Why Was ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Originally Called ‘Shoppers Bazaar?’

Wheel of Fortune has been on the air since January 6, 1975, and Pat Sajak and Vanna White have come to define the hit game show. Yet, before Pat Sajak joined in 1982 — leaving his life as a weatherman behind — the show was quite different. Wheel of Fortune was originally hosted by Chuck Woolery, and the show’s premise was not exactly what it is today, lending way to a much different title. 

Wheel of Fortune
Wheel of Fortune | Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Chuck Woolery hosted the show from 1975 until 1981 (aside from one week in 1980 when Alex Trebek hosted in his place). Woolery has been attached to several other game shows in his time, as he previously worked on Love Connection, Lingo, The Dating Game, Scrabble, The Big Spin, and more. 

Let’s just say, once you host a game show, you never go back! When Chuck Woolery joined, the now-Hangman-esque show was a bit different, as the pilot didn’t match the show we have come to know and love. So, why was Wheel of Fortune once called Shoppers Bazaar? Let’s dive into a little history.

‘Shoppers Bazaar’ to ‘Wheel of Fortune’

While Wheel of Fortune always had a hangman-esque, crossword puzzle-based premise, the way the money worked was not always the same. Put bluntly: players didn’t win cash in the first iteration of the show. As opposed to spinning and landing on cash prizes, players won fake money to put toward prizes that were available on the set.

And, Sajak once explained, as ABC News notes, that the show boasted quite the carnival theme, which definitely created a more light-hearted and boisterous vibe, compared to the more modern and modest feel that the show carries today (aside from a few corny jokes coming from Sajak). 

The ‘Shoppers Bazaar’ pilot was much different from ‘Wheel of Fortune’

If you get a chance to pull up any clips from the pilot, the set looks a little bit like a living room with the contestants sitting on chairs in front of a coffee table. The host, Chuck Woolery, stands behind a podium beside the guest contestants and leads the way. 

The original wheel also looked a bit more like something you’d see in a casino. However, technology was not where it is today. And, as for Vanna White, she was nowhere to be found. Vanna White joined once the show became Wheel of Fortune, sometime after the pilot episode (which ran under the Shoppers Bazaar title). 

In the end, changing the show to Wheel of Fortune instead of Shoppers Bazaar — and offering real money as opposed to “fake money” only usable on set items — was probably the right move. Most people would rather get to choose what they do with their money, and the show now has a more professional and competitive feel to it; whereas, the earlier episodes do carry a bit of a casual air.