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Wheel of Misfortune - February 23
Travis Eberle

Last week, Wheel of Fortune set a record with a $54,000 win in the speed up round. I was almost sick; how can a person win $54,000 just for solving a puzzle? It came out to $18,000 a word. That wasn't the worst part; the second place player had solved the rest of the puzzles, along with winning a car along the way, for $28,000. That has to be a record for a losing total, but by all rights he should have won it. One of many problems with Wheel is the very thing the show is named for; the wheel.

Ever since they changed to one configuration and changing just a few spaces on it, the game has become completely unbalanced. This is evident in the final round. If the 'final spin' is $5,000; then you can bet whoever solves the final puzzle is going to win the game no matter what happened in the last 20 minutes. If it's $300, we get to sit back and twiddle our thumbs while the three players stumble through the last puzzle. Back when the top value was $2,000, the values were closer together, and you didn't know who was going to win the game until the last puzzle was solved.

Come to think of it, I can pinpoint the time when I started to enjoy the Wheel less and less. It was 1996, and when they rolled in the electronic puzzle board. I know that it speeds up the show tapings and it sure looks cool, but that was the turning point.

Up until 1996, the show had been very static; the biggest change had been from shopping to playing for cash.

After that, the show changed things every year: no more returning champions, the $100,000 bonus round, the mystery round, the toss-ups, the first round having the $2,500 space... each season introduced something new, and not always for the better.

I like the toss-ups, and the mystery round is good for a few strategic decisions sometimes, but change for its own sake isn't a good thing. I can only imagine when they'll ditch the puzzles entirely, and it'll just be 28 minutes of ads, and the two minute closing segment with Pat and Vanna.

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