The Wheel: 15 Behind-The-Scenes Facts You Didn't Know About Michael McIntyre's BBC Gameshow

Including which film franchise the set takes its inspiration from, and why all might not be as it seems with that Contestant Wheel.
BBC/Hungry Bear/Gary Moyes/Matt Burlem

Since it first spun onto our screens last year during the second national lockdown, The Wheel has quickly cemented itself as one of the nation’s favourite gameshows.

With a host of celebrity guests, comedy stylings from Michael McIntyre and a set reminiscent of a giant cups and saucers ride, it’s unlike any other humdrum quiz series.

As it finally returns to Saturday nights, we’ve unearthed 15 behind-the-scenes facts you won’t have known about The Wheel...

1. The show was all Michael’s own idea – and he came up with it in the bath

The comedian told Stuff: “I had been thinking for a while about how game shows and quiz shows are so well loved and I decided that I would try to think of a format for one, and I thought of two in the bath, literally within moments.

“One of the ideas was not so good. That’s on the back-burner. But the other was what I called The Wheel.”

2. Michael had one big concern after realising the concept, however

He started to worry that the celebrities on The Wheel might end up with motion sickness during filming.

“I was worried about everything and about these spinning celebrities and how fast they would go,” he told Stuff.

“Would it make them feel sick? How does this thing even get built? But it just got moving and then we filmed 10 shows in a week and it couldn’t have gone better.”

BBC/Hungry Bear/Gary Moyes

3. But those concerns were not exactly unfounded

Michael revealed that they used to give contestants a trial spin before filming for each episode would begin so they could see what it was like, but it proved to be “a bit too much” for them.

“We’ve stopped doing that now because some of them looked a bit ropey at the beginning and it’s not good to start the show with people looking dazed and confused,” he explained.

4. The Wheel itself is actually huge

42ft in diameter, to be precise.

5. And its design takes inspiration from Star Wars

Disney/Lucasfilm

“I based the chairs around the wheel on the Jedi Council,” Michael revealed to Stuff.

“My son was watching Star Wars during lockdown and I said, ‘What is that room? What are they doing?’ It looked so impressive. And so we have a sort of Jedi Council set and it all looks very stylish.”

6. The Wheel really does land in a completely random place each time

BBC

A computer selects exactly where on the Wheel the arrow will land before each spin, with there being “thousands” of positions it could end up.

Adjudication is also carried out independently by industry leader Beyond Dispute, who oversee programmes including 5 Gold Rings, The Wall and The Chase, to ensure everything is above board.

7. We have our suspicions about the position of the Contestant Wheel, however

Since The Wheel launched, many fans have questioned whether the Contestant Wheel is actually under The Wheel, or whether it is a bit of “TV magic”.

Well, if you look closely, when the contestants are spinning on their Wheel, their seat has a flared base, but no podium, and their feet are flat on a black floor.

BBC

However, when they then rise up to the main Wheel, their feet are suddenly on a podium, which seems to have appeared from nowhere.

BBC

8. The Wheel is located on an old RAF Airfield

The show is filmed at a studio facility at the old RAF airfield in Bovingdon in Hertfordshire. It was specially constructed in 2018 for the revival of Dancing On Ice, and the studio is also home of The Masked Singer.

The airbase itself has also welcomed a number of film productions over the years too, including the 2016 Star Wars spin-off film Rogue One.

9. The show has a connection to Holly Willoughby

The executive producer on The Wheel is the This Morning presenter’s husband Dan Baldwin.

After Michael had come up with the idea for the show, he took it to Dan, who has his own production company Hungry Bear Media and also produces Michael McIntyre’s Big Show.

Holly even appeared on The Wheel herself, taking part as a contestant – rather than a celebrity expert – on the 2020 Christmas special alongside Oti Mabuse and Christopher Biggins.

10. It can be a struggle to sign celebrities up for the show

Michael revealed that some celebrities have given hilarious excuses not to take part.

He said the production team had “struggled” to get certain bookings because of a supposed “vertigo” issue.

“There’s no vertigo!” Michael told Stuff. “I had to keep telling them that it is a flat spinning wheel, like a turntable. It’s not a Ferris wheel. But when I was mentioning it to various people, they’d be like, ‘Oh, I’m frightened of heights’.

“I ran into David Walliams and he just kept saying, ‘Will my head get cut off?’ I said, ‘You don’t understand what I’m trying to explain to you. It’s just a round circle, like a massive tea cup’.”

11. There’s a reason that theme tune is so damn catchy

The undoubted highlight of watching The Wheel is singing along to the theme tune, which is an earworm to say the least.

It was composed by the man behind some of the most recognisable TV themes in the business, Paul Farrer, whose other works include The Weakest Link, The Chase and Dancing On Ice.

12. In theory, there’s over £150k prize money up for grabs

There are seven questions, each worth £3,000, but that sum increases to £10,000 if the Wheel lands on the expert “in gold”.

If you were to land on an expert on every spin and answer all the questions correctly, you’d bag a total prize pot of £70k. If you then took the risk of doubling that amount in the final round by teaming up with the lowest scoring celebrity expert, you’d be in with a chance of taking home £140k.

From the second series, the quickfire Moneyspinner round was introduced, which gives the contestants the chance to win an extra £1,000 for every correct answer the celebrities give, with a total jackpot of £10,000 if there’s a full house of correct answers. This amount could then double in the final round.

This means that there’s potential to walk away with £160,000 from The Wheel.

13. Despite being the most Covid-friendly gameshow, it’s still had a scare

With everyone spaced over two metres apart from one another, it is the perfect show to film during the pandemic. However, that isn’t to say it hasn’t been without its challenges.

When filming the second series in the spring of 2021, Harry Redknapp and Nick Grimshaw were forced into self-isolation when they came into contact with a crew member who later tested positive for Covid-19.

Luckily, they were both fine and the filming of the rest of the series was unaffected by the scare.

14. AJ Odudu is a current Wheel record holder

BBC

The Strictly Come Dancing contestant currently holds the record for the most times the Wheel has landed on a celebrity.

During an appearance on the show in the summer of 2021, AJ had to answer a whoping six questions after being spun in.

15. The show has gone international

The Wheel has spawned two international editions airing in the Netherlands and Germany, while the show is also set to launch in the US, with Michael McIntyre as host too.

It marks the comedian’s first major American screen role, and is set to air on NBC in 2022.

The Wheel airs on Saturday nights on BBC One.

Most Memorable British Game Show Moments