What you never knew about Wheel of Fortune

Puzzle-solving game show Wheel of Fortune was created in 1975 and has continues to air until the present day. The basic format of the show is that the contestants try to solve a word puzzle as fast as they can by guessing letters in an effort to win money and prizes. The game is similar to hangman, though instead of uncover a word, contestants compete to solve a phrase. Every contestant spins the “Wheel of Fortune” during their turn and lands on a dollar amount that they will get if they guess a letter right. There are also spots on the will that can make you lose a turn or all of your money if you land on them. The contestant to win the most money gets to move on to a bonus round where they have a chance to win more money and prizes such as cars and vacations. The show can be both entertaining and stressful, as it causes many viewers to shout out the answer to puzzles at their television screens.


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The show has been hosted by two people but the most well-known is Pat Sajak. He has been the host since 1981 and continues to host it today, after a brief break along the way. Sajak asks the contestants questions about themselves and tells them when to spin the wheel and what the answers to the puzzles are when they cannot figure them out. Another famous face from the show is Vanna White, is the stunning woman who turns the letters around when they are guessed correctly. These two make a great team and they are part of the reason that viewers keep coming back to watch. Another reason is that the audience can play along while watching. Even though the viewers at home are not playing for money, they can get in on the fun by guessing the answers to the puzzles along with the contestants.

The show has been on the air for more than four decades and over the years viewers have been wondering about certain things on the show. For example, why does it look like the contestants are always the same height? How big is is the wheel? And is it rigged so they don’t have to give away so much money? If you, too, have ever wondered about how the show is made and what happens behind the scene, then look no further. We have compiled a list of the most interesting facts and behind the scenes information from the Wheel of Fortune.

The wheel is smaller than it looks

When you watch Wheel of Fortune on TV, the wheel looks massive and it seems that it is hard for many of the contestants to spin it. However, we guess it’s true what they say about the camera adding 10 pounds since the real life wheel is actually much smaller than it looks on our screens. Due to some creative camera angles, we think the wheel is way bigger than it is in reality. That said, the whole wheel makes 2,400 pounds and it takes around 14 trucks to move the set when the show goes on the road.

Not rigged

While many believe that the wheel is rigged so that the contestants won’t win too much money, this is a myth and the wheel is not rigged in any way. There have been theories that Pat Sajak can control the wheel with his foot and chooses to stop it when he wants, but this could not be more untrue. While the wheel isn’t rigged, editors sometimes take out things that would make the episode too long. For example, if someone landed on “bankrupt” on their last turn.

The hosts like to drink

Both Vanna White and Pat Sajak have admitted that when they first began working on the show, they would often drink a margarita or two at a local restaurant before they started taping. We guess that they may have been nervous as they were young and didn’t have much experience, however, Sajak recalls that it was hard for them to remember the alphabet after drinking, so in hindsight it might not have been the best tradition. Thankfully, neither of them got in trouble from producers for their pre-show antics.

Vanna White’s world record

With over 30 years’ experience on the show, Vanna White holds a very unique Guinness World Record – for being the “most frequent clapper on television.” Vanna has to do a lot of clapping on the job. She claps after every spin of the wheel, every time she turns a letter and every time a contestant guesses a puzzle right. She claps around 28,000 times every season. She really deserves a hand for showing all that enthusiasm – and in heels!

April Fool’s episode

In a special April Fool’s Day episode, two famous television hosts made viewers do a double-take by switching roles. Pat Sajak hosted Jeopardy! For the evening while Sajak’s wife, Lesly Brown, teamed up with Alex Trebek to host Wheel of Fortune. The episode was donated to charity, so the hosts’ hijinks were all for a good cause. However, we are glad that the two hosts returned to the game shows they are best at hosting.

Vacation days

Although a new episode of the show may air every night, the cast and crew only work a few days a month. In every taping, around 5 or 6 shows are filmed in a row, which means that Pat and Vanna only work one day a week. Vanna gets her hair and makeup redone and changes into a new dress for every episode. Referring to their rather laid-back monthly schedule, Sajak said that “in dog years I’ve only done this show about nine years.”

The dummy board

You may have wondered how the contestants remember what letters they have already guessed. Well, we have your answer. There is a “dummy” screen that shows the contestants what consonants and vowels have already been guessed and there is a separate screen for Pat that tells him how many of each letter are in the puzzle. Before this screen was created, an intern had to hold up their fingers to let Sajak know how many of the same letters there were.

Bloopers

Since the show has been on for over 4 decades, there are bound to be a number of bloopers and funny moments over the years. Sometimes the contestants guess the puzzles way off and it makes the hosts and the audience laugh. One such moment was when a player was trying to solve for the puzzle “gone with the wind,” however, they instead guessed “done with one hand.” Understandably, Sajak and White could not contain their giggles from this accidentally inappropriate guess.

Equal footing

If you are an avid fan of Wheel of Fortune, you may have noticed that all of the contestants seem to be the same height. Unless the producers only cast players that are the same height there must be something going on behind the wheel. It turns out that there is a platform under the stage that all of the contestants stand on in order to make it appear that they are the same height. The magic of television.

Coached contestants

While the contestants look like they are just average Americans who made their way onto the show, in reality every contestant is highly coached prior to appear on the show. Around 10,000 people apply every year to appear on the show, only 600 contestants actually make it on. They contestants have to learn how to properly spin the wheel, when to buy a vowel and teach them about common letter patterns.

Pumping up the players

Here is an interesting fact about what happens with the contestants in between takes. According to the contestant coordinator on the show, the most important aspect of being a good contestant is having a strong presence. During commercial breaks, the coordinator will make the players shout out letters and keep doing it until they are loud enough. This is done in order to keep their energy up going into the next round.

 

6000 dresses

Every night of the show, Vanna White wears a different gown. Since the hose has been on for more than 4 decades, this means that Vanna has worn around 6000 dresses since she started. Unfortunately, she does not get to keep any of them and only gets to wear them on the show. Designers who want their dresses featured on television will send them to the studio. Producers say they might get 100 dresses at a time but they only pick a dozen.

Post-show banter

After every show, Vanna and Pat have a little banter while the cameras are still rolling. According to them, this segment is unplanned and the two can talk about whatever they want. They have used this opportunity to sometimes play tricks on the audience and in one episode, they even shared an on-screen smooch! This segment is so fun to watch and Vanna and Pat always keep us on our toes.

A long run

Speaking of Pat and Vanna, the two admit that when they started the show, they never expected it to last as long as it has. Vanna explained that when you first start a job, you hope that it will last a few years but you would never imagine staying at the same job for 30 years. Pat said of his job, “Would I rather be doing Shakespeare in the park? Probably not. It doesn’t pay as well.”

Nothing has changed

Since the show started, a lot has changed in mainstream society, but through it all, Wheel of Fortune has remained a sort of time capsule. While inflation might have occurred over the years, the price of a vowel is still the same as it was at the start of the show, $250. The only drastic change that has been made to the show is that the board is now digital whereas Vanna used to actually have to turn the letters by herself.

Host rivalry

Although Alex Trebek did visit the set of Wheel of Fortune and make an appearance as a host, he and Pat are not friends in real life. While the two hosts do not have a problem with each other, you would not find them hanging out off the air. Pat said of Alex Trebek, “We get along fine but we’re not in the same bowling league.” It seems that these two would have a lot in common since they both host long-running game shows, there may be a little host rivalry going on below the surface.

The crew creates puzzles

Ever wonder who comes up with all of the puzzles that are played? Well, the crew on the show are always offering their ideas for puzzles that can be used and Vanna White loves to offer suggestions. According to Pat, Vanna is an avid crossword player and he says that Vanna’s puzzles are often chosen to be featured on the show. We bet that Vanna has gotten pretty good at solving those puzzles over the years.

Leaving together

Vanna and Pat have been doing the show together for 35 years and as one could imagine, they have formed quite a bond since they started. This is why the two have agreed that if they ever leave the show, they will leave together. Vanna has explained that she could not imagine doing the show with anyone else and she would not want the audience to be confused about what happened to Pat if he were to leave.

Vanna’s audition

Before Vanna landed her job on the show, she was a huge fan and even auditioned to be a contestant. When Vanna went to audition to be the woman who turns letters on the board, she was competing against 200 other girls for the spot. She remembers being very nervous for the audition and admits that her, “knees were quivering and my legs were shaking.” Thankfully she landed the role and the rest is history.

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