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YMMV: Wheel of Fortune
Our category for this round is "Subjective Tropes". (ding ding DING ding)
  • Adaptation Displacement: Sort of — many people believe the show started in the early 1980s with Pat, which is only half right. This displacement is made more obvious in recent years, with the show's constant references to whichever nighttime season it's on, thus disregarding the long run that the daytime version had already built up come 1983.
  • Awesome Music: "Changing Keys," the 1980s theme song and by far the best known among fans, as well as its various re-orchestrations lasting until 2000.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: One episode put up a disclaimer before a TV Title puzzle saying that the episode was taped before the late-night feud with Conan and Leno. The answer? "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH CONAN O'BRIEN". No doubt many a home viewer solved that puzzle before any letters were revealed.
  • Game Breaker: Plenty.
    • The Prize Wedge, the Mystery Prize, and the now-retired $10,000 Wedge. In one 1985-86 episode, the Wheel Prize was a Cadillac worth $31,211!
    • The top-dollar value, especially if the contestant spins it multiple times or has the Wild Card and opts to use it.
    • Winning the Jackpot could become this if several consonants are called, regardless of whether they are in the puzzle. Even more of a breaker if the top-dollar value is hit.
    • A particularly egregious example is the Prize Puzzle, which merely requires the player to solve the puzzle to win. The value of the prize is at least $5,000, and like other prizes, counts towards the player's score. In fact, it's become a very Boring, but Practical strategy for players to solve a Prize Puzzle with zero money even if there are several letters left on the board because the prize is worth so much that any money earned by spinning at that point is too inconsequential in comparison to risk hitting a Bankrupt/Lose a Turn and giving the round (and, more importantly, the prize) to another player. It's such a huge Game Breaker that the only ways for a player to win it and lose the game is either to be flat-out awful during the rest of the game, to fall victim to a $6,000 Final Spin, or for it to be cancelled out by another player getting a different Game Breaker...which, unlike the Prize Puzzle, all require a specific space to be landed on and, with the exception of the Jackpot, are vulnerable to Bankrupt. Getting one of the above and the Prize Puzzle basically turns the game into a Curb-Stomp Battle for that contestant, rendering future rounds pointless since by that stage the results are a Foregone Conclusion. With the introduction on the $1,000 Express space (more on that below), the game basically became "Win Round 3 or Lose", and the fans have certainly noticed.
    • The ˝ Car. Pick up both tags and win the car (usually in the $15,000 range), and you're almost guaranteed victory. If you win the car in the Prize Puzzle round (Round 3), it's safe to say victory is yours.
    • The Big Money Wedge, used only in Season 25, where a player could earn $25,000 from one letter!
    • The Express Wedge, introduced in Season 31, has the potential to break the game wide open. Essentially, if a contestant lands on this space, they can continuously call consonants at $1,000 each or buy vowels without ever having to spin until they either solve the puzzle, opt to spin (and thus end the effect of the space), or call a wrong letter, in which case they go Bankrupt. The kicker? It only shows up in round 3, which is also home to the more notorious Prize Puzzle. This means that if a skilled or lucky player hits the Express wedge with plenty of consonants left on the board, the no-risk thousands racked up with this space combined with the $5,000+ from the Prize Puzzle can turn this space into a nasty One-Hit Kill against the other two players, where even a $6,000 Final Spin isn't likely to be enough to catch up.
    • The Free Play wedge. Vowels normally cost $250 and can't be called after spinning the wheel. However, when this space was invented, it created a loophole in the game design, and everybody who lands on this space exploits it for free vowels even when it would not be beneficial to do so.
    • On team episodes, both the Wheel Prizes and Prize Puzzle trips are usually higher in value than on regular episodes, which can especially be a game breaker when considering the fact that all other stakes (except for the house minimum being $2,000 instead of $1,000) remain the same. One Family Week in 2010 had both types of prizes worth $15,000, and two teams managed to win both on their episode.
    • Averted in at least the Australian and British versions, where Wheel prizes do not count towards the total score (except for the face value underneath). In fact, in Australia, flipping over the correct Mystery Wedge makes it more difficult to win the game. However, the special $5,000 wedges used for the 5000th episode did count towards score.
  • Gameplay Derailment: The RSTLNE change in the Bonus Round and the use of ampersands in Same Name can be seen as examples of this.
  • Growing the Beard: Most fans agree that the removal of the shopping rounds was a good idea, although some still hold nostalgia for it. This was first tried on October 5, 1987 as the Big Month of Cash during the nighttime version. It proved so successful that the nighttime version seamlessly moved into the "play for cash" rules set up by the Big Month Of Cash. As a result, the game became much faster, allowing for more puzzles (and consequently, bigger winnings and an increased "play along" incentive for viewers). Daytime followed suit with a No Budget version on July 17, 1989.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • For the first time in over 15 years, viewers heard a different voice announcing in November 2010 because Charlie O'Donnell had fallen ill. The first episode with substitute announcer Johnny Gilbert aired on November 1, 2010, the same day that O'Donnell died (episodes are taped in advance).
    • On April Fool's Day 1991, Vanna had a cushion under her dress in the final segment, as a means of tricking Pat and viewers into thinking she was pregnant. This suddenly became much less funny when she had a miscarriage in September 1992.
      • For that matter, the 1992 puzzle "VANNA'S PREGNANT" became this when said miscarriage happened; the puzzle was edited out.
  • It's Easy, so It Sucks:
    • Some longtime fans have criticized the show for constantly adding newer, often more specific categories: the number of categories has grown from 3 on the 1973 pilot, to 6 when the show began, to 36 (not counting plural forms) today. Something that might originally have been Thing might now be called Living Thing, Food & Drink, Around the House, In the Kitchen, etc.
    • There's also some hatred for Prize Puzzles constantly being themed to beaches or travel in some way.
    • One from the 2012 Facebook version: It is very common for RSTLNE to reveal more than half of a bonus puzzle (such as ALBERT EINSTEIN), which has disappointed some fans who are used to the more difficult ones on TV. As this is a common problem with most of the console adaptations, it most likely stems that the game pulls its bonus puzzles from the entire databank, as opposed to having round-specific puzzles with the appropriate difficulty.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • Whenever someone brings up old news on a game show forum, the standard response is something along the lines of "[Chuck] Woolery left Wheel." On occasion, the original poster has no idea what they're talking about ("Chuck Woolery on Wheel? Since when?").
    • Many of the game's catch phrases, such as "I'd like to solve the puzzle", "I'd like to buy a vowel", and "C'mon, big money!" have entered common parlance.
    • The ceramic Dalmatian, a longtime fixture of the shopping rounds. Even though they stopped shopping in the late 1980s, references to the Dalmatian still crop up regularly. Vanna herself has one, named "Sheldon", and it was hidden somewhere on-set throughout all of Season 30.
  • Most Wonderful Sound: The chimes that play as the puzzle is revealed. This was the original version used until Goen's first daytime episode (July 17, 1989), when this version took its place.
    • Also, the chimes used after categories like "Who Is It?" or "Slogan", signaling the puzzle had a bonus answer. This particular sound was recycled from the earlier High Rollers.
  • Nightmare Fuel: The animated introduction used on the Halloween 2010 episodes. It features zombie versions of Pat and Vanna's avatars from the Wii game, filmed in scratchy black-and-white like an old horror movie. Afterward, the trademark "Wheel! Of! Fortune!" chant is distorted, so it sounds deep, low, and scary.
  • Older Than They Think:
    • $2,000, the top value in daytime from 1979-89, was previously used for a head-to-head round on the hour-long episodes in 1975-76.
    • While the prize wedges are most commonly associated with the nighttime show (and daytime from 1989-91), they actually date back to the aforementioned head-to-head round.
    • Nickname was long thought to have only been used from 1988-89 until brief footage surfaced from May 31, 1979 and proved it was this Trope. (It also fits under "Longer Than They Think", as there's also a December 1994 episode with it.)
    • Many shows will tie in most or all of the puzzles to that week's theme. However, some Woolery episodes also had a common theme to all the puzzles.
    • The Prize Puzzle debuted in 2003, right? Wrong… it actually had a "test run" back in 1997!
  • Replacement Scrappy: Several examples.
    • Rolf Benirschke, who had little television experience before hosting Wheel. While he showed a friendly rapport with the contestants, he was visibly uncomfortable on-camera and was prone to screw-ups. One of his most unfortunate moments as host was when a game ended in a tie, and he admitted on national television that he didn't know what to do.note 
      • Another time, Benirschke congratulated himself for hitting $2,000 on the Final Spin, but a contestant pointed out that he was looking at the wrong arrow and had actually landed on Bankrupt. Even worse, this was during a teen week.
    • After announcer Jack Clark died in July 1988, disc jockey M.G. Kelly took over the announcer's booth until original daytime announcer Charlie O'Donnell returned on February 20, 1989. Kelly had a low-key delivery not unlike Clark and a tendency to ad-lib around his copy, but gets hate for a supposed lack of enthusiasm. (Furthermore, Pat has confirmed that M.G. often struggled with prize copy, leading to multiple re-takes.)
    • Likewise with all the other guest announcers after Charlie's death; the fanbase was almost unanimously in favor of Jim Thornton, as he was the only one who showed any enthusiasm (yes, even over Rich Fields). Jim got the nod.
    • The Aussie version wasn't immune to this, either. Tony Barber, best known for his role as host of Sale Of The Century, was this when he replaced John Burgess in July 1996 due to the Seven Network's abrupt sacking of the latter as well as the numerous changes to the show (mentioned below) that occurred around the same time.
    • Another Aussie scrappy was Steve Oemcke, who replaced Rob Elliot in 2004 after the latter was fired abruptly. This host change began Wheel's terminal decline, which not even Larry Emdur (who replaced Oemcke at the beginning of 2006) could reverse.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • Voice actor Bob Bergen was a contestant in 1980. He would later host Jep!, the sister show to Wheel 2000.
    • Alicia Witt was a contestant on a Teen Week in 1990, and played on a Celebrity Edition in 1997.
  • Seasonal Rot:
    • The 1996 retirements of the $1,000 and $1,500 wedges from Rounds 3 and 4 respectively, even before inflation is considered.
      • $1,500 was already second to top-dollar on the daytime version in late 1979. Between then and the syndicated debut of Season 14, the buying power of cash values dropped by more than half.
      • Additionally, between December 1984 (the introduction of $700, $800, and $900 to Round 1) and the Season 32 debut, the buying power was also halved. From late 1979 though, it's nearly a 70% drop, with the current $2,500 wedge only about as good as $750 was back then.
    • Starting Season 20, "normal" prize wedges were generally limited to trips, shopping sprees, or sponsored cash prizes.
    • The Prize Puzzle has led to a few instances:
      • Fans of the show call out producer Harry Friedman for The approval of very poor quality puzzles. According to Pat, some puzzles have been ripped completely from vacation brochures.
      • With a few exceptions, the Prize Puzzle has always offered trips. Puzzles such as TELL ME WHERE I'M GOING PAT make this painfully obvious.
      • How contestants who have solved said puzzle have won the game by less than the value of the round's prize. Even worse, the value of the prize has generally increased, while cash values on the Wheel have remained about the same since Toss-Ups were introduced.
    • As for Season 32, the minimum value increased to $500, but the show still has no plans to introduce regular four-digit values, making outcomes more predictable and increasing the influence of the Prize Puzzle.
  • Ship Tease:
    • Chuck/Susan. Although both were actively in other relationships at the time, their on-screen chemistry and a few of his weirder comments toward her both brought up this Trope.
    • Pat/Vanna. Again, they were in other relationships, but this came up far more often than it did during the Chuck/Susan heyday. Most notable are the infamous kiss on Pat's last daytime show (preceded by his "come here, baby") and his comment to Bob Goen on the first CBS show ("be good to Vanna"). This was later referenced in-show, in a 1997 bit that had Vanna outright addressing — and denying — that the two were married, while she sewed up an outfit and Pat read a newspaper.
  • Special Effects Failure:
    • From 1989-96, the nighttime version had a three-day champion rule. Early on, the contestant's cumulative total would be shown on their backdrop, which could hold five digits. One particularly lucky contestant got north of $100,000 before her third Bonus Round, so Pat taped a "1" to her backdrop.
    • The puzzle boards...hoo boy.
      • With the trilon board, the "ding" would not always sound at the exact time a trilon lights up. Other times, the buzzer would sound instead.
      • Both Susan and Vanna have turned a letter too far, causing the plastic sheet with the letter in it to slide off the trilon.note 
      • In a Season 2 episode, the first F in the puzzle FRANKFURTERS AND SAUERKRAUT lit up when it wasn't supposed to, and the crew couldn't shut it off, so Pat told everyone multiple times to disregard the lit letter. To Vanna's credit, she didn't turn it around until a contestant called F.
      • For some weeks (on both daytime and nighttime) in 1989, some of the O's in puzzles were quite odd-looking; they were rounder and clearly didn't match the rest of the letters. These were actually zeroes.
      • Played straight on the Season 14 premiere; when the I would not light up in the Round 1 puzzle TEMPTING OFFER, Pat told Vanna to turn it anyway. About 2 seconds after she turned the trilon, it lit up.
      • Played with on the first episode of the electronic board. Vanna uses the bonus puzzle to demonstrate how the new board works. Pat then tries in vain to light up a letter, even going so far as to hit the board. Vanna then leans in and touches the monitor, and it lights up. (The monitors have to be touched on the right-hand border to activate, although knowing Pat he was probably touching the wrong side on purpose.)
      • Incidentally, Vanna has had a few problems with letters randomly refusing to light up on the electronic board, including an episode only three months after its introduction where she hit the monitor with her fist before it finally cooperated.
      • When a Toss-Up or round begins, the blanks are revealed from top to bottom and left to right, in that order. Sometimes, one or more of the blanks would not appear until about a half second later.
    • Until the mid-1990s, the show made frequent use of an applause machine, which led to obviously-canned "ooh"s whenever a prize was shown, "aww"s whenever someone hit Bankrupt or Lose A Turn, or exaggerated gasps if someone came close to the top dollar value. In some rounds, it was painfully obvious that the same tracks were being recycled (such as the "aww" track on the clip at That One Level below). And on at least one occasion, they used the "children's" track on the applause machine by mistake. A different applause machine (the same one used during the last few years of Hollywood Squares) is used today, mainly because the Culver City audiences can't be arsed to show any sort of enthusiasm no matter how much the seal trainers try. They since use said machine sparingly, leading to some lackluster audience responses...but at least it's natural.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song:
    • The 1974 pilots used Maynard Ferguson's "Give It One" for the theme. When the show made it to air, it used an Alan Thicke composition called "Big Wheels", which had a rather similar melody, production, and chord pattern.
    • The French-Canadian version, La Roue Chanceuse, used one of "Changing Keys".
  • Tear Jerker: These three tributes:
    • Jack Clark on September 6, 1988.
    • Wardrobe manager Alan Mills on February 16, 2009 with Pat's voice breaking near the end.
    • Charlie O'Donnell on November 5, 2010 note where Pat's visibly on the brink of crying.
  • That One Level:
    • A Round 1 puzzle of DESE DEM AND DOSE GUYS from October 1989. Adding to that is when the puzzle was revealed entirely; the contestant mispronounced the first word as "desi" twice, after which Pat clearly indicated he wanted to move on by accepting the solve anyway.
      • To top that off, Round 2 was also revealed entirely before it was solved (although correctly this time), causing the opening segment to last for almost 13 minutes.
    • Megaword, which didn't even last a full season (1994-95), and for good reason. In one particularly excruciating example (March 15, 1995), it took ten spins just to get a letter on the board, the Wheel changed hands more than twenty times (including three Bankrupts) and every consonant except J was called before the puzzle OXIDIZED was finally solved. Pat has even gone on record saying that Megaword was a bad idea.
    • Up until the mid-1990s or so, it wasn't rare for Round 1 and/or the last round to be a short answer with few common consonants, often leading to very long stretches of wrong letters. One particularly painful example was GIMME A BUZZ in 1989, which outdid even the OXIDIZED round, as it took thirteen turns before anyone called a letter. (The rest of the round wasn't quite as bad, though.)
    • Sometimes the bonus round can be this, especially when they use a tricky answer that would be nearly impossible to figure out unless you're crazy enough to try calling something like Z. (Not that someone doesn't occasionally thwart it by, say, picking Z-J-W-I and solving JIGSAW PUZZLE.)
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks: Many longtime fans dislike the increased amount of product placement, the loads of new gimmicks and wedges, etc.
    • When the show moved to CBS in July 1989, adopting the "play for cash" format the nighttime show had used since October 1987, the budget was slashed significantly: $50 and $75 spaces littered the Rounds 1-2 layout (sporting diamonds), the highest amount was $1,250, and the bonus round featured such prizes as subcompact cars and $5,000 cash. To compensate, the show lowered the cost of a vowel to $200 when the run began, and in Spring 1990 lowered it further to a paltry $100. To the show's credit, $50 and $75 were gone within the first two months, and bigger prizes became available as the Goen era progressed.
    • Aussie Wheel on July 15, 1996. Not only did Tony Barber replace John Burgess, AND the show moved from Adelaide, South Australia (which had been the show's home since its debut in 1981) to Sydney, New South Wales, but there were several changes to the show as well, including...
      • A new theme song (which was thankfully scrapped after five weeks).
      • The retirement of shopping, and scores essentially became just points, although solving a puzzle awarded a prize.
      • A toss-up question (not a toss-up puzzle) determined control of the Wheel at the start of the game.
      • Landing on BANKRUPT completely set your score back to zero, even if you solved a puzzle in a prior round. At least this change only affected score and not prizes that were won.
      • The "Golden Wheel" was replaced with the five envelopes format from the American version (which also lasted only five weeks).
  • They Just Didn't Care:
    • An incident from the October 8, 1992 episode. The puzzle MARILYN MONROE'S LAST FILM has just been solved by the red contestant and since it's a Clue puzzle, naming said film will award $500. He says Something's Got to Give, which was indeed Monroe's last film, only to be ruled incorrect. The yellow player says The Misfits, and is given the $500. Coming back from break, Pat acknowledges that the red player named the last film Monroe worked on, then claims the puzzle was implying her last completed film (which the yellow contestant gave). Fortunately, the error does not affect the outcome; the final scores are $5,200, $1,500 and $8,650.
    • Wheel 2000 has this egregious example. On the October 4, 1997 episode, the blue player calls the last consonant in the Speed-Up puzzle GOOSE BUMPS. At this point, a signal should be made to tell the contestants that only vowels are left. However, no such notification is given until after the red player picks a (nonexistent) consonant, at which point Lucy says, "There's only vowels left, I believe." before the yellow contestant's turn. That player picks the O's and solves for 550 points, making the final scores 1,550, 550 and 1,900. What makes it worse is that the error ended up affecting the outcome of the game. On a successful solve worth 750 points, the red contestant would've had enough to go to the Bonus Round.
    • On December 20, 2012, the day after a contestant was penalized for neglecting the G in the puzzle SEVEN SWANS A-SWIMMING, the blue contestant missolves HICKORY-SMOKED COUNTRY HAM without the D. Neither the judges nor Pat notice this, and it is treated as a successful solve. Luckily, this error does not affect the outcome as the final scores are $11,950, $1,500 and $8,000.
  • They Wasted A Perfectly Good Amount: For a special "Wheel 6000" week from April 28-May 2, 2014, the $5,000 wedge was replaced with a fully-functional $6,000 wedge. However, the wedge was never hit. It didn't help that the first three shows had Round 4 begin with the Final Spin.
    • For a "Big Money Week" in March 2012, envelopes of $65,000, $75,000, and $85,000 were added to the Bonus Wheel, but none of these three amounts were ever landed on.
  • This Is Your Premise on Drugs / X Meets Y: Hangman meets roulette, on steroids. Maybe a touch of LSD, as colorful as the set got in the late 1980s or so.
  • What an Idiot: Has its own page.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: Most infamously Rolf, as mentioned above. Chuck Woolery was also a debatable example at the time, as he was a struggling Country Music singer with minimal TV experience. However, he proved to be a great host right out of the gate, and is now a genre veteran with several well-known shows to his credit such as Scrabble, Love Connection, Greed, and Lingo.

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