On This Day: ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Premiered in 1975

by Keeli Parkey

Merv Griffin solved the puzzle of television success decades ago with the creation of “Wheel of Fortune.” The first episode of the popular game show aired on Jan. 6, 1975.

Many of us are familiar with the show thanks to time spent with our grandparents or parents. It’s not an uncommon American experience to have memories of sitting on the couch with one’s family to watch game shows together.

Griffin had already created “Jeopardy” when he conceived the idea for “Wheel of Fortune.”

He saw this new game show as a cross between Hangman and Roulette, according to History.com. In the show, “contestants guess letters as they attempt to solve a Hangman-like puzzle, spinning the wheel to determine how much money they will earn for a correct guess, with the ultimate goal being to solve the puzzle and accumulate as much money as possible.”

Interestingly, the price for a contestant to buy a vowel on the show has remained at $250 since it premiered in 1975.

Also, phrases frequently used on the show have become part of American cultural life. “I’d like to solve the puzzle” and “I’d like to buy a vowel” are phrases we’ve all heard even if we haven’t watched the game show.

Television personality Chuck Woolery was the first host of “Wheel of Fortune.” He reportedly left the show over a salary dispute. According to History.com, Pat Sajak, the show’s current host took the reins in 1981. Vanna White joined the show in 1982. Sajak takes the lead each episode, talking to contestants, and steering the game show to its finale. White works the board as contestants guess letters to the words.

Vanna White Says She Never Wears the Same Dress Twice on ‘Wheel of Fortune’

White has reportedly never worn the same dress twice on the game show. She has appeared in thousands of episodes, which makes her dedication to fashion even more impressive and admirable. Her outfits number more than 7,000. She has said that she doesn’t keep them.

“Well the way that happens is the designers send the clothes to the studio, I wear them. And they go back,” she has said. “They don’t go to my closet. They go back to the designer.”

On one occasion, the television personality did mistakenly wear a dress twice. This, she said, was a mistake.

“I don’t know how it got lost in the shuffle. Because we take a picture of every dress, and we have a list of everything…I don’t know if the description was different than the other description. But it was the exact same dress,” she said.

One super fan of the show noticed the mistake and pointed it out. “Somebody who was watching very closely picked it up,” White said.

White took over as host of the show during 2019 when Sajak couldn’t work due to a medical issue. Taking White’s place at the board during that time was Sajak’s daughter, Maggie.

“P-A-N-I-C. Panic is the word that comes to mind!” White said of having to host. “Our executive producer came up to me and said, ‘Hey, Pat has to go into emergency surgery right now. How would you feel about hosting the show?’ Panic set in at that moment, but I made a quick decision and realized the show must go on.”