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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.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this piece, send them to traviseberle@hotmail.com.

 

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