With "Jeopardy!" in a host vacuum following the botched search for a successor to the beloved Alex Trebek, Sony Pictures Television has locked in the hosts of its other hugely popular — and profitable — syndicated game show, "Wheel of Fortune."
"Wheel of Fortune," which is heading into its 39th season, was impacted by the "Jeopardy!" turmoil. Mike Richards, who was out as permanent "Jeopardy!" host after one day of filming amid controversy over offensive comments he had made years ago, subsequently was exited from his post as executive of both "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune."
Jim Thornton, who will mark his 10th anniversary as "Wheel of Fortune" announcer, will get an expanded on-screen presence in the new season, which premieres Sept. 13. At the open of each episode, he will be featured at a new podium on stage as he introduces Sajak and White.
Here are some other changes in store for the upcoming season:
- In the game show’s digital space, Maggie Sajak, Pat’s daughter, will be joining the show as Social Correspondent across all of "Wheel of Fortune"s channels including: http://www.wheeloffortune.com, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.
- The set and music have been refreshed for the new season. The "Wheel of Fortune" theme song, "Changing Keys," which will return this season with a modernized arrangement.
- Sajak will no longer do the "Final Spin" of the game. Instead, the contestant in control of the Wheel at the time will spin to determine the amount each consonant is worth during the speed up round.
- More money will be up for grabs in Season 39 with the removal of the "Free Play" wedge from the Wheel which was replaced by an $850 wedge. Also, a $4,000 bonus is being added to contestants who solve all three puzzles in the Triple Toss Up Round, making the round worth $10,000. And finally, the minimum amount that can be won on the Bonus Wheel has been upped to $39,000, in honor of the show’s 39th season in syndication.
- Returning is the show’s annual "Secret Santa Holiday Giveaway." This popular sweepstakes gives Wheel Watchers Club members the chance to win everything a contestant wins, up to the million-dollar grand prize.
"If you think about it, by doing the "final spin" I, as host, had an impact on the outcome of the game and that has always bothered me because it just didn’t feel right," said Sajak of the change in play of the game. "With this change, only the contestants determine the outcome of the game and the host does not impose themself in any way."