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‘Wheel of Fortune’ makes its rounds

| Friday, November 15, 2019

For more than 40 years, American TV game show “Wheel of Fortune” still continues to have people tune in and try to solve the puzzle. The game show is one of the most widely viewed game shows in history, alongside “Deal or No Deal” and “The Price is Right.” 

Created by Merv Griffin on Jan. 6, 1975, the concept of “Wheel of Fortune” is based on Hangman. Each round of the game includes a category and blank word puzzle, with each blank corresponding to a letter in the answer and punctuation added as needed. The titular Wheel of Fortune is a roulette style wheel with 24 spaces, most of which are labeled with monetary amounts — ranging from $500 to $900 — and most of the spaces including a top dollar value: $2,500 in round one, $3,500 in both rounds two and three, and $5,000 in round four and any subsequent round. There are also two Bankrupt spaces and one Lose a Turn space, in which the contestant must forfeit their turn and any other prizes they won from the wheel.

In each round, contestants spin the wheel and call out consonants that might be in the puzzle. Calling out the correct consonant results in contestants receiving the monetary amount that they landed on, multiplied by the number of times that consonant appears on the puzzle. When a contestant calls the correct consonant, the control remains with that contestant, who has the option of spinning the wheel again to call out another consonant, buying a vowel or attempting to solve the puzzle. Control passes to the next contestant clockwise if the wheel lands on Bankrupt or Lose a Turn, the letter called is not in the puzzle, a letter that is already on the board is called, the contestant fails to call a letter five seconds after the wheel stops turning or the contestant attempts unsuccessfully to solve the puzzle. The winner is crowned when a contestant successfully finishes the final round. 

Since the show’s running, there have been four hosts and two hostesses running the show. The original host was Chuck Woolery, who hosted from 1975 to 1981. Pat Sajak took over for Woolery after a salary dispute between Woolery and Griffin. Sajak hosted the daytime show until Jan. 9, 1989, when he left to host a late night talk show. Rolf Bernischke, a former placekicker for the National Football League (NFL) took his place from Jan. 9 to June 30, 1989, when the daytime show was cancelled after running 14 years. Bob Goen hosted the newly formatted daytime show from July 17, 1989 to Sept. 20, 1991, when the daytime show was cancelled for the second and final time. Susan Stafford served as the show’s first hostess, from the show’s premiere until October 1982. After Stafford left to be a humanitarian worker, Vanna White became the second hostess from 1982 until the daytime show’s second cancellation in 1991. Since the show was syndicated, Sajak and White served as the show’s host and hostess. On Nov. 9, 2019, Vanna White served as the show’s primary host for a week due to Sajak recovering from emergency intestinal surgery.

Since the show’s airing, there had been many international versions of the show that aired in Australia, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Spain, the United Kingdom and Vietnam. The show is currently in its 37th season and is the third longest running game show behind “The Price is Right” and “Jeopardy.” 

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