‘Wheel of Fortune’ rule change sends fans spinning out of control
By Matt Collins Article may include affiliate links
Legendary game show “Wheel of Fortune” returned for its 39th season with a rule change that’s sending some viewers off kilter.
The change affects the so called “final spin” that is used in the final regular puzzle of the show.
Previously, when time was running short, a bell sound effect would be played and host Pat Sajak would give the wheel a final spin to determine the dollar value for each consonant in the puzzle (the show would later add $1,000 to whatever space he landed on).
However, Sajak announced that the show will now let one of the contestants make the final spin.
In a Facebook video, Sajak used the familiar line of the show not being about the host — and noted he felt, at least in some way, he, as host, was having an effect on the outcome of the game.
At first, Sajak joked that he didn’t want to have to put the effort into making the final spin, comparing it to when the show switched from a manual puzzle board that required co-host Vanna White to turn letters — to an electronic one where she now has to press on the frame of the corresponding monitors (she also gets out of having to turn a bunch of letters in a hurry when a puzzle is solved early on since the control room can make the solution pop into the screens instantly).
Now, whoever was in control of the wheel at the time the bell rang does the final spin.
For whatever reason, many fans aren’t happy with the rule change — though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what they don’t like about the rule.
On one hand, the change does, indeed, remove Sajak from having direct control on the amount of money racked up during the final regular round.
However, it could also be argued that it also puts that control in the hand of a single contestant — though an equally valid argument could probably be made that it’s still fair since the contestant “earned” the right to be in control of the wheel, either by guessing a correct letter or simply being next in line after a bad guess from the person before them.
It’s worth noting that many former “Wheel” contestants note how heavy the wheel is — all told it and its supporting structures come in at over a ton — and there’s been much debate over if there is truly a strategy to spinning.
Some note that some contestants appear to be able to land in relatively the same part (or corresponding part if you look at it as a moving target) of the wheel spin after spin, especially if they are on a roll and do it multiple times — presumably because they become accustomed to the amount of force needed to get the wheel to move.
Because of this, at least in theory, the final spin could be leveraged to benefit one or more players over others if the contestant was able to strategically get the wheel to land on a value that would make it easier or harder to close the gap between current standings.
That said, when Sajak gave the final spin, as someone who’s done it quite literally almost every show since it started, he likely was very accustomed to how much force is needed to get the wheel to land in a certain place relative to where it was — but since each wedge is a relatively small part of the overall wheel, there’s still a lot left up to chance.
That’s a long way of saying that no matter who spins the wheel the final time, there’s still a certain amount of uncertainty as to where it will end up.
All told, since the new rule made it on the air, it obviously passed the muster of standards and compliance, an independent overseer of game shows that verify rules, gameplay and judge decisions are fair to all players.
What some are more specific about is their dislike of the updated music and set, which at least one fan tweeted was “super game-showy” — which is ironic considering the show is, well, a game show.
A few other smaller rule changes include removing the “Free Play” wedge with an $850 one. A contestant who successfully solves all three toss up puzzles also gets another $4,000, making it an even $10,000 in total.
Finally, the show upped the minimum win on the bonus round wheel to $39,000, the “39” in honor of its 39th season.