Ryan Cannonie, a graduate of Tahlequah High School and Northeastern State University, traveled to Las Vegas in July and appeared on a taping of Wheel of Fortune.
His appearance is set to air Sept. 25, 2013, at 6:30 p.m. on Tulsa TV station KTUL channel 8.
Cannonie shared some details about appearing on the show:
• Wheel of Fortune does not pay for contestants to get to a show taping. Game show officials send letters asking potential candidates if they can attend a particular showing. If the contestant is unable, his or her name will go back into selection process. Cannonie said the “parting gift” of $1,000 helps cover travel expenses.
• Contestants are given audience passes for five people. Contestants receive two sets of tickets because they are called to appear on one of two possible tapings.
• Contestants were required to keep their cell phones off the day of the taping, and were not allowed to communicate with anyone outside of other contestants and game show officials.
• Before the taping, contestants received a lengthy list of possible “rounds” they could come across while playing on Wheel of Fortune. Contestants are told how special prizes or game pieces work, and are given various tips and details about categories. “It is really important to remember the category, I’ll say that. It will really sink your battleship if you don’t.”
• “If we had to go to the bathroom, they would walk us to the bathroom, walk us back. We also went through a bunch of paper work, and all the rules of the game.”
• All contestants go through hair and makeup “so you look better on TV.”
• “Then we went to the actual set, they told us about the wheel, how it works, how the show works. We practiced spinning the wheel several times because it is really heavy and made of metal. You have to grab it a certain way in a certain spot. You have to grab it at the top, push it around, then push off. The first person to try to spin it was a young lady who put as much force as she could into it, and it went like three spots – three wedges over. Everybody, the first time we spun it, had a little bit of trouble.”
• When the show travels outside of its home in California, local stand-ins are on set in case a contestant is unable to make it. “There were 15 regular contestants [for the five show tapings] and two or three stand-ins” in Vegas.
• There were two audiences for five shows: Three shows were filmed before a lunch break, and two more after lunch.
• Between each show, Pat Sajak and Vanna White change their wardrobe.
• Men and women have various dress requirements. For men, Cannonie said business or business-casual is accepted with some exceptions. Women had a much more specific list of dress requirements, he said. Many of the rules were in place because of the cameras.
• When preparing contestants, show officials place microphones on the men and women and make sure they can pronounce the hometowns and names of the contestants. “Tahlequah” and “Cannonie” gave show officials a little bit of trouble throughout the process.
“While you’re in the back, they’ll bring you out after makeup to do a promo spot for local TV, which is a little awkward because they put you in front of a camera and say, ‘OK, act excited and read off this card.’ Well, for my card, ‘Tahlequah’ was spelled with a ‘G’ instead of a ‘Q,’ so it kept throwing me off.”
• Contestants stand on motorized platforms behind the wheel. The platforms are raised or lowered in an attempt to help balance the show for TV cameras.
• During commercial breaks, Sajak or White visit with the audience.
• “Between puzzles they do breaks for the length of a commercial break, and as soon as they go to commercial, we have to get down [from the platforms] carefully. They start working on the wheel, making it ready for the next round. Then you have three people come up to you. The makeup was coming off me, so in between every round they had to come reapply. There was a lady putting my makeup on; another who gave you your pep talk. ‘You’ve got time, don’t worry, you’ve got this coming up!’ or ‘Think of all the money you could make!” All three of us have people up there. You’re staring with one eye half open, trying to listen; you’re doing like three things at once, all in the span of a commercial break, then you have to get back up on the wheel.”
• After the taping, contestants are taken backstage and fill out more paperwork for any prizes won.
According to the Wheel of Fortune website:
• Since the show’s syndication in 1983, “Wheel” has given out more than $200 million in cash and prizes to contestants.
• Earlier this year, Autumn Erhard won $1 million in the bonus round to become the biggest winner on Wheel of Fortune.
• Wheel of Fortune was first called “Shoppers Bazaar.”
• “Wheel” has taped in 26 different cities since 1988.
• The game show’s puzzle board has 52 touch-screen monitors – 12 across in the top and bottom rows, and 14 across in the two middle rows.
• The wheel itself has over 200 computerized lighting instruments.
• The first letter Vanna White turned on the puzzle board was a “T.”
• The $250 cost of a vowel hasn’t changed in 30 years.
• Vanna White has worn nearly 6,000 outfits at the puzzle board.
• There are now 46 puzzle categories, though there were only six categories 30 years ago.