Wheel of Fortune (UK game show)

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Wheel of Fortune
WheelOfFortune logo.jpg
Genre Game show
Created by Merv Griffin
Presented by Nicky Campbell (1988–96)
Bradley Walsh (1997)
John Leslie (1998–2001)
Paul Hendy (2001)
Starring Angela Ekaette (1988)
Carol Smillie (1989–94)
Jenny Powell (1995–2001)
Terri Seymour (2001)
Voices of Steve Hamilton
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 14
No. of episodes 735
Running time 30 minutes (inc. adverts)
Production company(s) Scottish Television
Original network ITV
Picture format 4:3 (1988–2000)
16:9 (2001)
Original release 19 July 1988 (1988-07-19) – 21 December 2001 (2001-12-21)
Related shows Wheel of Fortune

Wheel of Fortune is a British television game show created by Merv Griffin. Contestants compete to solve word puzzles, similar to those used in Hangman, to win cash and prizes. The title refers to the show's giant carnival wheel that contestants spin throughout the course of the game to determine their cash and/or prizes. The programme aired between 19 July 1988 and 21 December 2001 and was produced by Scottish Television (STV) for the ITV network - having effectively replaced Now You See It as STV's prime time game show offering for the ITV network. It mostly follows the same general format from the original version of the programme from the United States, with a few minor differences.


Unlike the American version, where the numbers on the wheel correspond to the amount of money won by each contestant, the British version instead referred to these amounts as 'points' – they had no cash value, their only purpose was to determine the grand finalist, or to choose a winner for a particular round. Points earned from all players carried on to proceeding rounds, and were susceptible to Bankrupts, meaning a winner could be crowned that never solved a puzzle, but acquired a large amount of points. This rule would actually encourage sacrificing a player's turn if he or she didn't know the puzzle rather than risking his or her points by spinning again.

For the first three series, before recording of each episode, each contestant spun the wheel and the contestant with the highest score would start the first round. The contestant would be asked a 50/50 trivia question and if the contestant answered correctly, the contestant spun the wheel and if they landed on a number, they had to pick a letter. If the letter appeared on the puzzle board once, the contestant would earn the value. If the letter appeared on the puzzle board twice, the contestant would earn double the value. If the letter appeared on the puzzle board thrice, the contestant would earn triple the value and so on. A player may purchase a vowel for 250 points, regardless of how many times that vowel appeared in the puzzle. The contestant would spin the wheel again but the contestant's turn would end if the contestant either landed on a number but picked a letter that did not appear on the puzzle board earning the contestant no points but not deducted the number the contestant landed on, landed on the 'LOSE A TURN" or landed on the "BANKRUPT" losing the contestant's total score for that round but not from previous rounds. If the contestant landed on the "FREE SPIN", the contestant would be given a "FREE SPIN" loop and would spin the wheel again and if the contestant landed on a number but picked a letter that did not appear on the puzzle board or landed on the "LOSE A TURN" or landed on the "BANKRUPT", the contestant could give their "FREE SPIN" loop to the host and spin again or hand over play to the next contestant, But if the contestant answered the 50/50 trivia question incorrectly, they would not spin the wheel and play would move on to the next contestant. In the speed round, the host would spin the wheel with the centre player's arrow determining the point value for each contestant. Vowels were worth nothing, and consonants were worth whatever the value spun. The left player would go first. From the fourth series onward, the 50/50 trivia individual questions were dropped. Instead, at the start of each round, the contestants would be asked a general knowledge question and the first contestant to buzz in and answer correctly would gain control of the wheel.

Also from the fourth series onward, from Round 3 to the end, the points on the wheel were worth double.

The centre player's arrow determined the point value for each consonant in the speed-up round (and during the final spin both Walsh and Leslie employed the catchphrase "No more spinning, just winning!" whilst explaining how the speed-up round worked). Vowels were worth nothing, and consonants were worth whatever the value spun.

In the Grand Finale, the winning contestant chose from one of three bonus prizes to play for, a car, a luxury holiday or a cash prize. The series in 1994 differed in that the prize the contestant won for solving the puzzle was a car plus the cash prize of £10,000. In one episode in 1994 the prize was two cars and £10,000. From 1995-1998, the player chose one of two envelopes, one with the car and the other with £20,000. After choosing five consonants and a vowel, the contestant had 15 seconds to solve the puzzle to win the prize. Unlike other versions, the player could solve any one word individually, and then work on any other word in the puzzle. For example, if the puzzle was "A CUP OF TEA," the player could solve "OF," then "A," then "TEA, and finally "CUP" to complete the puzzle.

In the final series, "LOSE A TURN" was changed to "MISS A TURN," for reasons unknown, and a "500 Gamble" wedge was added.


Unlike the original American version, instead of cash prizes, successful spinners from each round were rewarded with a choice of 3 prizes which might contain household appliances, a holiday, etc. In 1988 the prizes for the final were a trip (in the second last episode instead of a trip, there was an oriental furnished living room and in the last episode instead of a trip, there was a new bathroom), a new car (in one episode in the first two series instead of a new car, there was a new boat), or a cash jackpot at £3,000 (although in the last episode, the cash prize was £2,000). In 1989, the cash value increased to £4,000, from 1993 the Cash value increased again to £5,000. On the celebrity specials, solving the final puzzle donated £5,000 to the celebrity's favorite charity. The prizes became the car and £10,000 during 1994 with no choice of envelope. In some episodes in 1994 this was increased to two cars and £10.000. The prize was later increased to £20,000 or a car from 1995-1998, with the winning contestant randomly selecting his/her prize by choosing one of two sealed envelopes.

During the daytime series, winners of each round were able to chosen from an array prizes laid out in the studio, such as a CD player, dishwasher etc. The cash prize for the final was dropped to £2,000. Players also could pick the same prize more than once, and on some occasions contestants made requests for an opponent who had won nothing to pick a prize, and Leslie always upheld the request.

All contestants in all series, win or lose, went home with a Wheel of Fortune watch (and sometimes other Wheel-related merchandise).

In the final, the winning contestant had a free choice of five consonants and one vowel in order to help them identify the answer to the puzzle and win the prize.

Special prizes[edit]

  • During the peak time series, the second and third round began with the hostess present a special prize (usually jewellery) which could be won by landing on a prize star and going on to solve the puzzle. (prime time series).
  • During Bradley Walsh's run, the first player in the third round to land on a special disc and also put a letter on the board won the contents of "Brad's Box".[1] This bonus carried over into the prime time John Leslie series and was renamed "Leslie's Luxury" but during Leslie's series there were two boxes one would be for the men and the other one would be for the women (prime time series).
  • In some episodes, one puzzle would contain a "red letter" (gold in 1997) that would net that player £100 for solving the puzzle immediately after finding the letter (both formats).
  • The winning contestant had a chance to win another £100 by guessing a special partially-revealed "puzzler" related to the puzzle just solved. (daytime series).
  • During the second round on the daily series, a mystery prize would be awarded to the contestant if he/she picked up the token and solved the round two puzzle.

Special episodes[edit]

In the ninth episode of the second series and the thirteenth episode of the fourth series, the contestants were brides and in the twelfth episode of the third series and the eleventh episode of the fourth series, the contestants (two women and one man) were retired.

Studio designs[edit]

From 1988 to 1993, the host would emerge from the right stairs. Then as the presenter introducers to letter spinner, the letter spinner would walk down the left stairs. Between 1994 and 2000, the host and the letter spinner would emerge from the puzzle board that rotated clockwise. And in 2001, the host and the letter spinner would emerge from the prize pod.

Wheel configurations[edit]

The top point space was 1000 points, with one such space in round 1. One more space was added in round 2, along with a second Bankrupt, and a third 1,000-point space was added in round 3. Also, starting from series 4 in 1992, values were doubled beginning from round 3 onward, making the top point spaces worth 2,000 points.

Unlike the board used on the American version since 1997, the United Kingdom version's puzzle board was never electronic, so the regular puzzle would be placed at the top portion of the board while the puzzler would fill any unused lines below. The puzzle board's shape from 1994 to early 2000 was the same as the current American puzzle board. From 1988 to 1993, its border was styled like the one on the American puzzle board used from 1981 to 1993. The background colour for unused trilons on the UK's puzzle board was green from 1988 to 1993, after which it was changed to blue.

In 2001, Lose A Turn was renamed Miss A Turn and a 500 Gamble space was added. When 500 Gamble was landed on, the player had a choice of going for the regular 500 points or gambling their round score on a correct letter. Each appearance of a correct letter increased their score by 1,000 points plus their current score while an incorrect letter took away all the points they accumulated in the round.

The round one wheel used in 1988. The following year, this layout was reversed and the red 250 next to 750 was decreased to 200. The resulting layout was used until 1991.
The round one wheel used from 1992 to 1993.
The round one wheel used from 1994 to 2000.
The round one wheel used in 2001. Note the 500 Gamble and Miss A Turn spaces.



Series Start date End date Episodes Host
1 19 July 1988[2] 27 September 1988[2] 11 Nicky Campbell Angela Ekaette
2 5 September 1989[2] 19 December 1989[2] 16 Carol Smillie
3 4 June 1991[3] 27 August 1991[4] 13
4 18 May 1992[5] 24 August 1992[6] 13
5 7 June 1993[7] 30 August 1993[8] 13
6 11 July 1994 12 December 1994 23
7 30 August 1995 27 December 1995 18 Jenny Powell
8 24 July 1996 27 December 1996 24
9 3 January 1997 27 December 1997 50 Bradley Walsh
10 15 June 1998 7 December 1998 26 John Leslie
11 2 March 1999 20 December 1999 135
12 3 January 2000 8 December 2000 250
13 2 January 2001 4 August 2001 125 Terri Seymour
14 12 November 2001 21 December 2001 30 Paul Hendy


Date Entitle
22 December 1988[2] Christmas Soap Stars Special[2]
29 December 1988[2] Christmas Celebrity Special[2]
31 December 1988[2] Hogmanay Special[2]
26 December 1989[2] Christmas Celebrity Special[2]
31 December 1989[2] Hogmanay Special[2]

The two Hogmanay Specials were only broadcast to the Scottish and Grampian Television regions.[2] The 1988 episode was repeated by Challenge in 2013.

  • 1988: With Amanda Laird, Teri Lally and Andy Cameron.[2]
  • 1989: With Andy Cameron, Paul Coia and Viv Lumsden.[2]

Regional transmissions information[edit]


For the first ten series, the show was broadcast once a week in a primetime slot. With series 8, a number of regional ITV stations did broadcast episodes a few days later including the last episode on 31 December 1996.


During the eleventh series, the programme was moved to a five-shows-a-week daytime slot and it aired at 2.40pm each afternoon from 2 March, after the sixth series of Dale's Supermarket Sweep concluded its run. It took a break from 28 May to 10 September 1999.


The twelfth series began at the start of the year, and lasted until the start of December. During this series, the show's slot varied in different ITV regions.

  • Carlton (London and Westcountry), Grampian and Scottish aired the episodes at 5:30pm.
  • Anglia, Border, Granada, Meridian, Tyne Tees, Ulster and Yorkshire aired the episodes at 1:30pm until 31 March 2000, then Friday afternoons only from 18 May to 9 June. From 12 June, it was moved back to five-times-a-week and then from 17 July, it was moved to 2:40pm, so not all the episodes aired.
  • HTV followed Anglia's pattern until 8 May before switching to the 5:30pm slot.
  • Carlton (Central) also followed Anglia's pattern until 12 June before moving the show to 5.30pm.

Additional episodes were broadcast by all ITV regions on Sundays during May.


During the thirteenth series, most ITV regions broadcast episodes at 5.30pm from 2 January to 22 June 2001, except for Meridian, Yorkshire, Tyne Tees, before being switched to a Saturday afternoon slot until 4 August 2001. The final thirty episodes (series fourteen) were networked at 2.40pm, from 12 November to 21 December.


  1. ^ Bradley Walsh :: TV :: Wheel Of Fortune
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Evening Times". Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
  3. ^ "04 June 1991, 36". Retrieved 5 October 2017. 
  4. ^ "29 August 1991, 32". Retrieved 5 October 2017. 
  5. ^ "18 May 1992, 36". Retrieved 5 October 2017. 
  6. ^ "24 August 1992, 32". Retrieved 5 October 2017. 
  7. ^ "07 June 1993, 70". Retrieved 5 October 2017. 
  8. ^ "30 August 1993, 20". Retrieved 5 October 2017. 

External links[edit]