‘Wheel of Fortune’: There is Only 1 Wheel, and It’s Very, Very Heavy

One of the most beloved game shows of all time is the word puzzle based program Wheel of Fortune

A major part of the show’s popularity comes from the show’s long-time and beloved co-hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White. The two have been a part of Wheel of Fortune for many years, and are signed to continue on the show until at least 2022.

Another part of the game show’s popularity is the titular wheel of the show. The one of a kind wheel is known bright colors and distinctive clicking noise, each of which have been a constant in the show’s 45-year run. 

What is ‘Wheel of Fortune?’ 

PAT SAJAK, KATHLEEN COYNE, MAXINE WELDON, CHELSEA CRISP, CONSTANCE WU
PAT SAJAK, KATHLEEN COYNE, MAXINE WELDON, CHELSEA CRISP, CONSTANCE WU | Eric McCandless/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Wheel of Fortune was created by game show icon Merv Griffin, who also created Jeopardy!.

The first episode of Wheel of Fortune premiered on January 6, 1975, and has new episodes have been produced ever since. The first pair of hosts was Chuck Woolery and Susan Stafford, who Sajak and White eventually replaced. White and Sajak have become synonymous with the beloved show which is as popular now as ever. The two legendary hosts have even been given Guinness Book of World Record Awards for their accomplishments on the show.

The game show is loosely based on other popular games, Shoppers Bazaar and hangman. The goal of the game is to solve word puzzles by guessing consonants and buying vowels. If the consonant guessed is a part of the puzzle, the player that guesses the letter receives the amount of money that is on the space of the wheel they landed on. New episodes of the games show are still being made today, and episodes can be seen daily due to the show’s massively popular and lucrative syndication run.  

What is the wheel in ‘Wheel of Fortune?’ 

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The first iteration of the famous wheel was created by set designer Ed Flesh, who was also responsible for the sets of game shows Jeopardy and The $25,000 Pyramid.

The original form of the wheel was much different from the current spinning mechanism. The first wheel was made of mostly cardboard and wood with the number values painted on it. Then beginning in 2003, a newly designed and technologically advanced form of the wheel was introduced.

The new wheel included over 200 lights, surrounded by plexiglass. There is only one wheel, and has been used in each episode of the show since 2003.

The current version of the wheel has 24 wedges, with money values slots ranging from $500-$900, two special value slots worth $2,500 in round one, $3,500 in rounds two and three, and $5,000 for round four. The wheel also includes the two dreaded bankrupt slots, which wipes away the contestant’s money value and one loses a turn wedge, which skips the spinners turn. 

How large is the wheel? 

The current version of the wheel measures at a diameter of 16.5 feet including the light fixtures. This massive length forces the production crew to shoot the wheel from above with an overhead camera, which is focused on the podium of the spinning contestant.

Not only is the wheel very large, but it is also extremely heavy. Weighing over a ton at a total of 2,400 pounds, according to Screen Rant, the wheel is heavier than most fans might expect.

This weight means that the wheel is difficult to transport, which is why a majority of the episodes are shot at the same location. When the show does shoot at other locations, a special crew is called in to help move the iconic wheel.

The current home of the wheel is at Stage 11 at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California, where new episodes are now filmed.