There’s not much to say about Wheel Of Fortune that you don’t already know about; the show debuted on NBC’s daytime lineup 46 years ago (with Chuck Woolery as host!), and has been the top syndicated nighttime game show since 1983. Vanna and Pat have been working together since 1982. But with Celebrity Wheel Of Fortune, the venerable show achieves a first: Its first time in primetime. Will it change the game we’ve loved for 46 years?
CELEBRITY WHEEL OF FORTUNE: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: Announcer Jim Thornton introduces the three celebrity contestants — Leslie Jones, Chandra Wilson and Tony Hawk — then says, “And now, here are the stars of America’s Game…. Paaaaat Sajak and Vanna White!”
The Gist: The gameplay of Celebrity WoF is the same as the regular version of the series. The three celebrity players basically play two Wheel Of Fortune games: The toss-ups, the wheel-spinning puzzles where you can buy a vowel, get a million-dollar wedge for the bonus round, or lose a turn. The only additions to this version, because Jones, Wilson and Hawk were playing for charity, is that whoever wins a wheel-spinning round gets money added to their total: $5,000, $10,000, then $20,000.
Of course, there’s the bonus round, where the winner of the regular game spins a smaller wheel to find out what the bonus they’ll win is if they solve the puzzle; the most they can get is an additional $100k, but if they have the million-dollar wedge, one of the $100k cards is replaced with a $1 million card.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Wheel Of Fortune, civilian version.
Our Take: It’s shocking that, after being in America’s consciousness for almost half a century, that this is WoF’s first primetime special. We were a little concerned with how a celebrity version would play out, given the fact that other celebrity versions of game shows have the celebrities joke around more than play the game, not taking it seriously enough even though money for charity is on the line.
Thankfully, this first foray for Celebrity Wheel Of Fortune played out just like a normal game, albeit with a bit more banter than you’d see from the civilians that are generally nervous to be there and be on camera. It helps that one of those celebrities was Jones, in an obvious cross-promotion with Supermarket Sweep. Pat seemed to have fun being on the receiving end of her boundless enthusiasm, and joked that you’ll never hear him ask her to speak up. She returns the favor by telling him about how she incorporated the show in her standup routine, her fine game playing and the fact that she ripped into Hawk when he (no pun intended) vultured puzzles without spinning not once, but twice.
Celebrity WoF needs the celebrities to be competitive and play the game the way it’s supposed to be played, and the first set of celebrities do just that. The puzzles are slightly easier than the ones you may see on the regular version, but that’s just to encourage bigger winnings because of the charity angle. But, if you weren’t looking too hard, you wouldn’t really be able to distinguish the celebrity version from the civilian version, which is a good thing.
Sex and Skin: Besides Vanna’s outfit (Pants and a top that wrapped around her neck), there’s nothing.
Parting Shot: Instead of their post-bonus-round chitchat, Vanna and Pat simply say goodbye until next time.
Sleeper Star: After a puzzle whose answer is “CELEBRITY LOOK-ALIKE,” everyone asks each other which celebrities they look like, and Tony Hawk says, “on the mean side of things, I get Bill Nye The Science Guy.” We liked this answer.
Most Pilot-y Line: None. It’s Wheel Of Fortune, for heaven’s sake.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Celebrity Wheel Of Fortune plays out like a normal episode, and we like that. The groups of celebrities coming up — the hosts of Holey Moley and Drew Carey, Terri Hatcher and Chrissy Metz — look like they’ll be fun.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.
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