‘Wheel of Fortune’: How Did Merv Griffin Create Concept for the Game Show?

by John Jamison
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Merv Griffin loved games. He loved them so much that his memories of playing them as a child turned into “Wheel of Fortune,” one of the biggest game shows of all time. But where exactly did the idea come from? To figure it out we have to go all the way back to the car rides of Merv Griffin’s childhood.

A long road trip these days is easy. We have smartphones that can keep us entertained with the touch of a finger. But there was no such luxury in Merv Griffin’s day. And thankfully so, because “Wheel of Fortune” probably doesn’t exist without his boredom.

In an interview on “The Early Show” in 2007, Merv’s only son Tony talked about how the idea for “Wheel of Fortune” came from the hours his father spent playing hangman with his sister in the car.

Apparently, Merv talked about how much he loved roulette wheels when he would see them in casinos as a child. So his staff put the two ideas together and a game show was born.

Pretty crazy to think of the impact a show like “Wheel of Fortune” has had on television when you consider all of Merv Griffin’s achievements. It’s crazier still to think that the whole thing stemmed from a memory he shared with his sister during a car ride.

“Wheel of Fortune” Creator Merv Griffin Invents “Jeopardy!”

It’s hard to believe, but before “Wheel of Fortune” came along, the media icon came up with the idea for the long-running trivia game show “Jeopardy!” as well. Or did he? Interestingly enough, Celebritynetworth.com reports that it was actually his wife Julann who came up with the concept for “Jeopardy!” during a flight to New York.

The show as we know it today didn’t come about until 1984 with the legendary Alex Trebek at the helm. But Merv Griffin pioneered the concept and the original show debuted in 1964, running until 1975.

Far from a one-trick pony, Merv Griffin supposedly wrote the music for “Final Jeopardy” in 30 seconds. It’s the same tune that persists to this day. Merv Griffin told The New York Times in 2005 that he had claimed $70-$80 million in royalty profits from the theme music alone.

Outsider.com