Wheel of Fortune (2)
Nicky Campbell (1988-96)
Bradley Walsh (1997)
John Leslie (1998-2001)
Paul Hendy (2001)
Angela Ekaette (1988)
Carol Smillie (1989-1994)
Jenny Powell (1995-2001)
Tracy Shaw (2000, stand-in)
Terri Seymour (2001)
Announcer: Steve Hamilton
Scottish in association with Action Time for ITV, 19 July 1988 to 31 December 1989 (26 episodes in 2 series + 5 specials)
Scottish for ITV, 4 June 1991 to 21 December 2001 (12 series)
Everyone likes Hangman, right? Everyone likes spinning carnival wheels also, right? Some idiot genius came up with the idea of combining the two for this worryingly seminal word game.
A wall of lit boxes indicated the lengths of the words in the phrase that must be guessed, and a clue was given to what sort of phrase was to be guessed. Players took turns consisting of spinning the wheel to generate a random number of points, guessing a consonant that may have appeared in the puzzle and earning the spun sum of points for each appearance their chosen consonant made, until they spun "Lose A Turn", "Bankrupt" (which also lost them all their points for that round) or pick a letter which didn't appear, all turn-ending crimes. Vowels in the puzzle could also be revealed, but this cost the players points instead of generating them.
On their turn, players had the choice to also attempt to divine the nature of the phrase, a correct guess ending the round and winning a prize, chosen from three alternatives. Repeat four times (double points in the later two rounds, the last round eliminating all that tiring spinning to save time) and the top scorer got the chance to solve a puzzle with just the appearances of six chosen letters. As with most international versions of Wheel (and the American version until 1988), rather than being given "R, S, T, L, N, and E," the contestant picked five consonants and a vowel. On solving the end puzzle, the contestant won £2,000. Previously when the show was transmitted in peaktime (moving to daytime in 1999) the option was £20,000 or a car (decided by the choice of a sealed envelope picked by the contestant).
The brilliant piece of cunning behind this game is that it was in players' interests to keep spinning and accumulating points for as long as possible before guessing what the phrase was to win the round. In this way it looked like the players didn't know what the phrase actually was; viewers at home almost certainly would have got the answer before the contestants on-screen and could enjoy happy minutes and seconds shouting out at it.
Most people will associate the game most firmly with fellow Scot Nicky Campbell, whose easy-going gentle nature brought the show high ratings. The role of the letter-turner (which, incidentally, went to semi-automatic on the US show in 1997) has also earned some degree of celebrity (or should that be notoriety?) from their roles - in particular, former model Carol Smillie is now a mega-celeb thanks to the Wheel and the recently British appetite for DIY makeover shows.
When Campbell left to pursue other interests, mainly going back to his DJ roots, seaside-comedian-type Bradley Walsh was introduced to the show in 1997. A few innovations were added to the format, such as Brad's Box - a special on-the-spot prize (for landing on a certain square) which was in... er... a box.
The Leslie generation
The programme's final host was Paul Hendy.
One out-take concerned John Leslie forgetting a contestant's name:
A female contestant in the Walsh era getting a puzzle right after just one letter had been revealed.
One man managed to spin the wheel the wrong way. It ruined the mechanism and the studio technicians spent hours trying to get it to work again.
Sign off towards the break - "We'll see you in the spin of a wheel" followed by that hand movement.
At the end of the show: "We'll see you next time around!"
"One spin of this wheel could mean a possible fortune!"
"Let's call up the bank..."
"It's time to leave this wheel behind and go for a possible fortune!" This was later shortened to: "Let's go for that fortune!"
At the beginning of the show, originally: "Wheeeeel o-o-of Fortune!" followed by: "Your host - Nicky Campbell!" or, in later series: "With Nicky Campbell and Carol Smillie!"
From the original US game Wheel of Fortune, devised by Merv Griffin.
The theme is called Spin to Win by David Pringle and Bobbie Heatlie.
The opening titles from 1988 B.C. (Before Carol)
Possibly the first ever show to use male models ("Prize Guys") to display the prizes.
Unlike the original American version, instead of cash prizes, successful spinners from each round were rewarded with a choice from three prizes which might include household appliances, a holiday, etc. In 1988 the prizes for the final were a trip, a new car, or a cash jackpot at £2,000. In 1989, the cash value increased to £4,000. The cash prize was, for a while, the highest jackpot on British television, the previous highest amount having probably been (albeit briefly) the £3,200 offered on Lingo, but the £5,000 record was beaten in 1990 by The $64,000 Question's £6,400. When the IBA's restriction on gameshow winnings was dropped in 1993, the prize fund went up to £5,000, then in 1994 the prizes were changed to be a car or £10,000, which was increased to £20,000 from 1995-1998, with the winning contestant randomly selecting his/her prize by choosing one of two sealed envelopes.
During the daytime series, winners of each round were able to chosen from an array of prizes laid out in the studio, such as a CD player, dishwasher etc. The cash prize for the final was dropped to £2000.
Tracy Shaw did a one week stint as co-host to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Coronation Street.
Surprisingly, the final series with Paul Hendy was repeated on ITV1 during the 2004 christmas period.
Regional transmission details
- 1988–98: For the first ten series, the show was broadcast once a week in a primetime slot.
- 1999: During the eleventh series, the programme was moved to a five-shows-a-week daytime slot and it aired at 2.40 each afternoon from 2 March, after the sixth series of Dale's Supermarket Sweep concluded its run. It took a break from 28 May to 10 September 1999.
- 2000: The twelfth series began at the start of the year, and lasted until the start of December. During this series, the show's slot varied in different ITV regions. Carlton (London and Westcountry), Grampian and Scottish broadcast it at 5.30. Anglia, Border, Granada, Meridian, Yorkshire, Tyne Tees and Ulster aired it at 1.30 until 31 March 2000, then Friday afternoons only from 18 May to 9 June. Then from 12 June it was moved back to five-times-a-week; from 17 July, it was moved to 2.40, so not all the episodes aired. HTV followed Anglia's pattern until 8 May before switching to the 5.30 slot. Carlton (Central) also followed Anglia's pattern until 12 June before moving the show to 5.30. Additional episodes were broadcast by all ITV regions on Sundays during May.
- 2001: During the thirteenth series, all ITV regions broadcast episodes at 5.30 from 2 January to 22 June 2001, before being switched to a Saturday afternoon slot until 4 August 2001. The final thirty episodes (series fourteen) were also networked at 2.40, from 12 November to 21 December.
Waddingtons produced a tie-in board game, which rather bizarrely didn't actually mention that it was based on the TV show.
An LCD handheld game was also available.
An episode from 1989