Flashback Review 1975: Wheel of Fortune

Wheel of Fortune

Our Rating: 5

Wheel Logo

Photo Credit: Game Show Museum

What's Your Rating of Wheel of Fortune?

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.0/10 (2 votes cast)

Jared Ruddick, Technology Editor
November 3, 2011
Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Featured A&E, Reviews

The category is “Before and After,” and you’ve just spun the wheel and landed on the $5000 spot.  The puzzle is: D A _ _ A S    C O _ B O Y S    A _ D    I _ D I A _ S – what do you do? Well, if you are like me or the millions of geriatrics getting ready for their 8:00 PM bedtime, you say, “Can I have the letter N, please?”  Then, after Vanna flips three “N’s,” you solve the puzzle: Dallas Cowboys and Indians.

Although it doesn’t have a memorable catch phrase (“This is…. Jeopardy!) or a has-been comedian host (Drew Carey on The Price is Right), Wheel of Fortune has been a nightly staple since first airing on January 6th, 1975.  The original hosts were not the never-aging Pat Sajak and Vanna White, but instead were game show host extraordinaire Chuck Woolery and the original blonde letter-turner, Susan Stafford. The format for Wheel of Fortune, created by Merv Griffin, has stayed almost the same during the past 36 years. The mind-numbing game works like this: the three contestants participate in rounds of puzzles where they must guess consonants and buy vowels that allow them to solve puzzles one letter at a time.  Before they can guess a consonant, they must spin the wheel to see how much money they win if the letter they guess is in that puzzle; it’s kind of like the classroom game “Hangman.”  If the letter they guess is in the puzzle they win that amount of money multiplied by the number of times that letter is in the puzzle. Overall, when you describe the game play, the game sounds extremely easy and very boring (no wonder my grandma loved it so much!)  They have attempted to spice up the game throughout the years by using lackluster gimmicks, such as weekly themes, traveling locations, and impossible prizes, but their idea of spicing up an unexciting and repetitive game probably mirrors the amount of spice involved in your grandparent’s love life. Sorry Wheel of Fortune, filming your show at Mt. Rushmore and offering a one-week Alaskan Cruise prize, sponsored by Caltrate daily calcium supplement, just doesn’t get me excited to tune in and play at home.

The one component that has changed over the years is the cash and prizes, and this has probably saved the show from the fate of the other countless game show failures (Anyone else remember The Weakest Link?). In 1975, contestants would spin the wheel, collect “money,” and solve the puzzle. But, instead of getting to keep that cold hard cash, they had to spend it on commercial products and trips. I can only imagine how excited contestants must have been after the won a puzzle, when they were finally able to buy that green leather sofa with the matching reading lamps and cookie jar!!!   So back in the day, Wheel of Fortune was basically a 30-minute commercial with a little bit of Hangman thrown in for giggles. I am quite surprised that viewers fell for this obvious capitalist propaganda, and I am glad it has since changed, because I just have to have my nightly dose of Wheel of Fortune!

I give the 1975 version of Wheel of Fortune a 5 out of 10 (mainly only because of that styling men’s suede jacket in the accompanying video.)

To watch a clip of the old format, click on the video located in the upper left.

Flashback Review 1975: Wheel of Fortune, 9.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings


One Response to “Flashback Review 1975: Wheel of Fortune”

  1. Ms. Horenstein Says:

    Oh Mr. Ruddick…I so disagree!! I used to love watching contestants go shopping after they won the puzzle! Make no mistake, I’d personally much rather have the cold hard cash than the matching lamps and cookie jar but it was fun to see the wacky stuff that people chose to take home!! Ahh…memories….

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.