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Our category for this round is "Subjective Tropes". (ding ding DING ding)

  • Adaptation Displacement: Sort of — many people believe the show started in the early 1980s with Pat, which is only half right. This displacement is made more obvious in recent years, with the show's constant references to whichever nighttime season it's on, thus disregarding the long run that the daytime version had already built up come 1983.
  • Funny Aneurysm Moment: One episode put up a disclaimer before a TV Title puzzle saying that the episode was taped before the late-night feud with Conan and Leno. The answer? "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH CONAN O'BRIEN". No doubt many a home viewer solved that puzzle before any letters were revealed.
  • Growing the Beard: Most fans agree that the removal of the shopping rounds was a good idea. This was first tried on October 5, 1987 as the Big Month Of Cash during the nighttime version. It proved so successful that the nighttime version seamlessly moved into the "play for cash" rules set up by the Big Month Of Cash. As a result, the game became much faster, allowing for more puzzles (and consequently, bigger winnings and an increased "play along" incentive for viewers). Daytime followed on July 17, 1989.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: For the first time in over 15 years, viewers heard a different voice announcing in November 2010 because Charlie O'Donnell had fallen ill. The first episode with substitute announcer Johnny Gilbert aired on November 1, 2010, the same day that O'Donnell died (episodes are taped in advance).
  • It's Easy, So It Sucks: Some longtime fans have criticized the show for constantly adding newer, often more specific categories: the number of categories has grown from 3 on the 1973 pilot, to 6 when the show began, to 36 (not counting plural forms) today. Something that might originally have been Thing might now be called Living Thing, Food & Drink, Around the House, In the Kitchen, etc.
    • There's also some hatred for Prize Puzzles constantly being themed to beaches or travel in some way. Season 29 has finally started to remedy this.
  • Memetic Mutation: Whenever someone brings up old news on a game show forum, the standard response is something along the lines of "[Chuck] Woolery left Wheel." On occasion, the original poster has no idea what they're talking about ("Chuck Woolery on Wheel? Since when?").
  • Nightmare Fuel: The animated introduction used on the Halloween 2010 episodes. It features zombie versions of Pat and Vanna's avatars from the Wii game, filmed in scratchy black-and-white like an old horror movie. Afterward, the trademark "Wheel! Of! Fortune!" chant is distorted, so it sounds deep, low and scary.
  • Older Than They Think:
    • $2,000, the top value in daytime from 1979-89, was previously used for a head-to-head round on the hour-long episodes in 1975-76.
    • While the prize wedges are most commonly associated with the nighttime show (and daytime from 1989-91), they actually date back to the aforementioned head-to-head round.
    • Nickname was long thought to have only been used from 1988-89 until brief footage surfaced from May 31, 1979 and proved it was this Trope. (It also fits under "Longer Than They Think", as there's also a December 1994 episode with it.)
    • Many shows will tie in most or all of the puzzles to that week's theme. However, some Woolery episodes also had a common theme to all the puzzles.
  • Replacement Scrappy: Several examples.
    • Rolf Benirschke, who had no television experience whatsoever before hosting Wheel. While he showed a friendly rapport with the contestants, he was visibly uncomfortable on-camera and was prone to screw-ups. One of his most unfortunate moments as host was when a game ended in a tie, and he admitted on national television that he didn't know what to do. [1]
      • Another time, Benirschke congratulated himself for hitting $2,000 on the Final Spin, but a contestant pointed out that he was looking at the wrong arrow and had actually landed on Bankrupt.
    • After announcer Jack Clark died in July 1988, disc jockey M.G. Kelly took over the announcer's booth until original daytime announcer Charlie O'Donnell returned on February 20, 1989. Kelly was generally hated for his lack of enthusiasm.
    • Likewise with all the other guest announcers after Charlie's death; the fanbase was almost unanimously in favor of Jim Thornton, as he was the only one who showed any enthusiasm. He got the nod.
    • The Aussie version wasn't immune to this Trope either. Tony Barber, best known for his role as host of Sale of the Century, was this when he replaced John Burgess in 1996 due to the Seven Network's abrupt sacking of the latter as well as the numerous changes to the show (which will be mentioned below) that occurred around the same time.
    • Another Aussie scrappy was Steve Oemcke, who replaced Rob Elliot in 2004 after the latter was fired abruptly. This host change began Wheel's terminal decline, one that not even Larry Emdur[2] could reverse.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Alicia Witt was a contestant on a Teen Week in 1990, and played on a Celebrity Edition in 1997.
  • Scrappy Mechanic: The "Thing" category. It's such a broad, nonspecific category that the words could be anything.
    • If you get it during the Final Round, good luck.
  • Ship Tease:
    • Chuck/Susan. Although both were actively in other relationships at the time, their on-screen chemistry and a few of his weirder comments toward her both brought up this Trope.
    • Pat/Vanna. Again, they were in other relationships, but this came up far more often than it did during the Chuck/Susan heyday. Most notable are the infamous kiss on Pat's last daytime show (preceded by his "come here, baby") and his comment to Bob Goen on the first CBS show ("be good to Vanna"). This was later referenced in-show, in a bit that had Vanna outright addressing — and denying — that the two were married, while she sewed up an outfit and Pat read a newspaper.
  • Special Effects Failure: Mostly involving the puzzle board.
    • For a few episodes (on both daytime and nighttime) in 1989, some of the O's in puzzles were quite odd-looking; they were rounder and clearly didn't match the rest of the letters. These were actually zeroes.
    • From 1989-96, the nighttime version had a three-day champion rule. Early on, the contestant's cumulative total would be shown on their backdrop, which could hold five digits. One particularly lucky contestant got north of $100,000 before her third Bonus Round, so Pat taped a "1" to her backdrop.
    • Both Susan and Vanna have turned a letter too far, causing the plastic sheet with the letter in it to slide off the trilon. [3]
    • Played with on the first episode of the electronic board. Vanna uses the bonus puzzle to demonstrate how the new board works. Pat then tries in vain to light up a letter, even going so far as to hit the board. Vanna then leans in and touches the monitor, and it lights up. (The monitors have to be touched on the right-hand border to activate, although knowing Pat, he was probably touching the wrong side on purpose.)
    • Incidentally, Vanna has had a few problems with letters randomly refusing to light up on the electronic board, including an episode only three months after its introduction where she hit the monitor with her fist before it finally cooperated.
    • Until the mid-1990s, the show made frequent use of an applause machine, which led to obviously-canned "ooh"s whenever a prize was shown, "aww"s whenever someone hit Bankrupt or Lose A Turn, or exaggerated gasps if someone came close to the top dollar value. In some rounds, it was painfully obvious that the same tracks were being recycled (such as the "aww" track on the clip at That One Level below). And on at least one occasion, they used the "children's" track on the applause machine by mistake. A different applause machine (the same one used during the last few years of Hollywood Squares) is used today, albeit in a less-frequent and less-obvious manner.
  • Tear Jerker: The tributes to Jack Clark on September 6, 1988 and Charlie O'Donnell on November 5, 2010. Pat's visibly on the brink of crying.
  • That One Level:
    • Megaword, which didn't even last a full season (1994-95), and for good reason. In one particularly excruciating example (March 15, 1995), it took ten spins just to get a letter on the board, the Wheel changed hands more than twenty times (including three Bankrupts) and every consonant except J was called before the puzzle OXIDIZED was finally solved.
    • In a slightly lesser example, the March 1987 daytime puzzle HO CHI MINH took a very long time to solve as well. This time, it took "only" six spins before someone got a letter on the board, but there was an awful lot of spinning to fill in the only other consonants in the puzzle. To make matters worse, when it was down to just the O missing, the contestant mispronounced the name as "ho chai mine".
    • Sometimes the bonus round can be this, especially when they use an Unexpectedly Obscure Answer that would be nearly impossible to figure out unless you're crazy enough to try calling something like Z. (Not that someone doesn't occasionally thwart it by, say, picking Z-J-W-I and solving JIGSAW PUZZLE.)
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks: Many longtime fans dislike the increased amount of product placement, the loads of new gimmicks and wedges, etc.
    • When the show moved to CBS in July 1989, adopting the "play for cash" format the nighttime show had used since late 1987, the budget was slashed significantly — $50 and $75 spaces littered the Round 1 wheel (sporting diamonds), the highest amount was $1,250, and the bonus round featured such prizes as subcompact cars and $5,000 cash. To compensate, the show lowered the cost of a vowel to $200 when the run began, and in Spring 1990 lowered it further to a paltry $100. To the show's credit, $50 and $75 were gone within the first two months, and bigger prizes became available as the Goen era progressed.
    • Aussie Wheel on July 15, 1996. Not only did Tony Barber replace John Burgess, AND the show moved from Adelaide, South Australia (which had been the show's home since its debut in 1981) to Sydney, New South Wales, but there were several changes to the show as well, including...
      • A new theme song (which was thankfully scrapped after only five weeks).
      • A toss-up question (not a toss-up puzzle) determined control of the Wheel at the start of the game.
      • Landing on BANKRUPT completely set your score back to zero...even if you solved a puzzle in a prior round.
      • The "Golden Wheel" was replaced with the five envelopes format from the American version (this, also, lasted only five weeks).
  • This Is Your Premise on Drugs / X Meets Y: Hangman meets roulette, on steroids. Maybe a touch of LSD, as colorful as the set has gotten lately.
  • What an Idiot!: Any contestant who still can't solve the puzzle with only one or two letters missing, or fails to capitalize on an obvious strategy. This happens frequently enough for it to have its own page.
  • WTH? Casting Agency: Most egregiously Rolf, as mentioned above. Chuck Woolery was also a debatable example at the time, as he was a struggling Country Music singer with minimal TV experience. However, he proved to be a great host right out of the gate, and is now a genre veteran with several well-known shows to his credit such as Scrabble, Love Connection, Greed, and Lingo.


  1. (No bonus round was played, and all three players returned on the next show to finish the game.)
  2. (who replaced Oemcke in early 2006)
  3. (Every piece of the 1974-97 board was a "trilon", or a three-sided panel. One side was green, one blank, and one an insert where plastic sheets with letters on them could be slid in. When Susan/Vanna revealed a letter, the trilon was turned from the "blank" side to the "letter" side.)
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