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No Longer a Wheel Watcher - June 28

I watched a few clips of "Wheel of Fortune" from 1979 and 1980, and then compared it to the show we have today. I was very nearly brought to tears. Sure, it's the same game that we know and love. Spin the wheel, pick a letter, solve the puzzle, get paid. But there's something in watching those old clips that makes me pine for the good old days.  I think it boils down to two key attributes: overproduction and just plain being too loud.

The old show by necessity didn't have that many computer graphics. There was the show open logo, and the category title. The bonus round wasn't there yet, so the 'lucky six' weren't even an issue. Watch an episode today: you have the cartoon open, the toss-up animation, the 'prize puzzle' explosion, the 'no more vowels' tag, the 'final spin' animation, and the bonus round animation. I'm sure I forgot a couple of things (the 'exploding jackpot' is a nice touch, the fireworks show is rare enough that I'll cut 'em some slack.) EVERY possible occurrence on the show has a musical sting or flashy animation. There's barely any time to catch our breath from the stimulation. Do the producers think that if there's a single second that isn't filled with flashy graphics and loud sounds, that we'll flip over to a "Friends" rerun or one of those silly entertainment reporting shows? You guys won me over with the simple game play, don't lose me here.

I can forgive some glitz and flash, after all, what would The Price is Right be if all grocery games were played on a single counter with no flashing lights or colorful backdrops? That's right, downright boring. What I can't forgive is the awful din that the show puts out for 22 minutes. We have a shell of a theme song (it ain't "Changing Keys," that's for sure), contestants shouting their letters, Charlie O'Donnell shouting his prize copy for the next trip to be put on the wheel, and the audience going crazy when a letter turns up on the board. Wheel of Fortune used to be a dignified affair. We would hear "May I have an S, please, Chuck?" "Yes, there are two of them, for $300 each. What would you like to do?" Susan would flip over the letters, everyone would applaud politely, and the show would go on. Now, any prize, special wedge or top dollar value merits a huge crowd reaction. Winning the $1,000 toss-up elicits a war whoop. Another note to contestants: emotions are real, not coaxed out of you by contestant coordinators.

I'd love to see more puzzles, less money and a few other things changed if I was Executive Producer, but I'm not, and wishing won't make it so. I get that, and I'm OK with that. I just wish that Wheel of Fortune would go back to being a good game show, and not just a parody of, well, I'm not sure what, but it's nothing good.

Travis Eberle still gets his Chuck fix nightly. E-mail him at


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