Wheel of Fortune
Wheel of Fortune (often known simply as Wheel) is an American television game show created by Merv Griffin that debuted in 1975. The show features a competition in which contestants solve word puzzles, similar to those used in Hangman, to win cash and prizes determined by spinning a giant carnival wheel. The current version of the series, which airs in nightly syndication, premiered on September 19, 1983. It stars Pat Sajak and Vanna White as host and co-host. The original version of Wheel was a daytime series on NBC from January 6, 1975, to June 30, 1989, then on CBS from July 17, 1989, to January 11, 1991, and again on NBC from January 14, 1991, until it was canceled on September 20, 1991, thereby co-existing with the nighttime version from 1983 to 1991.
The network version was originally hosted by Chuck Woolery and Susan Stafford. Woolery left in 1981 and was replaced by Sajak. Sajak left the network version in January 1989 to host his own late-night talk show, while remaining as host of the nighttime Wheel. Sajak was replaced in the daytime by Rolf Benirschke, who was in turn replaced by Bob Goen when the network show moved to CBS; Goen remained as host for the second NBC run. Stafford left in 1982 and was replaced by White, who remained on the network show for the rest of its run. Sajak and White have hosted the nighttime version since its inception in 1983. Jim Thornton has been the show’s off-camera announcer since 2010. Charlie O’Donnell served as the show’s announcer from its debut until 1980, and again from 1989 until his death in 2010. Jack Clark announced from 1980 to his death in 1988, with M. G. Kelly succeeding him until O’Donnell’s return.
Two spin-off versions exist as well. The first was Wheel 2000, a version featuring child contestants which aired simultaneously on CBS and Game Show Network between 1997 and 1998; this version’s hosts were David Sidoni and Tanika Ray, the latter in the role of a CGI hostess named “Cyber Lucy”. The second, Celebrity Wheel of Fortune, began airing on ABC on January 7, 2021.
Wheel of Fortune ranks as the longest-running syndicated game show in the United States, with 7,000 episodes taped and aired as of May 10, 2019. TV Guide named it the “top-rated syndicated series” in a 2008 article, and in 2013, the magazine ranked it at No. 2 in its list of the 60 greatest game shows ever. The program has also come to gain a worldwide following with sixty international adaptations. The syndicated series’ 38th season premiered on September 14, 2020, and Sajak became the longest-running host of any game show, surpassing Bob Barker, who hosted The Price Is Right from 1972 to 2007.