When you think of game shows and shopping, you don’t think of Wheel of Fortune. The ever-popular The Price is Right has that niche cornered.
But the idea of shopping was a much more common theme or segment when game show’s were at their peak popularity. And, as true diehard fans know, Wheel of Fortune was in on it during its early days.
The predecessor or origin of the show was called Shopper’s Bazaar. Like the modern show, contestants solved puzzles. Unlike the modern show, contestants would immediately cash their winnings on items.
So when Wheel of Fortune first came about in 1975, it followed a similar path, per MeTV. Rather than the promise of big dollar amounts, fans were shown prizes to open the program. After competing, the person with the most amount of money won got to shop.
An August 1980 episode of the program shows how it worked. Whether it’s a blast from the past or a look at a Wheel of Fortune you’ve never seen, it’s fascinating to see the show in its early days.
Shopping on the show continued all the way until 1989, when it was eventually nixed. Interestingly enough, show host Pat Sajak spoke out on why that was the right move.
Wheel of Fortune Star Pat Sajak Was Glad to See Shopping Go
Back in December, Sajak unloaded on the segment during an episode of the show. After first calling it, “the most boring three minutes in television,” he added more context to his dislike for the segment.
“You know one of our players, Chris, said something that a lot of people say to me, they say, ‘Oh, I really miss the shopping days on the show,” Sajak told his co-host, White. “You think, in retrospect, ‘Oh, that was kind of fun,’ but, really, it was this thing going around with the [contestant’s] head in a circle, and she’d be going, ‘I’ll have the table.’ It was really not exciting television. We like it just the way it is.”
Sajak has a point in that seeing someone decide between choices isn’t exactly thrilling. But it’s also worth mentioning that he comes from the interesting perspective of never being the one picking the gift.
Fans likely identify with the conundrum of what they would do on a shopping spree. It’s a two-way street, but it’s not like Sajak is wrong in his assessment. Wheel of Fortune is still steadily going on 30+ years after the change.