One of the most successful game shows in history, Wheel of Fortune actually is a version of the children's game Hangman (with a large carnival wheel and prizes added). The game show, which did modestly well in the 1970s, became a worldwide phenomenon in the 1980s through syndication and made household names out of its hosts, Pat Sajak and Vanna White. Simply put, the Wheel has never stopped spinning since its premiere as an NBC daytime show that winter day in January 1975. (Ironically, the series replaced Jeopardy!, which later in 1984 when it returned, became its current companion in syndication.) The rules of the game
Three contestants -- at various times during the run, including a returning champion -- compete. The host announces a category to a mystery puzzle (person, place, thing, phrase, quotation, event, landmark, occupation, etc.). The puzzle was originally contained on a three-tier, 36-space board (in 1981, changed to a four-tier, 52-space board; and in 1997, an all-e
Mysteriously, Pat left on a Monday and was replaced the next day by the world-renowned Rolf Benirschke...well, world renowned if you were a San Diego Chargers fan. Merv Griffin discovered the former place-kicker in 1988 and decided he'd be the perfect fit for daytime Wheel. The problem: Rolf had zero previous TV experience. His first episode was a bizarre outing, with Vanna walking out during the show opening to introduce Rolf to the world. At both the beginning and end of the show, Rolf observed several times that "this is a lot different than football." Vanna practically had to carry the entire final segment of Rolf's first show.