A Salute to Game Shows



History of Wheel of Fortune


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Pat Sajak and Vanna White - Host and Hostess


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History of Wheel of Fortune

The time we heard the name Wheel of Fortune on the television landscape was not the Wheel of Fortune we all know and love.  It was actually started in October 1952, and ran for nearly a year.  To be eligibile for this show, you had to have done a good deed.  The good-doers and the people they helped appeared on the show.  The person who was helped played the good Samaritan on the show.  A wheel was spun with cash amounts on it between $30 and $1,000.  Whatever the wheel landed on was the amount to be played for.  Also on the wheel was the number of questions to be answered right to get the money.  The beneficiary received a gold watch for their appearance.

The next time we saw the name Wheel of Fortune was in 1975, when a show, called "Shopper's Bazaar" on the pilot episode, premiered on January 6.  The object was to spin a wheel to win money to spend on great prizes!  Notwithstanding the pilot, the original host of Wheel of Fortune was Chuck Woolery, and the original letter turner was Susan Stafford.  Charlie O'Donnell was the original announcer.  Pat Sajak and Vanna White were nowhere to be found.  The show replaced Art Fleming's original version of Jeopardy!, and has been running continuously ever since.  From December 11, 1975 to January 19, 1976, Wheel of Fortune was an hour-long show on NBC.  

After a contract dispute, Chuck Woolery left the show, and Pat Sajak was found to replace him.  In December 1982, Susan Stafford also departed (on good terms), and was replaced by Vanna White, but not before a few interim letter-turners.  Vanna White has appeared as the letter turner ever since.

Pat Sajak has always hosted the syndicated version, which started in 1983, and hosted the network daytime version until January 17, 1989, when he turned the NBC daytime version of the show over to Rolf Benirschke, ex-football player.  On July 17, 1989, the daytime version moved to CBS, and Bob Goen hosted.

Charlie O'Donnell was the announcer until 1982.  After that, Jack Clark became the announcer until his death in 1988.  Following this, Charlie O'Donnell returned, and has announced ever since.

Wheel of Fortune has been with us for many years now, and we hope it remains with us for years to come.


A Salute to Game Shows 1999-2001 Ben F. Schumin, Chris-Place.com.  All rights reserved.