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Jeopardy! is a Daytime Emmy Award-winning quiz show franchise. The show has a unique answer-and-question format in which contestants are presented with clues in the form of answers, and must phrase their responses in question form.

The show has a decades-long broadcast history in the United States since its creation by Merv Griffin in 1964. It first ran in the daytime on NBC from March 30, 1964 until January 3, 1975; concurrently ran in a weekly syndicated version from September 9, 1974 to September 5, 1975; and subsequently ran in a revival from October 2, 1978 to March 2, 1979. All of these versions were hosted by Art Fleming. Its most successful incarnation is the Alex Trebek hosted syndicated version, which has aired continuously since September 10, 1984, and has been adapted internationally.

In January 2001, TV Guide ranked it #2 among the 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time. Esquire magazine readers named it their "favorite game show", and in the summer of 2006, it was also ranked #2 by GSN on their list of the 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time. The show holds the record for the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show, with 11.

The show is produced by Sony Pictures Television (the successor company to original producer Merv Griffin Enterprises, though the Griffin estate holds the copyright under dummy company Jeopardy Productions, Inc.), and is distributed by CBS Television Distribution (the successor to original distributor King World Productions).


According to Merv Griffin, the idea for Jeopardy! began when he and his wife Julann were on a plane trip from Duluth, Minnesotamarker to New Yorkmarker:

Griffin's first conception of the game used a board comprising ten categories with ten clues each, but after finding that this board could not be filmed easily, he reduced it to two rounds of thirty clues, with five clues each in six categories. Taking inspiration from horse racing, he also decided to add three "Daily Doubles," or clues in which a contestant could wager his or her money. Griffin discarded his original name for the show, What's the Question?, after a network executive suggested that the game "need[ed] more jeopardies."


Three contestants compete in three rounds: the Jeopardy! Round, the Double Jeopardy! Round and the Final Jeopardy! Round. If there is a returning champion, he or she occupies the leftmost podium from the viewer's perspective; otherwise, the contestants draw numbers to determine their seating.

Jeopardy! Round

categories are announced, each with a column of five trivia clues (phrased in answer form), each one incrementally valued more than the previous, ostensibly by difficulty. The subjects range from standard topics including history and current events, the sciences, the arts, popular culture, literature and languages, to pun-laden titles (many of which refer to the standard subjects) and wordplay categories.

The value of each clue within categories has increased over time:


1979, 1983
1984 pilot 1984-


$10 $25 $50 $100 $200
$20 $50 $100 $200 $400
$30 $75 $150 $300 $600
$40 $100 $200 $400 $800
$50 $125 $250 $500 $1,000

The answer board (Season 19-22 Jeopardy! set).

The host then reads the clue after which any of the three contestants may ring in using a hand-held signaling device. The first contestant to ring in successfully, following the host's reading of the clue, must then respond in the form of a question.

A correct response earns the dollar value of the clue and the opportunity to select the next clue from the board. An incorrect response or a failure to respond within a 5-second time limit (shown by the red lights on the contestant's podium) deducts the dollar value of the clue from the contestant's score and gives any remaining opponent(s) the opportunity to ring in and respond. If none of the contestants give a correct response, the host reads the correct response and the contestant who has most recently given a correct response to a previous clue chooses the next clue.

Daily Doubles

One clue hidden on the Jeopardy! Round game board and two clues hidden in the Double Jeopardy! Round are designated a Daily Double. Only the contestant who selects a Daily Double may respond to its clue. The contestant may wager any part or all of their current score on the clue, with a minimum wager of $5. Contestants with scores less than the top dollar value in the round, including scores of $0 or less, may wager up to the top dollar value; they may also indicate that they wish to make it a "true Daily Double," meaning that they are risking all the money that they have accumulated up to that point.

Daily Doubles are occasionally designated with special tags, such as "Audio Daily Double" (in which a sound clip is played as part of the clue), "Video Daily Double" (in which a video clip is played as part of the clue), "Celebrity Daily Double" (in which a celebrity delivers the clue), etc. Such tags are displayed as soon as the Daily Double has been revealed.

Ringing in

Contestants must wait until the host finishes reading the clue before ringing in. Ringing in before this point locks the contestant out for two tenths of a second. Lights mounted around the game board illuminate to indicate when contestants may ring in, and the contestant has five seconds to offer a response. Additionally, a tone sounds in conjunction with the illuminated lights on episodes that feature visually-impaired contestants.

Prior to Trebek's second season, contestants were able to ring in at any time after the clue had been revealed, and a buzzer would sound whenever someone rang in. According to Trebek, the buzzer sound was "distracting to the viewers" and sometimes presented problems, as contestants would inadvertently ring in too soon, or ring in so quickly that by the time he finished reading the clue, the contestant's five-second limit had expired. He also said that, by not allowing anyone to ring in until the clue was finished, home viewers could play along more easily, and faster players would be less likely to dominate the game.

Phrasing and judging

All responses must be phrased in the form of a question. For example, a contestant might select "Presidents for $200," and the resulting clue might be "The Father of Our Country; he didn't really chop down a cherry tree," to which the contestant would respond "Who is George Washington?" Griffin had originally intended for the phrasing to be grammatically correct (i.e., not accepting any phrasing other than "Who is…" for a person), but after finding that grammatical correction slowed the game down, he decided that the show should instead accept any correct response that was in question form.

During the Jeopardy! Round, contestants are not penalized for forgetting to phrase a response in the form of a question, although the host will remind contestants to watch their phrasing on future clues. During the Double Jeopardy! Round, adherence to the phrasing rule is followed more strictly, but contestants are still permitted to correct themselves before their time runs out.

At times, the show's producers determine that an answer previously given by a contestant was wrongly ruled correct or incorrect. When this happens, the scores are adjusted at the first available opportunity. If, after a game is over, a ruling change is made that would have significantly altered the outcome of the game, the affected contestant(s) are invited back to compete on a future show.

Double Jeopardy! Round

The second round, Double Jeopardy!, is played largely like the first round. In it, a new set of categories is revealed, and the value of each clue is doubled. In addition, Double Jeopardy! has two Daily Doubles on the board instead of one. The contestant with the lowest amount of money at the end of the Jeopardy! Round makes the first selection in Double Jeopardy! If there is a tie for second place, the contestant at the left-most podium selects first.

The value of each clue within categories has increased over time:


1979, 1983
1984 pilot 1984-


Super Jeopardy!
$20 $50 $100 $200 $400 500
$40 $100 $200 $400 $800 1,000
$60 $150 $300 $600 $1,200 1,500
$80 $200 $400 $800 $1,600 2,000
$100 $250 $500 $1,000 $2,000 2,500

Finishing Double Jeopardy! with $0 or less

Contestants who finish Double Jeopardy! with $0 or a negative score are not allowed to participate in the game's final round, Final Jeopardy! Instead, they leave the game and receive the third place prize, which has been $1,000 since May 16, 2002. On episodes of Celebrity Jeopardy!, in which celebrities compete against each other for charity, contestants are granted nominal scores in order to compete in Final Jeopardy! should their score fall below $0. These episodes also feature a "house minimum" of $25,000. On at least one Fleming-hosted episode, all three contestants finished Double Jeopardy! with $0 or less, and as a result, no Final Jeopardy! clue was played that day.

Final Jeopardy! Round

A category is announced by the host followed by a commercial break (during which the staff comes on stage and advises the contestants while barriers are placed between the contestants). During this period, the contestants write down a wager, based on the category, of as little as $0 or up to as much money as they have accumulated. They are also provided pencil and paper to calculate their wagers.

After the final commercial break, the Final Jeopardy! clue is revealed and read by the host. The lights are dimmed, the "Think!" music plays in the background, and the contestants have 30 seconds to write a response, again phrased in the form of a question. Since 1984, contestants use a light pen to write down their Final Jeopardy! wager and response. Contestants are also provided with a pen and index card in the event that the light pen malfunctions. The light pen is automatically turned off at the conclusion of the 30-second period. A keyboard with Braille keys is provided to visually impaired contestants.

Cash prizes

The top-scorer on each show keeps his or her winnings and returns on the next show, and non-winners receive consolation prizes. The current prizes are $2,000 for the second-place contestant and $1,000 for the third-place contestant. Since the show does not provide airfare or lodging for most contestants, these cash consolation prizes alleviate the financial burden of appearing on the show. Prior to May 16, 2002, the second-place contestant typically received a vacation package or merchandise and the third-place contestant received lesser-value merchandise. Prior to 1984, all contestants kept their winnings, and contestants who finished with scores below $0 received consolation prizes.

When the 1984 version began, the show's creators decided to award full winnings only to the champion as a means of making the game more competitive, so that the final outcome is not always evident until the end of the game. On the Fleming version, contestants would occasionally decide that they only wanted to win a certain amount of money, and stop ringing in when they reached that amount, instead of attempting to become a returning champion. Others would refuse to write down a question for Final Jeopardy! if another contestant had a significant lead.

Returning champions

If no contestant finishes Final Jeopardy! with a positive total, nobody wins and three new contestants appear on the following show. In such cases, the three new contestants participate in a backstage draw to determine their positions at the contestant podiums. Such procedures are also used in the Teen and College tournaments to determine positions as well.

If two or more contestants tie for first place, they are declared "co-champions;" each keeps his or her winnings and comes back on the following episode. Three contestants have each finished two consecutive games as co-champions.

A three-way tie for first place has only occurred once since 1984, and only one contestant in the same period has won a game with the lowest amount possible, $1.

Special considerations are also given for contestants who are unable to return as champion due to medical concerns. This occurred for the first time in Season 25, as three new contestants appeared on the January 19, 2009 episode due to the previous show's champion, Priscilla Ball, taking ill. At the top of the episode Alex Trebek explained that in such a case, the contestant would return at a later date as a co-champion. Ball returned on the April 9, 2009 episode.

From 1984 until 1990, champions kept all winnings, capped at $75,000. Any amount above $75,000 was donated to a charity of the champion's choice. The cap was increased to $100,000 in 1990 after Bob Blake ($82,501) and Frank Spangenberg ($102,597) exceeded the $75,000 cap. In 1997 the cap was raised to $200,000, and then eliminated altogether in 2003.

From 1997 until 2001, an undefeated champion was also awarded his or her choice of Chevrolet cars or trucks. From 2001-2003, the winner won a Jaguar X-Type. Similarly, as part of the deal with Ford Motor Company for the 2001-2002 season, Ford also added a Volvo to the Teen Tournament prize package.

Prior to 2003, a contestant who won five consecutive days was retired undefeated, with a guaranteed spot in the next Tournament of Champions. Three new contestants would appear on the following show. In September 2003, with the start of Season 20, the show dropped the total cash winnings limit and the 5-day cap on the number of episodes on which a champion could appear. Champions can now remain on the program indefinitely until defeated, although champions who appear on five or more consecutive episodes no longer receive an automobile. The most successful returning champion after this rule change was implemented was Ken Jennings, who won 74 consecutive games and a total of $2,520,700, breaking several records for both Jeopardy! and American game shows in general.

Other versions

Throughout the original NBC and 1984 syndicated runs of Jeopardy!, several versions of the show have been broadcast in the United States.

The first was a weekly syndicated series, which aired during the 1974-1975 season; except for some minor changes in gameplay, this version was essentially similar to the original NBC series. A short-lived revival aired on NBC during the 1978-1979 season as The All New Jeopardy! with a number of changes in the rules — most notably, progressive elimination of the lowest-scoring contestants through the course of the main game, and a new bonus round instead of Final Jeopardy! Later came Rock & Roll Jeopardy!, a music-intensive version of Jeopardy! that aired on VH1 from 1998-2001, and Jep!, which aired from 1998 to 1999 and featured pre-teen contestants.

Tournaments and events

Starting in 1985, a Tournament of Champions has been held more or less annually, featuring the top fifteen champions and other biggest winners who have appeared on the show since the last tournament. The tournament format was devised by Alex Trebek, and is conducted over the course of ten consecutive episodes.

Beginning in 1992, Celebrity Jeopardy! has featured celebrities and other notable individuals competing for a charitable organization of their choice. The 2009-2010 season includes the Jeopardy! Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational played throughout the season, where 27 celebrity contestants compete for a grand prize of $1,000,000 for their charity.

First aired in 1987, the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament features competition between 15 high school students, with the winner receiving $75,000 and, in some years, a new car. Until 2001, the winner was also invited to participate in the Tournament of Champions.

Beginning in 1989, the College Championship features college students competing for a $100,000 prize. The tournament pits 15 full-time undergraduate students from colleges and universities in the U.S. against each other in a two-week tournament, identical in format to the Tournament of Champions. From 1997-2008, the College Championship was taped on location at college campuses. The winner also earns a spot in the next Tournament of Champions.

Ten Seniors Tournament were held between 1987 and 1995 featuring contestants over the age of 50. Typically this tournament aired as the last two weeks of a season prior to a six-week-long summer break, with the winner earning an invitation to the next Tournament of Champions.

There have been a number of special tournaments featuring the greatest contestants during the history of Jeopardy! The first of these "all-time best" tournaments, Super Jeopardy!, aired in the summer of 1990 on ABC. It featured 37 top contestants who had competed on the program from 1984-1990, plus one notable champion from the original 1964-1975 version. In 1993, a Tenth Anniversary Tournament was conducted over five episodes and aired following the conclusion of that year's regular Tournament of Champions. In May 2002, to commemorate the Trebek version's 4,000th episode, the show invited fifteen champions to play for a $1 million bonus, in the Jeopardy! Million Dollar Masters tournament, which took place at Radio City Music Hallmarker. The Ultimate Tournament of Champions aired in 2005 and pitted 144 former Jeopardy! champions against each other, with two winners moving on to face Ken Jennings in a 3-game final. Overall, the tournament spanned 76 shows.

In November 1998, contestants from the 1987, 1988, and 1989 Teen Tournaments (including the champions) were invited to Boston to play in a special Teen Reunion Tournament. Jeopardy! celebrated its landmark 25th anniversary season by holding a special Kids Week Reunion tournament featuring 15 former Kids Week alumni from the 1999 and 2000 Kids Weeks competing against each other.

Audition process

Unlike the audition process for many game shows, the Jeopardy! contestant audition process is in part merit-based, with 50-question contestant tests administered at local audition sites and, since 2006, over the Internet as well.

Theme music

Since the debut of Jeopardy! in 1964, there have been many different iterations of the theme music for the show, a majority of which have been composed by Merv Griffin. Starting in 1984, a rendition of the show's think music has also been used as the main theme song.

Taping location

The original version of the show, hosted by Art Fleming, which debuted on NBC on March 30, 1964, was taped in Studio 6A at NBC Studiosmarker at 30 Rockefeller Plazamarker in New York Citymarker. In addition to Studio 6A, Studio 8G was also frequently used to record the show.

The 1978 version of the show, The All-New Jeopardy!, was taped from NBC Studio 3 in Burbankmarker, Californiamarker, with a set designed by Henry Lickel and Dennis Roof.

When the syndicated Jeopardy! premiered in 1984, it was taped at Metromediamarker Stage 7, KTTVmarker-TV, on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. From 1985 to 1994, the show was taped at Hollywood Center Studiosmarker' Stage 9.

After the final shows of Season 10 were taped on February 15, 1994, production moved to Sony Pictures Studiosmarker' Stage 10 on Washington Boulevard in Culver City, Californiamarker, where the first shows of Season 11 were taped on July 12, 1994.


Like the theme music, the Jeopardy! set has also changed over the years. The original game board was exposed from behind a curtain and featured the answers printed on pull cards which were revealed as contestants selected question values in each category. The cards were discarded for the 1978 version, replaced by flipping panels that had the dollar amount on one side and the clue on the other; the curtain was also replaced with double slide panels. When the show returned in 1984, the game board was replaced with individual monitors for each clue in a category. As technology has improved since then, the monitors have been upgraded accordingly. The original monitors were replaced in 1991 with larger and sleeker monitors. In 2006, these monitors were replaced with a nearly seamless projection video wall (which originally was used as part of the road show set) and remained in place through 2008.

Other aesthetic changes have been made to the set since the current syndicated verson’s premiere in 1984. On the episode aired November 11, 1996, two months after the start of Season 13, Jeopardy! introduced an entirely new set by production designer Naomi Slodki. Slodki intended the set to resemble "the foyer of a very contemporary library". Shortly after the start of Season 19 in 2002, Jeopardy! once again changed its set. This set was modified slightly in 2006 when Jeopardy! became one of the first game shows to air in high-definition. During this time, several virtual tours were featured on the official Jeopardy! web site.

Between Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, the various HD improvements represented an investment of about $4 million, 5,000 labor hours and 6 miles of cable. Both shows had been shot using HD cameras for several years prior to the upgrade. On standard-definition television broadcasts, the show continues to be displayed with an aspect ratio of 4:3.

A new set debuted with the Celebrity Jeopardy! and Tournament of Champions episodes taped in 2009 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegasmarker. This set became the primary set for Jeopardy! on September 14, 2009.

International adaptations

Countries with versions of Jeopardy!

Since the early days of Jeopardy!, versions of the show have been produced in foreign countries worldwide.

Episode status

Art Fleming

1964-1975, NBC

Only a small number of the 2,753 episodes from the original NBC Daytime version survive, mostly as black-and-white kinescopes of the original color videotapes. Some episodes from 1967, 1971, and 1973-1974 exist in the UCLA Film and Television Archive while various episodes are in the Paley Center for Media (including the 1964 "test" episode); incomplete paper records of the NBC-era games exist on microfilm at the Library of Congressmarker.

After the original series ended, several NBC stations continued airing repeats for a few months in 1975 – including NBC-owned KNBCmarker, according to TV Guide listings from that time.

A monochrome clip from September 7, 1966 is held by private collectors. The clip consists of the first five minutes of the episode, going from the opening to just before the third clue of the game is revealed and includes the production slate plus two commercials prior to the game.

Episodes #2,000 (from February 21, 1972) and #2,753 (the 1975 finale), along with a few others, are held by GSN. However, only the 2,000th episode has been rerun by the network.

1974-1975, Syndicated

The status of this version is unknown; the opening of one episode is held in audio form by private collectors.

1978-1979, NBC

This show's status is also unknown. The premiere and finale are known to exist in broadcast quality, and have been aired on GSN. The UCLA Film and Television Archive holds a copy of a pilot taped for CBS in 1977, featuring a "sub-Round 1" in which each contestant "played solo" for 30 seconds (an incorrect response did not deduct from his or her score). Despite the show's brief run, a Tournament of Champions episode (specifically, the final match of it) also exists, and the gameplay is available for viewing on the file-sharing website YouTube.

Alex Trebek

1984-Present, Syndicated

The Trebek version is completely intact, including the pilot (a 1983 pilot, featuring a set more akin to the 1978 series, also exists). GSN—which like Jeopardy! is an affiliate of Sony Pictures Television—has rerun nine seasons to date. Since July 28, 2008 GSN is airing the 2003-2004, 2004-2005, and 2005-2006 seasons (Seasons 20, 21, and 22), including all of Ken Jennings' original games, and episodes from the Ultimate Tournament of Champions.

GSN also reran episodes from the 2001–02 season (Season 18), which included a series of 2001 episodes that aired only on about 50 syndicated stations due to the September 11, 2001 attacks [23833].

There is a 66-game disparity between the show numbers assigned to first-run Jeopardy! episodes and the actual number of Trebek-era games played. To assist subscribing affiliate stations in airing episodes in the correct order, a show number is read by announcer Johnny Gilbert just prior to the taping of each game; this number is audible on the episodes as received by the affiliates and visible on the slate attached to them; however, this slate is trimmed from the show prior to broadcast. Each new episode receives an integer show number 1 greater than the previous episode, however all 65 reruns in Season 1 (1984-1985) were given new show numbers despite not being new games while a retrospective clip show aired May 15, 2002 was credited as #4088. As such, the game with show number #5000 aired on May 12, 2006 – but the 5,000th match hosted by Trebek did not air until September 25.

1990, ABC

Super Jeopardy! is completely intact. However, only the finale has been rerun (on GSN as part of a special marathon) since the original broadcast.

Awards and honors

Jeopardy! has won a record 28 Daytime Emmy Awards since 1984. Eleven of these have been for Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show. Another five awards have been won by host Alex Trebek for Outstanding Game Show Host. The remainder of the Emmy Awards have been won by the show's directors and writers in separate categories until 2006, when the Emmy Awards for Outstanding Direction for a Game/Audience Participation Show (for the directors) and Outstanding Special Class Writing (which the show's writers competed for and won the award perennially) were merged into the Outstanding Game/Audience Participation show category.


In popular culture

The show has been portrayed or parodied in numerous television shows, films, and works of literature over the years, frequently with one or more characters participating as contestants, or as a television show the character(s) watch and play along with. The television series The Golden Girls, Mama's Family, The Nanny and Cheers have all featured episodes where the show's characters either try out or appear on the show. Trebek also appeared as himself in an episode of the cartoon The Simpsons, where Marge Simpson appeared on a fictional version of the show. Jeopardy! is also featured in a subplot of the movie White Men Can't Jump, with Rosie Perez' character attempting to pass the show's auditions.

Saturday Night Live has regularly parodied Jeopardy! as well, beginning with a season 2 sketch entitled Jeopardy! 1999 (which parodied the Fleming version) and a recurring sketch called Celebrity Jeopardy!, with Will Ferrell as Trebek and Darrell Hammond as Sean Connery.

Notes and references

  1. David Schwartz, Steve Ryan & Fred Wostbrock, The Encyclopedia of TV Game $hows, Checkmark Books, 1999, pp. 112-115.
  2. Trebek and Barsocchini, pp. 2-3
  3. The rules of the game may be found in the Jeopardy! DVD Home Game System instruction booklet. [1]
  4. Trebek and Barsocchini, pp. 59-60
  5. Trebek and Barsocchini, p. 4
  6. Trebek and Barsocchini, p. 64
  7. Show #4089
  8. Airfare is provided for returning champions' subsequent flights to Los Angeles.
  9. Trebek and Barsocchini, p. 57
  10. The three two-time co-champions were Dane Garrett in September 1985, Sara Cox in December 1990 and Dan Girard in July 1998. Richmond, page 47.
  11. On the show aired March 16, 2007, all three contestants ended Final Jeopardy with $16,000. Jeopardy press announcement Retrieved on 2009-02-07
  12. On the show aired January 19, 1993, Air Force Lt. Col. Darryl Scott won the game with only $1; he won another $13,401 the next day.
  13. Eisenberg, first edition, page 75. "Alex put together the 2-week, 15-player format used on the current show. We had 15 undefeated 5-time champions the first season. In subsequent seasons we never had as many as 15 five-game winners so we added those four-game winners with the highest scores until we had the requisite 15 contestants for the Tournament."
  14. Trebek and Barsocchini, p. 10
  15. NBC daily broadcast log, Master Books microfilm. Library of Congress Motion Picture and Television Reading Room.
  16. Richmond, page 150.
  17. Eisenberg, first edition, page 240.
  18. 1978 Tournament Finals, Part 1
  19. 1978 Tournament Finals, Part 2
  20. See Richmond, page 188; Eisenberg, first edition, pages 30 and 106.
  21. Jennings, pages 16-17.

Further reading

External links

  • J! Archive - results of over 3,000 games from 1983 to present

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