Even if you tune in to Wheel of Fortune every day, you're only seeing half the show. It turns out there are a lot of things happening behind the scenes that viewers never learn about.
Here are 15 secrets every Wheel Watcher should know:
1. The wheel looks bigger on TV
While a six foot diameter is nothing to sneeze at, the wheel looks a lot bigger on your TV screen because of some creative angles. The entire thing weighs 2,400 pounds, and it's full of electronics including 200 lights that can shine in 2 million colors.
Meanwhile, the wheel's signature sound is 100% real. It's made by the 73 stainless steel pins hitting the dials. In total, the set weight more than 1 million pounds, and it takes 14 trucks to move the show to destinations around the world.
2. No, the show isn't "rigged"
A popular conspiracy theory says that Pat controls a "braking system" for the wheel. The best evidence is that Pat never lands on Bankrupt when he makes the Final Spin each episode. In fact Pat does land on Bankrupt, those spins are just edited out.
“It’s a crime to rig a TV game show," Sajak explains, "and as much as I like our players, I’m not going to prison so someone can win a trip to the Bahamas.”
3. The hosts used to get drunk before taping
In the show's early days, the hosts admit they liked to enjoy a margarita or two (or three, or four) at a nearby Mexican restauraunt before taping. “Vanna and I would [...] come and do the last shows and have trouble recognizing the alphabet," Sajak remembers. "I had a great time. I have no idea if the shows were any good, but no one said anything, so I guess I did okay.”
4. Vanna is a Guinness World Record holder
She's entered in the record books as "Television's Most Frequent Clapper." Vanna claps during every spin, averaging about 28,000 claps each season.
5. The Wheel and Jeopardy! hosts switched places once
The two game shows are the perfect pair, so it's no surprise that their hosts have traded hosting duties. For April Fool's Day, Alex Trebek and Sajak's wife Lesly Brown hosted a special charity episode of Wheel, while Pat hosted the popular quiz show.
Pat also took over Vanna's letter-turning duties for one episode when a bad case of laryngitis kept him from hosting.
So what's the most you can actually win on Wheel of Fortune?
6. The show has made contestants into millionaires
The largest prize ever won during a single game of Wheel went to Michelle Loewenstein, who pulled the $1 million card in the bonus round to take home $1,026,080. Meanwhile, some unlucky contestant took home $2,450, the smallest prize for a Wheel winner ever recorded.
7. Pat and Vanna only work 4 days each month
The couple record five or six full episodes in a row, usually working just one day each week. While Vanna still has to show up early for hair, makeup and wardrobe, Sajak doesn't even pretend his job is that hard.
"It's the closest thing you can do in pretending you have a full-time job," he said. "In dog years I've only done this show about nine years."
8. There's a "dummy board" to help the contestants
How do the players remember which letters have been guessed already? A helpful screen shows them. There's another screen for Pat which tells him how many of each letter are in the puzzle. Originally, this was the job of an intern who held a finger for each letter (so two fingers for "two Bs").
9. The banter at the end of every episode is improvised
The hosts really let their personalities shine through in these segments, and it creates some very silly exchanges:
10. Why was the shopping segment cut?
Older viewers will remember when Wheel winners would pick out prizes using the money they had earned in earlier segments. This was a fun little game, and it was a handy way to advertise the prizes on display. So why was it cut out of the show?
Mainly because it was slowing the episodes down, but also because contestants were stuck paying the taxes for the prizes they picked, which left them feeling cheated.
11. Vanna's closet would make any woman jealous
The host has modeled more than 6,000 different outfits since the show started, and has never worn the same dress twice. But sadly she's not allowed to take them home. “The designers send their clothes to the studio, I try them on, and I wear them. Normally I'll get a hundred gowns at a time, and we pick a dozen of them."
Pat doesn't have nearly as many suits, but his collection of ties is impressive. Watch carefully: he matches his tie to Vanna's dress in every episode.
12. Pat and Vanna share a favorite blooper
Sometimes contestants get a little ahead of themselves when they try to solve the puzzle, and wind up making some eyebrow-raising guesses. Vanna remembers one player trying to solve "GONE WITH THE WIND" with the very inappropriate "DONE WITH ONE HAND." Meanwhile, both hosts say this was their favorite blooper of all time:
13. You need to train to be a contestant
Each year, 10,000 people audition for a chance to spin the wheel, but only 600 are chosen. The lucky contestants are introduced to the set, practice spinning the wheel, and get personal "coaching" to make sure they're playing the game correctly. They even rehearse their performance in a mock episode.
Voice coaching contestants. http://t.co/ScyPFQ9tvS— Jessica Hullinger (@JessHullinger) March 19, 2013
As producer Gary O'Brien says, “Very few people have what it takes to be a contestant." So don't judge them so harshly if they make a mistake!
14. Some puzzles are a mouthful
The longest Wheel puzzle ever was 46 letters long, "HERSHEY BAR GRAHAM CRACKER GOOEY ROASTED MARSHMALLOW." Meanwhile, "SCRAM" and "OZ DOG" are tied for the shortest puzzle with only 5 letters.
15. Players start the game on equal footing
Ever notice that contestants on the show have matching heights? Players need to be close enough to the wheel to reach it, but it looks awkward if some players are taller than others. That's why contestants stand on a special platform which raises and lowers so they all wind up at the same height.
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