Vanna White celebrated the 40th anniversary of her Wheel of Fortune debut in December 2022, and now the syndicated model sport present is hitting its fortieth. However by the point the present, nighttime Wheel incarnation premiered — on September 19, 1983 — daytime variations of the present had been spinning for years. Learn on for a chronology, Fortune followers.
Woolery, who’d go on to host the sport exhibits Love Connection and Scrabble, advised The Hollywood Reporter in 2021 that game-show mastermind Merv Griffin approached him to host a pilot known as Shopper’s Bazaar, a proto-Wheel that additionally featured a roulette wheel and Hangman-like puzzles.
NBC handed on that “horrible” pilot, Woolery defined, however when Griffin reconfigured the format and renamed it Wheel of Fortune, the community put in on the daytime schedule. “Earlier than you knew it, we had been primary within the scores,” the TV character added.
Woolery’s time on Wheel, nevertheless, got here to an finish amid a contract dispute with Griffin — he needed the $500,000 per yr that Peter Marshall was getting for Hollywood Squares — and Griffin changed him with Pat Sajak, then a KNBC-TV weatherman, in 1981.
“If you’re working in native TV in L.A., in a means you’re auditioning each evening as a result of the producers are at residence, watching TV like everyone else,” Sajak advised NPR in 2013. “And fortunately, a kind of guys was Merv Griffin.”
Fred Silverman, the president and CEO of NBC on the time, didn’t suppose Sajak was as much as snuff, however Griffin known as off Wheel of Fortune tapings till Sajak was given the job, based on the host’s Hollywood Walk of Fame bio.
One other shakeup got here in 1982, when Stafford left the sport present. She advised The Messenger earlier this yr that she exited Wheel of Fortune as a result of she needed to “do extra than simply flip letters” and needed to “have interaction [her] thoughts.”
The letter-turning job then went to White, a mannequin from South Carolina. White advised TIME in 2014 that she was “most likely essentially the most nervous of all the women they interviewed”… and that the opposite finalist was a pal of hers.
As for Sajak, he hosted the daytime model of Wheel till 1989, when he left the NBC manufacturing for a short-lived late-night speak present, appropriately titled The Pat Sajak Show, on CBS.
That’s when the Wheel internet hosting job went to former San Diego Chargers kicker Rolf Benirschke, who beat 400 different candidates, together with the greater than 30 finalists who taped auditions with White, because the Los Angeles Times reported on the time. “The producers actually appreciated the open and honest high quality that he exhibited whereas taking part in the sport,” a Merv Griffin Enterprises producer’s assistant advised the Occasions. “He gave the impression to be very enthusiastic in regards to the present, and he seemed excellent with Vanna, and Vanna likes him.”
Sadly, Wheel of Fortune’s scores dropped 25 p.c with Benirschke as host, and NBC canceled the present simply months later. Reflecting on the expertise earlier this yr, the ex-NFL star advised TODAY.com he had no regrets. “I used to be going to dwell life and study and be curious and check out new issues,” he stated. “I used to be prepared to type of study one thing new. And I’m glad I did it. It made me perceive a little bit extra about Hollywood, that entire life.”
Wheel of Fortune’s daytime model received a reprieve later in 1989, although, when CBS gave the sport present a spin, with former sportscaster Bob Goen (who’d later co-host Entertainment Tonight) as emcee. The daytime Wheel aired on CBS till 1991, then transferred again to NBC, and received the axe for a second time later that yr.
“Since we had been on throughout the day, and below a community TV funds, we had been the poor step-sister to the nighttime syndicated model with Pat and Vanna,” Goen explained to game-show blogger Greg Palmer in 2011. “They had been making tens of millions and making a gift of BMWs, whereas we had been caught with $50 areas on the wheel and making a gift of Geo Metros. It was a little bit of a humiliation, and I believe, the last word demise of my model of the present.”
With the daytime model kaput, the syndicated Wheel of Fortune remained the one model of the sport present on American airwaves for a number of years, till Wheel 2000 happened. That daytime sequence, which aired on CBS and GSN from 1997 to 1998, was a kids’s spinoff of the unique, with actor David Sidoni internet hosting and Tanika Ray (who’d later co-host Extra) voicing a CGI sidekick.
Now the syndicated Wheel of Fortune is airing its forty first season — Sajak’s closing go-round as host — and Celebrity Wheel of Fortune, an ABC primetime spinoff, is heading into its fourth. And with Ryan Seacrest tapped to join White at the Wheel of Fortune puzzle board subsequent season, this format isn’t going “bankrupt” anytime quickly.
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Superstar Wheel of Fortune, Season 4 Premiere, Wednesday, September 27, 9/8c, ABC