In entertainment, an awful lot of stuff happens behind closed doors, from canceling TV shows to organizing music festival lineups. While the public sees the end product on TVs, movie screens, paper, or radio dials, they don’t see what it took to get there. In Expert Witness, The A.V. Club talks to industry insiders about the actual business of entertainment in hopes of shedding some light on how the pop-culture sausage gets made.
The most popular syndicated show on TV, Wheel Of Fortune draws over 10 million viewers a day. On the air pretty much daily since 1975, the show has aired over 6,000 episodes and has inspired over 60 different international adaptations, from Denmark’s Lykkehjulet to Vietnam’s Chiếc Nón Kỳ Diệu. Over the years, tens of thousands of people have been contestants on Wheel, including A.V. Club reader Chad Mosher, who reached out to us and offered up tips on wheel weight, consonant selection, and how to successfully schmooze Pat Sajak. Because we’re not monsters, we took him up on the offer, throwing in a few questions of our own about game play, prize distribution, and just how radiant Vanna White looks in real life.
The A.V. Club: Why Wheel Of Fortune, and how did you get on?
Chad Mosher: I’m a huge game-show fan, so Wheel Of Fortune, to me, is the pinnacle of game shows. It’s been on the longest. It’s the highest rated and the most successful. So I’ve been on a few before, but this is the one I’ve always wanted to be on.
I saw they were bringing their traveling auditions, the Wheelmobile, to Detroit last May. I live in Flint, Michigan, and since that’s only an hour for travel, I figured I would go to audition. They have this process where you put your name in a little hopper and they pick out people throughout the day. I was one of the lucky people that got picked out to audition live onstage. I did a little mock interview, played a mock game, and if they liked you, they would call you back for a final audition in a couple of months. And I got called back to do that in August.
AVC: What kind of skills do you think helped you succeed of Wheel Of Fortune?
CM: Just studying the English language first and foremost is very helpful to being on Wheel Of Fortune. Also watching the show in general, because there are a lot of tips and tricks in the categories they offer that will help you be a good puzzle solver. For instance, at least twice a week, they have a category called “What Are You Doing?” Most of the time, the answer ends with “ing.” There might be something in there like “rowing a boat” or “seeing a movie with friends.” Just knowing that gives you an advantage, knowing that if you pick an N or a G, it’s most likely going to be in there.
I’ve been watching the show since I was very, very little. Doing that gives you an advantage because you’ve had a lot of time to study these words and see how they appear on the board.
AVC: Did you have any plans before you went on the show?
CM: Well, there were a couple of strategies that I went in thinking about.
AVC: Did you think of those yourself? There are Jeopardy! fan pages where people talk about that stuff.
CM: I’m in game-show groups like that, but these are things that I thought of on my own.
The one thing that I dislike the most is when a contestant—let’s say the person next to them loses $8,000 on a bankrupt and the puzzle is half-full when it gets to their turn, but they know the answer and they solve it immediately. Well, your score is 0 and they give you $1,000 as a minimum for the round, but did you come to Wheel Of Fortune to win $1,000? That wasn’t my plan. It annoys me when people solve the puzzle without trying to get a prize or some cash or something. So my first goal was to build up my bank before I solved the puzzle. This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and it’s never going to happen again.
My other idea was that the wheel is pretty heavy, so I thought there’s got to be a way—I don’t want to say to game it, but to pay attention to your average spin and to see where it lands each time. There’s 24 spaces on the wheel. Let’s say I spin it, and it goes 22 spaces. Well, if I can see on my next spin that in 22 spaces it’s going to be a bankrupt, why don’t I try to spin it a little softer, a little harder? But after rehearsing spinning the wheel, I found that that’s very hard to accomplish, so that strategy went straight out the window.
AVC: Let’s go back. Once you do the tryout, you get called back in Detroit. Then what happens?
CM: The first thing they do is they call in a few people. They call everybody’s name, you get to call out a couple letters. They want to get a sneak peek of your personality. I got called probably midway through. They also have puzzles on a PowerPoint that they circle through. There’s probably a dozen or 16 of them. So we call out a couple letters to make sure that we’re not total duds, and then they give us a test: 16 puzzles laid out just like the show. You’ve got five minutes to get as many done as you can. They don’t tell you what the passing score is, but I would guess it would probably be at least 10 out of the 16. And because, like I said, I’ve studied the show for a long time, I’m pretty sure I got 15 out of 16. There was one puzzle I still couldn’t figure out even with a couple extra minutes.
AVC: Do they give you more letters as the test goes on? Or is it just 10 blank spaces or something and you get three letters?
CM: It just depends on each puzzle. Some of them had more letters than others, but they fill in some of the letters. They say, “Okay, if there are two Es in the puzzle, that’s all the Es there are. If there is one R, that’s all the Rs there are.” It’s up to you to figure out what it might be.
Once they graded the puzzles, they brought us all back in. I think there were approximately 80 or 90 people in my audition group, and I know there were a couple of other audition groups that day in Detroit. Once they made the cut, they knocked it down to about 15 to 20. I made it through that final cut. And then they have us go through a more rigorous mock game. They call us up four or five at a time. They ask us to mime like we’re spinning the wheel so that we can see that we would, a) look good doing it, and b) that we don’t have a problem doing something that silly in front of other people. Because if we’re not going to be able to do that, then we might not be great candidates for the show. If you’re not going to want to be silly in front of 50 people, how are you going to manage on a TV show that’s watched by 10 million people?
Then we go through the mock games. They go down the line for the people they’ve called, and they call out some letters and they want to make sure that we don’t buckle under the pressure. They have a fake wheel in the front of the room that they spin. So they call out “650,” and once they call out a number, you’ve got to make a decision and you’ve got to call out your order. If you can’t make that decision under pressure, they’re going to buzz you and move on to the next person in line until your mock turn is over. It’s their way of putting people under pressure to make sure they’ll be able to perform if they get called to be on the real show.
AVC: So you’re not just going to be like “um… J? No, K.”
CM: Exactly. That’s why, after going through this process, it’s kind of amazing how many people get on this show and still buckle under the pressure. They do a really good job of trying to pick people who aren’t going to do that. But it seems that more and more and more, people do that on the show.
AVC: You were also on Jeopardy!, and I was on Jeopardy! as well. The smartest, funniest person in the green room when I was on, I just thought, “She’s going to win.” She went to Harvard, etc., etc. But she got onstage and was petrified. She just couldn’t do it.
CM: They can put people through as many simulations as you want, but until you get to that real thing, you never know how somebody is going to react.
I considered myself fairly calm all throughout the day of the taping until I heard the announcer say, “This is the Wheel Of Fortune show,” blah blah. And then I’m like, “Holy crap, this is actually about to happen.” In my mind, I was cool with it, but my body started to have this nervous reaction. I started to jitter a little bit, and I felt it in my stomach. I had to just say to myself, “Relax, it’s okay. It’s just a little Wheel Of Fortune.”
AVC: So you do that, and they say, “Congratulations, you made it. We’ll give you a call.” And then you just kind of wait it out?
CM: Yep. Exactly. They said if we want you to be on a show, we’ll send you a letter in two to three weeks, and I got the letter. And the letter said, “Congratulations, you’ve been picked to be on our show,” which is kind of unusual because I think they’re the only show that will tell you, “You’re going to be on our show. Just wait for the call.” I got an email and a call about four months after the audition.
AVC: And did you have to fly yourself out there, or did they do it for you?
CM: We have to fly ourselves out there. Every contestant that gets to play gets at least $1,000, so that’s kind of their way of reimbursing you, but I had to fly myself out. And it was a little difficult because my tape date was December 18 and I got the email probably about two weeks before that. So not only did I have to combat having two weeks’ notice, but it was a week before Christmas. It was a little more pricey than I would have liked it to be.
They’re actually very accommodating. They say, “Hey, if for whatever reason you can’t make it out right now, we’ll reschedule it for a future episode.” But I’m not going to take my chances turning Wheel Of Fortune down.
AVC: You ultimately won about $19,000, so you did all right on that deal.
AVC: Is it like Jeopardy! where you have to put yourself up? You stay in a hotel or you stay with a friend?
CM: Yep. They give you recommended hotels, and they give you a discount on those, but that’s pretty much what it is. You have to go to the hotel.
AVC: What do they do tell you on the day of the show? Show up at 5:30 in the morning? What instructions do they give you?
CM: If you go to one of the hotels they recommend, they bring out a shuttle. So they say you need to be in the lobby by like 7 a.m. with all the contestants that day that had come in from out of town. I think there was only one person that was local and they were an extra anyway, so they weren’t going to get to play that day. So everybody was in this one shuttle, and we tried to get to know each other because you want to beat your opponents but you also don’t want to be that guy who’s just, “I’m going to win. I don’t want to talk to anybody.” We mingled, and we got to know each other. It was a lot of fun. And then we arrived at the studio about 20 minutes later.
AVC: Do they film a certain number of episodes in a day?
CM: They film six episodes of Wheel Of Fortune in one day. So there were 18 of us contestants, plus I think one or two extras.
AVC: So you’ve got your makeup on, you’ve got your clothes on, and then they just sit you in a room and start drawing names?
CM: We went through a couple of briefings. They had the lawyer come in and make sure none of us was running for political office, had been on more than X number of game shows in a certain time, and just to remind us that this is a game show, and there are rules you have to abide by and if you break the rules or see anybody breaking the rules, you need to let us know so we can make sure this is run very fairly. That’s what a lot of the morning was. We didn’t even get our makeup done until we had went through all the briefings, all the rules, what to do, what not to do. And then we got to play a mock game before we started. We got to test out the wheel.
AVC: Is it just “spin until you get comfortable” or do they say, “you get five spins?”
CM: It’s spin until you’re comfortable. They bring us up there, they throw up a puzzle on the board, they just call three of us at at a time, and we cycle through. They want to make sure that we’re able to project because they have us on temporary mics so that we can make sure our voice level is good enough for the show.
They’d be like, “Okay, Chad, it’s your turn.” And they tell you how to spin the wheel. There’s a good technique to spin it to make it go all the way around that I don’t think everybody pays attention to. What you’re supposed to do is you should lean all the way over to your right, grab on to the spoke, pull it toward you, and then push it off as far as you can. A lot of people just grab it and then spin it, but I was honestly afraid that I would get there, spin the wheel, and it would go seven spokes and I’d look like a weakling on national TV. But if you listen to what they tell you, it goes pretty far. So they make sure that you’re okay with spinning it, and they go “Okay, call a letter.” And you go “T,” you project your voice. You do that a couple of times. And then they go over to the person next to you. They just want to make sure that you’re doing what you’re supposed to do and you’re making sure that you’re not going to make yourself look foolish on TV.
AVC: How heavy is the wheel? Everyone wants to know.
CM: It’s very, very heavy. Actually, I don’t think “heavy” is the word for it, but it’s got a lot of resistance. It’s got a lot of force to it. You’ve got to put some muscle behind it to get it to go. But if you follow the strategy they give you, it’s not as difficult as it is if you would just try to grab it and move it. If you can reach over and give it as much push as you can, the wheel is a lot easier to get around.
AVC: Did you get picked right away or did you have to watch a couple games?
CM: After we had done the briefings, we went back to the room and then we drew numbers. Everybody gets to draw a ball, and it’s got a number from 1 to 6 on it. So everybody who has number 1, you’re on the first show. Everybody that has number 2, you’re on the second show, and so on and so forth. That’s how we determined what show you were going to be on. I got to be on show 2, so I sat in the audience and watched the first episode, which was kind of cool. I didn’t want to be first up. I wanted to relax, and I got a sense of what was going on and paid attention to what might be going on because our theme week was “Fun And Fit.” I wanted to get a sense of what the theme might be so that it would help me out when it became my show.
AVC: And did it work?
CM: I think so, yeah. I realized right away watching the first episode from the audience that the first pop-up puzzle had a theme to it, and then the first main game puzzle had a theme to it. I was able to keep that in the back of my mind. The first one’s probably going to be related, and then the first main one is going to be related. And it was from watching that first episode.
AVC: How big is the audience and how big do you think the set is?
CM: What surprised me the most was that the wheel looked super tiny in person. Even knowing in advance that it was really hard to spin, I thought it was going to be gigantic, and I don’t know why I thought that. Maybe it’s because the shots that they take of the wheel overhead make it seem a lot bigger than it actually is.
AVC: They also blow it up on the screen.
CM: Exactly. And I don’t want to say that it’s tiny because that would be everybody’s first impression.
AVC: How big do you think it is? Is it as big as a dining room table?
CM: I’m terrible at measurements. I would say it’s bigger than a dining room table. I would say a dining-room table that could seat about 18 people. I would think it’s about that big.
AVC: That’s big, or at least bigger than I’d think.
CM: It is, but it’s not as big as I imagined the Wheel Of Fortune to be.
The audience I think was about 150 people, or at least that’s a rough estimate.
AVC: What happened when it was your time to play?
CM: Everybody sits in the audience, and there’s a little section in the audience for future contestants so that we don’t mingle with anybody because of game show restrictions. You can’t talk to anybody that’s not part of the show. As you’re watching the first show, in between the end of the main game and the bonus round, they call us three over and we go into the back, get final makeup touches, have our last drink, and we get ready for our turn. We got to watch the bonus round on the big screen in the green room, where we had been sitting all day, and we knew that once the round was over, it was time for us to get up there and take our turn.
AVC: They really flip that set fast.
CM: They really do. It’s very live taped. The couple episodes that I was there live for, there really wasn’t much editing. There wasn’t any reason to really stop down. They turn it out pretty quickly.
AVC: Do you get to pick your spot?
CM: Nope. We drew that at the same time we drew what number show we would be in. We drew little balls with colors on them. I drew yellow, so I was in the middle position.
AVC: Did you meet Pat Sajak before you got on the set?
CM: We didn’t meet Pat until the show. There was no interaction except during our rehearsal when Vanna came in with her bag of sewing and crochet stuff, and she said hi to us. She introduced herself, and we got to meet her before anybody else.
AVC: Does she look great?
CM: It’s amazing how great she looks. It’s kind of rude to say that she looks good for her age, but even without makeup and all that stuff on, she looks really good. Whenever I meet somebody who accuses her of having work done, I’m like, there’s no way she’s had work done. She just looks that good.
AVC: In your game, you won the first toss-up. How did that feel?
CM: It felt really great. It’s a great way to get started off because you want to get off on the right foot, and the best foot to get started off is to get the first one right. I was getting a little nervous because I do really well at the toss-ups at home, and I felt like it was taking a while for it to come up. If you watch the clip, the girl next to me buzzed in like half a second after I do.
AVC: What do you remember about the actual game? Did you have tricks in mind?
CM: I just remember that the main key for me was to maximize my score. As soon as you realize what the puzzle is, you want to pick the letters that appear a lot in the puzzle on a high dollar amount. I don’t feel like they stress this enough, but for each time that letter is in the puzzle, you get that money. So if there are four Ns at $900, you get $3,600.
Once I realized the puzzle, I tried to figure it out. It’s very hard to do with all the lights and Pat talking. I tried to realize what letters are there in frequency so that I could pick those when I landed on higher amounts, and once the puzzle’s full of letters that there’s just one of, I can solve it then because it’s more of a risk that way. And watching back, on the round 1 puzzle, I did miss two Ls that were up there. But you miss that stuff and you want to make sure you can still get some money out of it.
AVC: What if you had gone bankrupt spinning for those Ls?
CM: Exactly. And that happened to me later in the show because of my strategy, so it doesn’t always pay off.
AVC: When you spin and Pat says, “three Cs,” does Pat count, are they flashing him signs, or does he have it on the card?
CM: I think he’s got it on a little monitor or something. I wanted to pay attention to that as I was playing the game, but I was too busy playing the game to remember. But there’s something off stage that gives them an idea of how many there are. I think it’s a little monitor. It used to be somebody I think just showing up their fingers, but I think technology advanced past that.
AVC: And Vanna, the same thing. How does she know how to walk to the other side of the board and when to come back?
CM: They show Vanna the puzzle in advance so she can get an idea. Once in a while, if you pay attention to the show, somebody will call D, and she walks to where there’s a B and she doesn’t hear it quite clearly so she goes and touches the B. But I think they both have a sense of what the puzzle is. I know Pat has the puzzle on the card, but I don’t think he has the letter distribution there just in case something goes wrong with that.
AVC: Were you scared?
CM: The only thing I was really scared of was spinning the wheel and hitting bankrupt. That’s really about it. I was confident enough in my ability to solve the puzzles, but that really didn’t throw me as much as the unwieldiness of the wheel. Wheel Of Fortune is partly skill-based, but there’s a heck of a lot of luck involved in it once you spin that wheel. If the wheel doesn’t go with you and you’re the best puzzle solver in the world, you’re only going to win the three toss-ups because that’s all there is that’s skill-based. Everything else is skill-based plus luck. That’s the part that worried me the most.
AVC: What else do you wish you’d done, besides win the bonus round?
CM: I wish that I had changed my strategy a little bit in round 4 because on every episode, at some point they ring the bells and they say, “Okay, time is running out. It’s time for the speedup round.” My strategy in round 4 was, if I get control, I’m going to try to hang on to it as long as I can if I have the lead because that way when the toss-up or the speedup bells ring, if it’s in my turn, I can solve the puzzle and keep my lead and win the game. But I wish I hadn’t done that. I wish I had solved the puzzle earlier, and that way we could have gone on to another round with potentially more money, but that’s awful hindsight because I bankrupted on round 4. Maybe if I hadn’t bankrupted on round 4, my strategy would have worked and I wouldn’t have wanted to change that. But it didn’t work.
AVC: How early did you know the puzzles?
CM: The round 1 puzzle, I knew probably about a third of the way through. The round 2 puzzle—which I unfortunately never got a chance to spin on because that was a very big puzzle—I knew that about a third of the way in too. The third puzzle, by the time that my opponent had bankrupted and given me control of it, I knew it. So that’s why I was happy.
Going back to strategy, some of my friends asked me, “Why didn’t you just solve for the prize puzzle? Because obviously you knew it.” Well, because like I said before, it annoys me when people don’t try to get some money. I’m there to win cash. The trip to Paris was nice, but I also want to have some money. I knew that in that puzzle, there were a lot of multiples. There were some fours and there were some threes, so I solved it after I got the fours and threes knocked out.
AVC: You still got the trip to Paris.
CM: If I had bankrupted, it would have gone to my opponent, and she would have solved it.
AVC: Plus, you have a little more money.
CM: Exactly. Wheel Of Fortune is not a score-based game. You’re winning money as you solve these puzzles. A lot of people just look at the numbers on the screen and see that it’s a number, but there’s a dollar sign in front of it. And that’s real money for people like me and I want to amass as much as I can.
AVC: Do the other players take home the money they’ve won or is it like Jeopardy! where second place takes home $2,000 and third place takes home $1,000?
CM: The most unique part about Wheel Of Fortune is that if you’re the person who solves the puzzle, you keep the money. At the end of the game, I had $19,450 because I was the first-place player. But the girl at the red position had solved a couple of puzzles and had like $9,000, and she gets to keep that too. And then the lady in the blue position solved the $3,000 toss-up, and she got the $3,000. That’s not something you see on game shows. I can’t think of many other game shows besides Wheel Of Fortune that have ever offered the chance for a third-place player to still leave with a ton of cash. If you watch the show, sometimes the third-place player finishes at $11,000. And yeah, you’re in third place, but you still got 11 grand. That’s really good.
AVC: Let’s talk about the bonus round. You win the actual game, and then it moves along at the pace of the show? They say, “Come over here, let’s do this thing?”
AVC: Then what?
CM: We practiced spinning the [smaller prize] wheel really quickly to make sure that I knew how it worked. Really, that was the only preparation for the bonus round, just that quick spin of the wheel to make sure that I knew what I was supposed to do with it. I made sure that I spun that sucker as hard as I could because I knew I could spin that very hard as opposed to the big wheel, so I tried to show off a little bit.
I also got to introduce my friends who are all L.A. locals in the audience. That was cool. And then Pat walked me over to the spot, and then it was time to work on the puzzle.
AVC: Did you pick your four bonus letters in advance or did you pick them once you saw the placement of R, S, T, L, N, and E?
CM: It’s a combination. I picked C, D, H, and A. And yes, that does spell my name. But those are letters that when I’ve played the Wheel Of Fortune home game, video game, board game, whatever when I was young, those are the letters that I’ve always picked. and they generally work for me in terms of popping up in the puzzle. There are some people who think there are different letter combinations that work more frequently based upon puzzles that have come up in the past. But you don’t know what letters are going to work for you until you’ve seen what the answer to the puzzle was. I figured I would go in with the letters that I practiced with throughout the years because I thought it would give me a better advantage. When you’re looking at what letters are in the puzzle and you picture three consonants and a vowel, you’ve got to run through that mental alphabet in your head. I know that C, D, H, and A aren’t in that alphabet anymore, and since I’ve practiced with that for years, I think that gave me a bit more of an advantage versus just calling out a few random letters.
AVC: Your bonus round was tough. “Backyard gazebo”? Maybe if you’d picked a G and a B, it would have been easier.
CM: It was a tricky puzzle because it was a compound word plus a word that ended in a vowel, and those are always tricky. I do fairly well at the bonus rounds at home. I have a friend who lives in a different time zone than I do, and he gets Wheel Of Fortune a half-hour before I do, so when he knew that I was going to be on the show, he would send me the bonus rounds from the show and I would send him my three letters. It would usually be C, H, D, and A, and I would practice the bonus rounds for that day. Most of the time I would get them, so it was kind of disappointing with this one, but you can’t win them all.
AVC: Do you think the show’s writers try and pick words for the bonus that don’t include letters people guess very often?
CM: Absolutely. Totally. Yesterday on the show, the answer was “pop quiz,” and who’s going to call a Q and a Z? And most people don’t call a U or an I for their vowel, so that means that whole word down there is left blank. They know that people aren’t going to call those letters, and probably as their budget gets smaller, as the season goes on and more people win, I think they definitely make them harder. As a producer, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to control the fate of your show because you can’t start putting cheaper values on the wheel to make your budget smaller. They definitely know what they’re doing when they make a puzzle like that.
AVC: But you still won $19,000. Did you get prizes yet? How does that work? Did they cut you a check on site?
CM: No. That would be lovely; however, they do not. They say you’ll get your prizes within 120 days of the show. So $12,000 or so in cash, plus the trip to Paris. If you win a trip, they give you a form that you can send to the prize coordinator, and you can pick up to three dates for your trip within a year of when you did the show. I sent that form in, but I have not gotten confirmation yet. I haven’t got my winnings yet either, but it should be here probably by the first or second week of June.
AVC: You’ll have a great summer vacation.
CM: Absolutely. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’ve never been out of the country before, so going to Paris of all places as my first trip is fantastic.
AVC: Do you get to take someone with you?
CM: Yeah. They pay for you and a companion. I’m going to take my friend A.J., the guy who was sending me the puzzles, because he’s a good friend. He’s treated me to some vacations before, so it’s my turn to finally treat him.
AVC: Do they take the taxes out of the cash in advance?
CM: I think they take the taxes out for the California portion of the bill, but outside that, all those are my responsibility.
AVC: Sometimes people make fun of Wheel Of Fortune because they see it as less than Jeopardy!, or as just some letters and a wheel. Do you have a response to that having been on the show?
CM: It’s not the most cerebral of game shows, especially when you compare it to something like Jeopardy!, but there’s definitely some skill involved in the puzzle portion of that game. You see people come up and there’s one or two letters left and they just can’t figure it out. And those are people who have passed the test to be on the show. It’s a difficult game. But like I said, if you study word patterns and you know the show and the categories they use, that helps you out. Not everybody’s a great Wheel Of Fortune player. It’s easy to make fun of just because it’s like, “Oh, look, it’s this big colorful wheel,” and you see all the bloopers that come from the show, but it’s not a dumb person’s game at all.
AVC: It’s also not necessarily for old people, which is another perception people might have. All three of the contestants on your episode were hip, young twenty- or thirtysomethings.
CM: It’s been a few years since old people have really been contestants on game shows, which is kind of unfortunate because there are some old people that have great personalities that haven’t been casted on these shows. But more and more, they’re trying to cater to young age. They try to cater to the 18-to-34 demographic because that’s where the money is in television these days.
AVC: Wheel Of Fortune is crazy popular. You said earlier, 10 million viewers a day.
CM: It’s consistently the most-viewed TV show in syndication. If you compare it to the network primetime shows and even the most popular cable shows, it’s probably the seventh or eighth most-viewed TV show, I believe, compared to any other TV show that’s being aired at that time.
AVC: It just got renewed for two more seasons.
CM: Exactly. You can mock these shows all you want, but as long as there’s television, they’re probably going to have a place on television.
AVC: What restrictions do you have now that you’ve been on the show?Since I was on Jeopardy!, I can’t be on Jeopardy! again, for instance.
CM: Yeah, I can’t be on Wheel Of Fortune again. I also can’t be on any other game show within six months of when my episode of Wheel Of Fortune aired, meaning I can’t be on another game show until August. Outside that, as long as I don’t say something obscene and rude and untrue about Pat Sajak, I’m pretty much free to do whatever I want to do.
AVC: Are you allowed to be on Jeopardy!?
CM: No. I’ve been on Jeopardy! before too, but even as a kids’ week contestant, they still consider me to be a real Jeopardy! contestant. So until they change the rule on that, I cant be on Jeopardy! again either.
AVC: You’ve been on several game shows. What show do you want to be on next?
CM: Gosh, I don’t know. The one game show that I would be absolutely afraid to be on, honestly, and game shows really don’t put the fear in me, but I would be afraid to be on The Chase on the Game Show Network because that’s got Mark Labbett on it, and he’s one of the best trivia players in the world. You’ve got to defeat him, and I think that would be an honest-to-goodness challenge to do, and that would put a little bit of fear in me. Outside that, I don’t know. There’s always the next great game show coming down the pipeline. You never know what’s going to come back. If they ever brought back the Pyramid again, I would love to be on that show. I think I have really good word game skills for that. But you never know.
AVC: And now you can try out for game shows online.
CM: Producers are more and more starting to use Skype as a way to conduct auditions for people who can’t make it to the Los Angeles area. I think that’s great because if you just keep getting contestants from Central Casting, you’re not going to get a) great game players, or b) people with non-fake personalities. So if you use Skype to your advantage and use the internet to your advantage, you’re going to get more real people and better game players, which I think will make for better television.
AVC: Anything else you can say to help out somebody that’s going to be on Wheel Of Fortune?
CM: Use the used-letter board. On the side of the stage, there is a monitor that shows letters that are still active in the puzzle and the ones that have been chosen. Once you call a T, the T disappears from the board. There is probably at least one person a week on the show that calls a letter that’s already been used. They’re not paying attention to that board. That’s there for you as a tool and it helps you plug in some letters into the puzzle. If it’s not your turn, you can stare at the used-letter board and then look at the puzzle board and just start plugging letters into the missing spaces on that board and see what makes sense. Use the tools at your disposal. Not everybody does that, and I think it’s what separates a good Wheel Of Fortune player from a great Wheel Of Fortune player.