When Wheel of Fortune returned this week for its 38th season of syndicated television, the show looked a little different. In the first newly taped episodes since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, viewers may have noticed some changes reflecting our age of social distancing. The game is still the same, the stage is still the same; there are no drastic alterations like giant plastic dividers between players. Everyone was already pretty spaced out around the giant wheel, so that helps.

But you can’t really have everybody pawing the same wheel these days — so now the players each have their own “white thing” (that’s literally what Pat Sajak calls it) that they use to grab edges of the wheel and give it a spin. You can see one of the “white things” in the image above. Please do not make any jokes about what it looks like the contestant is holding.

The other big difference is that Pat stands in his spot the entire episode, and always keeps his distance from the guests. During the previous 37 seasons, when a player would solve a puzzle, he’d come over and shake their hand and stand next to them while he announced their prizes and the scores. Now he remains firmly six feet away from everyone. During the bonus round, he also stands a bit away from the winner as they spin the bonus wheel, leading this slightly awkward dance where the player spins, then moves away from the wheel so Pat can approach the wheel and grab the card. Maybe we can get like a robotic arm to pick up the card and hand it to Pat?

Still, apart from a slightly less chummy atmosphere because everyone’s spaced out, it doesn’t look that different from your standard episodes of It’s hard to imagine fans being upset about any of the changes. In very uncertain times, it’s nice to see a TV staple for decades still going strong.

Gallery — Essential DVDs of the Streaming Era:

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