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Wheel of Fortune is the long-time Australian television game show, produced by Grundy Television. It aired on the Seven Network from 1981 to 2004 and November 2005 to July 2006. After Wheel of Fortune ended, the format was revived by the Nine Network in 2008 as Million Dollar Wheel of Fortune.

An earlier show of the same title 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.

History

In 1981, Reg Grundy Organisation purchased the rights to Merv Griffin's U.S. game show Wheel of Fortune and promptly created a very 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 July 21, 1981, and was produced from ADS-7marker. The show's production moved to SAS-7marker when ADS-7 and SAS-10 swapped callsigns and network affiliations at the end of 1987. In 1996, Wheel of Fortune relocated to ATN-7marker, where it remained until the series' cancellation in 2006.

In 2005, the show was rested, with Seven filling its 5pm timeslot with reruns of M*A*S*H. At 7:40am on the morning of November 11 2005 on Sunrise, hosts Kochie (David Koch) and Mel (Melissa Doyle) officially announced the show's return featuring the old look (inc. muzac and font), with film shoot starting in December 2005 with Larry Emdur, Laura Csortan to host, and Deal Or No Deal warm-up guy John Deeks to re-narrate. On the very first episode at the very end of 2005, the car was won!

One week after the final Winter 2006 episode, the 10.00am timeslot was filled with 20 previously unaired episodes featuring former hosts Steve Oemecke and Sophie Falkiner, after which Wheel never returned to the schedule.

The original Australian series titled Wheel of Fortune began on the Nine Network in 1959. It was quite different to this series, having been derived from a radio quiz show.

Mid-1996 incident

As part of an attempted major revamp with the remaining of the show's very famous theme music and sounds, the program relocated from Adelaide to the Seven Network's Sydney studios. 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. A sign that drama would follow came at the end of Burgess' last episode on July 12 1996, when he stated that the show was moving to Sydney, that it would still be exactly the same despite a new location and, that "Not everyone is coming with us to Sydney, and we are going to miss a lot of people."

The following Monday after Burgess's final 1996 episode, Tony Barber began as host, amid much controversy. Beside the fact that viewers did not appreciate the fact that John Burgess was sacked without a chance to say his goodbyes on air, viewers had trouble accepting the new rules, faster pace and Barber's energetic hosting style. Additionally, John Burgess had made media appearances telling of 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 carefully-worded press releases in which Barber announced that he was indefinitely shelved 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. John 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. John was quickly given a contract by the Nine Network to host the game show Catch Phrase (later re-titled Burgo's Catch Phrase) that would be Wheel of Fortune's rival for a few more years.

Adding to the drama, Adriana Xenides, who had been with the show since it began and had never missed an episode, fell sick - ultimately suffering from depression and what she called a "physical breakdown".

Tony Barber appeared at the start of the 1997 series premiere to introduce and hand the show over to Rob Elliott with ex-Perfect Match hostess Kerrie Friend replacing Xenides for the next seven months.

Wheel ends on Seven Network

On June 18, 2006, the Seven Network finally announced that they had stopped broadcasting of the show with the last episode airing on July 28, 2006, just one week after celebrating 25 years on Australian television. The final episode was filmed on June 23, 2006 at Channel 7's Epping studios. On the final episode, the $2500 was won! One of the last contestants, Edith Bliss, former field reporter for Simon Townsend's Wonder World, won the title of Undefeated Champion of Wheel Of Fortune at the end of the 5093rd and final episode for Channel Seven. The following Monday after the final episode, M*A*S*H reruns returned to the Seven Network timeslot.

Game play

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.

Categories

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
  • ‘BLANK’
  • ‘CLUE’
  • ‘SLANG’


Starting In 1996
  • ‘WHERE ARE WE?’
  • ‘PEOPLE’


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 is NOT multiplied for the number of times that letter appears in the puzzle and the player just receives the amount spun. 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 values

When the show started in 1981, the original top values were:

  • 1981 - 1985: $240 - $460 - $1200
  • 1985 - 1990: $360 – $690 - $1800
  • 1990 - 1994: $450 – $750 - $2000 (launched since the 2000th Episode in 1990)
  • 1995 - 2000: $500 – $1000 - $2000
  • 2000 - 2006: $750 - $1500 - $2500 (although still referred to as "Dollars", by 1996, scores were only used to determine a winner, and calculate the consonants in the end game, thus they were essentially points).


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.

Special Features

In addition to the dollar values, there are other features to this game:
  • Flip-Up Puzzles - Introduced in 2004, it merely gives control to whoever solves the puzzle (no money bonus however). The Flip-Up done before the second round is a Prize Puzzle; whoever solves correctly wins a prize related to the puzzle, which are often small prizes. 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 awards a token that can be used to continue the player's turn if he solves the puzzle incorrectly, selects a letter that is not in the puzzle, or lands on Bankrupt or Lose a Turn; its use is optional. More than one can be earned by a single player, and, unlike the US version, they can be used suring the Speed-Up Round.


  • Bankrupt: The black Bankrupt space ends a player's turn and also costs the player any score accumulated during the current round. From 1996-1998, the Bankrupt wiped out a player's entire score from the start. From 1999-2006, solving a puzzle save all points earned up to that point; hitting a future Bankrupt took the score back to that prior point, much like the US version.


  • Lose a Turn: A player who lands on the Lose a Turn space loses his or her turn, but keeps their score & prizes. It remains on the wheel throughout the game. There is one Lose a Turn space from rounds 1 to 3. A second is added in round 4, making the Australian version one of the few versions to have multiple Lose a Turn spaces on one wheel.


  • Red Mystery Letter - From 1994-1996, and again from 1999-2006, if a letter revealed turns up red, it doubles the amount spun (Ex. If a person spins $110, picks a P, and one of the Ps is red, the person gets $220). Because of this rule, the letter that is painted red is always a consonant. However, there have been rare occasions where production errors have made a vowel the red letter. The red vowels have never been picked, though.


  • Surprise Wedge (Space) – From 1995-1996, and again from 1999-2006, the red-coloured wedge (or red with bold glitter writing from 1995 to the middle of 1996 when John Burgess retired) that says "SURPRISE" gives a chance for a contestant to win a major prize during the main game. The prize is usually a holiday worth between $3,000 to $6,000, but on rare occasions, it has even been a car. In order for a contestant to win the prize, they must spin up the Surprise Wedge, select a letter in the puzzle to remove it and solve the puzzle in the same round. The prize is only revealed when the contestant who won the wedge solves the puzzle, they must solve the puzzle without hitting Bankrupt to win it. The wedge appears in every round until removed by a contestant.


  • Goodie/Top Dollar - Introduced from 1994-1995, spinning this up was automatically worth the top value.


  • Bonus Wedge (Space) - works the exact same way as the "prize space" on the American version & the "SURPRISE" Wedge. The blue-coloured wedge (or gold with bold black writing from 1993 to the middle of 1996 when John Burgess retired) that says "BONUS" gives a chance for a contestant to win a prize package during the main game. This was also referred to as "Health".


  • Bonus Prize - worked the same way as a bonus wedge, except it was given to the first person to spin the top dollar value. This was short-lived, though.


  • Bonus Puzzle - If the solution of a puzzle was itself a clue to another answer, the person correctly solving the puzzle was allowed to provide an answer to that clue. If correct, an additional $200 was won.


  • Mystery Wedge (Space) – Introduced from 2004-2006, Two 500 spaces marked with a stylised question mark are placed on the wheel. If a player lands on one of these mystery wedges and guesses a letter in the puzzle, they may either take 500 as normal, or turn over the mystery wedge. On the other side of the mystery wedge contains either a Bankrupt, or a prize (usually $3,000-$18,000 vacation). If the player reveals the prize, as with any other wheel prize, they must solve the puzzle without hitting Bankrupt to win it. After one mystery wedge is revealed, that space becomes a normal cash wedge, and the other mystery wedge acts as a regular 500 space for the remainder of the round.


  • Car Wedge (Space) - February 2000-2002, If a contestant spins up this wedge, they have to guess a correct letter and solve that puzzle (and they are then halfway there). That contestant then has to do the same in one of the following rounds to win the car.


Shopping

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, contestants were given a set prize upon solving a puzzle, later a choice of 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.

The 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, 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 & 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 July 15, 1996, when Burgess was sacked for Tony Barber and the show relocated to Sydney, the Golden Wheel was replaced with a selection of five envelopes. This replacement to the Major Prize Wheel lasted for a month before the Major Prize Wheel then returned; it was then that the number of car wedges on the wheel was increased to four when it featured 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 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.

Celebrity weeks

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.

The 5,000th episode

On 21 March 2006, "Australia's favourite game" 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.

Champions

Record-breaking champions include:
  • Donovan Newton, $63,110 August 1996 (under Tony Barber's Format)
  • Dell Edwards, $68,000 July 12, 2001 (amount unknown, rounded off)
  • Moita Lindgren, $72,917 August 24 & 27, 2001 (mathematical mistake)


Presenters

Wheel of Fortune in Australia has had many hosts, hostesses and announcers through its long history. They include:

Hosts



Hostesses



Announcers



Fill-in hostesses



Changes to the show

Wheel Of Fortune's logo from 2003 to 2006.
  • 1981: First episode. Studio very similar to the American version at that time.
  • 1982: Red, yellow, and green sunbursts were installed behind the curtain, somewhat similar to the red, yellow, and blue sunbursts in the US. The puzzleboard was slightly remodified in colour.
  • 1984: John Burgess replaces Ernie Sigley as host.
  • 1989: Diamond backdrops are used for contestants.
  • 1991: Red, yellow, and green wheels are used as contestant backdrops. The border on the board is changed.
  • 1993: The set is painted golden and yellow.
  • Late June 1994: The green backdrop is replaced with the blue backdrop. An electronic category display replaces the trilon on the board.
  • Late 1994: A whole new set is created, with a bigger puzzleboard, an elevated set and a slanted wheel. New graphics are introduced and the show's logo is changed. Also, during this time, the Bonus wedge and the short-lived Goodie wedge are introduced, the wheel gameplay is changed and the theme music is changed.
  • 1995: Top values are tweaked to 500, 1,000, and $2,000 respectively. The Show celebrates 3000th Episode. Also, during this time, The Goodie wedge is removed, and the Surprise wedge is introduced.
  • July 1996: Tony Barber replaces John Burgess as host.
  • Late 1996: Rob Elliott replaces Tony Barber as host. The Major Prize Wheel returns.
  • Late 1997: A new set is created for the show, with new graphics and a whole new puzzleboard.
  • Late June 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: 4000th episode on June 13. Four car wedges introduced on the Major Prize Wheel.
  • February 2003: The set background changes to purple. The show's logo is changed and the green color is replaced with the blue color. Also, during this time, the Lose a Turn wedge becomes white instead of yellow.
  • September 1, 2003: Timeslot changes from 4:30pm to 5:00 as part of the Wheel Deal hour, with Deal Or No Deal taking the old Wheel slot. The puzzleboard is revamped, with electronic screens replacing the trilons, making the show run faster. Scoreboards are revamped with eggcrate readouts, which were previously seven-segment display. Flip Ups and Prize Puzzles are introduced, along with the Mystery Wedges. The Bonus and Car wedges is removed and the Free Spin wedge is replaced with a green Free Spin token on the wheel.
  • Summer 2004: Steve Oemcke replaces Rob Elliott as host.
  • 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 & Meilssa 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 performs 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. The major prize round area, is located next door to the Mitsubishi Colt instead of behind the Wheel.
  • 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 Oemecke, Sophie Falkiner and the old set (see the 2004 section) from 2005, before it was shelved.
  • September 4, 2006: The show begins airing on the Nine Network and Kelly Landry begins being the hostess of the show.


Wheel of Fortune in film Angel Baby

The 1995 Australian movie Angel Baby featured Jacqueline McKenzie as a schizophrenic woman who believes that her guardian angel sends her messages via Adriana Xenides. She sees the Wheel of Fortune puzzles as omens and guides by which to live her life. For example, the puzzle Great Expectations makes her believe that she is pregnant, while the phrase 'Worst Case Scenario' is a message of doom. The woman, Kate, keeps a shrine to Adriana in her home, and is distraught when Wheel of Fortune is put on hiatus and she has no way of communicating with her angel.

In 1993-1994, special Wheel of Fortune material was recorded for the movie, with John Burgess, Adriana Xenides and John Deeks playing themselves. The movie won McKenzie an Australian Film Institute award for best actress

Changes to the Opening and Closing Credits

References

External links




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