Wheel of Fortune: Behind the Scenes

By Ashley Hall

PORTLAND, Ore. — In the next 4 weeks, one of TV’s biggest game shows will feature Oregon. Earlier this month, Wheel of Fortune taped 20 episodes in Portland and NewsWatch 12 was behind the scenes with them.

Wheel continues to be the most-watched game show in syndication; it’s entering its 29th season. You can watch the show each night on NewsWatch 12 at 7:30; but in this segment, NewsWatch 12’s Ashley Hall will show you some of the elements you don’t see everyday.
While every night on NewsWatch 12 you see Pat And Vanna in front of the camera, it’s the people behind the scenes who make things spin smoothly.

“Top to bottom, from Harry Friedman, our executive producer, on down to the bottom people, everybody is so nice, it’s like a family. It really is. Not to mention just being a game show announcer is the greatest job on the planet,” says Announcer Jim Thornton
Jim Thornton joined the Wheel of Fortune as the announcer in 2011 and is having as much fun at work as you might imagine.
“One of my favorite things is getting to meet people who have watched the show for as long as I have,” says Thornton, “I feel like I’m giving back to them a piece of their happiness and sort of happily filling that circle. That, along with riding the coattails of Pat and Vanna, which I am glad to do.”
But it’s not just the familiar faces that keep people watching each night.
“Wheel’ really is a classic format. It is simple, easy to understand anytime you turn the show on and we’ve tried hard not to mess with the foundation of the game. It’s hangman with prizes,” says Executive Producer Harry Friedman.
Though the game is about the same, there have been additions. Many people credit the show’s long-time success to the forward-thinking nature of Friedman. As the Internet and social media have become more mainstream, he’s kept “Wheel” on the frontlines of technology.
“Technology has changed a lot of things we do, probably most importantly the puzzle board which used to be changed manually,” says Friedman, “It took 15-20 minutes, so by the end of the day, everybody was exhausted from just waiting for the puzzle board to change now as you know we shoot the show in real time.”
That’s a fact that about 20,000 Oregonians experienced first hand – that’s the total number of people who sat in a live studio audience during the 4 days worth of tapings; 4 days that gave a boost to the economy.
“Several Million; from several million we’ll leave behind in winnings because all the contestants are local. We hire a couple hundred people, we pay for 1,800 room nights at the hotel,” Harry says.
But, the economic boost of having wheel in the city doesn’t stop there.
“It’s a nice sort of picture/postcard of the city, cities tell us it does a lot of good for them and it’s good for image, good for tourism, and were happy to do that,” says Pat Sajak.
As you watch “Wheel” in the coming month, the Oregon theme will be obvious to you; but, if you pay extra close attention, you’ll begin to notice the show’s nod to Oregon’s reputation for being eco-friendly, this wheel of fortune taping is the greenest ever. From the eco friendly prizes like hybrid cars and eco-friendly products, to the way the set was built with reusable greenery, even Vanna’s dresses!