While Jeopardy! has been in the (darkly tinged) spotlight lately for its problematic attempts to replace Alex Trebek, let's not forget that now-former executive producer Mike Richards was also overseeing Wheel of Fortune. In the aftermath of his exit, WoF has revealed a slew of changes and tweaks coming to Season 39, but thankfully none of them involved hosting substitutions, as both Pat Sajak and Vanna White have extended their contracts to stick with the hugely popular game show until at least 2024. Now let's go over what will be different when Season 39 premieres, including one element that's bothered Sajak for a while now.
Pat Sajak And Announcer Jim Thornton Will Be More Involved
For one thing, Pat Sajak has earned a promotion of sorts, as he will now balance his hosting duties with those of being a consulting producer behind the scenes, according to Today. No details behind what that will entail, or if that will keep him from flubbling moments on the set, but it's certainly a smart move to get more involved behind the scenes. And on the flip side, announcer Jim Thornton will no longer just be a faceless voice, as his presence is shifting from behind the camera to in front of it. Thornton will now be sat at a new on-stage podium when making his show introductions and announcements.
Another Sajak Is Joining The Crew
After having stepped into the Vanna White role in 2019 when Pat Sajak was out for medical reasons, his daughter Maggie Sajak will now join the Wheel of Fortune staff in a more permanent capacity. The younger Sajak will now serve as the show's social correspondent, which means she'll be handling lots of exclusive content for Wheel of Fortune's YouTube page and social media profiles, including behind-the-scenes interviews and other fun vids. Perhaps this is the show's way of setting her up to take her dad's place when he retires?
The Final Spin
Arguably the most significant change coming to Wheel of Fortune's new season involves the final spin ahead of the last round. While Pat Sajak has been responsible for that final spin in seasons past, that responsibility will now rest with the contestant who was already in control. This is apparently a change that Sajak is openly happy with, as he said:
If you think about it, by doing the 'final spin' I, as host, had an impact on the outcome of the game and that has always bothered me because it just didn’t feel right. With this change, only the contestants determine the outcome of the game and the host does not impose themself in any way.
That's all fine and dandy, but if he changes his standard "Vowels are worth nothing, and consonants are worth..." before the amount is determined, we riot.
New Bonuses And Wheel Wedge
In honor of Season 39, Wheel of Fortune has upped the minimum amount of money that can be earned by winning the Bonus Wheel round, making it a cool $39,000. As well, contestants now have a bigger motivation to sweep the Triple Toss Up Round by solving all three puzzles, as doing so will now earn a bonus reward of $4,000. But fans will be saying goodbye to the Free Play wedge on the wheel during normal rounds, as it will be replaced by a wedge worth $850.
New Set Details And Music
While there presumably won't be any major "why did they do that?" renovations regarding the looks and sounds of Wheel of Fortune, the producers have indeed made certain changes to keep things fresh. There will indeed be some new set details for fans to notice even beyond Jim Thornton's new podium placement. As well, viewers will hear a new version of the classic theme song, with Season 39's take on "Changing Keys" getting a new arrangement.
While it sounds like a lot of changes, one can only assume that Wheel of Fortune will still be the same show that people still watch in droves on a daily basis. Season 39 will make its debut on Monday, September 13, so check your local listings to see when and where it airs in your area. And also keep up with all the other big premieres coming to the 2021 Fall TV premiere schedule.