Wheel of Fortune Timeline - 1976

Jimmy Carter Goes From Peanut Farmer to President...Nadia Comaneci's Perfect 10...Laverne Meets Shirley

January 19, 1976...Back to Half Hour

Wheel's six week experiment as an hour long show ended on this day and the show reverted back to a half hour show airing at 11am Eastern.  High Rollers moved to 10:30am.

Unknown, 1976...Kill the Vampire

Very few episodes of Wheel of Fortune from 1976 are known to exist, but one of them that does is an absolute treat.  A few of the interesting observations of the episode include not one but two mid-round commercial breaks.  Even more interesting is that Chuck does not instruct the contestants to "turn their backs" as was the convention in later episodes. 

Not too shabby for 1976. Susan joining Chuck during the intro.  Check out the funky original curtain.
Here's the first round wheel overhead shot. And the classic original podiums.

When Susan was introduced at the beginning of the episode, she came right up to Chuck's position on the set rather than through the curtain and engaged in a little chit chat with the host.  Also noted in the intro is the original curtain, that was a darker yellow with lights on it.  The wheel configuration was the original $500/$1000/$1500 pattern (denoting the highest values in each round).  Bizarre values like $275 and $850 could be found on the wheel.  Contestants hitting bankrupt were not serenaded with the slide whistle sound effect either. 

Better hope you don't win more than $10,000. Oh good...Hot Springs Arkansas.
No wooden stake necessary. Close up shot of the second round wheel.

The puzzle board itself was slightly different in that the light border around the puzzle only lit up when a contestant correctly called a letter, although it lit up each time the letter was called.  The text indicating the puzzle category only appeared sporadically and was far more low-tech than the glitzy-for-that-era computer graphics that were used beginning around 1978. 

Won't see $650 these days. Young Chuck reminds us: "Once you buy a prize, it's yours to keep forever."
More round two wheel action. This $5,100 boat was purchased!

It also appears that contestants were allowed to be on the show for 5 days back then, as the champion on this show was returning for her 4th show and was told she had one more day to play.  Two funny moments in this particular episode: a hilarious mis-solve in Round One, and a bizarre Chuckism at the end of the show.  Since the show was running a little short, Chuck had the contestant who won round three spin the wheel one last time to see what she would have spun had she not solved the puzzle when she did.  Of course she wound up hitting $1500.

$1,500 was top dollar in round three, and $850 was close behind. Great overhead shot here.
Chuck and Susan hang out by that groovy boat during the credits. Copyright 1976 (if you can read that)

Also in 1976...The show's first Tournament of Champions was held, with contestants from the half-hour and hour versions of the show.  No "Kill the Vampire" moments here.  This episode exists at the Museum of Television and Radio.