Wheel Of Fortune is a game show that ran on ITV for 13 years, and I was always a regular viewer. There were several changes to the format over the years such as the scheduling, hosts, prizes and so on, let’s take a look at the differences between the first and final series.
Scheduling. First Series. The show launched in July 1988, where it was shown in a primetime slot once a week. It was an STV Production. Final Series. The 14th and final series came to an end in December 2001. From the 11th series in 1999 it was moved to a daytime slot and was shown five days a week. There were almost 750 editions made.
Opening sequence. First Series. There was no opening as such, just Wheel Of Fortune appearing on the screen for a few seconds, along with a very sparkly set design. There was a very excitable studio audience too. Final Series. The opening had changed a few times by this point, and the theme music had also been remixed a little. The set also seemed to become much smaller.
Host. First Series. The original host was Nicky Campbell, who around the same time was also on a host on BBC Radio 1 and Top Of The Pops. He left in 1996 and was replaced by Bradley Walsh, who after one series was replaced in 1998 by John Leslie. Final Series. The host was now Paul Hendy, who also hosted other shows including The Disney Club and Don’t Try This At Home!, but we will do our very best to forget that Stash ever happened.
Co-Host. First Series. The original co-host was Angela Ekaette, who also announced what the category was and showed off bonus prizes. Now I have no memory of her at all, I always thought that Carol Smillie was there from the start but she actually joined in the second series. Jenny Powell took over in 1995. The voiceover for all series was Steve Hamilton, who had also been a continuity announcer on STV for several years. Final Series. The co-host for the final two series was Terri Seymour, someone else who I don’t remember seeing much on TV after this. She also announced the category and did some embarrassing jokes with Paul.
Contestants. First Series. Three contestants took part, assigned red, yellow, and blue. This remained a constant for all series. For the first three series they also had to answer a multiple-choice general knowledge question before they got a chance to spin the wheel (presumably to satisfy the “you need some skill as well as luck” element). Final Series. Only one question was asked at the start of every round on the buzzer to gain control of the wheel. They also selected letters by using the phonetic alphabet (“N for November”).
Rounds. First Series. The wheel was rather big and sparkly, and an extra Bankrupt and 1,000 were added at the start of the second round. The letters lit up one by one and were physically turned over by the co-host. The points weren’t doubled after the break until the fourth series. There would also be a bonus prize on offer (but “Brad’s Box” would be a while off yet) and a speed round if they were short of time. Final Series. Now when contestants span the wheel they would also be seen in a screen above the puzzle. An extra segment on the wheel was the 500 Gamble, and there was also the Cashpot Prize that was indicated by a red letter. There would also be a puzzle that viewers had to solve during the adverts. The points were doubled after the break. One thing that never changed was that contestants played for points, they weren’t converted into pounds. The sound effects and scoreboards also remained the same.
Prizes. First Series. Anyone who won a game would be able to pick from a range of prizes shown in a pre-recorded segment that was voiced by Steve. The show employed male co-hosts to show these off who were known as “prize guys”. The consolation prize was a watch (and also a board game in later series). Final Series. There was a small selection of prizes in the studio that one man pointed to, with mostly fridges and CD players on offer. The consolation prize was… yes… a watch.
Final. First Series. The highest-scoring contestant made the final. Five consonants and one vowel had to be chosen, and then the puzzle had to be solved against the clock. The finalist had the option of playing for either a holiday, £3,000, or a car. By 1995 the prize money had gone up to £20,000. Final Series. The puzzle solving format remained the same, but there was now only one prize on offer, which was £2,000. The money had actually gone down over the years. At least Paul didn’t end the show with the cringemaking “we’ll see you next time a-round” catchphrase.