Wheel of Fortune is one of the longest-running game shows of all time, clocking up thousands of hours on screen.
So it’s no surprise that the popular competition has a back catalogue of mangled mispronunciations and hilarious wrong guesses.
From Audi overriding Pat Sajak’s decision to refuse one contestant a car, to the long-running host losing his temper with a woman who talked over him, there is no shortage of wild moments.
The show, which initially premiered on daytime TV in 1975 with Chuck Woolery as host, is gearing up to celebrate 40 years since moving to a nighttime slot alongside Jeopardy!.
Wheel of Fortune is about to celebrate its 40th anniversary of holding its nighttime slot
This proved to be a largely successful move for the gameshow which continues to air weeknights on ABC.
Sajak took over as host of the daytime show in 1981 and has hosted the nighttime version since its 1983 debut. His final season is currently airing, and he will be replaced by Ryan Seacrest.
Vanna White has been his co-host since 1982.
There have been many fails where contestants guess the puzzle with one letter off, or mispronounce the words.
Then there are the mishaps where Sajak has accidentally said the answer to the puzzle out loud or he has called out a contestant’s ‘boring’ story.
However, with the lows come the highs like the first time a contestant won a $1 million.
Others have impressed by solving puzzles with barely any letters revealed.
Here are the wildest moments that have happened over those years:
The two-word answer in the Thing category was obvious to many viewers at home as ‘Self-Portrait.’
While they were very close to guessing the right answer, they messed it up by one word or even letter.
These wrong guesses have gone down as some of the biggest fails in Wheel of Fortune history.
In December 2009, contestant Lolita McAuley went viral thanks to a wild answer she gave.
The two-word answer – ‘Self-Portrait’ – in the Thing category may have been obvious to many viewers at home.
But, when it came time for McAuley to guess, she couldn’t think of anything other than ‘self-potato’.
Another contestants’ unfortunate guess might have left Johnny Cash rolling in his grave.
However, when it came time for McAuley to guess, she couldn’t think of anything other than ‘self-potato.’
Another contestants’ unfortunate guess might’ve left Johnny Cash rolling in his grave. Holly missed the correct answer of ‘I Walk the Line by Johnny Cash.’ Instead she answered, ‘I Have the Wine by Johnny Cash.’
One contestant named Kevin proved he’s not a man of the theater after butchering the title to A Streetcar Named Desire. Instead, he guessed ‘A Streetcar Naked Desire’
In January 2013, Natasha Holly messed up one of his song titles during a Song/Artist puzzle.
Left with ‘I _A__ THE _INE BY J_HNNY _A_H,’ Holly missed the correct answer of ‘I Walk the Line by Johnny Cash’.
Instead she answered: ‘I Have the Wine by Johnny Cash.’
Some fails have even had a NSFW factor.
One contestant named Kevin proved he’s not a man of the theater after butchering the title to A Streetcar Named Desire.
Instead, he guessed ‘A Streetcar Naked Desire’.
After the woman after him solved it immediately, Sajak quipped: ‘I’d rather see Kevin but that’s just me.’
In 2018, Melanie Sinany surprised many when the answer was ‘bridal & cold shower’.
Instead, she replaced the ‘c’ with a ‘g,’ which shocked the audience.
‘Bridal and gold shower,’ she said.
Contestant Charlene Rubush had a rollercoaster ride of an experience on Wheel of Fortune while faced with the potential of winning an Audi
Contestant Charlene Rubush had a rollercoaster ride of an experience on Wheel of Fortune when faced with the opportunity of winning an Audi.
During an episode in December 2021, she had won the game and got to compete in the bonus round.
The category was ‘What Are You Doing?’ and the answer was ‘Choosing the right word’.
While Rubush initially guessed ‘Choosing the right card,’ she later changed her answer to ‘Choosing the right … word’ right before the buzzer.
She technically solved the puzzle, but Sajak ruled that her answer didn’t count because she paused for more than five seconds.
Apparently, Audi agreed with these viewers and opted to give her the Audi Q3 prize anyway
‘You know, this one’s tough because you said all the right words, including the word “word” but, as you know, it’s gotta be more or less continuous,’ Sajak said at the time.
‘We’ll allow for a little pause but not four or five seconds. I’m sorry. You did a good job in getting it, but we can’t give you the prize, and it was the Audi.’
Viewers were outraged and felt she had earned the Audi fair and square for giving the correct answer.
And it appeared that Audi agreed with these viewers and opted to give her the Audi Q3 prize anyway.
‘You all did it! You helped #GiveHerTheQ3,’ the car company tweeted, referencing the trending hashtag.
‘Charlene, welcome to the Audi family! We are so happy to see you in the driver seat.’
The official account included a picture of Rubush happily united with her new car.
Perhaps even more frustrating than guessing the wrong word is having the correct word but mispronouncing it
Perhaps even more frustrating than guessing the wrong word is having the correct word but mispronouncing it.
Johnny Knowles missed out on $7,000 and a vacation to Spain after mispronouncing ‘flamenco’ as ‘flamingo’ during a 2018 appearance.
Even more painfully, Julian Batt, an Indiana University freshmen, ended up losing $1 million when he guessed all the letters to the answer – ‘The Mythological Hero Achilles’ – but ended up mispronouncing the last word.
He had pronounced the word as ‘AY-chill-es’ rather than ‘AH-kil-ies’.
Batt told the Indiana Star in 2014 that he did know how to pronounce the Greek figure and ‘didn’t have a lot of time to really process’ what was going on.
The popular hosts of another non-scripted show stumped two of the three contestants on Wheel of Fortune.
The popular hosts of another non-scripted show stumped two of the three contestants on Wheel of Fortune
‘Well, we had a Philbrin. We had a Philman. We had a Ripea, and you guys think you are so hot in the morning,’ Sajak quipped when contestants couldn’t guess Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa’s names
With puzzle board spelling ‘REG _ S _ _ _ L _ _ N & _ ELL _ R _ _ _,’ Shane spun and guessed the letter “p.’ Confident in his abilities to solve it, he told Sajak it was “Regis Philburn and Kelly Ripa.’
‘No, I’m sorry,’ Sajak told him. ‘We can’t accept that.’
The next player to guess was George, who said, ‘I’d like to solve the puzzle, Pat. Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa,’ but botched the pronunciation of Ripa’s name.
Sajak had to consult with a producer to see if they could accept that answer, but George was not in luck.
Shane then had another crack at the answer, and with $3,850 on the board, he managed to get Philbin’s name wrong again, calling him ‘Philman.’
Finally, it came back around to Lee, who had spun a Bankrupt earlier in the game. But he mangled the pronunciation as well before George finally got it right.
‘Well, we had a Philbrin. We had a Philman. We had a Ripea, and you guys think you are so hot in the morning. Why do I have a feeling this is going to be played a lot?’ Sajak said at the end of the round.
In October 2008, Wheel of Fortune found its first million dollar winner in Michelle Loewenstein
In October 2008, Wheel of Fortune found its first million dollar winner in Michelle Loewenstein.
Loewenstein was on the show as a part of Canada Week when the wheel landed on the million dollar spot.
She solved the Around the House puzzle with the answer ‘Leaky Faucet’.
All she had to do at this point was get through the rest of the game and win the bonus round, which she did.
Other million-dollar winners include Autumn Erhard and Sarah Manchester.
‘I was just completely shocked,’ Erhard told NPR after her episode aired.
‘I couldn’t even speak anymore, I could barely breathe. I thought I would cry, but I think I had so many emotions going on that I was almost frozen.’
She solved the Around the House puzzle with the answer ‘Leaky Faucet’
While it wasn’t quite seven figures, Sajak was floored when there was a succession of three contestants who who $100k in the bonus round
Bree Yokouchi became the third consecutive Bonus Round player to win the $100k prize on the game show.
While it wasn’t quite seven figures, Sajak was floored when there was a succession of three contestants who who $100k in the bonus round.
It was impressive when it was just Lisa Kramer who won the $100k prize.
Maggie Sajak, Pat’s daughter and Wheel correspondent, asked her father in a post-show interview what are the chances of a contestant landing on the $100,000 prize.
‘There are 24 [spaces], which means you have a 4 per cent chance of landing on the $100,000, a little over 4 per cent, and of course the odds are even greater because you have to solve a puzzle,’ he explained.
So it was shocking when it happened again the following night for contestant Mark Baer.
The night after, Bree Yokouchi became the third consecutive Bonus Round player to win the $100k prize on the game show.
After he revealed the prize card she had won, Sajak walked off stage in shock.
‘Even after almost 40 years, new things happen around here,’ Sajak said on the show that week.
Pat roasting the contestants/mess ups:
Just ahead of his retirement, Sajak had some of his less proud moments on TV
Just ahead of his retirement, Sajak had some of his less proud moments on TV.
In 2020, he snapped at a contestant who complained about one of the puzzles.
The host yelled when a player argued that no one actually uses the winning phrase ‘kitchen oven’.
Sajak snapped: ‘Don’t! You won! Don’t argue, Darin! … You got the puzzle. Ungrateful players! I’ve had it!’
He apologized at the time for ‘finally’ snapping while on the show.
In another episode, Sajak called out a contestant named Sheryl for talking over him while he was promoting Dick’s Sporting Goods.
He warned: ‘Never interrupt me. Never, never interrupt a plug. You can do anything else but don’t interrupt. I’m sorry, what’d you want to do?’
The host slipped up once again when he accidentally said the answer to a puzzle in 2021.
While waiting for the contestant to guess Sajak quipped: ‘I’d rather be standing here than there, quite frankly.’
In 2020, he snapped at a contestant who complained about one of the puzzles
The host slipped up once again once he accidentally said the answer to a puzzle in 2021
Contestant Scott Ingwersen told the story about how he hurt his toe while he was a child, adding a sweet touch at the end. Sajak shocked viewers when he called his introduction ‘the most pointless story’
It turns out ‘quite frankly’ was, in fact, the answer to the puzzle, but the contestant didn’t guess it anyway.
‘It goes to show you that people are concentrating and not paying any attention to me,’ Sajak told White after the flub.
The following year, Sajak shocked viewers when he called a contestant’s introduction ‘the most pointless story’.
Contestant Scott Ingwersen told the story about how he hurt his toe while he was a child, adding a sweet touch at the end.
‘It’s important to know that when I was 12 years old, I was riding a 10-speed bike with flip-flops, and I fell and completely cut off the top of my toe,’ Ingwersen said in his interview.
‘The next car that came by were two paramedics that were on their way to a job, and they said, “It’s just a laceration.”
‘But I didn’t know what that was, so it freaked me out even more. And my toe is reattached, and I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ to them 30 years later.’
The longtime host responded by saying: ‘That may have been the most pointless story ever told. And you told it, Scott. Congratulations to you.’
He lost patience for the last time this year, telling struggling contestant, Nicole: ‘Please, solve the darn puzzle!’
After Nicole shared her correct final guess, Sajak said: ‘It’s a horrible moment when you know that, “Everyone in America knows what this is, why don’t I?” But you got it.’
While there have been many close calls and losses that have frustrated Sajak, there are just as many impressive solves that have happened over the years
While there have been many close calls and losses that have frustrated Sajak, there are just as many impressive solves.
In March 2014, contestant Emil De Leon stunned viewers when he solved the puzzle with only two letters on the board.
The puzzle was three words and had a vague category of Thing answer. However, he managed to guess the correct answer – ‘new baby buggy’.
He ended the show with an $45,000 prize.
However, even more impressively, contestant Caitlin Burke solved the puzzle with only one letter on the board in 2010.
The board was blank with a seven-word phrase. She guessed the letter ‘L,’ which only appeared once in the phrase.
Another contestant had an impressive streak of correct guesses, each with only a few letters on the board
Robert Santoli wowed contestants when ‘Port & Starboard’ off of just the final ‘D’ in the second word and ‘Oh What a Night’ off of just three letters
Burke said she wanted to solve. Surprised, Sajak asked if it was too early to solve, but she came up with the correct answer which was, ironically, ‘I’ve Got a Good Feeling About This.’
Another contestant had an impressive streak of correct guesses, each with only a few letters on the board.
Robert Santoli wowed contestants with ‘Port & Starboard’ off of just the final ‘D’ in the second word, ‘Oh What a Night’ off of just three letters, and solved ‘Don’t Let the Cat Out of the Bag,’ with only Ts, Hs, and Es revealed on the board.
He walked away with an impressive $76,000 at the end of the night.
Speaking with TMZ Live, he revealed his skills came from years of studying game shows.
‘When you watch the show for a really long time you know the nuances of the show – you know that these letters are most frequent in this category – like “o” is more popular than “a” in the bonus round.
‘There are websites out there that keep track of what the puzzles were going back to 2003/2004 so I looked them up and the puzzles they use.’
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