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Wheelbackdrops

1975-1981 - The set was different during the early years of Wheel of Fortune compared to the sets used for the later versions, including the syndicated version. The set was an updated version of the one used for the 1974 pilot. The changes that were made to the set were that the contestant areas were color-coded. Red was the left-most contestant (next to the host), yellow was the center, and blue was the right-most contestant. Contestant scores were in eggcrate display. The puzzle board consisted of 3 rows of 13 manually operated trilons. One notable feature of the set was the "On Account" boards on the backdrop. Contestants had the option of putting the remaining money, if they had too little to buy prizes, on account for later rounds or gift certificates. If a player hit Bankrupt, the money from the "on account" board would be wiped away. This gameplay element was eventually retired. The displays on the backdrop were also used for a contestant's grand total if he/she was champion.

1981-1989 - In December of 1981, during Chuck Woolery's final week as host before Pat Sajak took over the following week, the set was changed. The puzzle board now featured 48 trilons in four rows (11, 13, 13 and 11 trilons); there were also four corner trilons, which if counted, brought the total number to 52. This board was surrounded by a double-arched border of lights which flashed at the beginning and end of the round. The Wheel's base was changed to a more golden look, with four layers: the top with small bulbs; the layer below it with flashing lights seen in overhead Wheel shots; the third with larger bulbs that flashed six at a time when the spinning Wheel was seen from the base's perspective (three at a time for the other layers); and the bottom with sword blade-like spikes and bulbs similar to the third layer. The first three layers' lights continued to flash counterclockwise, while the bottom layer's lights continued to flash clockwise. These would be swapped by the mid-80's. The contestant backdrop now consisted of colored "sunflowers" matching the colors of the contestant areas. Starting in 1987 in Season 5 and lasting through 1994 in Season 11, the studio was decorated with Wheel rugs and turntables to display Bonus Round prizes like cars and boats; including a smaller center rug which Pat, Vanna, and the day's winner stand on during the closing.

This set was the one used for when the show first aired in syndication on September 19, 1983.

1989-1991 - When the daytime version moved to CBS in mid-July 1989, the set underwent a total makeover. The sunflower backdrops were replaced by colored chevron-shaped backdrops, and there were thinner chevron-shaped backdrops in the Bonus Round area. The contestant name tags were this time in parallelogram shapes. Also, the current sound effects were introduced at that time (the bonus round sound effects were updated twice, however). For the bonus round, the contestants picked out an envelope from one of the letters in "W H E E L" on the nighttime show, while Bob Goen's daytime show continued to use the prize selection method previously used on the nighttime version.

Starting in 1990 and continuing to today, a shiny black floor was added; though the white floor continued to be used on the daytime show.

1990-1992- At the start of Season 8, the set was changed again. The backdrops became diamond shaped. This was first used in November 1988 when Wheel of Fortune aired episodes at Radio City Music Hall, and was then put permanently into use midway into the 1990-1991 season. Also, when the diamond-shaped backdrops were put permanently into use, there was a new wheel in which the bottom layer of lights flashed clockwise instead of counterclockwise (just like the other layers), and the contestant score displays were enlarged to 6 digits and connected to each other. The chevron backdrops, however, were still used on the daytime version until 1991, and the Bonus Round area chevron backdrops now had lights that flashed at the open and close of the show, as well as during the Bonus Round prize descriptions. The Puzzle Board was the standard one.

1992-1997- At the start of the 10th season in 1992, the set was overhauled into the form it would maintain until 1997. The backdrops were changed again, this time resembling pinwheels. The green circle in the center of the wheel changed to turquoise. The "WHEEL" Envelope prop added a ring; changed shortly after to a more lighted display. In 1994, the bordering around the puzzle board was changed to a new "spiky" board, then changed again 1995 after using the road show board for a few weeks into the 13th season. Starting in 1996, a brand new giant monitor at center stage was presented; it started with 36 separate screens but later reduced to 16. Early in 1997, the colored backdrops were retired, and the set background changed weekly with a particular themed week.

1997-2003 - On the February 24, 1997 episode, the new electronic puzzle board debuted, replacing the original puzzle board.

The set saw other modifications:

  • A few weeks after the new board debuted, the wheel stopped spinning by itself at the open and close of each program.
  • At the start of Season 15, the wheel was bordered by a light extension similar to the ones on the electronic board.
  • A giant monitor was now placed behind the contestants starting in the third week of season 15.
  • Starting with Season 18, the Wheel's lights flashed when Pat and Vanna were introduced.
  • The bonus wheel replaced the five envelopes in November 2001
  • In the fall of 2002, the contestant scores were changed from eggcrate displays to LCD TV monitor displays.
  • On the episode aired April 28, 2003, the gold frames were removed from the top and sides of the puzzle board, leaving just the bottom frames intact. This change is likely part of the addition of the LED frame for the following season.

2003-present - The set was remodeled again when Wheel of Fortune premiered its 21st Season on September 8, 2003. The gold borderings around the wheel and puzzle board were replaced by the current blue and purple LED borders with the borderings made of Plexiglas.

The set underwent these other changes:

  • On the March 15, 2004 episode, a new backdrop debuted, consisting of several LED-illuminated arches.
  • At the beginning of Season 22, the bonus wheel was redone in LED colors to match the rest of the set.
  • Instead of the cardboard Wheel from the show's previous seasons, the Wheel is now much heavier, with ball bearings and electronics.
  • In the fall of 2006, Wheel of Fortune and its sister show Jeopardy! became the first game shows to air in high definition. For the most part, the set essentially remained the same, but the staging area was extended to accommodate the 16x9 aspect ratio, creating a wider view of the set. Also, the wedges on the wheel were redesigned with more vibrant colors and glittery borders around the dollar values.
  • At the start of Season 25, the puzzle board was revamped with flat-screen monitors. Additionally, the contestant scores were larger, now plasma displays. During the first week, they displayed the contestants' names at the top with their current score at the bottom; the names would flash if a contestant's turn was ongoing or if a contestant rang in during a tossup round. But from the second week onward, the contestant score displays showed only the current scores and flashing triangles at the bottom corners. During the 25th Season the score displays showed the 25th Anniversary logo when not in use. But during Seasons 26, 27, and 28, the score displays showed "Wheel" on red, "Of" on yellow", and "Fortune" on blue, when not in use. However, starting in Season 29, the scoreboards show each week's theme when not in use.
  • During Season 26, the Bonus Wheel was altered to say S-P-I-N-&-W-I-N-★★★-A-M-E-R-I-C-A-'-S-★-G-A-M-E-★★, with a different font.
  • At the start of Season 27, the contestant railing received the LED borders and Plexiglas, and some of the illuminating arches on the "generic" set were also redesigned.
  • Midway into Season 28, the backdrop for the "generic" set was updated.
  • During Season 30, the scoreboards were widened, touching one another for the first time since Season 24, and a plasma monitor was added to where Pat stands and displays the "Wheel of Fortune" logo. Now two white bars on each side of the monitors flash to indicate a contestant's ongoing turn or if a contestant rang in on a tossup puzzle. Also, the LED colors on the bonus wheel were slightly modified, and the base now contained neon lights which flashed as the wheel spun.
  • At the start of Season 31, the bonus wheel was redone in darker shades of blue and purple, and the lettering was colored in yellow.

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