ABC would like to buy a vowel and a few consonants, too: The network is bringing Wheel of Fortune to prime time, ordering up a celebrity edition of the long-running (and massively popular) word-puzzle game. It will mark the first time the Merv Griffin–created format, which first debuted as an NBC daytime show in 1975 and has aired in syndication since 1983, has had a scheduled prime-time berth. The format of Celebrity Wheel of Fortune will mostly be the same as the one now airing nightly, though as the name implies, celebrities (and hopefully not “celebrities”) will play for charity; the top prize will be $1 million. Pat Sajak and Vanna White will host, because how could they not?
While news of the celeb Wheel is being announced just hours after the death of Jeopardy! icon Alex Trebek, ABC and Sony Pictures Television (the producer of both shows) have been talking about bringing Wheel to prime time for months, if not years. In the past, concerns over harming the show’s syndication value made it harder to turn talk to reality, but January’s ultrasuccessful Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time tourney seems to have paved the way for Wheel doing a prime-time spin as well. ABC and Fremantle previously found a way to bring the latter’s Family Feud back to its lineup without at all hurting the value of the syndicated daytime version of the show in part by severely limiting the number of original episodes produced each year.
ABC is not yet saying how many episodes of Wheel it has ordered or when they will air, but it seems likely it won’t be a ton and that they won’t make their debut on the Alphabet network until sometime in 2021. Also not clear: whether ABC and executive producer Mike Richards will decide to go for legend status by bringing the shopping rounds back, allowing celebs to use some of their winnings to buy prizes. (Given they’ll be playing for charity, it might not be feasible, though perhaps celebs could shop for home viewers or audience members?) And here’s one final fun fact for game-show nerds: In addition to its original run on NBC daytime and its 38-year stretch in syndication, Wheel did a short run on CBS, airing on the Eye’s daytime lineup between July 1989 and January 1991.