As my man Mr. A-Z says, it's all about the wordplay. And for me, that means Wheel of Fortune. Back in my smarty-pants high school days (no, I am not still a smarty-pants. I have graduated to being a know-it-all. Doyie) I used to think I was beyond WoF. I cruised through Jeopardy at 7:00pm, yelling back answers like, "Star of India!" and "The Tempest!" with equal parts triumph and disdain. When WoF started at 7:30, I was all, my brain is too fast for this dumb show. So I would turn to other intellect-enriching programs, like Entertainment Tonight.
I can't pin down the moment that turned me around. I probably just left the TV on after Jeopardy while I worked in the kitchen and little by little, I soaked in the goodness that is Wheel. For starters, Pat Sajak is hilarious and not for the reason you think. Not unlike Pat Kiernan, DCA, Pat Sajak's humor is buried beneath a professional demeanor. When a contestant says, "I'd like to buy an O please" and Pat responds with "An O. Well OK!" he's not making bad "O - OK" joke. He's saying to them, "Are you fucking kidding me? You just bought an E, you have like $500 left and the goddamn answer is 'Whitney Houston Texas'. How do you need to buy a fucking O to solve it?!" And then when the contestant gets their one O and then announces, "I'd like to solve the puzzle, Pat! Whitney Houston Texas!", he might say something like, "Yep that's it!" but in his head he's thinking, "Of course it's Whitney fucking Houston Texas. You had all but the X up there but you had to go and waste $250 on the fucking one O like it was "Apple" unlocking the fucking DaVinci Code." In other circumstances when the puzzle is all but solved and the contestant chooses to spin that one last time, Pat will give them an "Alrighty!" but with an unmistakable subtext of, "Go for it, you greedy dumb fuck. You can't be satisfied with $15,000 in the bank plus a trip to Cabo, no, you just have to spin and call out the X for $350 more. Come on Bankrupt!" When they inevitably land on Bankrupt, he gives the best fake "Awww" ever before brightly turning to the next person, "Whaddya say there, Karen?"
But it's not just the heady mix of Pat Sajak's barely-masked loathing for both the contestants and for himself that keeps me hooked. There is a special event, rare as a Corpse Flower, that once you experience first-hand will have you setting your Season Pass to bump Wheel even above Ellen: The MisSolve.
The MisSolve is not when a contestant can't get the final puzzle, or when they shout a desperation guess during the speed round. It's not even when they get one word wrong, like adding an S to the end thereby rendering their whole answer incorrect. The MisSolve is when over 65% of the letters are in place and the contestant thoughtfully calls out a completely nonsensical solution. Somewhere along the lines of "Baby Fish Mouth" I have been fortunate enough to witness three of these in my lifetime, and I am here to share them with you today.
I'll admit upfront this was a tricky puzzle and the Feyonce (who did not give me the flu, BTW) solved it before I could. The Category was "Event" I think (and they are playing fast and loose with those categories these days. You'll see what I mean) and the answer was:
Choreographed Fountain Show
Tricky, right? And only an event in the every-half-hour-outside-of-the-Bellagio kind of way. But our intrepid contestant's stab came out as:
Choreographer Fountain Shot
I'll overlook the fact that the T was already up in Fountain, as were the first two Rs so you knew that Choreographer and Shot couldn't be right. What the hell would a Choreographer Fountain Shot even be? Bob Fosse's version of "Our Lips Are Sealed"?
A slightly more plausible but no less correct guess was given for the following puzzle, Category "Around the House":
Juicy Pineapple Chunks
Ok, what? It's the unnecessary adjectives that make these kinds of puzzles difficult, as evidenced by the guess of:
Spicy Pineapple Chunks
See, not totally absurd. Granted, I've never heard of Spicy Pineapple Chunks but then again I don't eat a lot of Thai.
But my all-time favorite MisSolve, the one that gets me giggling every time I think of it or come across French pastries is this puzzle, Category "On the Menu":
Now, the C hadn't yet been called, but other than that I'm pretty sure the entire board was filled in, because the contestant only got one tiny little letter wrong in their guess:
Seriously? Seriously. Mustard-Filled Eclair. Not even my people would eat something like that.
So there you have it. My love of the Wheel laid bare. Not since the days when people were forced to spend their winnings on living room sets and ceramic Dalmations from the rotating stage has this show been such a nightly ritual for me. I was awed by the star power of NFL Week, "aww"ed by the charm of Best Friends Week and plan to be "Aw-yeah"ed by the hot-n-steaminess of Soap Opera Star Week. I am continually amazed at Vanna's wardrobe and her complete and utter lack of purpose. I am also waiting for the day Pat Sajak loses it and slaps some poor, unsuspecting dude for calling out "N" when it's already been called. Seeing as how the show is taped months in advance however, I suspect we may never see that footage air. In the meantime, I comfort myself by shouting out answers like "Upright Vacuum Cleaner" and "Sampling the Local Tequilas" (a prize puzzle where the prize was, natch, a trip to Mexico) and crying anytime someone solves the Final Puzzle. That never happens on Jeopardy.