Wheel of Fortune, the longest-running syndicated game show in American television, premieres on NBC on January 6, 1975. Created by television legend Merv Griffin and hosted since the early 1980s by Pat Sajak and Vanna White, Wheel is one of the most popular television shows in the world.
Griffin, who had already created another iconic game show, Jeopardy!, conceived of Wheel as a combination between Hangman and roulette. Contestants guess letters as they attempt to solve a Hangman-like puzzle, spinning the wheel to determine how much money they will earn for a correct guess, with the ultimate goal being to solve the puzzle and accumulate as much money as possible. Since the show's inception, the price of a vowel has stood at $250 and has not been adjusted for inflation. The phrases "I'd like to buy a vowel" and "I'd like to solve the puzzle" have entered the American cultural lexicon.
Sajak and White, who joined in 1981 and 82, respectively, have become some of the most famous hosts in game show history. White, who operates the board and reveals letters as they are guessed, often contributes her own puzzles to the show. In over 6,500 episodes, she has apparently never worn the same gown twice. The show's producers claim that over 1 million people have auditioned to be contestants and the show has paid out a total of more than $200 million. Painfully awkward or incorrect guesses by contestants have also been comedic fodder for generations of Americans.