‘Celebrity Wheel of Fortune’ rolls into primetime with golden updates

For the first time ever, Sony’s “Wheel of Fortune” offered a primetime, network special featuring celebrity players as part of a new “Winter Fun & Games” block introduced by ABC in January 2021.

The show, which aired on ABC affiliates nationally, is separate from the syndicated version featuring non-celebrity players that appears on different stations from market to market.

The show continued to be produced from Stage 11 at the Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California, using the same hosts and key production crew, but did update the set, music and graphics for the occasion:

  • Music of the visuals shifted to gold, including the show logo and in show graphics.
  • Graphical motifs included sparkling gold “wedges” from the show’s famous wheel that rotated in a sort of “fan” like style as well as sparkles and wavy gold lines.
  • The “white thing” — the protective “cap” used to spin the wheel in the age of COVID-19 and prevent direct contact with the metal spikes — was changed to gold.
  • The large square-ish pillars the show has used for years during various set configurations had a goldish covering added.
  • Instead of the large LED video wall behind the players, a dimensional version of the “Wheel of Fortune” logo was installed — this element included integrated lighting effects.
  • The smaller video wall in the center of the studio remained, but had curved gold elements added on either side (these elements, as well as the ones used behind the contestants, have some visual similarity to ABC’s 2018 branding package “Aperture”). Other curved elements seen previous were also in the studio.
  • The show also used frosted glass segments designed to look like part of the wheel that have been used in other versions of syndicated “Wheel.”
  • Updated music was used throughout the show, though many of the shows traditional sound effects (such as the “puzzle reveal” and “toss up” and final spin bell) remained.
  • The studio itself was draped in black with a “starry sky” effect and accented by moving beams of uplight. 
  • Much of the color changing technology surrounding the puzzle board and wheel itself was switched to gold, though blues and violets were also seen.

The show’s production designer is Renee Hoss-Johnson, lighting by Jeff Engel and music by John Hoke of Bleeding Fingers Music, the custom music company headed by Hans Zimmer.

Other shows in the winter game show block on ABC include “The Hustler” and “The Chase.”


(In related news, “Wheel” distributor CBS Television Distribution has changed its name to “CBS Media Ventures.” However, since the ABC celeb version was not syndicated, the CBS division was not directly involved, though the show was produced, as normal, by Sony Pictures Television.)

“Wheel” typically tapes shows out of order, unlike its sister show “Jeopardy!” because it doesn’t rely on “returning champions.”

This means that the production team tries to “consolidate” tapings that require certain major set pieces or backdrops.

For example, in the past, the show has taped its Halloween and Christmas week episodes back to back to take advantage of a large house facade brought into the studio — without having to disassemble and reassemble it.

For Halloween it’s a haunted house, but gets redressed as a wintery home front for holiday episodes (with a redress much simpler to undertake than a complete set change).

Like many daily game shows, “Wheel” typically tapes five episodes per day two days a week, so it’s able to quickly get ahead of the broadcast schedule to the point where the order episodes are taped doesn’t always matter.