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Author Topic: How to keep Wheel fresh? From Buzzerblog; by Benjamin Williams, pacdude, and me.  (Read 21191 times)

Prizes

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I'd like to first off thank Cory for interviewing me about this article, and listing me as a contributor to this article, likely in large part due to my page; Buy a Vowel Boards, this is much appreciated.

The story itself can be found at:  http://www.buzzerblog.com/2014/10/29/what-does-wheel-of-fortune-need-to-stay-fresh/

To the point, while Wheel may be going strong, Jeopardy! has brand recognition of many aspects, like Alex, his mustache, the Clue Crew, double digit game appearances, and Feud has its ongoing brand of humor, and large marketability to the masses, like YouTube. But Wheel seemingly lacks such a signature element, which the Big Honkin' Wheel really does not provide. Notably, most of these aspects come from something other than core gameplay.

What do you think the show needs to actually distinguish itself as its own show again? Ratings might not be that much lower, and it doesn't mean much, if anything, but I believe it merits discussion, and I'm seemingly not alone on this matter. Do you agree with us in the article in freshener ideas? Disagree? Additional ideas? I figure the board here to know some ideas quite well, since some here at least have some experience in various mediums and past experience with different shows, be they contestants, or people working for the shows themselves.
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BrandonFG

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I admit I haven't watched in quite some time, mainly because it just seems like background noise. I can't pinpoint it, but everything just seems stale and on cruise control.

Watch an episode from the 80s or 90s, and with the exception of the shopping or fewer gimmicks, it's a fun show to watch, even though it's more or less the same show. In the case of a mid-90s episode, the gimmicks are mainly in the types of puzzles, other than that, it's spin and call a letter for whatever dollar amount. I don't want a loud show where everyone cheers over every. Single. Thing. But a little more excitement wouldn't hurt.

The modest reactions work on Jeopardy!, not as much here. When a contestant won a car or 25K back in the 80s/90s, they were truly ecstatic...nowadays, you can't tell a 30K win from a million dollar one because it's undersold all the way down to Jim's announcement. To me, that's just bland television, esp. when you see teams lose it on Feud or Name Game for $20,000. All the prize puzzle or wheel additions in the world won't change the levels if contestants still act like they've only won $100 in the local raffle.
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TLEberle

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There are some things I agree with Cory about (and I'm not quite sure what the point of his Battle Puzzle would be), but my word, some of the commenters are right off their nut. We're not watching for the money, we're watching because it's an easy game to follow; it is comfort food.

To Brandon's point: the show seems stale because it's been on the air forty-plus years. You really can't combat that. Even with the million dollars on offer, we don't really see anything new or unpredictable outside the early solves. Harry makes changes every year, but it's kinda like adding a new coat of paint to the outside of the house but not checking the inside to see if there's mold anywhere, or getting your car washed instead of having a brake job done. They're not going to win back viewers by ditching the Final Spin and moving toss-up puzzles to the end of the show to where the leader has to solve one, second place two and third place three and whoever can count down to zero gets to stop by Bonusland.

There's a daytime episode from 1983 (search "wheel of fortune daytime" and it'll be the second result on YT.) It had excitement, fun, decent money and a decent ending. In the late 80s and early 90s they had big cash on offer as well as glamorous bonus prizes in front of scenic bits that came from the art department. Now there's cars in front of a static backdrop as well as B-roll of Pat-or-Vanna at the relevant location.
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cmjb13

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Wheel has been stale because Sajak has, IMO, been phoning it in for the past 20 years.
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Dan88

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The biggest problem for me is the puzzles, whether they're Phrases few people actually say or lines lifted verbatim from vacation brochures or even stereotype-based stuff (Girlfriend Getaways was particularly bad with that last one).

Harry makes changes every year, but it's kinda like adding a new coat of paint to the outside of the house but not checking the inside to see if there's mold anywhere, or getting your car washed instead of having a brake job done.
This, pretty much. And even the changes made every year tend to be bungled somehow -- last year's was adding Express (good idea) but putting it in the same round as the Prize Puzzle, meaning an Express solve immediately gets overshadowed by the trip plug. This year's was upgrading the Wheel (good idea) but limiting it to $500-$900 while keeping vowels at $250.

In all honesty, though, the major problems with the show are Harry's own doing -- the puzzles are all approved by him (source: 2013 interview with Jason Block), the trips and cars being the only prizes offered is because they're his personal preference (source: Reddit AMA with Adam Nedeff), and Wheel so closely resembles a primetime network game show of the past decade (including the dark atmosphere and inability to keep million-dollar wins hush-hush) that I'm starting to wonder if it's intentional.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2014, 11:30:57 PM by Dan88 »
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BrandonFG

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That's one of my other issues, the puzzles are just goofy and wordy. I get that the goal is to give away money, but "EATING A DELICIOUS CHEESEBURGER" still sounds dumb. I've said before that Vanna's first puzzle, "GENERAL HOSPITAL", would now be "EMMY-AWARD WINNING SOAP GENERAL HOSPITAL". It's just extra, and you could prolly sneak in another puzzle if you kept the puzzles short and simple. Then again, I wouldn't mind the standard three or four puzzles you saw in the 80s, then maybe one fewer Toss Up.

Don't even get me started on the theme weeks..."Pet Lovers"? Snooze. I think my issue there is the emphasis is put too much on the silly themes and not on the game. TPiR does a bunch of theme episodes, but in the end, it's still contestants who just happen to be teachers or newlyweds playing Plinko or One Away.
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Dan88

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I've said before that Vanna's first puzzle, "GENERAL HOSPITAL", would now be "EMMY-AWARD WINNING SOAP GENERAL HOSPITAL". It's just extra, and you could prolly sneak in another puzzle if you kept the puzzles short and simple.
Same goes with Proper Name, although I think it's been that way since the early 1990s: TOM CRUISE is now ACADEMY AWARD-WINNING ACTOR TOM CRUISE, or (and this actually happened) what would have been THE CAST OF GLEE is done as THE TALENTED CAST MEMBERS OF GLEE.

The Prize Puzzle, though...yeah, that's particularly bad in the "fluffed" department.

Then again, I wouldn't mind the standard three or four puzzles you saw in the 80s, then maybe one less Toss Up.
I say get rid of the $1,000 Toss-Up -- it's near-completely irrelevant to the rest of the game, and if nobody solves the $2,000 one the player in the red position starts Round 1 even if s/he didn't get the first Toss-Up.
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brianhenke

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I've said before that Vanna's first puzzle, "GENERAL HOSPITAL", would now be "EMMY-AWARD WINNING SOAP GENERAL HOSPITAL". It's just extra, and you could prolly sneak in another puzzle if you kept the puzzles short and simple.
Same goes with Proper Name, although I think it's been that way since the early 1990s: TOM CRUISE is now ACADEMY AWARD-WINNING ACTOR TOM CRUISE, or (and this actually happened) what would have been THE CAST OF GLEE is done as THE TALENTED CAST MEMBERS OF GLEE.

The Prize Puzzle, though...yeah, that's particularly bad in the "fluffed" department.

Then again, I wouldn't mind the standard three or four puzzles you saw in the 80s, then maybe one less Toss Up.
I say get rid of the $1,000 Toss-Up -- it's near-completely irrelevant to the rest of the game, and if nobody solves the $2,000 one the player in the red position starts Round 1 even if s/he didn't get the first Toss-Up.

 (Tom Cruise hasn't won an Academy Award, BTW.) I remember a puzzle from a decade ago which was the worst puzzle I ever saw. It was TAKE TWO! OSCAR-WINNING ACTRESS JULIA ROBERTS HAS TWINS, IIRC.

  My ideas are:

  - Move Express to Round 1.
  - Get rid of the Trip Puzzle and replace it with Surprise Round. Bring back the Surprise wedge.
  - Have more variety in puzzle categories.  Do we need to see WAYD? and/or Before and After every show (We've gone four years without a Headline that wasn't about Prince William.)
   - Get rid of the one-and-done rule and bring back contestants (like have a Friday Finals, Some of the Greats week or a end-of-season Top Players week).

   Brian
 
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J.R.

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(source: Reddit AMA with Adam Nedeff)
One thing that stood out to me in that link was the fact most of the Prize Puzzle winnings have gone unclaimed. I wonder how many people have won something and had absolutely no idea because they don't really watch anymore?

For me, the only change I'd really be in favor for is returning champions. To me, WOF is the ultimate "comfort food" game show and the "sameness" of most the episodes really hasn't been a deal breaker for me.
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Dan88

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For me, the only change I'd really be in favor for is returning champions.
So would I, but the show's made it clear that they'd prefer to tape in whatever order they want and get six weeks done in five taping days. Given the reason Pat gave for why they removed that aspect to begin with (good puzzle solvers could end up hitting penalties, while lousy solvers could luck into a runaway game), I doubt they'll bring it back.
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Mr. Armadillo

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You want to make Wheel of Fortune fresh?  Replace Vanna White, and give her replacement more to do on the set.  Short of that, I don't see the show "freshening up" any time soon.

I remember a puzzle from a decade ago which was the worst puzzle I ever saw. It was TAKE TWO! OSCAR-WINNING ACTRESS JULIA ROBERTS HAS TWINS, IIRC.

That won't fit on the puzzleboard, unless you add about five monitors to the bottom row or take out OSCAR-WINNING.

aaron sica

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(Tom Cruise hasn't won an Academy Award, BTW.) I remember a puzzle from a decade ago which was the worst puzzle I ever saw. It was TAKE TWO! OSCAR-WINNING ACTRESS JULIA ROBERTS HAS TWINS, IIRC.

I don't think Wheel would add "IIRC" to a puzzle.

MikeK

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(Tom Cruise hasn't won an Academy Award, BTW.) I remember a puzzle from a decade ago which was the worst puzzle I ever saw. It was TAKE TWO! OSCAR-WINNING ACTRESS JULIA ROBERTS HAS TWINS, IIRC.

I don't think Wheel would add "IIRC" to a puzzle.
Maybe that's what they need to do to keep the show fresh--add netspeak.

"I'd like to solve, Pat.  I LEFT MY <3 IN SAN FRANCISCO."
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MSTieScott

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I think the central premise of the article is misplaced.

"Wheel of Fortune" has not been hurting for publicity recently. In 2014 alone, they had a contestant make an amazing bonus round solve, a contestant make multiple puzzle-solving mistakes, and a contestant that was impossible to root against. All of these stories received widespread (by game show story standards) media coverage, which by my estimates, currently puts "Wheel of Fortune" on par with "Jeopardy!" and ahead of any other game show trying to get media coverage through obvious gimmicks.

Yes, you can absolutely make the argument that in general, the show has a sense of sameness. And I would agree that there are things the show could do differently to be more entertaining for the frequent viewer. But I'm not seeing how "Wheel of Fortune" is having trouble being noticed by the general public.

You can't force a 39-year-old five-days-a-week TV show to feel fresh and amazing on a day-to-day basis. Using the "Jeopardy!" examples in the article and my "Wheel of Fortune" examples, the one thing all of those publicity-making moments have in common (with the exception of the Battle of the Decades) is that they couldn't be planned ahead of time. The best moments happen spontaneously, which is a large appeal of watching game shows in the first place (the other large appeal is playing along at home, and "Wheel of Fortune" has no problems on that front). Changing the price of vowels or building a "new, more dynamic set" (what does that even mean?) won't give you more moments that make people want to tune in.

aaron sica

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Maybe that's what they need to do to keep the show fresh--add netspeak.

"I'd like to solve, Pat.  I LEFT MY <3 IN SAN FRANCISCO."
"You got it!"

Another idea (I believe we came up with the name at GSC8 many years ago), put the host in a sumo wrestling costume and call him "Fat Sajak".