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‘Wheel of Fortune’ coming back for more fun, games


It’s a chance to spin the wheel, buy a vowel and meet Pat Sajak and Vanna White.

Thousands of people are expected to apply to be on “Wheel of Fortune,” the longest-running and top syndicated television game show in America. The contestant search is underway. Fun, energetic and smart problem-solvers are encouraged to submit an application online at wheeloffortune.com/be-a-contestant or learn more at khon2.com.

Applicants must submit a video, one minute or less, explaining why they should be selected. Besides being fun to watch, Executive Producer Harry Friedman said those videos give the team a chance to see what people sound and look like, as well as provide some insight into their personality.

For many, being on this nearly 40-year-old game show is a dream come true. More than 10,000 people try out each year, but fewer than 600 are selected to appear on the show. Friedman has heard countless stories of people who grew up watching the show say it reminds them of home, or claim it is a daily ritual. The show, he added, has lots of second- and third-generation viewers.

Trademarked as “America’s Game,” “Wheel of Fortune” has earned several awards since debuting in 1975. It also has awarded more than $200 million in cash and prizes to contestants. For more than 90 million Americans, they have never known a world without it.

Friedman said the show has remained a steadfast favorite because “it’s fun, anyone can play and you feel good when watching it.”

Auditions are scheduled for the Big Island next month and on Oahu in late June. Nearly 100 lucky people will be selected to compete in one of the 20 episodes scheduled to be taped during four weeks in September at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. The show is looking for about 30 individuals, 15 couples and 15 pairs of best friends, Friedman said.

Each week will have a theme: “Wheel Goes To Waikoloa,” “Best Friends,” “Hawaiian Adventure Activities” and “Second Honeymoon.” With all episodes and the sets, Hawaii’s beauty, aloha spirit and what makes it special will be shared with the show’s 25 million weekly viewers. There will be segments depicting the island’s diversity of geography and climates, from lush greenery and waterfalls to arid coastal and desert-like areas. The familiar places to be showcased include Hapuna Beach and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Friedman said.

“The goal is to transport the viewer to Hawaii, and we try our best to make them feel like they’re there,” he said.

The episodes filmed here are set to air in November and February, Friedman said. “Wheel of Fortune” is seen weeknights in Hawaii at 6:30 p.m. on KHON 2.

This is the fifth time “Wheel of Fortune,” which is celebrating its 32nd season, has taped in Hawaii since 1996. It’s also the show’s third time on the Big Island. In fact, the Hilton Waikoloa Village was the show’s first outdoor remote, Friedman said. That history and a love for Hawaii are why the show continues to return, he added.

Friedman said the production team in 1996 not only had the challenge of creating an outdoor television studio and stage in Waikoloa, it also had to overcome a rare heavy downpour that occurred the day before shooting. Immediately following the rain, crews used hair dryers and towels to soak everything up because the show must go on.

The Los Angeles-based production will ship 37 trailers and containers with 1.8 million pounds of equipment for the upcoming shows. More than 225 staff and crew members will be required.

Local union workers also will be hired to fulfill various positions, such as technician, security and stage hand, Friedman said. Since there is only one wheel and one puzzleboard, both have to be dismantled and reassembled whenever the show travels to tape in a different location. The show’s home is at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, Calif.

Close to $6 million will be spent for these shows on the island, and that investment doesn’t include the prizes and money that will be awarded to the contestants, Friedman said. “Wheel of Fortune” will likely be “a bright spotlight” and have a positive effect for the island, he added.

Hawaii Island Film Commissioner T. Ilihia Gionson agreed.

“A quality, family-friendly show like this, bringing 12 million viewers in living rooms across the nation to Hawaii Island will have lasting positive impacts on all sectors of our economy,” he said.

Besides taping here, Gionson said the show plans on doing outreach to local schools with the multimedia programs he helps coordinate.

Friedman mentioned how Hawaii is frequently picked as the destination favorite for “Wheel” watchers and contestants.

“We have taped ‘Wheel of Fortune’ on location 65 times,” Friedman said. “But no destination created a greater sense of excitement than Hawaii. The scenery, the hospitality and the warmth of the aloha spirit simply can’t be found anywhere else. There’s no place like Hawaii.”

Leanne Pletcher, Hilton Waikoloa Village’s marketing communications director, said the resort is delighted to have the show for a third taping.

“They really have become part of our ohana and we are thrilled to welcome them back home,” she said. “There was so much excitement surrounding the shows being taped here in 2008 and we can’t wait to share this experience once again with the community.

“The show, Pat Sajak and Vanna White offer a great way to promote all that is unique and beautiful about Hawaii Island. With all the activity surrounding the production at Waikoloa Beach Resort and Hawaii Island, ‘Wheel of Fortune’ brings so much to the community, as well. We are all really looking forward to another spin with ‘Wheel of Fortune’ in Hawaii.”

Email Carolyn Lucas-Zenk at clucas-zenk@westhawaiitoday.com.

 

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