Wheel of Fortune (Australian game show)
|Wheel of Fortune|
Wheel of Fortune logo
|Created by||Merv Griffin|
|Based on||Wheel of Fortune|
Ernie Sigley (1981-1984)
John Burgess (1984-1996)
Tony Barber (1996)
Rob Elliott (1997-2003)
Steve Oemcke (2004-2005)
Larry Emdur (2006)
Tim Campbell (2008)
Adriana Xenides (1981-1996, 1997-1999)
Kerrie Friend (1996-1997)
Sophie Falkiner (1999-2005)
Laura Csortan (2006)
Kelly Landry (2008)
|Narrated by||Steve Curtis (1981-1983)
John Deeks (1984-1995, 1997-2006)
David Day (Early 1996)
Ron E. Sparks (Late 1996)
|Theme music composer||Jack Grimsley|
|Country of origin||Australia|
|No. of seasons||26|
|No. of episodes||5,118|
|Location(s)||ADS-7 Adelaide, South Australia (1981-1987)
SAS-7 Adelaide, South Australia (1987-1996)
Epping, Sydney, New South Wales (1996-2004)
Pyrmont, Sydney, New South Wales (Late 2005-2006)
Richmond, Melbourne, Victoria (2008)
|Running time||25 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Grundy Television (1981-2006)|
|Original channel||Seven Network (1981-2006)
Nine Network (2008)
|Picture format||576i (SDTV)
|Original release||21 July 1981– 27 June 2008|
|Followed by||Million Dollar Wheel of Fortune (2008, broadcast on the Nine Network)|
|Related shows||Wheel of Fortune (U.S. game show)|
Wheel of Fortune is an Australian television game show produced by Grundy Television. The program aired on the Seven Network from 1981 to 2004 and November 2005 to July 2006 and is mostly based on the same general format as the original American version of the program. After Wheel of Fortune ended, the format was revived by the Nine Network in 2008 as Million Dollar Wheel of Fortune, until it was cancelled in June 2008 due to low ratings and following arguments from long-time host John Burgess concerning why he did not like the revamped format.
An earlier unrelated show also titled Wheel of Fortune had been broadcast on the Nine Network. That version had been developed by Reg Grundy as a radio game show before it transferred to television in 1959.
- 1 History
- 2 Game play
- 3 Major prize round ("Golden Wheel")
- 4 Celebrity weeks
- 5 The 5,000th episode
- 6 Presenters
- 7 Changes to the show
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
In 1981, the Reg Grundy Organisation purchased the rights to Merv Griffin's American game show Wheel of Fortune and created a faithful reproduction of the American series, as they had done with many other game shows. The new show began airing on the Seven Network on 21 July 1981, and was produced at the studios of ADS-7 in Adelaide. The show's production moved to SAS-7 when ADS and SAS network affiliations and channel frequencies at the end of 1987.
In 1996, as part of an attempted major revamp with the remaining of the show's famous theme music and sounds, the program relocated from Adelaide to Seven flagship ATN-7 in Sydney. Along with a new set, new music, faster game format and modified rules, John Burgess was sacked from his twelve-year stint as host and replaced by Tony Barber. By the time that Burgess' final episode went to air it had become common knowledge that the show had relocated and that changes would occur. However, Burgess' final words referred only to the show's relocation, thus suggesting that he was oblivious to his sacking.
The following Monday after Burgess' final episode, Tony Barber began as host amid much controversy. Beside the fact that viewers did not appreciate the fact that Burgess was sacked without a chance to say goodbye on air, viewers had trouble accepting the new rules, faster pace and Barber's energetic hosting style. Additionally, Burgess had made media appearances saying how he had been badly treated and only found out about his sacking accidentally. Ratings quickly declined and at the year's end the Seven Network issued press releases in which Barber announced that he was indefinitely removed from the show. In his memoir Who Am I, Barber later explained that he was removed from the position by the network and was offered future projects with the network in exchange for agreeing to the press release. Burgess has claimed on many occasions that he was offered the job back with a heavy pay raise and declined, but the Seven Network denied this story. In any event, Burgess was quickly given a contract by the Nine Network to host the game show Catch Phrase (later retitled Burgo's Catch Phrase) that would be Wheel of Fortune's rival for a few more years.
Barber appeared at the start of the 1997 series premiere to introduce and hand the show over to Rob Elliott with former Perfect Match hostess Kerrie Friend replacing Xenides for the next seven months.
On 18 June 2006, the Seven Network announced that they had stopped broadcasting of the program with the last episode airing on 28 July, just one week after celebrating 25 years on Australian television. The final episode was filmed on 23 June at Channel 7's Epping studios. One of the contestants on the final episode was Edith Bliss, former field reporter for Simon Townsend's Wonder World, who won the game and effectively became the show's final, undefeated champion. From the Monday following the final episode, M*A*S*H reruns returned to the timeslot. Following the finale, Seven also aired 20 unaired episodes from 2005. These were hosted by 2004 host Steve Oemcke, and clearly produced before it was decided to rest the show in 2005.
2008 revival: "Million Dollar Wheel of Fortune"
In May 2008, the Nine Network revived the show in a revamped form known as Million Dollar Wheel of Fortune, hosted by former Home and Away actor Tim Campbell, with Kelly Landry as co-host. and airing from GTV-9 in Melbourne. The biggest changes in this version included the possibility to win a new grand prize of $1 million, alongside an increased standard top prize of $200,000, and players actually playing for the cash they win. At the premiere, the number of $200,000 wedges on the bonus Wheel increased by one each episode until it was won.
To win the said grand prize, the contestant had to earn the Million Dollar Wedge (a two-pegged wedge, sandwiched between two one-peg Bankrupts) and solve the puzzle in the first round. Then, the contestant had to play the entire game without hitting Bankrupt during any portion of the remainder of the game, win the game, and reach the Million Dollar space on the Bonus Round Wheel, and win the Bonus Round, in order to win the prize.
Despite an initial report stating that Burgess and Xenides disliked the show, calling it "dry," Xenides gave positive feedback stating that it was "refreshing" and she loved the "... very cool colours ... and the opportunity of winning a million dollars, that's excellent." She also stated that John was "probably misrepresented." 
Ratings for the new series were expected to top now-rival Deal or No Deal, and to lead-in to the 6:00 news. However, there were low ratings, peaking at 700,000 viewers on the first night. From then, viewership went on a decline, and by the end of its short run, Wheel had around on average 450,000 viewers a night, compared to the almost-1,000,000 watchers for Deal. Due to this steep ratings decline, the series was cancelled on 27 June 2008, after only five weeks on air.
Despite the ill-fated attempt of this incarnation, the format was adopted a few months later on the U.S. version at the start of its 26th season in September 2008, except that the Million Dollar Wedge to be won in any of the first three rounds, and not the first round. If the Million Dollar space is in play during the Bonus Round, it replaces the $100,000 space on the wheel, and if the space is not selected in the round, the host will display where the Million Dollar envelope was located on the wheel after the round. Three contestants (one in 2008, one in 2013 and one in 2014) have won the million dollar jackpot.
Before the taping begins, the players draw numbers to determine their positions on stage. Play proceeds from left to right from the viewer's perspective: from the red player to yellow, then to blue, then back to red. The red player would have the first spin in round 1, the yellow player would have the first spin in round 2 and the blue/green player would have the first spin in round 3. From 1999 to 2003 when the format consisted of 4 rounds plus the major prize round, the red player would take the first spin in round 4.
From July 1996 until 1998, the host would ask a trivia question and the contestant who buzzed in with the correct answer would have the first spin. During this time the red podium was reserved for the carry-over champion as there was an opportunity for any contestant to have the first spin. The process used during this period was a form of continuous play. For example: If the red player buzzed in to start round 1, but the yellow player solved the puzzle the blue player would have the first spin in round 2.
From 2004 to 2006, the flip-up puzzle was used to determine who would be in control. If the yellow player buzzed in with the correct answer, then the yellow player would have the first spin for round 1, the blue player would have the first spin in round 2 and the red player would have the first spin in round 3. Another flip-up puzzle would be used to determine who would be in control for round 4.
The game uses a wide variety of categories for its puzzles. Some are generic, such as "Place" or "Thing." Puzzles frequently refer to popular culture or common items encountered in everyday life.
Starting In 1994
- ‘BEFORE AND AFTER’
- ‘STAR AND TITLE’
- ‘STAR AND ROLE’
- ‘ARTIST/S AND SONG’
Starting In 1995
Starting In 1999
- ‘WHERE ARE WE?’
Other categories include BUILDING, and LIVING THINGS, TRUE OR FALSE?, EVENT, PHRASE.
Spinning the Wheel
The wheel has 96 pegs with 24 spaces that are each four pegs wide. These spaces represent cash values (in multiples of 5 instead of 50 in the American version), prizes and penalty spaces, three strategic elements for use in the game. The wheel also features two additional spaces that are specific to particular rounds of the game (see below).
A player who does not land on a penalty space asks for a consonant. If it is not in the puzzle, play proceeds to the next player. If the letter appears in the puzzle, the hostess reveals all instances of the letter and the player receives either cash or a prize. Unlike the American version however, the amount of money won is a flat rate and not multiplied by the number of instances of the letter. Calling a letter that has already been called results in the loss of one's turn. A "used letter board" is positioned off screen for the contestants to see to aid in their guesses. All descriptions of players being credited with cash or prizes in the remainder of this article assume that the player calls a consonant which appears in the puzzle. A player who lands on a value is credited with that amount.
"Top Dollar" values
- 1981-1985: $240 – $460 – $1,200
- 1985-1990: $360 – $690 – $1,800
- 1990-1994: $400 – $750 – $2,000 (first used on Episode #2,000)
- 1995-2000: $500 – $1,000 – $2,000 (From July 1996 until 1997 and again from 1999–2000, 1,000 was used in rounds 2 and 3, while 2,000 was used in round 4)
- 2000-2008: $750 – $1,500 - $2,500
Buying a vowel
A player who has sufficient banked cash during the current round may choose to buy a vowel prior to spinning the Wheel. The cost of the vowel, $50, is deducted from the player's score and all instances of the requested vowel in the puzzle are revealed, if any. The player's score is reduced by $50 regardless if the vowel is in the puzzle or the number of times the vowel appears. If the purchased vowel is not in the puzzle, the player loses his or her turn in addition to the aforementioned cost. Multiple vowels may be purchased until either the supply of vowels is exhausted or the player's bank falls below $50. At that time, the player must spin the wheel or try to solve the puzzle.
- Flip-Up Puzzles - Introduced in 2004, these gave control of the wheel to whoever solved the puzzle, but did not add any money to the contestant's score. The Flip-Up before the second round is a Prize Puzzle, awarding a prize related to the puzzle. On Million Dollar Wheel Of Fortune it was called Toss Up because the show opens with the contestant becoming the first to spin and for launching into next round. Prize Puzzle was called Cash Up because of a chance to win $500 after guessing the puzzle.
- Free Spin - The Free Spin wedge allowed a contestant to continue his or her turn in the event of solving a puzzle incorrectly, selecting a letter that is not in the puzzle, or landing on Bankrupt or Lose a Turn. From July 1996 the Free Spin wedge was amalgamated with a dollar amount, meaning a contestant would both receive a Free Spin token and select a letter in the puzzle.
- Bankrupt - The black Bankrupt space ended a player's turn and resulted the loss of all money earned. Any money that was secured by solving a puzzle was immune to Bankrupt (except from 1996-1998, when securing money was not an option after the show's 1996 revamp). From 1981 to 1996, the Bankrupt space would appear once in round 1, and twice in rounds 2 and 3. From July 1996 onwards, the number of Bankrupt spaces in round 2 (and round 3 with the second Bankrupt appearing in round 4) was reduced to.
- Lose a Turn - Terminated a contestant's turn, but did not result in any loss of score.
- Red Mystery Letter - From 1993-July 1996, and again from 1997–2006, a consonant that appears in red on the puzzle board doubles the money awarded for choosing that letter.
- Surprise Wedge – From 1995-1996, and again from 1999–2006, the Surprise wedge gave a chance for a contestant to win a major prize during the main game. To win the prize, contestants would have to correctly guess a consonant in the puzzle and then correctly solve that round's puzzle.
- Goodie - Used from 1994–1996, this automatically awarded a small prize to whoever landed on it.
- Bonus - Landing on this space and correctly guessing a letter resulted in the contestant winning the bonus prize.
- Mystery Wedge (Space) – Used from 2003–2006, two $500 spaces marked with a stylised question mark were placed on the wheel. If a player landed on one of these mystery wedges and correctly guessed a letter in the puzzle, said contestant may either opt to have the $500 added to his or her score, or 'flip' the mystery wedge. One mystery wedge contained a Bankrupt; the other contained a prize that would be awarded if the contestant solved the puzzle. After one mystery wedge had been flipped, the remaining wedge only served as a $500 space.
- Car Wedge - used from 2000–2002, this was a rather convoluted feature that seldom (if ever) had any outcome. A contestant would need to spin the Car wedge, correctly guess a letter in the puzzle, remove the wedge from the wheel, keep it in his or her possession and solve the puzzle. The same contestant would then need to complete the same steps with a second Car wedge in a later puzzle.
- Million Dollar Wedge - Introduced in the 2008 revival, the space contained a $1,000,000 space surrounded by two small Bankrupts. If a player landed on and acquired it, solved that puzzle, did not hit any Bankrupts for the remainder of the game, and subsequently won the game, a $1,000,000 prize wedge would be added to the bonus round wheel.
From 1981 to 1996, money earned in each round was used to shop for prizes. A player who could not buy the least expensive remaining prize was offered a gift certificate in the remaining amount for merchandise from a particular retailer. When this was removed in July 1996, contestants were given a set prize upon solving a puzzle. By the end of the year upon solving a puzzle, contestants could choose one of three prizes offered to them. This would continue for several years until it was reduced to two prizes.
Speed-Up Round (Final Spin)
At some point, when time is running short, a bell rings to indicate the Final Spin of the Wheel. The host spins the Wheel and all remaining consonants in the puzzle are worth the value of the spin. The player in control has his/her arrow determine the round's value, compared to the red player's podium on the US version. The players take turns calling one letter each. A vowel can also be called at no cost. If the called letter appears in the puzzle, the player has five seconds after the hostess stops moving to try to solve the puzzle. If a player has a Free Spin, he/she can still use it to keep her turn in the speed-up round. Unlike the previous rounds, contestants may give multiple guesses within the time limit. On several episodes, there have been more than one speed-up round.
Like the US version, if a penalty space is hit the host spins again, not affecting any scores if a Bankrupt is hit. Unlike the US version, if a prize space is hit, the first player to call a letter receives the wedge, along the value underneath it, and must be the one who solves the puzzle in order to win it. The value under the prize wedge becomes the value for the rest of the round.
Major prize round ("Golden Wheel")
Introduced in 1984, the winning contestant spins the Golden Wheel which now has major prizes on it, including a new car. The prize that the Major Prize wheel lands on is the Major Prize played for. The contestant is given two consonants and one vowel, however the contestant can earn an additional consonant for every ($)2,000 scored in the main game. Theoretically, enough money ([$]38,000) can be earned so as to call every consonant. The winning contestant then gets 10 seconds to solve the puzzle and win the prize. Originally, they had 10 seconds to think over the puzzle, and then had to immediately solve. If a champ is unable to solve the puzzle in the bonus round, that score is carried over to the next episode; once a prize is run, the value is reset back to zero.
The bonus round has sometimes tweaked its format. On one episode, the contestant got common letters on the board, such as R, S, and E, and providing more consonants and a vowel. On the 20th Anniversary week in 2001, the contestant was given two vowels.
At the start of its inception in 1984, there were two car wedges on the Major Prize Wheel. On the 1,500th episode in 1988, the number of car wedges was increased to three. On a few occasions, they had a temporary jackpot system in which the number of car wedges were increased by one each day it was not won. The car has never, however, regularly appeared on the wheel more than three times.
On 15 July 1996, the Golden Wheel was replaced with a selection of five envelopes. About five weeks later due to lack of public support, the Major Prize Wheel returned and the number of car wedges increased to four (featuring a Hyundai Lantra Sportswagon).
From 2000-2004, a new element was added to the Golden Wheel. A new jackpot system, coupled with the car (most of which were from Proton and Daewoo), starting at $2,000 and increasing $100 every night it was unclaimed, was installed. There were two "Jackpot" slivers on one of the "Car" wedges, and the player had to land on it, then solve the puzzle to win both the cash and the car. The highest jackpot won was $25,000 (added to the car, a combined prize of almost $50,000). This, and the $5,000 prize on show 5,000 (see below), was one of only two cash prizes offered on the show.
From 2004-2006, The Major Prize Wheel saw the amount of car wedges decreased to two when it featured a Renault and finally a Mitsubishi to the closing of its run on the Seven Network.
In 2008, the standard top prize increased to $200,000, and an additional space for the prize was added to the wheel for every night it was left not won. A top prize of $1,000,000 could also be added to the wheel if a player acquired the Million Dollar Wedge in the main game.
Occasionally celebrities play for home viewers, with those viewers earning the prizes and total of the amounts their winning celebrity spun during the game in actual cash. At the end of the week, all those winning home viewers were entered in a drawing to win a car.
There was also a brief Saturday Night series in the early 90s called "Celebrity Wheel of Fortune".
The 5,000th episode
On 21 March 2006, "Wheel of Fortune" celebrated a major milestone, as its 5,000th episode went to air on the Seven Network. An extra element was added to the special show: the chance to win $5,000 in cash. Two yellow "$5,000" wedges were added to the Round 1 wheel. A third was added to Round 2's wheel. If a contestant was to spin it up and select a correct letter, they would have 5,000 added to their score, but to win the actual money, they had to solve the puzzle (in the same way as the Surprise and Mystery Wedges). In Round 2, one of the contestants did spin up the "$5,000" wedge and the Surprise Wedge and solved the puzzle, winning over $10,000 in cash and prizes for that round. The other $5,000 wedges were removed for Round 3.
Record-breaking champions include:
- Donovan Newton, $63,110 August 1996 (during the Tony Barber era)
- Dell Edwards, $68,000 12 July 2001 (amount unknown, rounded off)
- Moita Lindgren, $72,917 August 24 & 27, 2001 (mathematical mistake)
At the time of going to air, champion Luke Seager (2004) was the 4th biggest winner of all time, and the second longest champion in terms of nights on air represented. Luke credited his longevity on the wheel (10 nights) to the fact that most newcomers to the show did not comprehend the importance of controlling the wheel. His reign as champion still rates amongst the highest ratings period the program has ever enjoyed.
Wheel of Fortune in Australia has had many hosts, hostesses and announcers through its long history. They include:
- Ernie Sigley (July 1981 - June 1984)
- John Burgess (June 1984 - July 1996)
- Tony Barber (July - December 1996)
- Rob Elliott (January 1997 - December 2003)
- Steve Oemcke (January 2004 - December 2005)
- Larry Emdur (January 2006 - July 2006)
- Tim Campbell (May 2008 - June 2008)
- Adriana Xenides (July 1981 - November 1996, July 1997 - June 1999)
- Kerrie Friend (January 1997 - July 1997, as a long-term replacement for Xenides)
- Sophie Falkiner (July 1999 - December 2005)
- Laura Csortan (January 2006 - July 2006)
- Kelly Landry (May 2008 - June 2008)
- Steve Curtis (July 1981 - December 1983)
- John Deeks (January 1984 - December 1995, January 1997 - July 2006)
- David Day (January - July 1996)
- Ron E. Sparks (July 1996 - December 1996)
- Kerrie Friend (November 1996, one week; 1997, seven months)
- Terasa Livingstone (November 1996, one week)
- Cecilia Yates (December 1996, one week)
- Bridget Adams (December 1996, one week)
- Sonia Kruger (1998, two weeks)
- Tania Zaetta (December 1996, one week; 1999, two weeks)
- Mel Symons (2003, two weeks)
Changes to the show
- 1981: First episode. Studio very similar to the American version at that time.
- 1984: Red, yellow, and green sunbursts were installed behind the contestants, somewhat similar to the red, yellow, and blue sunbursts in the US. The puzzleboard was later slightly remodified in colour.
- 1984: John Burgess replaces Ernie Sigley as host.
- 1992: Sunburst backdrops are replaced with cones and the green backdrop becomes turquoise. A new colour scheme for the wheel is introduced.
- June 1994: John Burgess celebrates his 10th anniversary as host.
- 1995: The theme music is updated. Also, during this time, an on-screen category display replaces the trilon on the puzzleboard.
- July 1996: The show changes its location to Sydney with Tony Barber replacing John Burgess as host as well as a new set. The turquoise backdrop becomes blue. The Major Prize Wheel is replaced with envelopes. Format changes to four rounds plus the major prize round. New theme music is introduced.
- August 1996: Minor changes to the new set. The prize-shop "replica" is introduced and the Major Prize Wheel and the former theme music return. Format is changed back to original 3 rounds plus the major prize round.
- 1997: Rob Elliott replaces Tony Barber as host.
- 1999: A new set is created for the show, with new graphics and a new puzzleboard. Format is changed back to 4 rounds plus the major prize round.
- May 1999: Sophie Falkiner replaces Adriana Xenides as hostess.
- Late February 2000: The CAR wedge is introduced on the wheel beginning its run with The Proton Wedge. Top values are tweaked to 750, 1,500, and 2,500 respectively. A cash jackpot starts being used, starting at $2000, rising by $100 every night until it is won (highest ever won was $25,000) (similar to Sale of the Century)
- June 2000: 4,000th episode on 13 June. Four car wedges introduced on the Major Prize Wheel.
- 2003: The Bonus and Car wedges are removed. The Mystery Round is introduced along with Mystery Wedges.
- 11 August 2003: The set background changes to purple. The show's logo is changed. The major prize round segment, is played in front of the display screen next to the Renault Clio instead of behind the Wheel.
- 2004: Steve Oemcke replaces Rob Elliott as host. The puzzleboard is revamped, with electronic screens replacing the trilons. Flip Ups and Prize Puzzles are introduced. Score displays are revamped, with eggcrate display replacing the seven-segment display. Timeslot changes from 5:30pm to 5:00pm as part of the Wheel and Deal hour, with Deal Or No Deal taking the previous Wheel slot.
- Late 2005: Larry Emdur and Laura Csortan replace Steve Oemcke and Sophie Falkiner as host and hostess after it was announced by Sunrise hosts David Koch & Melissa Doyle. The whole set is revamped with the remaining of the letters' font, the theme music and the wheel. Show moves to Pyrmont from Epping's studios. The puzzleboard is given a major change, with a blue border that changes colour, and features light animation. LG flat screen plasmas replace the Contestant Trapezoid backdrops that animate during events on the show, such as landing on Bankrupt, bell sound, or solving the puzzle.
- March 2006: The show celebrates its 5,000th episode with multiple chances to win $5,000.
- July 2006: The show celebrates 25 years on Australia television, and ends its run on the Seven Network a week later. 20 unaired episodes were aired featuring Steve Oemcke, Sophie Falkiner and the old set (see the 2004 section) from 2005, before it was shelved.
- May 2008: Wheel of Fortune is picked up by the Nine Network now known as Million Dollar Wheel of Fortune and hosted by Tim Campbell. The show is cancelled after five weeks on air due to low ratings and negative reviews, including one where Burgo and Xenides had an argument about why they both disliked the show.
- Knox, David (2008-03-23). "Nine confirms the Wheel deal". Archived from the original on 2008-03-25. Retrieved 2008-03-27.
- "Can Kelly change 9's wheel of fortune?". The Daily Telegraph. 2 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-04.
- Clune, Richard (8 June 2008). "Reinvent the Wheel Burgo". Sunday Herald Sun. Retrieved 2008-06-08.
- "Xenides doesn't hate new Wheel show". 13 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- Knox, David (27 June 2008). "Nine takes axe to Wheel of Fortune revival". tvtonight.com.au. Retrieved 2008-06-27.
- Coming This Fall to Wheel of Fortune. One Spin. One Solve. One Million Dollars.
- Everything is Coming Up Roses for Wheel of Fortune $1,000,000 winner. From Sony's Web site.
- Wheel of Fortune at TV.com
- Wheel of Fortune at the Internet Movie Database
- Million Dollar Wheel of Fortune at the Internet Movie Database
- Million Dollar Wheel of Fortune at TV.com
- Wheel of Fortune at the National Film and Sound Archive