'Wheel of Fortune' Contestant Suffers 'Biggest Choke' in Show's History
Wheel of Fortune's Teen Week started off on Monday with an awkward moment for one teen contestant may go down in history. She mistakenly called for the wrong letter to complete the word, "fresh." Of course, contestants who are much older have made more bizarre mistakes, so she shouldn't feel too bad. That said, many in the audience were audibly upset.
The category was "food and drink," and the correct phrase was "fresh tropical fruit." The "s" in "fresh" was the only letter left, but the contestant called "g" instead. Audience members gasped, with someone clearly yelling, "What?" The next contestant chose to solve the puzzle instead of spinning and gave the correct response. She won a trip to Antigua.
This may have been the biggest choke in all of Wheel of Fortune history #WheelOfFortune pic.twitter.com/2nrcfmv5cT— Graham Bamf (@cracker_bamf21) February 21, 2023
Since the contestants were all teens in this episode, host Pat Sajak chose a softer way to respond to the mistake. "You know, when that happens and you're sitting at home, you say, 'How in the world can they?' But you know, sometimes, it's a word that just doesn't want to come into focus for you," Sajak said.
In recent years, Sajak has become increasingly cognizant of the online vitriol some contestants face, which may have made him protective of the teen contestants this week. Back in March 2022, he posted a long Twitter thread in defense of contestants after the infamous "feather in your cap" puzzle. That incident saw multiple contestants incorrectly guess multiple times before it was finally solved.
"I've been praised online for 'keeping it together' and not making fun of the players. Truth is, all I want to do is help to get them through it and convince them that those things happen even to very bright people," Sajak wrote in part. "But mocking them online and calling them names? These are good people in a bad situation under a kind of stress that you can't begin to appreciate from the comfort of your couch."
Sajak has been hosting iterations of Wheel of Fortune since 1981, while Vanna White joined in late 1982. The two have been hosting the current syndicated version of Wheel since 1983. In January, ABC Stations picked up both Wheel and Jeopardy! through the 2027-2028 TV season. Both shows are produced by Sony Pictures Television and they are distributed by CBS Media Ventures. It's unclear if Sajak and White plan to continue hosting the show through 2028, as they have hinted in the past that they may retire sooner rather than later.
"Years go by fast. We're getting near the end. It's been a long [time]. We're not gonna do this for another 40 years. The end is near," Sajak told Entertainment Tonight in September 2022. "It's an honor to have been in people's living rooms for that long. People were out there welcoming us. We're happy and proud."