The YouTube Files – Wheel Of Fortune Australia.

Wheel Of Fortune (Seven, 1981-2006, Nine, 2008)

By the time that the Australian version of Wheel Of Fortune launched, the American version had already been a success for several years (and the British version wouldn’t launch for another seven years). As there were a lot of hosts and format changes over the years, this piece will concentrate on the early series. The first host was Ernie Sigley.

There were seven hosts in total, along with five co-hosts (and several other stand-ins). The format was fairly similar to what we would end up seeing in this country. Three contestants took part. But they didn’t have to answer a question to gain control of the wheel, there were three rounds, so everyone began one each. Of course they had to spin the wheel and try and win the various values.

They then had to guess the letters that would be in the puzzles. But they had to be able to avoid the bankrupts, miss a turns, and the like. Anyone who did manage to do solve the puzzle won a rather nice prize. And the end of every round the highest-value segment on the wheel increased, and there were various other bonuses available too. The highest-scorer goes into the final.

In this, they offer their choices of consonants and a vowel, and if they manage to solve this puzzle, they win the star prize. And unlike the British version, they could return in the next edition as the defending champion to play for even more. After the departure of Sigley in 1984, John Burgess took over as host, until he left himself in 1996 after 12 years (still nowhere as long as Pat Sajak has hosted the American version though).

After this “Burgo” became the host of Catchphrase (as reviewed in a recent piece). Wheel Of Fortune did rather well in Australia, there were over 5,000 editions in 25 years. Now here’s a good piece of trivia that I liked. On the very last edition in 2006, one of the contestants was Edith Bliss, who had previously been a pop star (and featured in my Great Moments In Pop series) and TV host.

These years of success were well behind her by this point though. She did go on to win, but as there were no further editions planned, this essentially made her the eternal defending champion. However, in 2008 there was a brief revival as Million Dollar Wheel Of Fortune on a different channel, that offered really big prizes, but this didn’t do very well, and this really was the end.

Game Show Memories – Game Show Stars Part 10.

This is someone whose TV career started out fairly quietly, but he is arguably more popular now with viewers than he has ever been. In the early-80s Bradley Walsh was originally a footballer, although he never played at the highest level, and injuries put an early end to his career. By the late-80s he started to get into comedy, and by the early-90s he was often doing his routine on TV.

The first show that I remember him on though was ITV’s Only Joking, which featured a combination of comedy and games, and he’d also turn up on Celebrity Squares. By the late-90s he was hosting various other shows including Midas Touch, Wheel Of Fortune, and The National Lottery Live, and he had a rather “cheeky” and easy-going style that reminded me of the likes of Brian Conley and Shane Richie.

Another show he did was The Big Stage, Channel 5’s brief attempt at a “bring back variety”-style show, which probably not too surprisingly didn’t succeed. By the early-2000s he had got into TV acting, and he was one of the few people brave enough to appear in the bizarre soap Night And Day. He also hosted Sport Addicts, a rare original show for Challenge.

By the mid-2000s he was in Coronation Street, placed into the cast as one of the several shock secret sons of Mike Baldwin. By the late-2000s, there was Spin Star, a short-lived game show that had the gimmick of being based around a large fruit machine, but it looked like his career was beginning to get stuck in hosting fairly average daytime game shows.

But then he became the host of The Chase, which had a compelling “beat the champion” element. This one seemed to succeed, partly due to the combination of him leaving viewers STUNNED with his antics, and the tension of the final where there was often a lot of money at stake. This finally took him to the next level of fame, and ITV were satisfied enough with the show’s success to eventually commission new episodes 1,000 at a time.

Oh no, he’s off again…

There were also endless repeat runs on Challenge, along with the primetime spin-off Beat The Chasers. He was now in big demand, and he appeared in more high-profile drama series including Law & Order: UK, and Doctor Who. Clearly a fan of the genre, he also hosted a documentary about the history of game shows where he looked back at some of his favourite moments.

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Oh dear…

Other game shows he has hosted recently include Keep It In The Family (which only seemed to exist to feature daft games and make him laugh as much as possible because that’s what viewers wanted apparently), Cash Trapped (which he devised himself), and a revival of Blankety Blank. He just seems to be everywhere on TV at the moment, and he’s definitely earned his success.

Game Show Memories – Wheel Of Fortune first and final series comparison.

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. w1

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. w2

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. w8

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”). w3

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. w5

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. w6

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. w7

Game Show Memories – consolation prizes.

“We hate to lose you, but lose you we must”

Time for something a little different. There used to be a time when however good or bad they did, game show contestants would be given consolation prizes for taking part. Here’s a look at what I think are 16 of the most memorable prizes that were given away. These are the shows where you definitely didn’t go away empty handed…

Backdate. A rather nice electronic organiser.

Big Break. A snooker cue and a trophy, and a waistcoat too if you were lucky.

Blankety Blank. Probably one of the most famous consolation prizes, the chequebook and pen. It’s really isn’t an exaggeration to say that it was more valuable than most of the actual prizes on offer.

Blockbusters. A sweatshirt and a dictionary. Definitely worth having. p3

Bullseye. Tankards, darts, and the bendy Bully. Or the badge and chalk holder that were on offer in the early series.

Countdown. What is always called a goodie bag, including cups, books, and the board game too of course. And don’t forget the teapot either.

Every Second Counts. Not surprisingly considering this was a show based around time, a wallclock and some watches.

The Generation Game. Various prizes in the early-90s revival included a telephone and pocket TV that seemingly only ever showed a picture of Bruce Forsyth’s co-host Rosemarie Ford. p6

Lucky Ladders. A pair of watches. Now they must be expensive.

Raise The Roof. This was the show where the star prize was a house, so the consolation was a teapot in the shape of a house, often known as “Bob’s Bungalow” (after host Bob Holness).

Small Talk. A trophy that according to host Ronnie Corbett was “crafted by my own fair hand”.

Telly Addicts. Another goodie bag similar to Countdown including books about TV, T-shirts and so on. p9

Today’s The Day. A copy of a newspaper from the day that you were born, and maybe a bottle of bubbly too.

Turnabout. Another show that gave everyone a dictionary. Not that exciting, but just any excuse to talk about Turnabout really.

Wheel Of Fortune. Another show that gave away watches and board games.

Wipeout. Early series featured a paperweight, before this was changed to an umbrella. p12

And they all had a lovely day.

The YouTube Files – Wheel Of Fortune USA.

Wheel Of Fortune (1975-present)

I have noticed that one of my most popular blog pieces is my review of the classic game show Wheel Of Fortune. I know that this was a show that was based on an American format, so once again I decided to look at some editions on YouTube from throughout the years. One of the things that I was surprised to discover was that Wheel Of Fortune has been running on American TV almost continuously since the mid-70s. vlcsnap-01319

The rules of the American version of Wheel Of Fortune are just about the same as the British one. Three contestants take part and they have to solve word puzzles and spin a wheel to determine how much they are playing for. One major difference is that in the American version, they are playing for money. In the British version that launched in 1988 contestants played for points at this stage of the game, because of the restrictions on prize money at the time there was never really a chance of a “fortune” being given away. vlcsnap-01330

Also in the early series of the British version, contestants had to answer a question before they have the chance to spin the wheel. Every time someone solves a puzzle, they win a bonus prize, and there are lots of bonuses available on the wheel too alongside the money values, but watch out for those bankrupts! The contestant who has made the most money then goes into the final. If they can solve one final puzzle after selecting various letters, then they win a big prize, and lots of cars and holidays would be given away. vlcsnap-01323

The American version of Wheel Of Fortune has had various hosts but it has been hosted by Pat Sajak and Vanna White since the mid-80s. Watching some editions from more recent years I noticed that thanks to improved technology each individual letter is now a screen which has to be touched to reveal the letter, rather than having a panel that had to be physically turned around, although this never happened in the British version. vlcsnap-01332

Wheel Of Fortune eventually ran on British TV for 13 years, although the final few series were shown in a daytime slot. The American version has now been on TV for over 40 years and remains popular as it still offers lots of big prizes. Of all the game shows that could be revived, one that I really would like to see have another go on British TV is Wheel Of Fortune because now prizes really could be given away that are as big as what’s on offer in America and I think that it definitely has the potential to be really fun and exciting to watch. vlcsnap-01333

Game Show Memories – Wheel Of Fortune.

Wheel Of Fortune (ITV, 1988-2001)

The game that could be seen as glamorised Hangman that was based on an American format. The basic idea of the show was to spin the wheel to solve puzzles and win prizes. The original hosts were Nicky Campbell (taking a day off from Top Of The Pops) and Angela Ekaette who turns the letters round on the board, although she didn’t last long and was quickly replaced by the more familiar Carol Smillie. vlcsnap-01078

Three contestants took part. The category of the puzzle that they have to solve is revealed and then they answer a general knowledge question to gain control of the wheel. They then spin the wheel which has various points values from 150 to 1000 on it plus other segments including free spin, lose a turn and star prize. They had to avoid the bankrupt segment though or they’d lose all their points that they accumulated in that round. vlcsnap-01082

They then pick a consonant that they think is in the puzzle. For every one there they win the points equivalent, so for example if they land on 200 and pick the letter “R” and there are two of that letter in the puzzle they win 400 points and they can have another spin. If they pick a letter that isn’t there they lose their turn. This carries on until there are only vowels left in the puzzle or they think they can solve the puzzle with the letters that have already been revealed. If they are stuck though they can buy a vowel, with each one in the puzzle costing them 250 points. vlcsnap-01076

Whoever solves the puzzle successfully then has the chance to pick a prize as announced by Steve Hamilton. This carries on for a few rounds with additional 1000 and bankrupt segments being added to the wheel and the points being doubled in later rounds until time is up and then the highest scoring contestant goes through to the final, with the losers receiving consolation prizes. What they played for in the final varied throughout the years, sometimes it was a cash prize, and in some years they could choose if they wanted to play for money or a car. vlcsnap-01077

In the final the contestant is shown the category and then picks five consonants and one vowel. They then have 15 seconds to solve the puzzle. If they do they win the prize. As restrictions were relaxed on how much money could be given away on game shows the star prize value increased throughout the series. vlcsnap-01081

The hosts changed a lot throughout the years. Bradley Walsh became the main host in 1997 and he had a bonus prize feature called “Brad’s Box”. He was assisted by the new co-host Jenny Powell. In 1998 he was replaced by John Leslie and the bonus was renamed ‘Leslie’s Luxury”. In 1999 the show was relegated to daytime, a fate that long-runners Catchphrase and Family Fortunes would also suffer, which meant that the prizes on offer were now of a smaller value, although this did also mean that it was now shown every weekday instead of just weekly. In 2001 there would be another new presenting duo who were Paul Hendy and Terri Seymour and the studio was given a new design but after 13 years this turned out to be the final series. vlcsnap-01079

Wheel Of Fortune is a show that is something of an institution in America and it is still running there, but it now hasn’t been shown in the UK since 2001, although some series have been repeated on Challenge in more recent years. At the height of the show’s popularity in this country there were a few celebrity specials made and there was also some merchandise released including a board game although unfortunately I never had it myself, but this was always a show that I enjoyed watching. Maybe it’s about time for a revival.