“Wheel of Fortune” is a game show that has been airing for over three decades now. It’s become a part of the overall American culture. As much as people love Wheel of Fortune, there are still many facts about the show even the biggest fans don’t know. Read on to find out some interesting facts about this long-running game show.
1. Wheel of Fortune has Been on the Air for Years
The pilot episode of Wheel of Fortune was broadcast back in 1975. It started life as a daytime series but was later turned into a nighttime show in 1983. It entered the Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2017.
2. The Hosts – Pad Sajak and Vanna White – Occasionally Drank
The two hosts would supposedly go out and have some margaritas before coming back for work during the early days of Wheel of Fortune. Sajak told the LA times that there was a bar across the street from the studio in Burbank called Los Across, and that the bar had great margaritas.
“Vanna and I would go across and have to or three or six and then come and do the last shows and have trouble recognizing the alphabet,” he said.
3. The Show Was a Hit in Germany
Germans proved to be big fans of Wheel of Fortune or, as it was known there, “Glücksrad” – the German for “fortune’s wheel”.
The German version of Wheel of Fortune ran for many years between 1987 and 2002.
4. Wheel of Fortune Once Won the Emmy’s
The show received a Daytime Emmy in 2011 for “Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show.”
As well as the show itself winning an Emmy, the host of the show Pat Sajak has been nominated for 18 Daytime Emmys of his own and won 3. He also won the Lifetime Achievement award for his work on the show in 2011.
5. Lots of People Want to be On the Show
The show receives millions of applications a year from people who want to be in the show. Even so, only around 10,000 lucky people actually get the chance to audition to become contestants. Only 600 of those 10,000 actually get on to the show.
6. Vanna White Has Worn Some Stunning Dresses
Everyone knows that the hostess Vanna White goes all out with her gowns, but do you know just how many times she’s changed her dress on the show? She has reportedly worn over 6,500 dresses on the show and laments that she was never allowed to keep any of them.
7. There’s Just the One Set – And Boy Is it Heavy
Even though the show is filmed across the country, there’s just the one Wheel of Fortune set and it allegedly weighs around a million pounds. It takes 14 trucks to take the set across the country between locations.
8. Pat Sajak Was a Weatherman at one point
Before becoming the host of Wheel of Fortune, Pat Sajak worked as a weatherman in LA. He also took a shot at becoming a talk show host after Wheel of Fortune became popular; hosting “The Pat Sajak” show between 1989 and 1990.
9. Wheel of Fortune Appeared in the TV Show “Fresh of the Boat”
Wheel of Fortune had a prominent part of an episode of “Fresh of the Boat”. The two characters from the show appeared as contestants on Wheel of Fortune for the season four premier in 2017. The creators of the show were even able to get Vanna White and Pat Sajak to play themselves for the episode.
10. Vanna White Made a Special Announcement on The Show
Vanna White found a creative way to announce her pregnancy in 1992. She wanted to do it on the show somehow, so the answer to one of the puzzles for that episode was “Vanna’s Pregnant”. White has since welcomed a second child and is a mother of two.
11. Many Celebrities Have Appeared on the Show
A number of celebrities have appeared on the show over the years, as both the answers to puzzles and contestants themselves. Paula Deen, Neil Patrick Harris, Sherri Shepherd, and more have all appeared on the show as part of “Celebrity Week”.
12. Pat Sajak is Set for Life
Being the host of Wheel of Fortune has its perks. One of which is commanding a large salary. Forbes report that Pat Sajak earns around $15 million annually, which is on par with what Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert earn for their late-night shows.
13. Pat and Vanna Don’t Work a Whole Lot
Another perk of being one of the hosts of Wheel of Fortune – other than making a lot of money – is that they don’t do that much work. They may earn millions of dollars per year, but the pair actually work just four days out of the month. At least on the show.
14. Wheel of Fortune was Originally Called “Shopper’s Bazaar”
You may know the show as “Wheel of Fortune” but that doesn’t mean that’s what it was always called. It didn’t even have the same format we know and love at one point.
The show was originally called “Shopper’s Bazaar” and the concept was that contestants won fake money that they used to “buy” prizes. The show kept this shopping segment until 1989. Of course, the only thing contestants can buy these days is a vowel.
15. The Show May be Getting New Hosts
While Pat Sajak and Vanna White have been the co-hosts of the show for the 35+ years it’s been on the air, their contracts are coming up in 2020. Pat told Yahoo back in 2017 that he wanted to “leave while the show is still popular.”
It would be nice to give someone else the chance to run the show while it’s still going well. Not to mention it would be nice to let Pat retire before people turn on the show and wonder what happened to him as the years show.
16. Vanna White Has a Spot in the Guinness Book of World Records
If you watch the show then you know that Vanna White claps a lot. So much so, in fact, that she’s earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for it. Guinness World Records say that White has clapped at least 3,480,864 times on the show. She was awarded the world record for “most frequent clapper” in 2013 for her achievement.
17. Pat Sajak and Alex Trebek Once Swapped Places
For April Fool’s in 1997 Pat Sajak and Alex Trebek swapped places. Trebek hosted “Wheel of Fortune” for the day while Sajak hosted an episode of “Jeopardy”.
18. Vanna White has Something of an Embarrassing Past
There was a time before she was famous that Vanna White needed money to pay her rent, and she was so desperate she actually posed for risqué photos to get. The photos were later sold to Playboy when she became famous as the co-host of the show. Playboy would use the photo for their 1987 May issue, making it the front cover; something that White is still embarrassed about.
She spoke to Fox News in 2017 saying “I said, ‘I made a mistake, I’m sorry and I just hope I don’t lose my job over it’. Fortunately, I didn’t. I could have, you know? It was a great lesson to learn, but what can I say? I Did something I shouldn’t have.”
19. Wheel of Fortune Can be a Bit Repetitive
Here’s a tip for all the budding Wheel of Fortune contestants out there. The most common consonant on the show is “T” while “E” is the most common vowel.
20. There was a Lot of Competition to be Sajak’s Co-Host
All in all, over 200 women auditioned to become part of the game show and have the position that would go to Vanna White. The show’s creator said that White proved to be the best letter turner in the business, and she officially became the co-host of the show in 1982.
21. Pat Sajak Stormed off Set Once
During the filming of “Best Friends Week” in Hawaii in 2014, a contestant on the show would repeatedly give horse-related answers to the puzzles. Sajak said “Who said anything about a horse?” in mock frustrated and jokingly walked off the set in protest.
22. The Show Caused Controversy with a Background Photo
The producers of Wheel of Fortune had to publicly apologise for a photo they showed in 2017. It was “Southern Charm Week” on the show and the producers used a photo that appeared to show African American slaves working on a plantation. The producer said “We regret the use of this background image, and we will be replacing it moving forward on any rebroadcast.”
23. Pronunciation Wins Prizes
In one episode form 2018, a contestant called Johnny made the mistake of his life when he mispronounced a word. He meant to say “Flamenco” but said “Flamingo” instead, and the mistake cost him a whopping $7,000 in prize money and a vacation.
24. Pronunciation Isn’t the Only Problem Guests have Faced
Johnny is far from the only contestant to have made a gaffe when playing the game. A college student earned the title of “worst player ever” in 2014 when they mispronounced “Achilles”. The rules of the show clearly state that the puzzle has to be solved with generally accepted pronunciation of words, so the poor college student also lost his prize.
25. The Cost of a Vowel Has Never Changed
While the overall value of prizes has increased over the years since the show premiered in the 1970s, the price of a vowel has always been what it is now. The price of a vowel has always been $250 no matter what happened to inflation or the economy. If you wanted to buy all the vowels in a puzzle and the answer was “Papers Please” it would cost $1,000 – both now and way back when.
26. Vanna White Hasn’t Actually Turned a Letter Over in Over 20 Years
In the early days of the show Vanna would have to physically turn the letters on the board in order to show them to contestants and the audience. This changed in 1997 when the letter board got a digital upgrade. Apparently the production crew saves hours by having a digital touchscreen board controlled by a computer.
27. The Show has Offered some Incredible Prizes
There have been some big prizes offered on Wheel of Fortune, but not much can top the $350,000 home that the show offered to viewers in 2018. Viewers could win the house by entering the sweepstakes for the show.
If the house was won by someone under 55 then they would receive a Florida townhouse or $150,000 cash (their choice). If they were older than 55, they were treated to a home in a Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville retirement community.
28. Even Vanna White Has Made Mistakes
Vanna White once turned the wrong letter in the early days of the show. She told Time magazine “I was so traumatized, I don’t remember if it was a D or an M that I turned. The puzzle was either Doctor Spock or Mister Spock. Whenever they called it, I just turned the – we’ll say D – I turned it and it was an M. I was mortified. They had to throw the puzzle out.”
29. Wheel of Fortune Hasn’t Had Many Announcers
The people behind Wheel of Fortune have always been loyal to their workers. Charlie O’Donnell was the announcer for the show for 28 years before passing away in 2010. He was replaced by radio broadcaster Jim Thornton, who has been the announcer ever since.
30. Both Pat Sajak and Vanna White Have a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star
Given that the co-stars have been very influential in the world of entertainment and can be considered stars in their own right, it’s hardly surprising that they have been honored with a Hollywood Walk of Fame star each. Pat Sajak received his in 1994, with Vanna joining him 12 years later in 2006.
31. Vanna White Likes to try to Help Contestants
Vanna may be forbidden from offering any assistance to contestants, she says that she does sometimes try to communicate the answers to them telepathically. She gave an interview to Time magazine where she said “During the bonus round, when [the contestants] start calling letters, I telepathically try to send them a letter, you know what I mean? I do not say anything, but in my head when they start calling their letters I’m thinking. ‘D! B! K!’”
32. Sometimes the Wrong Answers are the Best Part of the Show
While we all like it when someone wins, there’s a certain joy that comes when someone gives a hilarious wrong answer. There’s even a Twitter account dedicated to some of the best wrong answers on the show. The account - @WOFAnswers – tweets out silly answers and has amassed over 246,000 followers.
A contestant called Kevin gave a silly answer to a question in 2017. There was just one letter missing from the puzzle, so he decided to give it a go and guessed the letter “K”. Rather than giving the correct answer of “A Streetcar Named Desire”, Kevin guessed the answer “A Streetcar Naked Desire” instead.
33. Ties are Very Rare
It’s rare to see a tie on Wheel of Fortune. The last time it happened on the show was when both contestants had won $24,000 each. Until that incident, a tie hadn’t happened on the show in over ten years.
34. Some Contestants Get Lucky
The contestant Emil De Leon proved very lucky in 2014 when he only had the letters “N” and “E” on the board. In a stroke of genius and sheer luck he gave the write answer to the puzzle, which was “New Baby Buggy”. Host Pat Sajak even tweeted about it, saying that it was the “most amazing solve in my 30+ years on the show. No kidding.”
35. The Show Has Been Parodied by Saturday Night Live
Nothing can escape the satirical gaze of Saturday Night Live, not even Wheel of Fortune. SNL ran a parody of the show in 2006 with Tom Hanks playing Pat Sajak and Tina Fey playing Vanna White. The skit saw contests attempting to guess the answer to a puzzle and getting it wrong even though they needed just one letter.