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Just as Jeopardy! was ending its daytime run on NBC, Merv Griffin introduced an even more durable Game Show format: Take the children's game of Hangman, add a carnival wheel with various dollar amounts, as well as hazards such as "Lose A Turn" and "Bankrupt", and allow the winner to spend the money on prizes right there in the studio. The 1973 pilot, Shopper's Bazaar, was very different from the series; a further two pilots in 1974 hosted by Edd "Kookie" Byrnes (who admitted that he was drunk) held far closer to the rules we know today.

When Wheel debuted in 1975, Chuck Woolery was the host and Susan Stafford operated the puzzle board. By late 1983, after Woolery left the show in a salary dispute with Merv Griffin and Stafford left to do humanitarian work, Pat Sajak and Vanna White had become the show's full-time hosts in both daytime and syndication, although there was a ten-month period from 1981-82 in which Pat and Susan worked together. (Vanna became popular out of proportion to the popularity of any other woman in a similar role on a game show.) The syndicated Wheel dropped the shopping element in 1987, then switched from a mechanical puzzle board to one with touch screens a decade later. Starting in the early 1990s, it has added (and occasionally retired) all manner of new wrinkles, including new puzzle categories and a trio of Toss-Up puzzles.

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After Sajak left the daytime Wheel to try his luck as a late-night talk show host on CBS, former football player Rolf Benirschke (who had very little previous TV experience) and Bob Goen tried unsuccessfully to take his place. Under Goen's watch, Wheel jumped to CBS for 18 months before returning to NBC for another nine (and eventually folding). In 1997, CBS and GSN tried a children's spin-off titled Wheel 2000, which did not fare well and remains the last daytime version. The nighttime version has carried on for an impressively long time, and is still one of the highest-rated TV series in syndication.

In 2021, ABC debuted the Celebrity Edition spinoff series Celebrity Wheel of Fortune, airing weekly in hourlong blocks of two full games (with the same three celebrity guests playing both) and still hosted by Pat and Vanna. Much like its Spiritual Predecessor Celebrity Jeopardy!, all winnings go to charities of the celebrity’s choice.

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The show has had multiple international adaptations, notably in Australia, Brazil, France, Russia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Panama, Spain, Romania, Hungary and Turkey.


The category for this round is "Tropes" (ding ding DING ding):

    open/close all folders 

    Tropes A-M 
  • Absentee Actor:
    • While the show has had video game adaptations spanning every generation since the NES, Sajak has appeared in only one version, the 2010 Wii version published by THQ (and ported to the PS3 and Xbox 360 two years later); most games have Vanna herself as the host. Inverted with the 2007 pinball game and the mobile game Wheel of Fortune Free Play, which features the voice of Pat but not Vanna (who still appears on the cabinet and game art, respectively).
    • Occurred for three weeks of episodes in Season 37 due to Sajak's surgery; Vanna hosted in his place.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: The "Same Letter" category, in which every word in the puzzle begins with the same letter. Since 2014, contestants receive a $1,000 bonus for calling the "Same Letter" in question. For reasons unknown, the category took a brief hiatus when the show filmed six weeks of episodes in Las Vegas in 2013, but that didn't stop them from using several puzzles that would normally fit the category, such as the infamous CORNER CURIO CABINET puzzle, which was categorized as "Thing".
  • All or Nothing: Played with.
    • The show itself averts it, as contestants are guaranteed at least the house minimumnote by the end of the game; however, the Mystery Wedges in Round 2 and the Express Wedge in Round 3 play the trope straight during their respective rounds.
    • For the Mystery Wedges, uncovering one means the contestant either wins a $10,000 cash prize or loses everything to a Bankrupt. During the wedges' first round of existence, the announcer would even say "The Mystery Round: It's all or nothing."
    • For the Express Wedge, the contestant can either choose to continue their turn as normal or play a solo Speed Round, with each correct consonant earning $1,000 while vowels still deduct $250. Express play ends either by solving the puzzle correctly or making a wrong guess (e.g., calling a letter not in the puzzle, calling a used letter, taking too long to call a letter, or solving the puzzle incorrectly), with the latter acting the same as landing on Bankrupt.
  • Always Second Best: Compared to sister show Jeopardy!, Wheel is often treated this way, with the latter show often being viewed as inferior due to its different type of gameplay.
    • Through 1986, both syndicated shows had 195 episodes per season. Since then, Jeopardy! now has 230 episodes per season while Wheel has stayed at 195. As a result, the latter has 13 weeks of reruns between seasons while the former only has 6.
    • Various "Greatest Game Shows of All Time" lists almost-always place Wheel a small number of spots below Jeopardy!
    • The Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show has been won by Jeopardy! several times. The one time Wheel won it was in a tie with its sister show, likely to tie into both Pat Sajak and Alex Trebek receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award that year. In recent years, Wheel is not even nominated for the award at all.
    • When stations have to reschedule at least one of the two game shows due to a pre-emption, Jeopardy! is usually given priority because of its continuity by having returning champions, (something Wheel abandoned in the late 90s) or because of slightly higher ratings in recent years. If Jeopardy!'s time slot is scheduled to be pre-empted, some stations will actually move it to air in Wheel's unaffected time slot, with the latter airing late at night or not at all.
    • When Jeopardy! champion James Holzhauer became a media sensation for his several record-breaking scores, the show's ratings reached new highs not seen since Ken Jennings' run. This caused many affiliates to heavily promote the show, while Wheel received little to no promotion despite being its sister program. Partially as a result, Wheel's ratings saw no significant increase during Holzhauer's run.
    • If an online poll asks "Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy!?", expect the latter to win by a landslide, along with comments such as, "How could anyone like Wheel better than Jeopardy!?"
  • And Starring: Until the daytime show moved back to NBC on January 14, 1991, The Announcer introduced only Chuck/Pat/Rolf/Bob, who in turn would introduce Susan/[guest hostess]/Vanna. The nighttime show changed the opening spiel to introduce Pat and Vanna together on September 4, 1989.
  • Animated Credits Opening: The show has used these on and off since 1992:
    • Seasons 10-11: Anthropomorphic Wheel wedges walking down a staircase.
    • Season 12: Hand-drawn versions of Pat and Vanna "riding" the Wheel amid graphics related to the show; this animation ended with them parachuting.
    • Seasons 14-17: CGI of the Sony Pictures Studios, with the camera "zooming in" through the studio doors.
    • Season 23: One of three intros showing people racing to their TV sets to watch the show: one shows a man ostensibly getting ready for a date, one shows a woman racing home from work, and one shows a suburban African-American family finishing dinner quickly then running to the couch. The last one has also been used for "America's Game" weeks in Seasons 31 and 32.
    • Season 28: Each intro is tied in to the week's theme, using the Pat and Vanna avatars from the 2010 THQ Wii game. Some of these showed up again in later seasons, most often as bumpers but occasionally as openings, most notably the one for Halloween week, which has been re-used most years since.
  • The Announcer:
    • Mike Lawrence did the first pilot and Charlie O'Donnell the other two. For the show proper, Charlie O'Donnell (1975-80), Jack Clark (1980-88), M. G. Kelly (1988-89), O'Donnell again (1989-2010), and Jim Thornton (2011-). Don Morrow filled in for one week in 1980, O'Donnell returned a few times in the 1980s when Clark was unavailable; and Johnny Gilbert filled in for both Clark and O'Donnell at various points. Don Pardo did the two weeks of 1988 nighttime episodes taped at Radio City Music Hall. Gilbert, John Cramer, Joe Cipriano, Rich Fields, Lora Cain, and Thornton all filled in after Charlie's death.
    • John Deeks was the most prominent announcer of the Australian version.
  • April Fools' Day:
    • 1991: Vanna appeared to be pregnant in the final segment...until she pulled a cushion out from her dress.
    • 1996: APRIL FOOL'S DAY was the Round 1 puzzle.
    • 1997: Pat hosted that day's Jeopardy! while Alex hosted Wheel. Pat and Vanna also played Wheel that day for charity with Pat's wife, Lesly, at the puzzle board. The entire flip-flop was lampshaded heavily by the puzzles, especially the Speed-Up and Bonus Round puzzles (IT'S NOT AS EASY AS IT LOOKS and TRADING PLACES, respectively).
    • 2008: Pat "revealed" that he was actually bald. Vanna's reaction was priceless. The moment is often replayed or mentioned on subsequent April 1 episodes. It was a real wig on a bald wig.
    • 2010: The show did ten things that were "out of the ordinary" and asked home viewers to spot them. All ten were revealed on the next show. Examples included the full-size Bankrupt wedges saying "Bankrut" note , Charlie taking Vanna's place for a couple shots, Pat wearing a barely-visible stud earring for a whole round, footage of a Final Spin from a 1995 episode over the current one, etc. There were also two seconds of rodeo footage in the opening montage of tropical shots, although this was never pointed out.
    • 2011: All the puzzles (except the bonus round) had some form of the word "fool". Amazingly, the contestants never caught on.
    • 2016: Jim reads a promo for "Live like a Pilgrim Week" after the first round. This episode re-aired in 2017 due to April 1 falling on a Saturday that year. On the same day's Jeopardy!, the Bankrupt sound effect was used when a contestant's score decreased after an incorrect response to the Final Jeopardy! clue.
    • 2019: The weekend prior, Pat tweets an announcement of a "major prank" and tells viewers to watch the show to spot it. At the end of the show, Pat announces that there was no prank, therefore fooling the viewers who spent the episode looking for one.
    • 2022: The episode begins with Pat and Vanna having a typical end-of-show chat and signing off.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Sometimes invoked with the Triple Toss-Ups, which often have a common theme to the answer. Usually the third one will be a "lighter" variant on the theme than the other two, such as THE FRENCH RIVIERA, THE ITALIAN ALPS, and NEW JERSEY TURNPIKE, or MEMBER OF CONGRESS, STATE SENATOR, and DOGCATCHER.
  • The Artifact:
    • Since the board changed from trilons to video screens in February 1997, Vanna isn't really needed on the show anymore, but since she's been so inextricably associated with the show for so long, she stays.
    • They also don't need the green circle in the middle of the Wheel to do Chroma Key shots of the host and hostess anymore (high-tech in 1974, looks downright silly in the 21st century), but it remains because of familiarity.
    • Similarly, the "house minimum" for a round — solve with anything less and you get a chunk of cash (originally $200, then $500, now $1,000) by default. This was initially done so the contestant would at least be able to buy something during the shopping rounds (although even that backfired at least once). Now, it's just there to make the contestant feel better for not having an opportunity to get more.
    • The Speed-Up round, thanks to both the electronic puzzle board and editing that dates back to 1997. Starting in Season 18 (2000-01), every episode now ends with one. For familiarity, and possibly for the chance of Pat spinning $5,000, it is kept; in fact, several episodes between 2000-02 had rounds go to Speed-Up even if there was only one consonant left in the puzzle. On the other hand, always ending in a Speed-Up offers a greater chance for all three contestants to play, and many games have been decided on a Speed-Up even in cases where Pat didn't hit $5,000.
  • Ascended Meme: As mentioned under Complacent Gaming Syndrome,invoked RSTLNE is an example of this. Most contestants would pick those letters in that exact order, and they are now given to the contestants in that order.
  • Big Eater: If there's local cuisine to be eaten during a road show, Pat and Vanna will indulge. This was even referenced in the ceremonial 4,000th nighttime episode, which showed footage of Pat and Vanna eating while "Eat It" played.
  • Big "WHAT?!": A contestant was going for the Million Dollars, and only had four letters, plus a wildcard, and only four showed up. She gave the answer TOUGH WORKOUT in two seconds.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • Any time a contestant wins the game despite losing a lot of money and/or a big prize in a previous round (either by not solving the puzzle, or losing it to Bankrupt).
    • Any time a contestant carries the Million Dollar Wedge to the Bonus Round, solves the bonus puzzle, and is revealed to have spun the envelope right next to the $1 million.
    • Any time a contestant loses the Million Dollar Wedge during the main game, then wins the $100,000 in the Bonus Round. This has happened twice so far - on November 17, 2008 and April 30, 2012.
    • A contestant that solves a Nintendo Hard Bonus Round puzzle with very few letters, only to win the minimum prize or a car of lesser value.
    • Subverted on June 11, 2013. A contestant misses out on both the car and Mystery Prize in Round 2, but makes it to the Bonus Round and wins the $100,000.
    • A subversion took place on the Season 13 premiere. A contestant loses the $10,000 Wedge to Bankrupt but makes it to the Bonus Round, where he wins the $25,000.
  • Blinking Lights of Victory: From its inception, any puzzleboard that had lights in them would form a chase pattern when the puzzle was solved. From the start of the modern era with the flatscreen displays, the blue lights around the puzzleboard shift colors and flash white.
  • Bonus Round: Sometimes referred to as "Bonus Land" by Pat. Has changed over the years, but retains the same "core": the winner faces another puzzle and is given both the category and a number of letters. The contestant must solve the puzzle within a time limit to win a (generally) nice prize.
    • 1973: Used on the Shopper's Bazaar pilot, the "Shopper's Special" was the prize the contestant was playing for. All vowels in the puzzle were revealed, after which she was given 30 seconds to give one correct consonant and solve the puzzle.
    • 1975-76: During the seven weeks of hour-long episodes, the day's champion chose a difficulty from Easy, Medium, Hard, and Difficult with prizes increasing in value accordingly.
    • 1978: A token marked "Star Bonus" was placed on the Wheel, and allowed a trailing contestant to perhaps win the game by way of the same puzzle difficulties above. In both cases, s/he chose four consonants and a vowel, then was told the category and given 15 seconds to solve.
    • 1981-: Introduced at least a couple weeks before Pat took over. The contestant is asked for some letters, and given a short time limit to solve the puzzle for a prize; further details are given below.
    • The German version, Glücksrad, had an interesting pre-bonus round. The Super-spiel was a 4-5 word crossword puzzle using the board that all three players played as a team. Each player picks two letters, and then they have 90 seconds (each player as captain for 30) to solve the puzzle. If they cleared the wall in time, they all got a share of a rolling jackpot (which in some cases was worth more than the actual Bonus Round win). Then the normal Bonus Round's played like usual.
  • Bonus Space:
    • Free Spin and its successor, Free Play. The latter provides the page image.
    • The Wild Card, which allows a contestant to call a second letter during a spin, or call a fourth consonant in the Bonus Round.
    • The "Same Letter" puzzle awards a $1,000 bonus to the contestant who calls the letter that starts every word in it.
  • Bowdlerise: When Wheel taped two weeks of episodes in New York City for November 1988 sweeps, "New York, New York" from Leonard Bernstein's On the Town opened each episode instead of the show's theme, though using the line "It's a wonderful town" (as bowdlerised by the film adaptation) rather than "It's a helluva town".
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs:
    • For years, they'd had weeks where college students would play, and weeks where celebrities would play. They combined the ideas in 1992 for a Soap Opera College Challenge, which had a college student playing against two soap stars.
    • One episode had a contestant who could imitate Forrest Gump and another who could imitate the Road Runner. Pat then asked the former to "do Forrest Gump as the Road Runner", which he did.
    • From 2007-2012, the active categories included Fictional Character, Family, and Fictional Family.
    • A January 2020 episode had a contestant named Divinefavor. When inquired about the name, he explained that his mother wanted to name him Divine while his father wanted to name him Favor, so the two compromised.
  • Buffy Speak: Beginning in Season 38, measures were put in place for the COVID-19 Pandemic. Among them, one was providing contestants a white plastic tube that they would cup over a peg of the wheel to spin it without having to actually touch it. While it has no official name, Pat likes to refer to them as "white things".
  • Brick Joke:
    • November or December 1987 (nighttime): Pat said at the beginning of the show that he forgot to put a belt on because he was talking to Bob Murphy, then-president of Merv Griffin Enterprises. Come the end of the show, he deliberately drops his pants. Jack Clark was laughing his way through the fee plugs.
    • Christmas week 1998: During this week, the Prize wedge had a gift box on top. Pat opened the box on the Christmas Eve episode to find a John Tesh CD inside, hinting at the fact that the Bonus Round prize included John Tesh albums and merchandise. The next day, he opened the box again and found an empty CD case with his picture on it.
    • November 2003: Vanna said that she wished Thanksgiving were at a different time of year, perhaps in March. Come March 2004, Pat references that discussion and presents Vanna with a turkey dinner.
  • Butt-Monkey: Some of Pat's comments to both Charlie and Jim have portrayed them as this.
    Pat: [Jim] is sitting in a little 2-foot-by-3-foot cubicle alone, but he's having a ball.
  • The Cameo: Several episodes have had celebrities walk on after a puzzle themed toward them. Beyond these, other notable cameos include:
    • In September 1977, Susan Stafford injured her back on a Circus of the Stars stunt gone wrong. Arte Johnson turned the letters in her place, also doing this to promote his new game show Knockout.
    • The New York City episodes in November 1988 had several celebrity cameos, including Dick Cavett and Debbie Reynolds.
    • On a 1997 episode, Rosie O'Donnell made a cameo after her name was the answer. She then helped Vanna touch letters in the next round.
    • In September 2002, Donny Osmond made a cameo to promote the debut of the Pyramid revival (also a Sony property).
    • In December 2008, Betty White made a cameo after the puzzle THE GOLDEN GIRLS.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "I'd like to buy a vowel."
    • "I'd like to solve the puzzle." In Pat's early years, he'd often follow this with "For [amount], solve this [category]."
    • "'Person'/'People' does not always mean 'proper name(s)'." was a catch phrase until they finally made Proper Name its own category in 1996.
    • In the shopping era, "...once you buy a prize, it's yours to keep." This was replaced with "We're playing for cash.", which Pat continued to say into March or April 1997.
    • In the first seasons with the Jackpot round, Pat would sometimes introduce it with "Put down that ____, Charlie, it's time for our Jackpot round!" One time, the object was a Viagra espresso.
    • "Did you need any more time?" Pat when someone solves the Bonus Round puzzle instantly or the Speed-Up with very few letters showing.
    • "Say everything, don't add anything" for when a contestant solves a Crossword Clue.
  • Catchphrase Spouting Duo:
  • Celebrity Edition:
    • Played straight for some time in the 1990s. Later on, they tried variants where each team consisted of a celebrity and a contestant playing together; the contestant got their winnings as usual, while the celebrity had an equal amount donated to charity. These were most often done with Country Music singers or sports stars.
    • In 1980, a Game Show Hosts edition was played, with a then-prominent game show host playing against two regular contestants for a show. The host would play for a designated player in the audience, selected at random before the show. Hosts known to have played were Tom Kennedy, Bill Cullen, Wink Martindale, and Jim Perry.
    • A primetime, hour-long celebrity edition premiered on ABC in January 2021, with each episode featuring two standalone games played by three celebrity guests for a charity of their choice. The rules are simplified by the removal of most of the special wedges, cash bonuses of increasing amountsnote  are awarded for solving the puzzle, and there are four full-size (not hemmed in by Bankrupts) Million-Dollar Wedges to increase the odds of a large donation. Contestants are guaranteed $30,000 should they not manage to win more over both games.
  • Christmas in July: Starting in 2021, Wheel began rerunning its "Secret Santa" episodes in July. Normally, these episodes are excluded from reruns because they are built around the special gimmick of the contestants' winnings being matched to three home viewers with SPIN IDs. For Wheel's "Christmas in July", the original SPIN IDs are changed to new ones, and the graphics that accompany them are changed from a wintry theme to a beach theme.
  • Chroma Key: The center of the Wheel, most notably for the closing shot of the host and hostess from 1974-78 and 1980-87. It saw double-duty from 1974-75 in the opening.
  • Clip Show: The ceremonial 3,000th and 4,000th syndicated episodes.
  • Clumsy Copyright Censorship:
    • Almost every episode in Season 30 began with a retro clip. In nearly all cases, the older music beds (prize cues, Toss-Up bed, puzzle-solve cue, theme song) were dubbed over with their modern counterparts. This led to particularly jarring dubs, such as the current Toss-Up solve cue on a clip obviously from the late 1980s. The pre-1983 Theme Tune "Big Wheels" remained untouched, as did all but one instance of the 1994-97 solve cue (They showed a clip from 1994 twice: the first airing had the original cue, but the second airing had the current cue dubbed in). This was also the case for most retro clips replayed in subsequent seasons, especially during the week leading up the 7,000th episode in May 2019.
    • Perhaps the most egregious was a 1985-86 clip of Jack Clark describing a prize, in which they scrubbed out nearly all of the music around Jack's voice (which, for the record, was Merv's "Frisco Disco").
    • They also showed retro clips in Season 25, but in those cases the music was always left intact.
    • All of the classic themes were left intact during "Wheel 6000" week in 2014, which featured different retrospectives on shows 1,000-4,000, each one being backed the appropriate theme of the era.
    • The show's music cues were changed in January 2017, halfway through Season 34. However, the week of episodes airing April 3-7, 2017 was taped before this change, so the new cues had to be spliced in during post-production. This resulted in several sloppy sound edits, and even a couple cases where the old cues were left completely untouched. Reruns of Season 33 and early Season 34 episodes, were likewise changed after this point, with the original music often being highly audible underneath the new music.
      • Subverted when three weeks from Season 33 reran during Summer 2020, where all of the original music cues were left untouched.
    • In November 2018, Game Show Network aired a special showcasing several memorable moments over the years. Almost every past music cue was dubbed over with its 2000's equivalent. While there were a few exceptions, they were very inconsistent, such as footage from a 1989 episode leaving the original solve cue intact for one puzzle, then overdubbing it on another puzzle from the same episode.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Like so many other game shows before and after it, Wheel separates the contestants into red, yellow, and blue motifs. Chuck Woolery would sometimes refer to Player 2 as "Mellow Yellow". For a time in 1975, the displays themselves also used these colors before going to white (which had also been used in the 1974 pilots). From 1981-97, colored backdrops appeared behind the contestants.
  • Complacent Gaming Syndrome:invoked Frequently invoked by contestants:
    • In the earliest days, any money left over after shopping (less than the least-expensive prize remaining) was immediately put "on account", meaning that it carried over to the next shopping round and would be lost if the contestant hit Bankrupt or failed to solve another puzzle (which gave the contestant the ability to buy the prizes). By mid-July 1975, contestants could put leftover money on a gift certificate while retaining the "on account" option. Until the shopping aspect was ousted entirely in mid-1989, almost all contestants asked for the gift certificate. That said, one recollection had at least one contestant place all of his money "on account" for the first two rounds (i.e., deciding not to go shopping)... and after winning the game, he used his winnings to buy one of the new cars onstage, with plenty left over for some of the other prizes); said episode was believed to air either in 1978 or '79.
    • When the current Bonus Round was introduced in December 1981, contestants were asked for five consonants and a vowel to help fill in a blank puzzle; they almost exclusively picked some permutation of R, S, T, L, N and E because those letters are so common. The rules changed on October 3, 1988 to give them those letters automatically and ask for three more consonants and a vowel, and the time limit was cut from 15 seconds to 10. This trope showed up again even under the new rules, as countless contestants guess the next-most common letters C, D, M and A. This itself has occasionally been replaced with B/P, H, G, and O, which a couple different sources have unofficially found the most strategic.
    • In the shopping era, contestants could pick from any of the remaining prizes in the bonus round, but almost always chose cars. After shopping ended on nighttime in October 1987, contestants were given the choice of five prizes in the bonus round ($25,000 cash, a car, and three other prizes that rotated weekly), but almost everyone went with the cash. This was most likely a combination of the other prizes often being undesirable and the cash being less of a tax liability. Beginning in September 1989, the bonus prize selection was changed to a random draw from five envelopes spelling out W-H-E-E-L. If a prize was won, it was taken out of rotation for the rest of the week note . The envelopes were ousted in November 2001 for a 24-space bonus Wheel, in which the top amount is $100,000 (or $1,000,000 if the contestant who made it to the bonus round lands on and keeps the million-dollar wedge during the game).
    • Some categories in general fall into this trope.
      • For its first season of use, Same Name spelled out the word AND, causing nearly every contestant to start the round with N, D, and A. This was circumvented in Season 7 by replacing the word with an ampersand. The category occasionally relapsed into spelling out AND since the Turn of the Millennium, although this practice stopped during Season 35.
      • Husband & Wife also guarantees the word AND, and it has also relapsed into spelling out the word for reasons unknown. This is also true for Proper Names and many Characters puzzles.
      • Song/Artist and Title/Author lend themselves to this, guaranteeing either BY or _____'S in each puzzle.
      • Expect "Things" to kick off with the letter "S", although some crafty puzzle writers will try to subvert this with objects that don't have an "s" with pluralization.
    • Similarly to the above, nearly every contestant calls N, G, and I first if the category is What Are You Doing?, due to the category using at least one -ING ending about 99% of the time.
    • If T_E is revealed as part of a puzzle, expect the next consonant called to be "H". Even in the Bonus Round, the contestant is likely to call "H" as one of their consonants in this situation, presumably to make sure the word is indeed "THE" (revealing letters has no additional benefit in the Bonus Round).
    • If the Bonus Round puzzle is under any category but Phrase and has a single blank at the beginning that is obviously "A", expect the contestant to call it for their vowel. The writers are completely aware of this; generally, when a bonus puzzle starts with the word "A", there are no A's elsewhere in the puzzle.
    • If the Wheel landed on Free Play between 2009-2021, expect the contestant to call a vowel if any are left.
    • Double Play, used only in the 1995-96 season, was frequently used immediately after the contestant earned it, often resulting in a paltry amount for an infrequent or wrong consonant.
  • Confetti Drop: $100,000 and $1,000,000 winners get showered with confetti and streamers. Lampshaded multiple times by Pat, either by making verbal references to it, sweeping it up after a big win, or having the contestants sweep it up themselves.
    • Subverted on the October 12, 2020 episode. Despite the contestant winning $100,000 in the bonus round, the confetti didn't drop. Pat explained immediately afterward that it was because for whatever reason, the confetti machine wasn't working, jokingly suggesting it was the fault of new executive producer Mike Richards. He and Vanna tried to make it up to the contestant by throwing small amounts of confetti from their hands onto him.
  • Consolation Prize: Initially played straight. Until Season 20, anyone who finished with a score of $0 got consolation prizes. From then until Season 23, they got $500; since then, they get $1,000 ($2,000 on weeks with teams).
  • Corpsing: Pat has been known to crack up at certain comments from contestants over the years (see the "Who said anything about a horse?!" incident). Likewise, he's gotten Charlie and Jim to laugh on several occasions. (For instance, on a 1996 episode, Pat started disrobing after the Bonus Round was won, and then did the closing segment in a bathrobe.)
  • Credits Gag:
    • For a few seasons beginning in the late 2000s, full credit rolls put a gag title over Pat's name (e.g., "Pumpkin Picker" on a Halloween Week episode).
    • After the above-mentioned failed Confetti Drop on October 12, 2020, Mike Richards was listed as "Mike 'Confetti' Richards" in the credits. This became a Brick Joke on the January 4, 2021 episode when another $100,000 win occurred (even though the confetti dropped properly this time).
  • Crossword Puzzle: The "Crossword Round" introduced in Season 34 features interlocking words (usually four, but on rare occasion, three or five) which all have a common theme.
  • Darker and Edgier: Season 1 of Celebrity Wheel of Fortune had several provocative puzzles that would never even come close to being used on the TV-G-rated syndicated version, including: FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS (People), ABSOLUTELY NOTHING (What Are You Wearing?), and BRAZILIAN WAX MUSEUM (Before & After). For Season 2, the puzzles are more on par with the syndicated version aside from an occasional negative-skewing puzzle (which the syndicated show almost-entirely avoids except on Halloween-themed episodes), though Celebrity Wheel is still rated TV-PG.
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • Vanna has spun the Wheel several times, including a January 1984 nighttime episode. She also played a round for charity in November 1989 while Pat turned the letters.
    • Pat had laryngitis during a College Week taping session in San Francisco (aired November 18-22, 1996). On Thursday, he decided to rest his voice, so he had Vanna host the bonus round while he turned the letters.
    • April Fool's Day 1997, as mentioned above.
    • In early 2011, the show held a contest allowing home viewers to be "Vanna for a Day": viewers could submit video auditions, which were then voted on through the show's website. The winner, Katie Cantrell, took Vanna's place for Rounds 2 and 3 on March 24, which was lampshaded by the Round 3 puzzle IT'S HARDER THAN IT LOOKS.
    • As Pat has appeared in only one iteration of the Wheel video games, nearly all of them have handed hosting duties to Vanna, who will call out letter frequencies, dollar amounts, the Rules Spiel, and general player encouragement.
    • Vanna finally got to host for real during three weeks in Season 37. The first two, being Disney tie-ins, had Mickey and Minnie Mouse in her usual role, while the third had Pat's daughter Maggie instead.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Pat is fond of snarking both at himself and at contestants who have caught the Idiot Ball, or ones who are really good at playing the game. (Prime example: claiming that a bonus puzzle will be "very difficult" when the contestant picks letters that leave it mostly or completely filled in.)
  • Delayed Reaction:
    • Sometimes contestants are looking at the board instead of the Wheel when spinning, and may not realize immediately that they've landed on something noteworthy (such as the top dollar, a prize wedge... or a Bankrupt).
    • An unusual example came with contestant Emil, who solved the notorious bonus puzzle NEW BABY BUGGY with only the N and E revealed. It took about three or four seconds for the board to light up with the correct answer, likely because the techs were not expecting him to solve it.
  • Department of Redundancy Department:
    • On several occasions, they've gone to Speed-Up with only one or two consonants left. This was even more egregious in the 1980s and 1990s, when the Final Spin was not mandatory and finishing without one would have taken considerably less time.
    • FIREPLACE MANTEL, STAR CONSTELLATION, PURPLE LILACS, YELLOW BUTTERCUPS, SPOTTED LEOPARD, and BABY DUCKLINGS have all been used as Toss-Ups. CHURCH HYMN, YOUNG CUB, and EGYPTIAN PHARAOH(S) (twice!) have been used as bonus puzzles.
    • In recent years, many puzzles under the Fun & Games category have the unnecessary word "PLAYING" added in front.
    • Can also apply to gameplay. When a contestant loses their turn and the puzzle is obvious, the next contestant will often spin the Wheel once, call a letter that appears once (usually the top-leftmost letter that has yet to be revealed), and solve. Hitting any dollar amount other than the top one will result in their three-digit score being raised to the house minimum of $1,000. However, many players fail to realize that they could've won that $1,000 anyway by simply solving with $0, making their spin and letter call redundant in addition to a pointless risk of spinning a penalty wedge.
      • Averted if the contestant spins with the intention of landing on the top-dollar value, any prize or tag, the Wild Card, or the Million-Dollar Wedge (this includes the Mystery Wedge only if neither one has been flipped over).
    • Several times, contestants have hit ½ Car tags on occasions where winning the car is impossible (i.e., two players picking up one tag each in Round 3, especially if the first of the two also loses it to a Bankrupt).
      • It can also go the other way: a few contestants have managed to accumulate both ½ Car tags in separate rounds, then hit a third tag as well.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: From 1983 to 2000, the show used Merv Griffin's own "Changing Keys". Merv also composed a lot of the music beds used in the 80s and early 90s.
  • Does Not Like Spam: Pat Sajak will often mention how he hates ketchup on hot dogs, and will shame anyone who admits to liking it, even Vanna.
  • Don't Call Me "Sir": On an episode of Celebrity Wheel, Pat brought up Caroline Rhea being addressed as "ma'am" by staff during a break.
    Pat: So, during the break, a stage manager called you "ma'am," and you said...
    Caroline: "Don't call me 'ma'am.' It's Southern for 'no longer hot.'" (laughs, then points to Vanna) You've never been called ma'am in your life.
    Vanna: Yes, I have! I've been called ma'am.
    Caroline: You are ma'am proof, Vanna White. There's no ma'am'ing you.
    Vanna: I'm from the South!
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: Referenced on the September 12, 2002 episode. After a contestant failed to identify the place described by the Where Are We? puzzle GLAZED DECAF PLEASE BAKER'S DOZEN (doughnut shop), Pat asked one of her opponents to identify it due to him being a policeman.
  • Double The Dollars:
    • The Double Play token from Season 13, which could be used prior to any spin to double its value if the Wheel landed on a dollar amount. It did not double the value of the regular prize wedges, however, it did double the 1/3-width $10,000 prize, which would net the contestant $20,000 if they won the round.
    • On the UK version (which was played for points, not cash), all Wheel spins were worth double starting in Round 3.
  • Double Unlock:
    • The Million-Dollar Wedge. To win the Million, the contestant has to:
      1. Land on the wedge, which is 1/3 the width of normal wedges and surrounded by 1/3-size Bankrupts.
      2. Call a letter that's in the puzzle.
      3. Solve that round's puzzle without first hitting a Bankrupt.
      4. Win the game without hitting Bankrupt.
      5. Land on the $1,000,000 envelope (which replaces the normal top prize of $100,000) in the Bonus Round.
      6. Solve the bonus puzzle.
      • Despite the large number of steps needed and the sheer odds against it, the $1,000,000 was won just a month after its introduction by a contestant who hit it on her first spin!
    • The ½ Car tags. The contestant has to pick two of them up with correct letters, and solve the round(s) in which he or she claims them without losing them to Bankrupt at any point.
  • Downer Ending:
    • Vanna's first official episode (December 13, 1982) had some stellar gameplay: no Bankrupts, Lose A Turns, or wrong letters. However, the winner was unable to solve the bonus puzzle GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, remaining stumped on the last word until about three seconds after the buzzer.
    • Whenever a contestant solves or figures out the Bonus Round puzzle just after time runs out. Even more of a downer when it results in a $100,000 or $1,000,000 loss.
    • January/February 1989 (nighttime): A contestant has the Bonus Round puzzle MILAN ITALY — the first word of which is pronounced "mi-LAHN" — partially revealed. She mispronounces it as "MILL-in", then "MY-lun"note , and her expression after the answer is revealed amounts to "But that's what I said!" Pat took her side and consulted with the judge during the commercial break. Unfortunately, they decided not to accept either pronunciation.
    • January 28, 2004: A contestant has most of the bonus puzzle BACK TO BASICS filled in... but says BACK TO THE BASICS and never realizes her mistake, thus losing the round.
    • February 18, 2005: A contestant sets a new one-round record of $54,000 in the Speed-Up and wins $60,150 overall, but loses $100,000 in the Bonus Round.
    • September 10, 2007: A $100,000 loss on Season 25's premiere.
    • Anyone who sweeps the game but loses the Bonus Round. On November 26, 2008, a contestant did this and lost the $100,000.
    • February 27, 2009: A $100,000 loss on the 5,000th episode.
    • Season 28: Ten consecutive games, four $100,000 losses. These happened on December 29, 2010; and in January 2011 on the 4th, 7th, and 11th.
      • January 4, 2011: The puzzle solution? A KNOWN FACT. The contestant's repeated guess? AN UNKNOWN FACT.
      • Incidentally, a $100,000 loss occurred exactly two years before December 29, 2010, and another $100,000 would be lost exactly one year after January 4, 2011.
    • September 19-21, 2011: The first two Bonus Rounds of Season 29 were solved just after the buzzer. The third had a $100,000 loss.
    • The week of November 5, 2012: Four Bonus Round wins, one of which had a contestant fill in their bonus puzzle entirely, and another who had only one letter missing from it. But on Friday, a team lost $100,000.
    • December 21, 2012: Leanne wins $69,300 in the main game, including a $10,000 Mystery Prize and $36,000 in the Speed-Up, setting a new record for the highest pre-Bonus Round total. However, she loses $30,000 on a very tough Bonus Round answer of HIT THE BUZZER.
    • December 26, 2014: Matt absolutely blows his opponents out of the water, sweeping the game and cleaning out the show to the tune of $91,892 (far surpassing the previous record for pre-Bonus Round total above), but he loses $32,000 in the bonus round.
    • April 2, 2015: Contestant Whitney has $41,294 before the Bonus Round but becomes the first contestant ever to lose the $1,000,000 when she was unable to solve WITHOUT A DOUBT with only the Ts and A showing. Even worse, she would have set a new record had she solved.
    • December 23, 2015: A game that sees seven rounds of game play and all three contestants winning $10,000+ ends with a $100,000 loss.
    • November 15, 2017: A pair of contestants are unable to solve the Bonus Round puzzle BAKED ZUCCHINI... and become the first team to lose $1,000,000.
    • December 21, 2017: Another $1,000,000 loss. This after the contestant won $32,100, including the ½ Car.
    • January 1, 2018: The first show of 2018 ends with a $100,000 loss. To make matters worse, the final episode of that week also has a contestant losing $100,000.
    • January 11, 2019: A contestant figures out the Bonus Round puzzle FLIPPING THROUGH PAGES just after the buzzer... and loses the $1,000,000. As of this episode, the $1,000,000 has been lost more than it has been won. Even worse, another $1,000,000 loss happened on the 16th.
    • November 14, 2021 (Celebrity Wheel): Jason Mraz takes the Million Dollar Wedge to the Bonus Round twice. He wins $25,000 the first time, but fails to solve BROWNIE PAN for $1,000,000 the second.
    • On at least three occasions, a third party defied this trope after disagreeing with an on-air ruling.
      • April 9, 2018: A contestant mis-solves the fully revealed puzzle FLAMENCO DANCE LESSONS by mispronouncing the first word as "flamingo". Since this was a Prize Puzzle, Airbnb stepped in and gave the contestant an all-expenses paid trip to Spain.
      • November 21, 2019: A contestant adds the word AND while solving a Crossword Puzzle and is ruled incorrect. She had a trip to Nashville in her possession, so several businesses in the area treated her to a free trip to the city and tickets to the Grand Ole Opry.
      • December 21, 2021: A contestant is ruled to have said the third and fourth words of the Bonus Round puzzle CHOOSING THE RIGHT WORD too far apart from each other. By the time she starts saying the solution again, it's too late. Her prize would have been an Audi Q3, so Audi tracked her down and gave her the exact same car she would have won.
  • Dramatic Timpani: Used in the current Bonus Round until 1989 on nighttime, and until 1991 on daytime. Also used for some road show intros in the 1990s and at the end of the credits from 1992-96.
  • Dude, Not Funny!:
    • Pat got this reaction from the audience on the January 22, 1997 episode. Vanna forgot to turn a letter when revealing the answer to the puzzle; Pat quipped "Well, you know, you get pregnant, you forget", to which the audience responded with booing and groaning.
    • Pat's response to a contestant on April 11, 2002. She rang in on a Toss-Up puzzle which had AN ___Y CHILD showing. Her guess? AN UGLY CHILD.note 
    Pat: You are a school counselor...
  • Dynamic Difficulty:
    • Many fans have noticed that the difficulty of puzzles sometimes gets jacked up after weeks with several wins. This often manifests itself in shorter maingame puzzles with few consonants, and especially in Fake Difficulty in the Bonus Round.
    • Each $1,000,000 win has also had an impact on game play. Most notably, the second Bankrupt wedge was put on the Wheel in all rounds in Season 27 after the first one happened the year before.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Oh, boy.
    • Pilots
      • The 1973 pilot, Shopper's Bazaar; Lin Bolen thought a shopping element could make the show stand out, but this pilot took the idea a bit too far. The set was made to look like a department store, and the intro featured the three contestants being introduced by browsing through the "store" while the announcer described their prizes, whilst simultaneously playing their first turns each. Among other things, there was a motorized carnival-style Wheel (with a mind of its own at times, as well as Free Vowel and $0 spaces), a rotary telephone to dispense clues (if a contestant landed on the "Your Own Clue" wedge, and only basic things like Person, Place, or Thing), an ugly pull-card puzzle board, a way-too-easy first attempt at a Bonus Round, a way-too-hard to understand scoring system, a rule where the contestant that won a round started the next one, a set that Bolen called "old-fashioned", and instrumental versions of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and "Spinning Wheel" as the show's main theme and commercial outro cue respectively. Merv himself would later state that "everything about it was WRONG". Once thought to be a Missing Episode (only about four publicity shots ever turned up in specials and retrospectives, only one of which was in color), the pilot finally surfaced in 2012 on YouTube and quickly began circulating among collectors.
      • A better-received (although not by much) pair of pilots were taped in 1974, with Edd "Kookie" Byrnes as the host. A few differences were seen from these shows and the eventual premiere, including the host generally giving a clue rather than a category (e.g., "the name of something good to eat" for the puzzle SPAGHETTI, rather than the more generic categories that would be used by mid-July 1975), a consistent set of prizes to choose from throughout the episode (as opposed to going to a different platform of prizes in a subsequent round). Although there was still lots of criticism, Lin Bolen put her job on the line and NBC accepted, under the condition that Chuck Woolery was host.
    • Daytime show:
      • When the show debuted in 1975, the "special" wedges (Bankrupt, Lose A Turn, Free Spin, and Buy A Vowel) had white outlines on the lettering and white borders, and spaces on the Wheel went as low as $25.
      • There originally was no rule for solving the words to a puzzle in order. After one contestant got credit for transposing the first and third words of TWEEDLEDUM AND TWEEDLEDEE, this rule was added. The only time it doesn't apply is when a Crossword Round is in play on the nighttime version.
      • Also during the first year, the Speed-Up round (the round so-designated by the "Final Spin") was timed at 60 seconds (or sometimes, 2 minutes), and the contestants could not call vowels. Although not known based on existing episodes that circulate, this led to the possibility of puzzles going unsolved if the time limit expired. In late Summer or early Fall 1975, the time limit was lifted and the "no vowels" rule was modified by allowing contestants to call vowels (at no charge) after 30 seconds. By early 1976, the Speed-Up round rules as we know it came into play.
      • In the earliest days, contestants played puzzles to the last consonant and rarely bought vowels. Lin Bolen, then NBC's vice president of daytime programming, insisted on this so contestants would have more money to shop with — she thought that putting more emphasis on shopping would help the show appeal better to the female demographic. Once she was ousted in 1975-76 for poor programming performance and replaced by Earl Greenburg, contestants began playing puzzles at their own pace. Also during the earliest months, each contestant (prior to the show) selected which showcase they wanted to shop first if they won the first round, with the first-round winner's choice told after the round was completed.
      • Even the Bonus Round underwent changes prior to the permanent version being implemented in December 1981. While these prior versions had the same basic rules as the ones that would become most familiar to contestants, the player chose only four consonants (plus the vowel) and did not know the category until after the chosen letters were revealed (if any). The one major difference with the hour-long and Star Bonus versions, however, was that the puzzle the player faced had everything to do with the prize s/he chose to play for – that is, if you picked the Cadillac Eldorado parked onstage, you could be assured of facing a very difficult puzzle (one with few of the common consonants in it), while if you played for just a living room set, the puzzle would be fairly easy to guess with the right pick of letters. The difficulty of the puzzles starting in 1981 would have nothing to do with the prize selected.
      • During the first few years after the Bonus Round became permanent, contestants often played for lower-tier bonus prizes such as children's room furniture, a washer-dryer, a video camera-and-VCR package and a bedroom set (all in 1982-era episodes); there was speculation that the producers wanted to have contestants win at least twice before playing for the more expensive trips, cars and other grand prizes (although even then, cars and such were available during the regular rounds). Once the syndicated version took off - where contestants played for cars about 75% of the time, with expensive jewelry a distant (surprising) second - contestants on the daytime show began playing for the larger-ticket prizes on their first day more often.
    • Yet another mannerism that was phased out around 1985 (at least, in the US): contestants almost always used to call their letters out phonetically (for instance, "C as in Chuck"; this is still a common practice among foreign versions), but this supposedly annoyed Merv. The producers prefer that contestants say only the letter to help minimize confusion (except when absolutely necessary, for clarification), but variants on "Can I have a(n)..." or "Is there a(n)..." aren't rare.
    • After the daytime show moved to CBS, $50 and $75 were used again, and diamonds were added to these wedges on the next show. The minimum dollar value was increased back to $100 after just two months.
    • In its first two seasons of use, the Jackpot wedge was modified six times.
      • To a lesser extent, the Surprise wedge and $10,000 prize wedge similarly went through redesigns shortly after they were introduced.
    • The "Preview Puzzle" only lasted one season before getting replaced by Toss-Ups. For their entire first season of use, there were only two, both valued at $1,000; there was also no Split Screen during said rounds, meaning that home viewers had no visual indication as to who had rung in. After that point, they gained a split screen, a third one was added, and the values were shifted to $1,000/$2,000/$3,000.
    • The $25,000 sign introduced during the Big Month Of Cash and used for the rest of that season had a different design than the one used for the rest of that sign's existence.
    • The cash prizes on the Bonus Wheel other than the $100,000 were all $25,000 for the first season it existed. In the next season, values from $30,000 to $50,000 in increments of $5,000 were introduced permanently (they were previously used for a Big Money week in the season of its introduction).
    • Countless cash wedges have temporarily used different fonts, such as this $5,000 wedge with a wide font. This was much more common early in the show's run.
      • Additionally, mistakes in placement of wedges seemed to be much more common early in the show's run.
    • For much of the early seasons, it was not uncommon for the bonus puzzle to be the longest one of the day, or for it to take up all four rows (even if it could reasonably fit on just two). From about Season 6 onward, the puzzle lengths became more balanced.
    • On some Season 1 nighttime episodes, the Promotional Consideration plugs were pre-recorded by the company instead of being read by The Announcer. However, this reverted in the mid-90s.
    • The first six taped episodes of Season 25 had different graphics used for the scoreboards. The contestants' names were placed on top, and flashed when they had control or rang in on a Toss-Up. The score itself was in a very tall font that was hard to see because of the Wheel's pegs being in the way. For the rest of the season, the names were removed, and the scores were moved higher up to only occupy the top half of the scoreboard. Identifying who had control was also made much clearer with the addition of two blinking arrows on the bottom half.
      • Additionally, the Big Money Wedge worked much differently. Any cash amounts claimed from the wedge were treated as prizes. When this happened, two green vertical bars labeled "BIG" and "MONEY" flanked the sides of the scoreboard. After the first taping, the cash awards were added to the score immediately, but were not multiplied if the letter chosen appeared more than once.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Contestant Tony Harrison was on the show on December 1, 2017, winning $25,714 in the main game but losing $35,000 in the bonus round. However, after his episode aired, the producers determined that his bonus puzzle ON THE HIGHWAY had been put in the wrong category (Phrase instead of Place), so he was invited back to compete again. He fared even better the second time around, winning $48,831 in the main game (despite having not one, but two puzzles thrown out due to technical difficulties)... and solving his bonus puzzle correctly this time for $45,000 more.
  • Ear Worm: Pat often comments on the Speed-Up music as such.
  • Easter Egg: Throughout Season 30, Sheldon the ceramic dalmatian was hidden somewhere on-set.
  • End-of-Series Awareness: The Round 1 puzzle on Rolf's final daytime show was TALK TO THE POWERS THAT BE. When the episode was taped, CBS had not picked that version up just yet.
  • Enforced Plug: The Jackpot round was sponsored by various products, which got a plug at the top of the round. After the Jackpot's retirement, the Mystery Round inherited its sponsors. Some companies regularly place $1,000 gift cards on the Wheel as well.
  • Epic Fail:
    • On at least seven occasions, contestants have mispronounced a puzzle that was completely filled in, and been ruled incorrect as a result. One such occasion in January 2010 (the answer REGIS PHILBIN & KELLY RIPA) turned this Up to Eleven as the contestants had already amassed three incorrect guesses before the last letter was filled in.
      • On at least two other occasions, contestants who failed to solve their Bonus Round puzzle have mispronounced it even after it was revealed entirely.
    • September 30-October 2, 1995: Contestant Charlie plays three consecutive Bonus Rounds... and on all three, fails to uncover a single letter with his three more consonants and a vowel.
    • February 18, 2004: A contestant managed to call four of the six letters which are already given in the Bonus Round. Even worse, one of them, R, was already in the puzzle.
    • March 2, 2006: On a Soap Stars week, a celebrity on the red team wastes time in the Speed-Up round saying "I know it!" and doesn't say the answer until after the buzzer. To add salt to the wound, the next team ties their score and wins the tiebreaker Toss-Up.
    • The week of March 17, 2008 was sponsored by QVC, with Enforced Plugs all over the place. Notably, the Prize wedge was a $5,000 shopping spree for QVC merchandise, and any Bonus Round win would have awarded the contestant $10,000 in QVC credit on their birthday. However, this backfired horribly, as nobody won the bonus round that week.
    • On both April 15, 1996 and September 2, 1996, a contestant only spun once in the entire game and landed on Lose a Turn. The former game ended without a Speed-Up, and the latter had the Speed-Up solved in only two turns. This means that in both cases, the contestant in question never even had their scoreboard light up, nor did they get a chance to call a letter. The same thing happened on February 15, 2019: a team spun only once and landed on Lose a Turn, and did not get to participate in the Speed-Up since it was solved before they got a turn. However, they did solve the $1,000 Toss-Up (and thus got the $2,000 house minimum for team weeks).
    • Between April 29 and May 24, 2019, the show set a new record for consecutive bonus round losses, as twenty episodes in a row (four weeks) managed to end in losses (the previous record was seventeen, set between December 2000 and January 2001). Even worse, this stretch included the 7,000th episode.
  • Episode Code Number:
    • The daytime show used strictly sequential numbers for most of its run. After the Channel Hop to CBS in 1989, a new format of "CXXX" (e.g. C001) was used, the "C" standing for "CBS". After the second Channel Hop back to NBC in 1991, the format was changed again to "DTXXX" (e.g. DT001), the "DT" standing for "daytime".
    • The nighttime show uses sequential numbers prefixed with "S-" (presumably for "syndicated") to distinguish it from the daytime show. The "S-" prefix remains to this day, despite the daytime show being long gone. Rerun versions of episodes have "RR" after the number (e.g. S-6768RR). Post-production revisions append "Rev" (plus "Rev2", etc. if necessary) to the number.
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: The top dollar amount in each round is always on a sparkly wedge (except for the now-retired $1,000 before 1995). The Million-Dollar Wedge is sparkly, as were most iterations of the Jackpot wedge before it went neon. When the show went HD in 2006, sparkly outlines were added to all letters and numbers on the Wheel. The Wild Card is sparkly as well, along with the former Surprise Wedge (the lettering on its second iteration and the background on its third) Free Spin, Double Play, and Star Bonus tokens.
  • Extra Turn:
    • The Free Spin, retired in Season 27 for Free Play which was somewhat similar in concept; Free Play itself was phased out at the end of Season 38.
    • The Wild Card is also one to an extent, allowing the contestant to call a second letter on a spin.
  • Foregone Conclusion:
    • Before $1,000 was added to the Final Spin, having it land on a lower value could guarantee the current leader a trip to the Bonus Round.
    • If a contestant has a lot in their bank already and/or is holding something significant like the Million-Dollar Wedge, then it's pretty obvious that they will not flip over a Mystery wedge. Especially true on October 11, 2013, where a contestant got $11,000 from finding eleven M's at the wedge's $1,000-per-letter face value, meaning that flipping it over actually had less of a potential reward than taking the per-letter amount (since the per-letter amount is forfeited if you choose to flip it).note 
    • If a contestant hit the Jackpot wedge with very little help in the puzzle, it was pretty much a given bet that the contestant wasn't going to solve. Subverted with the very first Jackpot win where a contestant won the $5,000 base value for solving GREEN EGGS AND HAM BY DR. SEUSS with only the G's showing.
  • Foreign Remake: Pole Chudes ("Field of Wonders", an interesting choice taken from Alexey Tolstoi's Buratino...a foreign remake of Pinocchio) is very similar, except the word is an answer to a question, you can't buy a vowel, there's Black Box instead of Mystery Wedge (you can either immediately quit the show with the contents or keep playing, it can contain anything from a house to a cabbage), but the most important and memetic part is the fact that most contestants come from pretty obscure and interesting places all over Russia and bring their local crafts and so on along with them to give to the host - they are then placed in the Museum, which is seriously a lot like an ethnography museum at this point, especially considering this remake has run for 25 years and counting.
  • Freudian Slip:
    • On the first episode after the retirement of shopping, a contestant accidentally asked to buy an owl. Pat instantly quipped that they no longer sell birds on the show.
    • On a 1989 episode, a contestant's attempts to figure out the bonus puzzle FANCY THAT accidentally led to her using "twat" in one of her guesses, which was censored by the Pyramid cuckoo of all things. Notably, Pat didn't even try to crack a joke at it.
    • Many repeated letter calls over the years seem to be due to a contestant clearly having one letter on their mind but accidentally blurting out another.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • Sometimes in the 1980s, Pat would scramble the letters in the bonus puzzle while announcer Jack Clark was reading the fee plugs, so that once the board was seen again near the end of the credits, it would say something funny (e.g FRANK SINATRA becoming RANK RATS or NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS becoming NEW GLAND).
    • For a while in the mid-2000s, the Jackpot round was introduced with a shot of the contestant area with the Jackpot logo superimposed over it. Sometimes, Pat would do something funny in this shot, such as read a newspaper or "fight" Vanna with a styrofoam sword.
  • Game Show Host: Chuck Woolery, Edd Byrnes, Pat Sajak, Rolf Benirschke, Bob Goen, and David Sidoni for the American versions. Ernie Sigley, John Burgess, Tony Barber, Rob Elliott, Steve Oemcke, Larry Emdur, and Tim Campbell for the Australian versions. Jorge Fernández for the Spanish version.
  • Game Show Winnings Cap:
    • In daytime, contestants could stay for up to five days, later reduced to three. In nighttime from 1983-89, contestants were one-and-done, and from 1989-96 nighttime had a three-day champion rule. This was changed in 1996 to "Friday Finals", where the three highest winners from Monday-Thursday competed against each other on Fridays, and whoever won on Friday received an extra prize. Nighttime returned to one-and-done in 1998. Although the show has claimed that the enormous amount of contestant applications saw the need to remove any sort of returning-championship format, Pat said on the Sony Rewards website that the show doesn't have returning champions because the most skilled players are not always the big winners — a good puzzle solver could end up hitting an endless string of Bankrupts, while a lousy puzzle-solver could stumble his/her way into a runaway lead.
    • Nighttime also had a $200,000 cap on winnings prior to the adoption of the Million-Dollar Wedge, which would've not only required a $100,000 win in the Bonus Round but also a six-digit win in the main game. Needless to say, the cap was nothing short of impossible to attain.
    • The show's official contestant application states that there is no such thing as a repeat appearance — if you have ever appeared on any version of the American Wheel, regardless of host (including Wheel 2000), you can't come back.
  • Genki Guy: Marty Lublin, the traveling host for Wheelmobile contestant auditions. As he's scouting out energetic contestants, he does a lot of yelling and running around onstage.
  • Golden Snitch:
    • Sometimes invoked if Pat hits $5,000 in the Final Spin. With a $1,000 bonus in later years, that's $6,000 per consonant in a game that usually averages $10,000-$20,000 for the winner. Also invoked if the Prize Puzzle prize is particularly expensive (they start at $7,000, but can be upwards of $12,000, especially during team weeks). In one particularly egregious example, a contestant went into Round 4 with $27,600 but still ended up losing because an opponent benefited greatly from a $6,000 Final Spin.
    • On the other hand, another contestant who had only $5,000 from the second and third Toss-Ups got $30,000 in a $6,000-per-letter Speed-Up, but still lost to someone who had $37,400.
    • In one episode, a contestant whose only two spins had both landed on Bankrupt, and whose only winnings were from the $3,000 Toss-Up, managed to pull a come-from-behind win with a low Final Spin value of $1,550.
    • Another weird variation came in a Spring 1984 episode, where a female contestant who had no money to that point hit $5,000 in Round 3, called a single letter, and solved. It was the last puzzle. Her opponents had $4,925 and $0, so she went from $0 to winner in literally the span of a single spin!
    • Yet another weird zig-zagging came on a 1996 episode where a contestant managed to go from $0 to victory in Round 4 without ever hitting $5,000.
    • The Prize Puzzle is usually a guaranteed victory, since the prize is a minimum of $7,000 on top of the normal winnings from the round. Winning it off of a successful Express run renders the entire rest of the game pointless; even $6,000 Final Spins have failed to catch players who swept up a windfall from that scenario.
    • Winning both halves of the ½ Car, when it existed, would usually do the same by adding a roughly-$15,000 car to the winner's total.
    • Also a good way to earn a lot of money in a hurry: Wild Card + multiple letters on $2,500 or $3,500.
    • The Jackpot, when it existed, often got north of $10,000. Most of the time, a contestant would already have some money banked before claiming the Jackpot, so winning it often meant a pretty big total in that round.
    • For the primetime Celebrity Wheel of Fortune, the Triple Toss-Up and Round 3 puzzle are this, both to increase how much will be given to charity and to keep all the celebrity contestants in the game. Each response in the Triple Toss-Up is worth $5,000 apiece, and the bonus attached to solving the Round 3 puzzle is a whopping $20,000 on top of any money earned in the round.
  • Gone Horribly Right:
    • When the show announced it was adding a $1,000,000 prize in 2008, many game show fans scoffed at the complex Luck-Based Mission required to win it. It was won less than six weeks after its addition.
    • For a special week in April 2021, the show had a $375,000 house up for grabs in the Bonus Round. Only one of the 24 envelopes contained the prize, but the contestant could make it two if they carried a special wedge. The house was won on the second day it was available, without the contestant adding the second envelope.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Pat is of Polish descent, and will often speak Polish to contestants who are fluent in the language and/or are of Polish decent as well.
  • Guest Host:
    • Alex Trebek filled in for both Chuck Woolery and Pat Sajak (having done the latter for one daytime episode in 1985 and the aforementioned April Fool's Day '97 show).
    • Summer Bartholomew filled in for Susan in 1977 after she hurt her back, as did Arte Johnson (mentioned above). In 1979, Susan dislocated her shoulder in a car accident, so Summer and Cynthia Washington (ex-wife of San Francisco 49ers' Gene Washington) filled in for her for just over two weeks.
    • Summer, Vicki McCarty, and Vanna filled in between Susan's departure and Vanna's first official episode. Susan returned for a daytime Teen Week in June 1986 so Vanna could recover from the death of her then-boyfriend.
    • Tricia Gist, then-girlfriend and now-wife of Merv Griffin's son Tony, filled in for two weeks in January 1991 to accommodate for Vanna's wedding, and again two months later due to Vanna having a bad cold.
    • Charlie O'Donnell filled in for Jack Clark for a few weeks in 1985 due to Jack having schedule conflicts (which ultimately led to Jack leaving The $25,000 Pyramid). Charlie returned from May-June 1988 due to Jack being stricken with bone cancer, which ended his life on July 21. Until about September, Charlie and Johnny Gilbert took turns filling in on daytime before M.G. Kelly was hired. And of course, when M.G. was let go in February 1989, Charlie came back.
    • Don Pardo, whose most recent game show work at that point was Jackpot in 1975, served as announcer when the show went to Radio City Music Hall in November 1988.
    • Johnny Gilbert also announced two weeks of shows in 1995.
    • And after Charlie's death, several guest announcers note  rotated until Jim Thornton was chosen as the permanent replacement.
    • A rare example of a guest director. Longtime director Mark Corwin died after directing only two weeks of Season 31. As his death came right before a set of episodes was to be taped on location in Las Vegas, Jeopardy! director Kevin McCarthy, a friend of Corwin's, filled in for him. Meanwhile, subsequent tapings in Culver City used associate director Bob Cisneros, followed by a two-week batch done by technical director Robert Ennis before Cisneros was promoted to full-time director. Ennis also directed two weeks in Season 32 due to Cisneros recovering from neck surgery at the time of taping, and became the permanent director at the start of Season 33.
    • Due to Pat requiring emergency surgery, Vanna hosted three weeks of episodes in Season 37. The first two had costumed Disney characters in Vanna's usual role (they were part of a Disney-sponsored Christmas week), while the third had Pat's daughter, Maggie, as hostess.
  • Halloween Episode: Since 1997, they almost always have a specifically-themed Halloween week, often with spooky music, smoke machines, animatronic gargoyles, and even various "scary" sound effects when a contestant picks an envelope in the Bonus Round.
  • Helium Speech: At the end of a 1998 episode, the set was decorated with balloons, and neither Pat nor Vanna could resist. The clip can be seen on the ceremonial 3,000th and 4,000th episodes.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: These shown up in a few special episodes, or during the post-game chats. One has Vanna repeatedly tripping over the line "What's with all the exclamation points?" when shooting a bumper for a local affiliate, followed by Pat snarking, "Don't make me come over there." Another one involved Vanna repeatedly screwing up the line "Highlight your night life" when shooting footage of herself modeling a car; one of the takes had "Highlight your knife light."
  • His and Hers: In the late 1980s to early 1990s, his-and-hers cars were sometimes up for grabs in the Bonus Round. On one 1989 episode, a female contestant actually liked the "his" car better, so Pat responded by swapping the "his" and "hers" signs.
  • Home Game:
    • Several board games, video game versions as early as the NES, and several PC versions as well, most recently on the PS4 and Xbox One.
    • One was intended for the Atari 2600, along with six other game shows, but was canned due to The Great Video Game Crash of 1983. No prototypes of any are known to exist.
    • There was an arcade version in the '80s, which even had a miniature, spinnable Wheel on its console. Then there's the redemption game version made by Konami which also had the miniature spinnable Wheel.
    • Tiger Electronics produced a fairly cumbersome handheld game of Wheel (the QWERTY keyboard took up most of it). This release was notable for its inclusion of game cartridges, each of which contained about 200 puzzles.
    • There's also a Facebook version.
    • The 30th anniversary of the first evening show saw the release of a mobile phone game in which the player's victories grant access to use of the show's old sets.
  • Home Participation Sweepstakes:
    • In the mid-1990s, home viewers could enter sweepstakes for various things, including several variations that involved unscrambling words spelled out by differently-colored letters on the puzzle board.
    • The Prize Puzzle rounds qualified — after each, the SPIN ID of a random home viewer was drawn, allowing them to win the trip associated with that puzzle. This was retired in Season 30 for "5K Every Day", which instead awards $5,000 cash to a randomly-selected viewer. Since their inception in 2004, the SPIN IDs are sometimes used in home sweepstakes.
    • Many sweepstakes have involved submitting bonus puzzles for a week (originally on a paper form availble in newspapers or at certain retailers, later moved to online forms) to enter a prize drawing.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Jim Thornton likes to ad-lib all sorts of puns pertaining to the Prize copy or, occasionally, Bonus Round prize.
  • I Always Wanted to Say That: In the episode where Pat plays as a contestant, he says he is "very excited" to finally utter the phrase "I'd like to buy a vowel."
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: The category graphics at the bottom of the screen are usually given special wipes pertaining to that week's theme (for instance, a school bus "drives" across the category graphic on Teacher's Week). There are also wipes for the Toss-Ups and Final Spin on every episode (the Prize Puzzle one was dropped after Season 29).
  • I Need a Freaking Drink:
    • Edd Byrnes stated in his memoir Kookie No More that he had a few before doing the 1974 pilots. For the first pilot he was "crazy drunk", badgering a contestant who wanted to solve for $1,300 into spinning again; he kind of improved for the second pilot to "happy drunk", saying "Whee!" at some points.
    • In January 2012, Pat Sajak revealed he and Vanna used to get drunk during their two-and-a-half-hour breaks between taping during the Burbank era. He later revealed that this was an exaggeration.
  • Inflation Negation:
    • Buying a vowel. The cost was $250 in 1973, and it is still $250 in the syndicated version. As of Season 32, the minimum cash wedge on the wheel is $500, enough to buy two vowels.
    • The vowel price was reduced to $200 when the daytime version moved to CBS in July 1989 and cut to $100 sometime in the first half of 1990, due to that version's lower stakes.
  • Instant-Win Condition: Subverted if the contestant fills in the puzzle completely; he or she still has to read it off correctly. This has backfired more than once, as a few contestants over the years have been ruled incorrect for misreading a fully-revealed puzzle.
  • Irony:
    • The lady on a 1985 episode who called a wrong letter on THE THRILL OF VICTORY AND THE AGONY OF DEFEAT and lost over $60,000 is probably one of the most prominent examples.
    • One contestant at some point failed to solve YOU WIN in the Bonus Round.
  • Joke and Receive: On October 27, 2011 (an episode with a Fictional Family puzzle), Pat joked that the category had only been used eight times. At the end of the show, he was told that it actually had been used only eight times...except that was wrong as well - it was the category's tenth appearance.
  • Jump Cut: Present in the days that the mechanical puzzle board was used. Right after "Our category is...", they would Jump Cut to the blank puzzle board and category reveal. What the home viewer didn't see was the puzzle board getting rolled back into the studio after having that round's puzzle loaded onto it.
    • A rather blatant one shows up in a nighttime bonus round on May 5, 1986: the contestant says the first part of the right answer (AT MY WIT'S END) just before the buzzer, then the rest of it during and after said buzzer. Since they don't have another commercial break, the only option was to stop tape before declaring that he won the Pontiac, resulting in a very sloppy edit:
      Pat: To my ear, it was very tight. We're gon—
      (jump cut)
      Offstage voice:winner.
      (contestant screams and jumps up in air)
    • Earlier, however, the contestant made a guess that has shown up in many specials. The audience was originally silent, but Wheel added laughter to the clip for the ceremonial 4,000th nighttime show; they also added a buzzer right afterward.
    • Jump cuts are also present if Pat hits something other than a dollar amount on the Final Spin, or if three (or six) consecutive wrong letters are called in the Speed-Up.
    • When a round starts with a cycle of three consecutive lost turns that were edited out, the wide shot of the first spin is that of the original spin whose corresponding letter call was edited out, which always results in a jump cut with the Wheel landing in a different area than where it was originally headed. For example, if the first spin looks like it's about to land on Lose A Turn but ends up on the other side of the Wheel.
  • Just Following Orders: Pat tends to say this when he has to take away a wedge or token, or show Bonus Round players the prize they lost.
  • Large Ham: Some of the celebrities on Celebrity Wheel of Fortune can be this, especially Jeff Garlin on Season 2, Episode 3. He frequently interrupted the pace of the game to make comments. He also stated that his goal was to break the record for most Bankrupts (loudly celebrating when he got one), and at one point when guessing a wrong letter, told the "buzzer person" to shut up, being met with a second buzz. At one point, Donny Osmond had to tell him to stop talking and spin.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • During the second 1974 pilot, contestant Roseanne is pressured twice by host Edd Byrnes to keep spinning when she wants to solve. She solves three out of four puzzles, but loses by $90 (although she would have lost by only $40 if not for a scoring error).
    • Matthew Fenwick, wanted for two counts of child molestation, appeared on Wheel on March 18, 1998. He won $4,400, but one of his victims recognized him while watching his show and alerted the authorities. Fenwick was arrested two days later and served 6½ years in prison.
  • Laugh Track: Before the mid-90s, they very obviously used an applause machine. The "ooh"s whenever someone landed on a prize wedge or the top dollar, "Aww"s when someone hit Lose a Turn or Bankrupt, or called a wrong letter, et cetera. The show started using an applause machine again in the mid-2000s, but it's a bit harder to discern.
    • In the 80's, the famous "Look at this studio!" intro was filled with canned reactions to the prizes. One of the most noticeable ones was the sound of men shouting "Yeah!" and "Ow!".
    • In the early-to-mid 90's, an "Oooh..." would often sound when the top dollar or prize wedges would whiz by in the overhead shot, even if the Wheel stopped several wedges past.
    • In the aforementioned "AT MY WIT'S END" Bonus Round, the "audience" groaned loudly in sync with the buzzer even as the contestant solved.
    • Canned audience sounds are becoming more prevalent in The New '10s with the occasional delayed gasps when a contestant just misses a Bankrupt, or "ooh"s if someone hits the Million Dollar Wedge.
    • The show's social media pages will sometimes upload clips of closing segments. These usually do not contain the extra laughter and applause sounds added in when the episode is shown on TV. One segment involved Pat trying to reveal a letter on the puzzle board to no avail. When it aired on TV, raucous laughter was heard as Pat tried to reveal the letter, but the clip on the show's YouTube channel was the segment exactly as recorded in the studio, which had no laughter at all.
    • Since the show stopped having full audiences due to COVID-19, canned reactions have become more prevalent, especially on Celebrity Wheel of Fortune.
  • Let's Just See What WOULD Have Happened:
    • On at least one daytime episode (June 7, 1976), a contestant who solved the Round 3 puzzle early was asked to spin the Wheel to see what she would have landed on; she landed on $1,500 (then the top dollar amount).
    • On some early nighttime episodes, if the bonus puzzle was not solved, Pat would sometimes ask if anyone in the audience knew the answer before having Vanna reveal it.
    • If a contestant opts not to flip over a Mystery Wedge and solves immediately afterward, Pat will often ask the contestant if s/he wants to see what was on the other side.
    • After the bonus round, the prize the contestant was playing for will be revealed whether the contestant actually won it or not (except for the first episode with the W-H-E-E-L envelopes, and a random 2003 episode where Pat simply forgot). Additionally, if they could have won the million dollar prize but didn't land on it on the prize wheel, Pat will usually reveal which space on the wheel held the million after the bonus round is over.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Parodied on a 1997 episode where, in the final segment, Pat and Vanna are at a table, respectively reading a newspaper and knitting. They both joke that people often interpret them as a married couple (even though in Real Life, both are happily married to different people), with Pat nodding and bluntly finishing all of Vanna's sentences.
  • Literal-Minded: One contestant, after being told by Pat to "throw to commercial", literally throws the Prize wedge she won, much like Pat in the 1980s-90s, actually.
  • Loads and Loads of Rules: The game has become increasingly complex in the 2000s, with the likes of the Jackpot, Gift Tag, Toss-Ups, Mystery wedges, Wild Card, Million Dollar Wedge, Free Play, ½ Car tags, etc.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • Attempted on the Megaword puzzle PROLIFERATION. When asked to use it in a sentence for a $500 bonus, the contestant said "The contestants did not know what the word 'proliferation' meant." It bizarrely didn't work.
    • On November 10, 2015, contestant Nura went viral for calling obviously wrong letters like Q or getting buzzed out on every turn she got in the Speed-Up. Consensus seems to be that she did this on purpose to allow one of her opponents to win money.
  • Lovely Assistant: Susan Stafford from 1974-82, followed by the former Trope Namer, Vanna White, after two months of rotating guests. The latter's popularity skyrocketed in the 1980s in what was unofficially described "Vannamania". Adriana Xenides was the most well-known letter turner of the Australian version. In Spain, Paloma López from 2006-2015, followed by Laura Moure. Olympic rhythmic gymnast Barbara Gonzalez subbed for Laura when she was out with an injury in 2016. Also in a unique example, Tanika Ray did the mo-cap and voice acting for the animated assistant "Cyber Lucy" on Wheel 2000.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Whenever a contestant lands on a Mystery Wedge. One contains a $10,000 cash prize (previously, it could contain a compact car or other prize in the $10,000 range) on the flip side, and the other contains a Bankrupt. The contestant may choose to take its "face value" of $1,000 (originally $500) per letter, or forfeit that amount and flip it over. If one is flipped over, the other one functions as a regular cash space for the rest of that round.
    • Depending on the game the Bonus Puzzle can be this. Picture it, you get to the last puzzle with a prize on the line, the puzzle is typically something general (typically "Thing(s)") depending on where the R,S,T,L,N,E end up and how many vowels are in the puzzle (you only get E and one of your own) you could end up filling the whole thing in yourself or end up with an unsolvable puzzle with only a few letters showing on the board.
  • Lucky Charms Title: In the show's two-line logo, the "o" in "of" is rendered as a wheel.
    • During Tennis Week in 2018, the "o" in "of" was replaced with a tennis ball, while the wheel-shaped "O" was moved down to replace the one in "FORTUNE".
  • Mad Libs Catch Phrase: Nearly all contestants who are married with children follow the same format when talking about their family: "I'm married to my [adjective] [husband/wife] [spouse's name], and we have [number] [adjective] kids, [list all kids' first names and ages]." One 2019 contestant had fun with this and (jokingly) used negative adjectives to describe his marriage and kids. A 2011 contestant once started the spiel, then stopped and said, "No, that's somebody else's life. I'm single."
  • Metaphorgotten: At the end of an episode from the first week of Season 21, he and Vanna reminisced on how long they were doing the show. Pat then said, "It's like riding a bicycle: I'm all sweaty and my rear end hurts."
  • Missing the Good Stuff:
    • Although Wheel is a syndicated program, it is only scheduled to air in the hour before primetime, and never earlier than 7:00 PM Eastern (except in Canada). This often results in the show getting pre-empted by sporting events, award shows, or local special programming. In Boston and Nashville, Wheel is pre-empted at least once a week during football season in favor of locally-produced shows on the cities' NFL teams.
    • Since the Toss-Up era, Wheel kicks off gameplay almost immediately after the famous opening chant, typically no more than 45 seconds into the show. Some local stations, especially ones that schedule it after local news, have a habit of starting Wheel a bit before the official time slot (usually immediately following the newscast's signoff with no commercials in between), meaning that if one tunes into the show a mere 60 seconds late, or DVR's the show starting at the even X:00/X:30 minute, they would likely already miss the first puzzle. Dallas affiliate KTVT often starts Wheel at 6:27 PM. Even worse, this frequently overlaps with the end of Jeopardy!, which airs at 6:00 on a different station, so one who tries to watch both shows live would either have to miss out on who wins Jeopardy!, or the first Toss-Up on Wheel.
    • On February 7, 8, and 9, 2022, the Bonus Round had three $100,000 winners in a row, which had never happened before, and likely will never happen again given the microscopic odds. On most NBC affiliates that carry Wheel, the show does not air for at least two weeks during the Summer and Winter Olympics, the latter of which was underway when these episodes aired. Many affiliates did not air these episodes at all (such as WCNC-TV in Charlotte), or aired them in the middle of the night (such as KSDK in St. Louis), or on lesser sister stations or subchannels (such as WTHR in Indianapolis moving the show to MeTV affiliate WALV).
  • Mission-Pack Sequel: One of the computer game adaptations, Wheel of Fortune 2003, is pretty much the exact same game as Wheel of Fortune 2nd Edition, with a different puzzle bank and with Vanna's FMV clips redone. Otherwise, it's aesthetically exactly the same, down to all the theming, menus, music, and everything else.
  • Moon Logic Puzzle:
    • Some of the bonus puzzles practically seem set up to be lost. In the 1990s, it wasn't rare to see three- to five-letter answers, often compounded in difficulty by not having any RSTLNE in them. BABY BOY, WIG, WAX, and ZOO all occurred in October 1992 alone (and amazingly, all but WIG were solved; BABY BOY in particular was solved with no letters showing). YO-YO and I DO (1993 and 1996, respectively) were also solved.
      • Since about Season 20, the difficulty is usually ramped up by relying heavily on rarely-called letters (e.g. JAZZ BAND), vowels (e.g. OAK BUREAU), arcane and outdated phrases (e.g. WHAT A BUSYBODY), completely arbitrary noun-adjective pairings (e.g. FAVORITE MUG, AVID HIKER, WILDLY HAPPY GUY, WACKY NEIGHBOR(S) {twice!}), or some combination of the above (e.g. JACUZZI BUBBLES).
      • Pretty much any bonus puzzle with the word QUIZ in it.
      • In rare occurrences, RSTLNE will reveal only the S at the end of a pluralized puzzle (e.g. HIGHWAYS, WHIZ KIDS).
    • A Clue puzzle in 1993 reading SILENT BUTLER'S TARGETS proved to be this, as none of the contestants or Pat knew what a silent butler was.
    • Defied by the bonus puzzle NEW BABY BUGGY on March 19, 2014, a typical example of the "random adjective/noun pairing" style of bonus puzzle. After picking three more consonants and a vowel, the contestant was still faced with only the N and E… and solved it in about two seconds.
  • Ms. Fanservice: An arcade edition of Wheel released in the late 1980's featured a very busty "Vanna", resembling a blonde Jessica Rabbit. Her sprites even featured Jiggle Physics whenever she clapped.
  • Multiple Endings:
    • The week of November 13-17, 1989 contained information on how to enter a sweepstakes to win a trip to an upcoming show taping at Walt Disney World. However, not all markets participated in this promotion, so two endings were filmed for all five episodes. One ending featured Pat and Vanna standing at the Wheel and plugging the sweepstakes, with more details appearing on screen during a shorter-than-usual credit roll. The alternate ending, meant for non-participating stations, had generic closing segments and had the usual credits with Pat, Vanna, and the winner standing at center stage. One of these alternate endings was the famous segment in which Vanna plays a round of Wheel solo for charity. Despite the existence of the latter, GSN airings of these episodes were the versions with the sweepstakes plugs, which were then edited out.
    • The March 7, 1997 episode ended with Howard Stern making an appearance to promote Private Parts. Reruns of this episode, including GSN airings, featured a generic closing segment.
    • Three episodes in Season 30 each had two closing segments filmed due to one of them featuring a celebrity promoting a network television program despite Wheel being syndicated; the other was the usual generic conversation between Pat and Vanna. Whichever one aired depended on the network affiliate.
      • November 1, 2012: Tom Bergeron promotes Dancing with the Stars; aired on ABC affiliates only.
      • January 7, 2013: The cast of Shark Tank promote their new season; aired on ABC affiliates only.
      • March 1, 2013: Julie Chen promotes The Talk and Big Brother; intended for air on CBS affiliates only, but accidentally aired on all stations in the U.S. and even Canada. However, the episode reran over a year later on May 3, 2014 with the other closing.
    • The original closing for the November 5, 2010 episode (with the famous I'VE GOT A GOOD FEELING ABOUT THIS solve) never aired, as it was replaced at the last minute with a tribute to Charlie O'Donnell, who passed away earlier that week. The episode reran in September 2011, but still with the tribute.
    • When the May 29, 2013 episode reran that September, the original closing was replaced with a tribute to director Mark Corwin, who passed away in July.
    • The final Secret Santa episode of Season 38 had Pat promoting a second giveaway in July. This episode's rerun that month used a new closing with Pat and Vanna commenting on the July version of the giveaway.
  • Musical Gag: On a 2004 episode, the Theme Tune of the then-still-airing Australian version was used as a music bed when Charlie described a trip to Australia which was that day's Prize.
  • Must Make Amends: On several occasions, contestants have made repeat appearances due to game-changing errors on their first episode. This includes the following:
    • At least three confirmed instances in Season 6 alone. While the reasons behind the other two are unknown, one contestant who appeared on the season premiere in September was brought back in February after it was discovered that the buzzer had accidentally sounded too soon on a Speed-Up turn on his original episode, thus denying him the ability to solve and win.
    • In late 2000, contestant Fely called P in the first round; there was a P in the puzzle, but the judges misheard her call as B and she lost her turn. Because of this, she competed again in April 2001.
    • One contestant named Heather was brought back in 2004, but her reasoning is unknown.
    • In 2008, a contestant named Hannah was brought back because on her original episode, the judges unintentionally accepted a wrong answer from one of her opponents on a Toss-Up.
    • A contestant in 2018 was brought back due to a Toss-Up buzzer malfunction on her original episode in 2017.
    • As mentioned above at Earn Your Happy Ending, contestant Tony Harrison was brought back due to his original episode's bonus puzzle having been in the wrong category.
    • In June 2021, a contestant was brought back because on his previous episode in 2017, one of his opponents was allowed to buy a vowel during the Prize Puzzle round despite the buzzer having sounded before she could do so.
    • Unrelated to the above, an example also occurred on a Bob Goen episode. The Clue puzzle SINGING GROUP OR STATE was intended to have Alabama as a correct response. One of the contestants guessed Kansas, which initially was not accepted — until after the commercial break, when the judges decided to accept that answer after all (since there is a band named Kansas).
    • Similarly, on September 24, 2001, a contestant was faced with the Next Line Please puzzle TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR and guessed "how I wonder where you are" instead of "how I wonder what you are". Later in the episode, Pat pointed out that since the lyric "twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder where you are" occurs in the song "Little Star" by the Elegants, he would be awarded the $3,000 bonus.

    Tropes N-Z 
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: Any time contestant racks up a huge total in a round and loses it to Bankrupt or getting stumped on one word in a puzzle.
    • Season 3 (1985-86, nighttime): According to multiple recollections, a contestant with a $60,000+ bank incorrectly solves the puzzle STAR LIGHT STAR BRIGHT FIRST STAR I SEE TONIGHT by leaving out the seventh word.
    • December 5, 1985 (nighttime): A contestant misses out on winning $62,400 by guessing an "S" in the puzzle THE THRILL OF VICTORY AND THE AGONY OF DEFEAT. She then misses out on another $10,000 in the Speed-Up round.
    • September 19, 2007: A contestant loses $39,746 ($33,450 in cash and a $6,296 Prize Puzzle trip) by pluralizing the puzzle. The audience cheers but then stops after Pat announces that she's wrong.
    • April 23, 2008: A contestant lands on the Mystery Wedge on her first spin, and she flips it over to find $10,000. Her second spin nets her an additional $25,000 from the Big Money Wedge. Guess what she hits on her third spin?
  • No-Damage Run: Invoked if a contestant lands on Express on the first spin, and successfully fills in the entire puzzle with it.
  • No Indoor Voice: Lampshaded on the 4,000th episode, which showed a montage of screaming contestants set to "Shout" by the Isley Brothers.
  • Numerological Motif: The week of May 27, 2013 was "Celebrating 30!", with contestants who had a connection to that number, many of whom were 30 years old. Most of the puzzles had to do with the number 30, the 1980s, or age — including PEARL BRACELET and GREEN BAY WISCONSIN on the 29th, which ended with Pat and Vanna talking about how they were connected to the theme note .
    • May 30 had the second $1,000,000 win, although the broadcast of the game had been rescheduled after being planned for the 31st (the date was leaked right after that week's taping session) because, you know, 30. (The final tally of $1,030,340 wasn't lost on Jim Thornton, though).
    • The sixth show of this taping day aired shortly afterward (and itself had a $100,000 win), but the contestants' connections to the number 30 weren't stated.
    • Since Season 32, the minimum cash prize on the bonus wheel has been the season number multiplied by $1,000.
  • Obvious Rule Patch:
    • Buying a vowel. From the 1973 pilot through most of 1975, there was a "Buy A Vowel" wedge (two in later rounds) on the Wheel even though players could buy vowels anytime through at least early September 1975 note . The Milton Bradley home games had a rule where players needed to hit the wedge, but this most likely was never the case on the show itself. Regardless, contestants unfairly lost their turn by hitting it without enough money to buy a vowel (such as on the very first spin of the September 5, 1975 show), or after all the vowels had been revealed. By November 3, 1975, the wedges were finally just kicked out.
    • Apparently, there was not originally a rule stating that contestants had to solve the puzzle exactly as it appeared on the board, a rule which was supposedly added the day after a contestant was ruled correct despite transposing two words in the answer.
    • Several puzzles in 1995 and 1996 consisted of lists of things, and sometimes used two spaces between words or even hanging indents to make the separation between words/items clearer. (Example, the "Where Are We?" puzzle PIKES PEAK OR BUST VAIL RIVER RAFTING had two spaces between VAIL and RIVER, and the words OR BUST and RAFTING one space further to the right, in an attempt to make it clear that "Pikes Peak or Bust", "Vail" and "river rafting" were separate elements of the answer.) This still confused contestants, and sometimes led to mocking from Pat, so they just stopped writing puzzles in that fashion.
    • The addition of Proper Name in 1996, ending more than two decades of "Person does not always mean 'proper name'." reminders (generally, the use of the disclaimer depended on whether or not it was a proper name - if it was given, it wasn't; if it was omitted, it was). Strangely, the reverse is now true: Proper Name can also refer to a business, sports team, college, etc. On Celebrity Wheel of Fortune, Pat will still often remind the players about the difference between Person and Proper Name.
    • The rename of On the Menu (introduced in Season 21) to Food & Drink in Season 24 seems to be this. Previously, some food-and-drink puzzles were shoehorned into On the Menu anyway (such as BIG GULP, something even Pat called the writers out for), while other foods that wouldn't necessarily be found on a menu were called just Thing (as was the case prior to Season 21) or sometimes Around the House.
    • The introduction of the Toss-Up to decide play order. Before, a number draw backstage determined the position of the three players, meaning the person selected in the red (1st) position was always guaranteed to start two puzzles during a game, and quite possibly the yellow (2nd) player as well, leaving the blue (3rd) at a disadvantage. The Toss-Up could also use one as well, since there are two to kick off the show: one before contestant introductions and then one to decide who goes first, which doesn't seem so fair to the person who solved the first one...especially since, no matter who got the first Toss-Up, the red player starts Round 1 if the second goes unsolved.
    • Originally, the Free Spin was a regular space on the Wheel, and could be landed on multiple times (the contestant was given a cardboard disc), meaning s/he could stock up several tokens. Many contestants ended up turning in Free Spin after Free Spin and therefore hogging the Wheel, including at least one daytime episode where the blue contestant never got to touch the Wheel at all due to an opponent abusing Free Spins (but still ended up winning thanks to a $2,000 Final Spin).
    • Starting in Season 30, landing on any cardboard (Wild Card, Gift Tag, Prize) awards both the extra and $500 per letter. Previously, it awarded just cardboard, which can be rather disappointing if one lands on the Wild Card and calls a letter that's up there several times.
    • As mentioned above, the two changes in the Bonus Round: first, by offering RSTLNE automatically, and second, by forcing the contestant to pick a random prize.
    • Reducing the cost of vowels on the daytime version after it moved to CBS to compensate for the drastically-lowered budget, as mentioned above.
    • Adding $1,000 to the value of the Final Spin in 1999 to reduce the number of Foregone Conclusions (although sometimes this can over-compensate).
    • In Season 25, the Wheel had a "Big Money Wedge" that shuffled between penalties and flat cash amounts up to $25,000. Originally, there was presumably no rule about using the Wild Card for an extra consonant on one of the cash amounts. When one contestant managed to do this (albeit for a wrong letter), a rule was quickly enforced stating that the Wild Card could not be used on the wedge except in its post-claim $1,000-per-letter state. Although the show has many game-breakers, the potential to earn $50,000 from as little as two consonants was understandably not going to fly.
    • In an October 2016 episode, a Crossword Puzzle used an arrangement of four horizontal words and one vertical word down the middle built entirely off of letters from the other four, making it difficult to discern. Although the contestant did include the vertical word when solving, there was a long pause before Pat ruled her correct, possibly not noticing the word himself. Later that season, another Crossword puzzle of this arrangement was used, and this time, the contestant did not include the vertical word and was penalized. After that episode, this type of arrangement was never used again.
    • Due to strict limitations in the UK, the British version originally had an either-or trivia question every time the Wheel changed hands; get it wrong, lose your turn. After at least the first two series, they realized it slowed games to a crawl and changed it to a toss-up question at the start of each round.
  • Once an Episode:
    • It used to be that only some games had Speed-Up rounds, and having one was more the exception; since late 2000, every game has one to bring a definitive "end" to gameplay and level the playing field a bit.
    • When they were first introduced in Season 21, Prize Puzzles occurred at random throughout the week. Since the Season 23 premiere, they now appear daily.
  • Once a Season:
    • Many of the theme weeks, such as Teacher's Week, Wheel Around the World, Great Outdoors, College Week (sometimes known as "College Road Trip"), etc.
    • At least one puzzle pertaining to Bruce Springsteen.
    • At least one Bonus Round puzzle of "[verb]ING AROUND".
    • At least one Bonus Round puzzle with the word "JACKRABBIT".
    • At least one Bonus Round puzzle with the word "JUICY".
    • At least one Bonus Round puzzle of "QUART OF _____ MILK".
  • Opening Narration:
    • From 1975-89, over a shot of the studio the announcer told the viewer to "Look at this studio, filled with glamorous prizes! Fabulous and exciting merchandise! note  Over [amount] thousand dollars, just waiting to be won on... Wheeeeeel of Fortune! And now here's your host: [name]!"
    • On August 8, 1983 (with the first use of "Changing Keys"), the show began using a pre-recorded chant of "Wheel! Of! Fortune!" at the very beginning over the show's logo, superimposed over the Wheel. From 1989-91, the daytime show kept the last part of the original intro.
    • For many years, the intro was just the aforementioned chant, followed by "Ladies and gentlemen, Pat Sajak and Vanna White!" On road shows, it's extended to "From [venue], here are the stars of America's Game: Pat Sajak and Vanna White!" In Season 31, it was extended to "From the Sony Pictures Studios, it's America's Game!" followed by the chant, then "Ladies and gentlemen, here are the stars of our show: Pat Sajak and Vanna White!"
  • Painful Rhyme: Pat has begun making fun of the Rhyme Time category since Season 34 whenever the answer is two or three non-sequitur things that rhyme.
  • Percussive Maintenance: On an episode shortly after the touch-based puzzle board was introduced, one of the monitors malfunctioned. Vanna had to resort to hitting the board with her fist before it finally cooperated.
  • Pie in the Face: Pat and Vanna exchanged pies in the face in the tag ending of a 1991 Cruise Week show. Spawns a Call-Back in the tag of a later show when Vanna mentions that she's wearing the same outfit she had on when Pat pied her.
  • Pilot: The first, Shopper's Bazaar, taped in 1973 with Woolery and focused more on the prizes than the puzzles (in addition to having a vertical Wheel instead of a horizontal one). A subsequent pair taped in 1974 were much closer to the final product, but with the shopping prizes behind the puzzle board and a drunk Edd "Kookie" Byrnes hosting.
  • Player Nudge:
    • When a contestant is holding a Wild Card and calls a correct letter on the top dollar value, Pat will usually convince them to use the card for another letter at that same value. Notably, contestants only seem to use it when he does this (except for its first season of use where several players used it on three-digit amounts). On some occasions, he forgets; on others, he convinces them to use it on non-top dollar amounts; and on at least one occasion, he was about to convince a player to use it on $3,500, but was cut off by him asking to solve.
    • If a contestant buys a vowel and the puzzle has at least one more vowel yet to be revealed, Pat will usually say something to the effect of "You can buy another."
    • When a puzzle nears completion and all the multiples are gone, Pat will often try to indirectly entice the contestant to solve by recapping their current score followed by something along the lines of "What do you think?".
    • More prevalent in the 80's, when the show's rule set wasn't second nature to all players: after a player's turn ended with a puzzle at near-completion, if the next player looked indecisive about spinning or solving, Pat would remind them they could solve without having to spin.
    • If a contestant asks to solve while using the Express wedge, Pat will remind them they can call letters until the puzzle is completed for maximum earnings.
    • When a contestant is ready to solve a Crossword Clue, Pat will tell them "say everything, don't add anything", which is a reminder to the contestant that even adding "and" before the final word would nullify their response.
  • Press X to Die:
    • There's a Used Letter Board out of camera view to show contestants which letters have been used already (contestants can often be seen looking to the side to check it before choosing their letter). If, despite this, a contestant calls a letter that's already been picked, they forfeit their turn (unless, of course, the contestant hit Free Play).
    • However, they're at least kind enough to inform contestants if all of the vowels in the puzzle have been revealed, even if all five haven't been bought yet. Even so, this has failed to stop at least one contestant.
    • Sometimes contestants forget to add an "S" on a pluralized word when solving, or vice versa. This got subverted at least once during a Teen Best Friends week where one contestant rang in on a Toss-Up and said CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE, with her partner quickly adding the S to form the correct answer. Other contestants that have attempted this in recent years are not credited with the solve.
    • When solving a Crossword Puzzle, adding an "and" while listing the intersecting words is not acceptable, even if the words themselves were correct.
    • There have been several instances of stuck contestants calling an incorrect F with only one or two consonants remaining, even if it wouldn't grammatically fit in any blank (such as BUS_ RESTUARANT KITCHEN).
    • On Wheel 2000 and some foreign versions, calling a letter in the Bonus Round's original package forfeits that pick.
  • Press X to Not Die:
    • The Free Spin served as this trope. Upon losing their turn, a player could turn it in to keep control rather than have play pass to the next player.
      • This trope was invoked literally in the Nintendo 64 game. While most Wheel video games would use a "Yes or No" prompt for using a Free Spin, this version gave the player three seconds to press the A button if they wished to use it. Not pressing A in time resulted in play passing on.
    • If a contestant gives an incorrect solution to a puzzle, they can quickly give another attempt if neither Pat nor the producers (via the buzzer) have made any comments about the wrong answer. This worked in one contestant's favor in a 2012 episode, where she initially left off the "CASE" when solving the Before & After puzzle LOWERCASE LETTER CARRIER, then gave the correct answer just before Pat could rule her incorrect.
  • Product Placement:
    • The Gift Tag, used since March 2000, is a small tag that bears the logo of a sponsor, and awards a $1,000 cash bonus or gift certificate towards that company's product (or on rare occasion, $500 cash and $500 in product).
    • The Sony Card used to be ubiquitous, along with the Sony Rewards program, since the show is produced by Sony Pictures Television.
    • A few episodes in Season 25 used a separate People category in honor of People magazine. The puzzles were show business-related answers that could be found in the magazine.
    • For a while around 2010, Maxwell House sometimes sponsors the Bonus Round. Any wins result in the company donating $2,500 to a Rebuilding Together fund.
    • Throughout Season 31, Sony cameras were provided along with Prize Puzzle trips.
    • Providers for trips are often promoted in the copy, such as Collette Vacations.
    • The first NES game has unused sprites of the Coca-Cola logo. Merv Griffin Enterprises was owned by The Coca-Cola Company while the game was in development.
    • In recent years, several movies produced by Sony Pictures are involved in Movie Title or Show Biz puzzles around the time of their release. They also often appear as a Prize Wedge on episodes that air around the time of their release on Blu-ray and digital.
    • Beginning in late Season 38, airings on ABC's O&O stations include a small ad for Disney+, Hulu, or ABC primetime programs in the bottom-right corner during the intro (Disney owns ABC, and therefore, the stations). These same ads also appear during network primetime, but this and Jeopardy! are the only cases where they appear during syndicated programming.
      • The October 6, 2021 episode featured Pepe the King Prawn of The Muppets promoting Muppets Haunted Mansion, which premiered on Disney+ two days later and features a brief appearance by Pat. Combined with the above point, this episode was rescheduled since it would have been pre-empted on its originally-planned date on KABC-TV in Los Angeles (a Disney-owned station) by Monday Night Football.
  • Progressive Jackpot:
    • The Jackpot wedge, of course. It started at $5,000 and had the value of each spin added to it; to win it, the contestant had to hit the Jackpot wedge, call a correct letter, then solve right away. Retired at the end of Season 30.
    • From 1986-88 on the daytime show, a different Jackpot was played. Similar to the nighttime Prize wedge (picked up when landed on, had to avoid Bankrupt and then solve the puzzle to claim the prize), this Jackpot was an accruing cash prize that began at $1,000 and increased by $1,000 per show until won.
    • Played straight by the Spanish version using the "Bote" wedge (which works pretty much the same as the nighttime Jackpot on the American show described above), but also inverted with the "Prueba de Velocidad Decreciente" (Decreasing Speed Round)—a Toss-up puzzle valued at 2,000 euros that decreases by a set amount for each letter revealed in the puzzle. The player who solves the puzzle wins whatever is showing on the counter when they solve.
  • Punny Name: On May 29, 2019, the red podium's contestant's name is Brenda "Happi" Ness. Yes, Happi is her actual middle name.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • The "Rock On!" category, in part because Pat would always let Charlie introduce it in a deep "rock DJ" voice.
    • The "Star & Role" category has not appeared since 2017. It is unknown if it is still in the rotation.
    • Chuck and Susan both got legitimate and wonderful sendoffs, but they're pretty much treated this way by the show now. Goen and Wheel 2000 didn't get proper sendoffs, as neither knew their ends were happening. And while Benirschke's last day had the full credit roll typical of NBC game show finales, Rolf didn't get a proper sendoff because CBS hadn't said "No, we want Goen" yet.
    • Many categories tend to disappear entirely for long stretches of time.
  • Rattling Off Legal: Back in the shopping era, the announcer's sign-off was prefaced with "The prices of the prizes have been furnished to the contestants prior to the show and have been rounded off to the nearest dollar. Gift certificates do not include sales tax."
  • Rearrange the Song:
    • The show's second (not counting pilots) theme, Griffin's own "Changing Keys" (introduced in August 1983), was re-orchestrated in 1984 (less "chirpy" sound, glissando added to intro), 1989 (mellower instrumentation), 1992 (mellower yet, except for the electric guitar solo), 1994 ("big band" mix with a radically different melody) and 1997 (similar to 1994, but slower tempo) with the last two remixes barely resembling the original. To the fandom's surprise, a new remix of "Changing Keys" was reinstated in 2021.
    • The "big band" theme from 1994 also had many alternate mixes: a softer mix used for a celebrity week and some road shows (and sometimes as a bumper), a marching band version for episodes taped on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1995, another marching band version for College Weeks, and a lap steel guitar version for weeks taped in Hawaii.
    • "Maximum Drive", the theme for most road shows between 1996 and 2008, was rearranged multiple times in its life.
    • "Happy Wheels", first introduced in September 2000, was remixed in 2002 and again in 2007. The 2002 mix even sampled the 1997 "Changing Keys".
    • Even the Think Music (Speed-Up, Bonus Round) has been remixed a few times.
  • Recycled Script: Invoked on April 6, 2011, where in honor of "Going Green" week each puzzle was "recycled" from an older episode. They even lampshaded this a bit by showing a clip from an older episode when the blank puzzle was revealed.
  • Recycled Soundtrack:
    • One of Alan Thicke's prize cues was "Hip Check", the theme of Blank Check.
    • One prize cue introduced in 1983 was "Frisco Disco", the theme to the 1978-79 revival of Jeopardy! Another, "Buzzword", was rearranged and became the theme to Merv Griffin's Crosswords; the cue itself was used originally for an unsold Griffin pilot called Buzzword hosted by Arizona news anchor Ron Hoon for NBC in 1986 (here's a ticket).
  • Replaced the Theme Tune: "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" to "Give It One" to "Big Wheels" to "Changing Keys" to "Happy Wheels" to an untitled theme to "Changing Keys" again.
  • Retired Game Show Element: Several, as far back as Buy a Vowel in the show's early days, with the shopping round likely the most famous example in the medium. See that page for details.
  • Rhyming with Itself: At least twice, TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT has been a Rhyme Time puzzle.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: Yes, the one game show on which spelling is of the utmost priority has messed up.
    • Early 1989: A puzzle misspells Charley Pride's name as "Charlie".
    • A November 1992 episode had the bonus puzzle FOG HORN is actually one word.
    • On November 14, 2003, the bonus puzzle answer was PIECE OF MIND; they were obviously going for PEACE OF MIND but conflated it with A PIECE OF YOUR MIND.
    • April 26, 2010 had WAIT A WHILE in the bonus round. While "a while" is a legitimate way to use the term, it must be used with a preposition (e.g. "for"); the proper way to use the term in this case would be as one word, "awhile".
    • On November 28, 2013, the bonus puzzle was BABYPROOFING, which is supposed to be hyphenated.
    • Incorrect hyphenation is sometimes a problem. One early episode had a hyphen in BACHELOR'S-BUTTON for no reason, and they've inexplicably hyphenated JINGLE-BELL ROCK (at least twice), WIND-CHILL FACTOR, AMUSEMENT-PARK FUN HOUSE and COFFEE-TABLE BOOK, among others.
    • Inconsistency in recycled puzzles note  has also been a problem. Example: A 1979 daytime episode had the puzzle "FOURSCORE AND SEVEN YEARS AGO"; in 1987, it was reused on a daytime episode as "FOUR SCORE AND SEVEN YEARS AGO" (with a space between the words "FOUR" and "SCORE").
      • Prior to sometime in the late 1970s, there were no punctuation marks, meaning (for instance) it was possible to have a puzzle read FISHERMANS WHARF or DONT SQUEEZE THE CHARMIN.
  • Rule of Three: The triple Toss-Up round will have a theme running for the three answers.
  • Rules Spiel:
    • From the Shopping era: "Be careful not to hit Bankrupt because if you do, you lose your cash but not your merchandise because once you buy a prize, it's yours to keep."
    • Before Speed-Up rounds: "[That sound means time is running out.] I'll give the Wheel a final spin. I'll ask you to give me a letter and if it's in the puzzle, you'll have three seconds (five until 1999) to solve it. Vowels worth nothing, consonants worth — (beginning in October 1999) we'll add a thousand to that, $[dollar amount] apiece. Again, [Category Title] is the category for this round. [Contestant], it's still your turn; a letter."
    • Until Toss-Up Puzzles were introduced: "Just before the show, we drew numbers to see who would start."
    • "We are playing for cash." — Pat used this after shopping was ousted and still found it necessary until ten years after the change.
  • Running Gag: Pat has several. Among them:
    • During the closing chat, Pat loves to intentionally get the name of Vanna's pet cat, Stella, wrong.
    • Using "El Niño" Is Spanish for "The Niño" during interviews ("You live in Los Alamos, which is Spanish for 'The Alamos'."), or whenever a Spanish-named town is used in a puzzle.
    • Using Pluralses whenever a plural category comes up.
    • Pat will occasionally joke about the show's budget if there is a greater possibility of big winnings, or if a lot of money has already been won.
      • In the Season 6 premiere, the lights went out briefly after a contestant solved the bonus puzzle and finished with a then-massive $78,097 in cash and prizes. Pat claimed they couldn't afford electricity anymore.
      • In the Season 19 premiere, Pat announced that every W-H-E-E-L envelope would remain in play all week regardless of whether any of the prizes are won, and they could go out of business by mid-November. Just before November though, the Bonus Wheel and $100,000 prize each made their debut.
    • If a contestant is completely silent on a difficult bonus puzzle, Pat will claim that he was thinking the same thing after time runs out. Sometimes he will joke that the contestant was very close.
    • Comically Missing the Point on the Prize Puzzle, and making the contestant believe they've won a booby prize themed to the puzzle instead of a trip. It's actually pretty harsh, as the Prize Puzzle has only ever offered a non-trip prize something like three times.
    • Saying "beep beep" or "S/he'll be right down!" after the car horn sound effect whenever a ½ Car tag is landed on. Similarly, if a contestant has only one of the ½ Car tags after Round 3 (the last round in which they are available), Pat often jokes that it will be parked in the ½ garage.
    • Joking about the Speed-Up music, particularly if the round is taking a long time.
    • Something along the lines of "There would be a federal investigation if you had gotten this" after a contestant fails to solve a bonus puzzle because the letters they picked weren't helpful.
    • Saying that the answer to the puzzle was also his nickname in high school, particularly if it involves an adjective ending in Y (such as HEAVY DUMBBELL, LIGHT AND FLUFFY, and PUDGY CHEEKS).
    • If a Things puzzle takes the form "Xs and Ys", he will sometimes say "Alive, alive-o" after it's solved (referencing the line "cockles and mussels, alive, alive-o" in the folk song "Molly Malone").
    • Every Spring, he tells a joke along the lines of "I thought I saw the first robin of Spring, but it turned out to be a pigeon with a chapped breast." Lampshaded in April 2012, where he said that it was the 14th year in a row he'd done that joke.
    • "You could buy an alphabet." when a contestant buys a vowel after gaining a lot of spendable cash, usually due to calling a letter that appears more than once on the top dollar value.
    • When a Rhyme Time puzzle of the "two or more random things that rhyme" format (example: BEES FLEAS AND MANATEES) is solved, saying that a similar joke puzzle that never actually existed (like DOGS FROGS AND WARTHOGS) was used earlier on the show.
    • If several wrong answers are given in a Speed-Up, Pat will often reference the "Who said anything about a horse?!" incident.
    • On the episode closest to April 21, Pat will often acknowledge the birthday of both his wife, Lesly, and producer Harry Friedman's wife, Judy, in some creative fashion.
    • Every time the Prize Puzzle offers a trip to Antigua, Pat references the fact that the staff has to write "Antigua" phonetically on his card due to him always mispronouncing it.
  • Running Gagged: Whenever there was a $100,000+ win during Season 38, Mike Richards was credited as "Mike 'Confetti' Richards". This practice stopped after Mike's departure from Sony, and weekend reruns are edited to remove the gag from the credits.
  • Rushmore Refacement: Done as a credits gag in 2010, with Pat's face replacing Lincoln's.
  • Same Language Dub:
    • Averted with Jack Clark, who left both versions in early May 1988 (with Charlie O'Donnell and Johnny Gilbert filling in) and died July 21. While the Summer repeats began with him doing the newly-recorded Promotional Consideration plugs before the credits, Pat and Vanna began doing them once it became evident that Clark was too ill to announce anymore. By September 5, M.G. Kelly had taken over as announcer.
    • Since the show tapes in a very out-of-order fashion, Charlie ended up announcing 40 episodes that didn't air until after his death. Wheel dubbed him over with different announcers and edited out or dubbed over any direct references to him. The official reason was that "it was a tough decision, but it would have been too sad to hear Charlie's voice so close to his death". Fans were...not amused.
    • And in Summer 2011, Jim Thornton was dubbed over the other guest announcers (although reruns of episodes originally aired before Charlie's death kept him, including the weekend feed). The official reason was to "establish" Jim, but it really smacked more of cheapness and/or displeasure in the other announcers' work; the smacking got louder in early 2013, when the show used unaired outtakes from the intro of a 2011 episode as the opening retro clip and, despite this and the week not being reshown in Summer 2011, dubbed Jim over John Cramer.
  • Scenery Porn: Some of the specially-themed weeks are given rather intricate set pieces. They go all-out on Halloween week with gag tombstones, animatronic gargoyles, a haunted house, smoke and lights, various "spooky" sound effects in the Bonus Round, etc.
    • The large screen behind the contestants serves this purpose.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Pat resorted to this with the puzzle DESE DEM AND DOSE GUYS on October 17, 1989. After it was fully revealed, a contestant read the first word as "desi" instead of a thickly-accented "these". Then-producer Nancy Jones asks him to say it again, and he does with the same mispronunciation. Pat just says "Listen, he's got all the letters up, I'm taking it." Interestingly, his ruling affects the outcome of the game; the contestant banked $600 from the round and would go onto win the game by $550.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Pat has pretended to pull this at least three times when a contestant did something humorous:
    • February 2001: Pat asks a Hawaiian contestant, "What was that noise you made earlier?", prompting the contestant to look behind himself curiously as Pat shouts "Good night, everybody" and pretends to walk offstage
    • January 2011: A contestant loses the Bonus Round and, before Pat can reveal what prize he lost, the contestant blurts out "show me something small". The contestant takes the envelope after Pat drops it, and reveals that he lost $100,000.
    • November 2014: one team thought the answer to the puzzle was RIDING A BROWN HORSE, and the next thought it was RIDING A WHITE HORSE early in the round; Pat pretended to walk off-set and shouted, "Who said anything about a horse?!" (the actual answer was SEEING A BUDDY MOVIE).
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Pat has Played for Laughs a couple times.
    • October 31, 1988: Pat looks at the Prize on the Wheel and notes that it says "telecarb" before turning his head the opposite direction and realizing that it says "bracelet". This causes M.G. Kelly to laugh his way through the description.
    • On September 12, 1996, while discussing the Jackpot round that debuted the next Monday. Pat held the wedge upside-down and said that "Beginning next week, we have our Topkcaj..." before Vanna took it from him and turned it right-side-up.
  • Self-Deprecation:
    • After a contestant said that she had a job that paid the most for the least amount of work, Pat snarked, "no, that would be game show host."
    • Vanna, after looking at the wrong arrow during the Final Spin on her first episode of hosting: "How do you do this show?!"
  • Shaped Like Itself:
    • Done at least twice with the Place category: a late-1988 nighttime episode had a Place puzzle of SECRET HIDING PLACE, and a 1999 Bonus Round had the answer WORKPLACE in that category. Also, a 1986 daytime episode had TO COIN A PHRASE as a Phrase.
    • TOSS UP PUZZLE was a Toss-Up puzzle on April 17, 2001.
    • On January 2, 2018, a Crossword Round in the category of "____ Check" actually had BLANK as one of the words.
  • Shoulders-Up Nudity: Wheel was a notable exception in that its model (i.e., Vanna White) never posed in a Modesty Towel while displaying prizes such a sauna or hot tub note , there was one very large exception. In 1987, Vanna — along with Pat Sajak — sat in a hot tub that was on the stage during the close, and both were shirtless. Vanna (possibly wearing a bikini top in reality) was sitting in a way where only her bare shoulders were visible above the top edge of the hot tub, and thus to the audience; Sajak was bare chested, and both remained that way through the closing segment and credits.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Several to sister show Jeopardy!, including ALEX TREBEK as a puzzle in Season 7, a Clue puzzle of THERE ARE TWO DAILY DOUBLES IN THIS ROUND in Season 10 (for which the contestant correctly identified Double Jeopardy!), JEOPARDY as a bonus puzzle in Season 12, JEOPARDY PREMIERES (categorized as The 60's) and FINAL JEOPARDY both in Season 13, BE SURE YOUR RESPONSE IS IN THE FORM OF A QUESTION in Season 16 and JEOPARDY! HOST ALEX TREBEK in Season 26 (coinciding with Canada Week).
    • The category Rhyme Time appeared on Jeopardy! frequently before it appeared on Wheel. Jeopardy! returned the favor by adopting Before & After, which works just like its Wheel counterpart.
    • On March 9, 2004, SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS was a Fictional Character puzzle. After it was solved, Pat remarked "What do you mean 'fictional character'?" and proceeded to quote the entire theme song.
    • Several puzzles have been meta-Shout Outs, including VANNA AND SNOW WHITE (1988), VANNA & EGG WHITE (daytime, 1989), PAT AND LESLY SAJAK (1989), CHARLIE O'DONNELL (1994), PAT I'D LIKE TO SOLVE THE PUZZLE (April Fools' Day 1997), WHEEL OF FORTUNE GOES NIGHTTIME (1998), VANNA WHITE GOLD (2002), and CERAMIC DALMATIAN (2014). They even actually had WHEEL OF FORTUNE as a Toss-Up in 2001, causing Pat to claim that they've "officially run out of puzzles, apparently".
  • Show the Folks at Home:
    • The short-lived Preview Puzzle, used only in Season 17. A partially filled in puzzle was shown to the home audience, and after the intro, Vanna would reveal the answer on the puzzle board.
    • From the second month of Season 23 through Season 30, the home audience was always shown what is on the other side of a Mystery Wedge if one was landed on. Starting in Season 31, they are now shown only if the contestant declines to flip it over.
    • Beginning in Season 36, all letter guesses are accompanied by a subtitle-like graphic displaying that letter.
  • Signs of Disrepair: In the trilon board era, Pat changed the Bonus Round solution to say something else at least three times during the credits.
    • May 1985 (nighttime): FRANK SINATRA became RANK RATS.
    • February 14, 1986 (daytime): NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS became NEW GLAND.
    • April 27, 1987 (daytime): BEST MAN became BEAST.
  • Sound-Effect Bleep:
    • A contestant on a 1989 episode trying to guess the bonus puzzle FANCY THAT accidentally said "twat", which was censored with the Pyramid cuckoo.
    • October 19, 1998: When trying to identify the person described by the "Who Is It?" puzzle SUNDANCE KID WHO LATER WON BEST PICTURE OSCAR, contestant Nick drops an F-bomb which is censored by a "boing".
    • On January 7, 2013, a contestant forgot that Round 3 was a Prize Puzzle; after being told so by Pat, she exclaimed "Oh crap, I forgot!" The word "Crap" was censored out by the show's buzzer.
  • Speed Round:
    • The Speed-Up round (Final Spin). Vowels worth nothing, consonants worth the amount landed on (plus $1,000 since 1999). Unlike most examples of this trope, Speed-Ups have no overall time limit (although apparently they did very early on), only the three seconds (originally five) that a player is given to solve if they find a letter.
    • Another variant is the Express wedge, introduced in Season 31. Whenever a contestant hits the wedge, they can opt to stop spinning and keep calling letters for $1,000 a pop, but calling a wrong letter has the same effect as landing on Bankrupt.
  • Split Screen: Always used during Speed-Ups (contestants on top and puzzle on bottom, although early episodes had this reversed), and on Toss-Ups for all but their first season of use.
  • Spoiler:
    • Although the show is not allowed to air earlier than 7:00 PM Eastern in the United States, there is a small station based in Newfoundland, Canada (CJON-TV, branded as "NTV") that airs the show at 3:30 PM Eastern. Canadian fans with access to this station occasionally post spoilers about that day's episode on social media before it airs in the U.S., and in more recent years, recordings of these early broadcasts often show up on YouTube almost immediately, allowing more fans to see the episode early.
    • To date, every single million dollar win has been spoiled several days prior with endless hinting by the show's social media pages, promos, and even game show fans with inside knowledge. The second win was even hinted by then-producer Harry Friedman when he told fans to "stay tuned" when asked about million dollar winners in an interview. By now, it's safe to say that if someone takes the Million Dollar Wedge to the Bonus Round, they won't be winning the million if there weren't several hints dropped online beforehand.
      • Played Up to Eleven with Melissa Joan Hart's million dollar win on Celebrity Wheel of Fortune in October 2021. The very first promo for Season 2 featured Pat showing off the envelope and an ecstatic Vanna with BRAN MUFFINS spelled out on the board behind her. Later promos showed confetti falling with the winner just out of frame, although Hart's two opponents could be seen standing behind the Wheel, indirectly giving away which episode the win would be, as well as who would win the million. In the week leading up to the episode, the show posted several more spoilers on social media, outright saying that somebody would win the million, with the only mystery being who it would be (if one did not deduce it from previous promos), and new promos aired announcing the win, including one that was edited into airings of the syndicated show on ABC affiliates. The show even sent out a mass Email to Wheel Watchers Club members announcing the win hours before the episode aired.
    • On current-day episodes, if two contestants in a row either call a wrong or repeated consonant, hit Lose a Turn, or hit Bankrupt when having nothing to lose and the third contestant in line spins a dollar amount, it is a near-guarantee that the letter called on this spin will be in the puzzle, otherwise the cycle would have been edited out for time. This can be anticlimactic if, say, the red and yellow contestants hit Lose a Turn back-to-back and the blue contestant hits the top dollar value.
    • Whenever the Bonus Round is lost, Pat always spoils when the envelope is $100,000 by opening it, cringing, then quickly closing it and attempting to stall before showing it to the camera.
    • From Seasons 18-24, if one looked closely at the Wheel during the wide shot before the pre-Round 4 Toss-Up, if the Wheel had only one Bankrupt wedge, this would foreshadow that Round 4 would start with the Final Spin, meaning that Pat has one less invalid wedge to land on. If the second Bankrupt wedge was present, the round would start with regular play. After this period, the second Bankrupt was now always removed, only for it to be changed to always present starting in Season 27.
    • The Maxwell House plugs in Season 27: if they aired before the Bonus Round, it was a loss; if they did not, it was a win, and would air afterward. The plugs started in January 2014 originally followed the same pattern, but later averted it.
    • The week of November 15, 2010 was sponsored by Sears and featured a home viewer sweepstakes. A promo for said sweepstakes showed a clip of a woman solving the bonus puzzle OPEN-DOOR POLICY, which did not air until November 18. Later similar promos would use footage of Bonus Rounds from previous episodes.
    • In a March 2012 episode, after a contestant lost the $100,000, Pat said in the closing segment, "We've given away the $100,000 this season", even though that hadn't happened yet by airing order. The episode referred to was taped beforehand, but would not air for another month.
    • From the early 2000's through the late 2010's, the show's website would feature a "contestant blog" every week written by one of the week's players. The featured contestant was almost-always someone who won their game.
    • Until Season 31, when a contestant had to decide whether to flip a Mystery Wedge, its reverse would often be shown to the viewers before the decision was made. Currently, it is only shown when the wedge is not flipped, and never until after such decision is made.
    • From about Seasons 32-38, if the blue contestant is in control at the time a round goes to Speed-Up, the Final Spin would usually land on or close to whatever wedge the blue contestant was on, due to Pat's spin strength.
    • For the week of April 16-20, 2018, the show held a special sweepstakes in which each day's winner would have their final total matched to a Wheel Watchers Club member. On the show's website, there was an "Official Rules" document stating that the home viewer prizes would be valued "up to $75,550", heavily implying this would be the week's highest winner's total. When Monday through Thursday went by, all with Bonus Round losses and final totals significantly less than said value, Friday rolled around with the winner going to the Bonus Round with $25,550, spoiling to anyone who read the document that she would win the Bonus Round with the rare $50,000 envelope. Also, she took the Million Dollar Wedge to the Bonus Round, also spoiling that the million would not be won (or lost).
    • Most Secret Santa episodes begin with a montage of clips. Usually, these are from previous seasons, but the Season 38 edition featured clips from those episodes, mostly before they aired. One such clip featured a contestant with a total of $20,750 after Round 2, an above-average score for that point in the game, and typically a winning score. The episode from which this clip was taken was the last episode of the two-week period, and indeed, that contestant won the game by a landslide.
    • Currently, the show's social media pages post at least one video highlight from the current day's episode at 8:00 PM Eastern time. Viewers who miss the show or live on the West Coast can infer the Bonus Round outcome based on the content posted. In general, if the clip is the Bonus Round, or a "Best of (contestant)" montage, the Bonus Round was won. If the clip is anything but the Bonus Round, especially something mundane like a contestant's interview or Pat and Vanna's chat at the end of the show, or if no clip is posted at all, it was most likely a loss. When the clip is a win, expect comments from West Coast viewers complaining that they haven't seen it air yet.
  • Stealth Pun: The Triple Toss-Ups on December 13, 2019 in the category of "Food & Drink" had this: PEPPERONI PIZZA, PICKLED PEPPERS, and DOUBLE HELPING OF PEAS. Each of the previous two answers had two sets of the letter P in it; i.e., a "double helping of P's".
  • Stock Sound Effect: The current "Final Spin" bell, in use since 1989, is a commonly-used sound effect for a ship's bell.
  • Sudden Death: Originally, nighttime ties were broken by a Speed Up round between the tied contestants. Since the introduction of Toss-Ups, a fourth Toss-Up is used instead. A tiebreaker Speed Up was also used on one episode of Wheel 2000, although without a Final Spin as that version was played for points. Some recollections mention one happening in the Goen era.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Many licensed Wheel video games use a generic host and hostess to avoid paying royalties for using Pat and Vanna's likenesses. The 2017 Ubisoft game is guilty of this, as are the most recent arcade editions of Wheel, which feature full motion video of much younger female models standing in for Vanna, and announcers that are clearly not Pat, Charlie O'Donnell, or Jim Thornton.
  • Take That!:
    • November 29, 1995: From an episode where Johnny Gilbert filled in for an ill Charlie:
    Pat: This is not like Jeopardy!, you know. If somebody wins something, they actually take their money home. Not like Jeopardy!, where if you finish in second place with $10,000, you get a lounge chair!
    Johnny: But it's a $10,000 lounge chair.
    Pat: ...I think I struck a nerve.
    • September 22, 2003: Before the $3,000 Toss-Up, Pat said "there are shows on Game Show Network that don't give that away in a month!" (Which is also Biting-the-Hand Humor- Sony owns GSN.)
    • March 10, 2009: In a Family Week episode, the yellow team solves the Speed-Up puzzle PLEASE REPEAT AFTER ME less than 1/10th of a second after the buzzer. The blue team then solves; Pat states that the scores are only tentative, and this also determined if the red team really would be going to the Bonus Round. Cue Pat saying "It's like reality TV but without all the fake stuff!"
    • November 20, 2012: Following the $3,000 Toss-Up I WANT MY MTV, Pat explained to younger viewers that MTV is a network that used to play music videos.
    • April 29, 2013: On the first of 20 episodes taped in New York City, Pat hauled out a giant soft drink cup labeled "32 oz" and took a drink from it, to poke fun at the city's then-recent "Soda Ban" proposition, which would have banned sales of soft drink portions greater than 16 ounces.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • On October 21, 2003, a contestant had _____PS showing in the Bonus Round. Pat quipped "If you solve this, I'm retiring." After a few seconds, the contestant blurted out the right answer of HICCUPS.
    • November 28, 2011: A contestant has GLO_E showing in the bonus round. Pat says "Well, I'm gonna be surprised if you don't get this." With that setup, there's a 50/50 shot it's either GLOBE or GLOVE — guess one, and if Pat says no, guess the other. She guesses GLOVE before the timer starts, is told that it's wrong, then spends the entire 10 seconds in silence.
    • February 25, 2014: The Speed-Up puzzle is displaying T_____T_______, and Pat jokingly dares the contestant to solve. She randomly said THOUGHTFULNESS, which was correct.
    • January 15, 2015: A contestant worries about landing on Free Play, but Pat reassures her that she'll be fine even if she calls a "crummy letter". She calls H, which she had already called on her previous turn.
  • Thememobile: The contestant coordinators travel cross-country in a "Wheelmobile" (a specially-designed Winnebago), making stops at various venues to hold contestant auditions.
  • Think Music: A light music bed plays under Toss-Ups and the Speed-Up round since the 2000s. Also, a 10-second beeping timer initially played during the Bonus Round, but it has been replaced by another music bed.
  • Tick Tock Tune: The Bonus Round music bed has a ticking clock sound in it. The Speed-Up round has a faster one.
  • Timed Mission: The Bonus Round must be solved within 10 seconds (15 seconds until 1988). Also, the three seconds (five until 1998) that contestants get to solve the puzzle in the Speed-Up round.
  • Title Scream: The pre-recorded "Wheel! Of! Fortune!" chant that has begun nearly every episode since 1983.
  • Too Awesome to Use:
    • The Wild Card. Although it is picked up off the Wheel in most episodes, it is rarely actually used. Most often, it is either lost to Bankrupt, or it ends up not being used at all with the contestant who earned it not making it to the Bonus Round. When it does get used, it's mostly in the Bonus Round as a result of the contestant avoiding Bankrupts and having no beneficial opportunities to use it during the main game. Since the card lets you call a second consonant without having to spin again, arguably the only good time to use it is when the player is sitting on the top dollar value. In addition, most of its uses in the main game are due to inconsistent player nudges by Pat.
    • In the Shopper's Bazaar pilot, one contestant earned a Free Spin and continually had opportunities to use it to keep her turn, but she declined every time and ended up never using it before the game ended.
  • Totally Radical:
    • The "Slang" category (1992-95), where the slang used was almost always dated, obscure, or just plain nonexistent ("OFF THE BEAM", "LET'S CUT OUT OF HERE", "THE BLAHS", etc.).
    • Still happens now and then. A Teen Best Friends week in February 2011 had TOTALLY AWESOME WATER PARK as a Prize Puzzle (which makes it worse since Prize Puzzles aren't exactly known for their quality [or quantity of hits on Google]), and the puzzles all week were (sometimes poorly) skewed towards teens in general.
    • Painfully present on Wheel 2000: Place became Globetrotter, any puzzle about grammar became Word Rap, and Thing became Just Stuff. The Wheel on that version also had Bankrupt and Lose A Turn renamed "Creature" and "Loser", respectively. Oh, and it had no budget. Radical!
    • On the May 31, 2019 episode, a female contestant said that she goes to a lot of concerts "and it's totally rad."
  • Trailers Always Spoil:
    • The show's promos sent to local affilaites, both the weekly and daily variants, usually show contestants landing on or picking up prizes, the $10,000 side of the Mystery Wedge, or the Million-Dollar Wedge, or celebrating after solving a puzzle with their score in plain sight. They also often feature contestants screaming after Pat tells them they've won a trip, spoiling which contestant wins the Prize Puzzle (and likely that episode's game).
    • Many promos feature a close-up shot of Vanna clapping or celebrating while standing to the left of a puzzle, usually showing the first two letters of each row. This shot is usually only seen on the show proper during Bonus Round wins, so any use of this shot in a promo usually spoils that episode's Bonus Round will be won, as well as part of the puzzle, especially if the shot also shows some of the visible letters filling in on a solve. However, at least one promo used this shot despite that Bonus Round being lost.
    • On October 13, 2010, one preview that aired near the end of the show was devoted entirely to a woman picking up the Million-Dollar Wedge, complete with suspenseful music and an announcer saying that the episode "just might have a million reasons to watch". When the episode aired, she lost it to Bankrupt.
    • The promo for the week of May 27, 2013 outright stated there would be a $1,000,000 win that week, showing very brief footage of when in the game the Million-Dollar Wedge was hit (Round 2, with the Mystery Wedge being visible and the Prize wedge sitting on the yellow contestant's arrow) and the big winner celebrating. It only became more obvious (still before it aired) when said $1,000,000 winner posted the week's contestant blog — part of her outfit could clearly be seen in the promo during the "post-win" clip, which showed a group of people hugging among raining confetti.
    • The promo for the week of September 15, 2014 was even more blunt. As a black screen is displayed, Pat's voice is heard saying "Could you use a million dollars?" followed by a contestant screaming. This was also strongly hinted even earlier by a still posted online by (oddly enough) a Jeopardy! fan account, showing Pat holding a Bonus Round envelope open before a contestant hunched over in excitement. Although the contestant's head and envelope's prize were censored, it was still obvious what the still was showing, especially for eagle-eyed fans who knew that the $100,000 and $1,000,000 envelopes use a different variant of the Wheel logo than all the other envelopes, which was in plain sight in the still.
    • In recent seasons, if a Bonus Round is solved with few letters showing, the promo aired on affiliates will be dedicated entirely to this, touting something along the lines of, "An unbelievable solve you won't want to miss." Although these promos generally don't spoil the winning contestant, prize, or full puzzle, it outright tells you the Bonus Round is won.
    • In recent seasons, the episode that features the biggest winner of the season up to that point (usually following a $100,000+ win) is usually outright mentioned as such in its promo, though it does not outright spoil which contestant wins. This included the April 27, 2021 episode, although to their credit, it did not spoil whether the winner would win the $100,000 or the Margaritaville home being offered that week (although it could be deduced once her final maingame total was more than $100,000 under the current top winner of the season, plus she did not have the Million Dollar Wedge).
    • The promo for the March 5, 2021 episode heavily implied a $100,000 win, and while flashing brief individual clips of each contestant, showed one of them standing in front of the Bonus Wheel, spoiling which one would win.
    • A $100,000 win that occurred on the March 18, 2021 episode was indirectly spoiled ten days earlier in the promo for the previous week, which had a brief shot of Vanna standing next to a revealed bonus puzzle starting with the letters "FL" and throwing her arms up in a victory pose, a reaction she usually only gives on such wins.
    • The promo for the May 17, 2021 episode showed clips of previous $100,000+ winners and said that "something big happens again", and it showed Pat surrounded by confetti. Gee, what do you think it could be?
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: The 1983-2000 theme, "Changing Keys". Incidentally, the name became somewhat of an Artifact Title for the 1994 and '97 remixes, which had virtually no key changes.
  • Two Decades Behind:
    • While the show's "Song Title", "Song Lyrics", and "Song/Artist" categories are fairly common, the songs used for their puzzles are almost-always from the 1980s or earlier, even if it's a teen or college week. This appears to be intentional; occasionally, there is a puzzle that could be considered a lyric or title of a song later than the 80s, but they will put it under a more generic category such as Phrase or Rhyme Time. Despite this, they do sometimes use the name of a currently-popular artist in a Proper Name, Show Biz, or Crossword puzzle. The show slightly improved on this after Harry Friedman left, however.
    • The "decade" categories began seeing more use in recent seasons, mostly "The 80's" or its derivatives such as "80's Song Lyrics". "The 70's" is also used fairly often, while the "The 90's" is the least common. Despite the categories' longevity (including "The 90's" actually being used in that decade at least once), there are still no categories for the 2000's or 2010's.
    • The show still sometimes uses outdated slang in "Phrase" puzzles, including multiple instances of the word TOTALLY in The New '10s and "OUT OF SIGHT!" in 2018. One infamous round in 2022 had the contestants struggling for more than two minutes with the Phrase "ANOTHER FEATHER IN YOUR CAP"; one of them later stated that he hadn't heard the saying in about 30 years.
    • One College Week episode in 2014 had a Toss-Up of REVENGE OF THE NERDS under the category "The 80s" (which was likely before any of the week's contestants were born). Two contestants rang in with incorrect guesses, obviously not being familiar with the movie.
    • Averted with Season 1 Celebrity Wheel of Fortune, where the "Song Lyrics" and "Song Title" categories themselves were exclusively used for songs from 2000 onwards. If a song from the 20th century is used, its decade was part of the category. This season also used several puzzles related to modern cultural phenomena (e.g., TWERKING ON TIKTOK, I LOVE BABY YODA!) that have never been explored on the syndicated version, clearly aiming for a much younger demographic.
      • For Season 2, the trope is played straight; the generic song category is now used for pre-2000 songs as well (though the decade variants are still occasionally used), and the most recent song puzzle during the season was WHO LET THE DOGS OUT?, a song from 2000. One round this season had the puzzle AH HA HA HA STAYIN' ALIVE STAYIN' ALIVE (70's Song Lyrics), during which Tara Lipinski said, "I don't know if I'm good with 70's lyrics." When Raven-Symoné solved it incorrectly, she protested, "I was born in the 80's!"
    • May 28, 2018: On a "Best Friends" episode in which all three teams looked no older than their mid-30's, The Toss-Up WKRP in Cincinnati went unsolved, with no one being familiar with the 80s television series. It didn't help that the K was the last letter to be revealed, leading to two incorrect guesses starting with WARP. Afterwards, one contestant commented, "We're 90's kids."
    Pat: I understand why you don't know. It was a popular show in the old days. It was called "Wu-kurp in Cincinnati".
    • The show's current events category, "Headline", has become increasingly rare in recent seasons to the point of sometimes not appearing for over a year. Nowadays, when it does get used, it is always related to a recent sports victory or an astronomical event.
    • The very few puzzles Wheel has used related to gaming have only involved arcade classics such as Pac-Man and Space Invaders.
    • In a zig-zag of this trope, Classic TV was only used three times between 2007 and 2017, far less often than the TV Title category used for current or recent shows. However, starting in 2018, this has reversed; since said year, Classic TV has been used four times and TV Title only twice on the syndicated show (and twice on Celebrity Wheel, counting a Triple Toss-Up as one).
    • Jokingly averted by Pat on the Season 29 premiere, where he quipped that to keep up with the times, "Every puzzle will include the word 'Kardashian'." Ironically, said name still has yet to appear in any puzzle.
    • A Song Lyrics puzzle SURF CITY HERE WE COME (from the 1963 song "Surf City" by Jan and Dean) has been used as a Toss-Up twice, in 2014 and 2020. In the 2014 episode, it was incorrectly solved as "SURF CLAY WHERE WE GO". In the 2020 episode, it was again incorrectly solved, this time as "NEW YORK CITY HERE WE COME", and it was not solved until there was only one letter left.
  • Understatement: Pat, to million-dollar winner Michelle Loewenstein. "You may be one of our bigger winners." He didn't say anything similar to the second $1,000,000 winner (Autumn Erhard), even though...you know...she took the "biggest Wheel winner" record from Michelle.
  • Undesirable Prize: Arguably every shopping-era prize that wasn't a car, all-expenses-paid vacation, or possibly fur coat could count, but everyone remembers the $154 ceramic Dalmatian. The late 80s-early 90s also had some real stinkers in the Bonus Round, such as a build-your-own log cabin kit, a silver tea serving set, a "shipboard party" (something that even Pat made fun of), or historical documents signed by famous people. Arguably, the gift tags could also fall under this, depending on whether or not someone actually wants a Lobstergram or a $1,000 Kmart shopping spree.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change:
    • The sudden switch to playing for cash in 1987, then the announcement that it would be permanent after originally intended to be a one-month stint.
    • Contestants now being given RSTLNE for free in the Bonus Round in 1988.
    • The trial of the ½ Car wedges (which would make a permanent debut as the ½ Car tags), during a Road Trip week in 2011.
    • The addition of Crossword Puzzles in 2016.
    • Contestants now being allowed to choose their Bonus Round category starting in 2017.
  • The Unreveal: Since Season 30, some episodes feature a Bonus Round puzzle from an older episode for viewers to try to guess for fun. The puzzle is first shown with RSTLNE plus the contestant's three consonants and vowel, followed by a plug, then the solution is revealed. On Netflix, most plugs are edited out, and the solution reveal gets cut with them. Although Vanna's voiceover, "We'll give you the answer when we come back right after this." is still intact, the show fades out from the partial puzzle, then fades back in with the start of the next round.
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating: One instance occurred in the Speed-Up on September 19, 2007. A contestant got ahead of himself on the puzzle A FLOCK OF CARDINALS, and said FLOCK OF CARDINALS BABY. That wasn't accepted, so he said the proper solution immediately afterward.
  • Useless Useful Spell: A wedge variant in Buy A Vowel. Its redundancy from the 1973 pilot suggests it was meant to simulate the "impulse buy" that may or may not backfire, putting it closer to Lose A Turn and Bankrupt than Free Spin. Strangely, the wedge wasn't actually present for Round 1 on the '74 pilots, and the thing never even came into play for the first two pilots.
  • Vampire Vords: During Halloween weeks, Jim often does some of his announcing (especially the intro) in the stereotypical "Dracula" voice.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: On a 2011 episode, Pat was talking to Vanna about being cold, and how you have "handwarmers or footwarmers or..." and she pulls two warmers out of the top of her dress, saying "They have to stay warm." note 
  • Vocal Evolution: Charlie's voice got deeper not long after he returned to the show in 1989. He also had a spell throughout most of the 1990s where he was noticeably mellower, but actually became only more enthusiastic come the 2000s (see above).
  • Voice of Dramatic: Charlie O'Donnell. Starting in the late 1990s, if someone won the $25,000 in the Bonus Round, he would let them know that they'd just won "twenty-five THOOOOOOOUUUUSAND dollars!" This, of course, also applies to any other amount of money won ever since figures higher than $25,000 were offered starting in 2001-02. Averted with Jack Clark and Jim Thornton, who have more subdued deliveries.
  • Wardrobe Malfunction:
    • Vanna has confirmed that she once split a zipper mid-taping, and finished the episode in a different dress.
    • On the March 8, 2013 episode, Pat popped a button off his jacket during the Final Spin. Even though the wardrobe department was able to get him a new button during the commercial break, he wore stage manager John Lauderdale's jacket for the rest of the show as a joke.
    • Narrowly averted in an late-March/early-April 1988 episode when Vanna walked into a pool as one episode ended; getting her dress soaked. She then began to stand up before realizing her dress has become transparent.
  • Waxing Lyrical: On a 2004 episode, after SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS was the answer to a "Fictional Character" puzzle, Pat quipped "What do you mean, 'fictional'? He lives in a pineapple under the sea! Absorbent and yellow and porous is he!"
  • Whammy: Bankrupt and Lose A Turn. At least the latter lets you keep your cash/prizes/etc. The former wedge from this show provides the page image.
  • "Where? Where?": A common quip from Pat whenever the announcer introduces him and Vanna at the top of the show is to say "Where are they?" in response.
  • Who Writes This Crap?!: Pat has never been afraid to mock the puzzle writers:
    • When a contestant was tasked to solve DESE DEM AND DOSE GUYS, Pat outright called it a "crummy puzzle".
    • Pretty much every instance of Megaword in the 1994-95 season, to the point that even Vanna and Charlie joined in on occasion. When Trent Girone, a huge fan and contestant with a learning disability, brought it up in a 2014 episode (after Pat challenged him to name a retired category), he said that he "hated every minute of it".
    • February 24, 2012: After the Prize Puzzle I LOVE MY PASSPORT PHOTO was solved, Pat remarked that he's never heard anyone say that. The contestant who solved it agreed.
    • June 13, 2013: Following the Round 2 puzzle LIVE-IN NANNY GOAT, Pat sighed and discouragedly said "I know exactly who wrote that."
    • On November 25, 2020, a contestant called out the writers for using OVEN in a Crossword round that had the clue "Kitchen ____". He questioned "who calls it a kitchen oven?", leading Pat to throw a mock tantrum and jokingly call the contestant "ungrateful".
  • Working Through the Cold:
    • Pat obviously had a cold for the second "Wipeout Week" during Season 6 (February 6-10, 1989), as he sounded congested throughout and the mics picked up several sniffles and coughs.
    • Pat hosted two weeks of episodes from San Francisco in November 1996 despite coming down with laryngitis at the time. By the end of one week, his voice was nearly gone; he and Vanna traded places in the Bonus Round on the Thursday episode, and he communicated through hand signals in Round 4 of the Friday episode.
  • You Say Tomato: In one episode, Pat pointed out that Charlie says "ca-RIB-be-an" and he says "CARE-uh-be-an". He then added that he says "Wheel of Fortune" while Charlie says, quote, "Wheeeeeeeeeeel of Fortune".

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