weighs approximately 2400 pounds (1,088.6 kg).

Puzzle boards


In the show's early days, the first puzzle board had three rows of 13 manually operated trilon
Trilon
A trilon is a triangular prism-shaped object, turning on an axle to show different letters or images. Trilons have been used on game shows and billboards....

s, for a total of 39 spaces. On December 21, 1981, a larger board with 48 trilons in four rows (11, 13, 13 and 11 trilons) was adopted. This board was surrounded by a double-arched border of lights which flashed at the beginning and end of the round. When a letter was placed in the puzzle, its space lit up and the hostess turned the trilon to reveal it.

On February 24, 1997, the show introduced a computerized board composed of 52 touch-activated monitors. To illuminate a letter during regular gameplay, White touches the right edge of the monitor.

Theme music


Alan Thicke
Alan Thicke
Alan Thicke is a Canadian actor, songwriter, and game and talk show host. He is best known for his role as Jason Seaver, the patriarch on the ABC television series Growing Pains.- Early life :...

 composed the show's original theme, which was titled "Big Wheels". In 1983, it was replaced by Griffin's own composition, "Changing Keys". The theme was replaced in 2000 with "Happy Wheels", composed by Steve Kaplan. Frankie Blue wrote the theme for the 2006–2007 season and John Hoke wrote the program's current theme.

Audition process


With few exceptions, anyone at least 18 years old has the potential to become a contestant through Wheel of Fortunes audition process. Those ineligible include employees of CBS Television Distribution, Sony Pictures Television, or any firm involved in offering prizes for the show. Contestants who have appeared on a different game show within the previous year, three other game shows within the past ten years or on any version of Wheel of Fortune itself are also ineligible, as are people under the age of 18. Potential contestants are given a 16-puzzle test with some letters revealed. The contestants have five minutes to solve as many puzzles as they can by writing in the correct letters. The passing score has never been publicly disclosed. The people who pass continue the audition, competing in a mock version of the game using a miniature wheel and a puzzle board.

Merchandise


Numerous board game versions of the game show have been released by different toy companies. The games are all similar, incorporating a wheel, puzzle display board, play money and various accessories like Free Spin tokens. Milton Bradley
Milton Bradley
Milton Bradley , an American game pioneer, was credited by many with launching the board game industry in North America with Milton Bradley Company....

 released the first board game in 1975. In addition to all the supplies mentioned above, the game included 20 prize cards (to simulate the "shopping" prizes of the show; the prizes ranged in value from $100 to $3,000). Two editions were released. Other home versions were released by Pressman Toy Corporation
Pressman Toy Corporation
Pressman Toy Corporation is a toy manufacturer based in New York City which was founded in 1922 by Jack Pressman. It currently focuses on family games and licensed products. Its slogan is "Games people play...

, Tyco
Tyco Toys
Tyco Toys is an American toy manufacturer. Since 1997 it has been a division of the Mattel toy company.-History:Mantua Metal Products was a Woodbury Heights, New Jersey, metalworks business founded in 1926 by John Tyler and family...

/Mattel
Mattel
Mattel, Inc. is the world's largest toy company based on revenue. The products it produces include Fisher Price, Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels and Matchbox toys, Masters of the Universe, American Girl dolls, board games, and, in the early 1980s, video game consoles. The company's name is derived from...

, Parker Brothers
Parker Brothers
Parker Brothers is a toy and game manufacturer and brand. Since 1883, the company has published more than 1,800 games; among their best known products are Monopoly, Cluedo , Sorry, Risk, Trivial Pursuit, Ouija, Aggravation, and Probe...

, Endless Games
Endless Games
Endless Games is a games manufacturer based in South Amboy, New Jersey and founded in 1996 by industry veterans Mike Gasser, Kevin McNulty and game inventor Brian Turtle....

 and Irwin Toys, each including and updating gameplay elements seen on the show at the time.

Additionally, several video game versions
Wheel of Fortune (video game)
Wheel of Fortune is an American television game show created by Merv Griffin, premiering in 1975 with a syndicated version airing in 1983. Since 1986, the show has been adapted into various video games, most based on the syndicated nighttime version. Most versions released before 1998 were...

have also been released for computers, the internet, and various gaming consoles.

External links