Awesome: Jeopardy!

Alex Trebek: This kind of event is so momentous and awe-inspiring, the wiki website TV Tropes devotes an entire section to them.
Trope-tan: What is a Crowning Moment of Awesome?
Alex: (looks off-camera) ...Crowning Moment of Awesome or just Moment of Awesome, yes. Go again.

General Examples:

  • In general, any time a contestant sweeps an entire category, especially if it includes a Daily Double, which is usually followed by applause.
  • Prior to Season 20, any contestant who retired as an undefeated five-time champion.
    • From Season 14-19, all undefeated champions also won a car.
  • In general, any of these cases where a contestant bets a true Daily Double near the end of Double Jeopardy! (which takes balls) and provides a correct response:
    • A trailing contestant with less than half the 1st place score successfully narrows the gap between 1st and 2nd place, preventing a "lock" game.
    • A trailing contestant will a little more than half the 1st place score steals the lead.
    • A leading contestant increases their lead and wins with a "lock" game because of their true Daily Double.
  • Any time a player wins after trailing into Final Jeopardy.
  • Any time a player wins a tournament after making it into the semifinals as a wildcard.

Specific Examples:

  • September 30 - October 4, 1985: Chuck Forrest, widely considered the first truly great Jeopardy! player. No less than Ken Jennings has remarked that, while he was a fan of the Trebek Jeopardy! since day one, Chuck Forrest's run is his first really clear memory of the show. This was because Chuck was a Season 2 undefeated champion who:
    • Won all of his non-tournament games in lock or lock-tie fashion — in other words, going into Final Jeopardy!, he couldn't lose unless he got Final Jeopardy! wrong and made a completely logic-defying wager (or, as they say, pulling a Clavin).
    • Set what was then the show's 5-day winnings the end of his fourth game,
    • And was so dominant in his Tournament of Champions, specifically the finals, that he single-handedly forced the producers to institute a minimum winnings guarantee for ToC finalists. To elaborate, the winner of the ToC that season won $100,000; the other two finalists' winnings were "what you won during the two finals games"; and losing in the semifinals that year got you $5000. Chuck's opponents' totals for the two finals games were $4000 and $3000, or less than they would have gotten had they lost in the semifinals. They appealed and were given $5000, which led to subsequent ToCs having a minimum guarantee for the two runners-up.
    • To this day, Chuck Forrest is still the only Jeopardy! champion from the first two seasons to win even one game in one of the show's later best-of tournaments (everyone else from seasons 1& 2 lost their first game in a later tournament.)
  • November 1985: Jerry Frankel, who won $32,650 in his original five-day run, winning the first ever Tournament of Champions. He was also the only player to write down the correct response in his deciding game.The Final Jeopardy! clue and correct response. . After Alex announced that he had won, he pointed out that Frankel had the lowest score among wild-card qualifiers, adding to the feat.
  • June 18 - 24, 1987: Bob Verini, then a playwright and actor from New York City. Best known for his impersonations, particularly Julia Child, but was also a superb player. He cashed in with $46,802 in his original five appearances and won the Tournament of Champions that fall. He also finished second in Super Jeopardy! and placed third in the Million Dollar Masters tournament.
    • November 20, 1987: Bob's victory in the '87 Tournament of Champions in a Moment of Awesome in itself for three reasons. One—Going into the second game, he was in third place. Two—He came up with the correct response in Final Jeopardy! after changing it midway. Here's the Final Jeopardy! clue and Bob's response.  Third—He wagered just enough to win the tournament by a single dollar!
  • September 12, 1989: Bob Blake breaks Chuck Forrest's 5-day record by winning $82,501 as a 5-time champion, also making him the first player to win more than $75,000 in regular games. Because of the then-$75,000 winnings cap, Blake donates $7,501 of his winnings to Oxfam, making that a heartwarming moment as well. He would go on to win the 1990 Tournament of Champions, the only Canadian citizen to do so to date, and would remain the show's biggest cash winner (not counting Super Jeopardy!) until 2001. Even with doubled cash values and no winning limits, he remained Canada's winningest player in regular games until 2015, and he's still the only Canadian contestant in Jeopardy! history to earn over $200,000 in regular and tournament games.
  • November 17, 1989: After winning the very first College Championship tournament that spring, Tom Cubbage also wins the 1989 Tournament of Champions. He is STILL the only player to win both, and one of only three College Champions to even make the finals.
  • January 9 - 15, 1990: Frank Spangenberg, then a member of the New York Transit Police Department (now the Transit Bureau of the New York City Police Department), set a record of $102,597 during his five days on the show, a record that lasted for 13 yearsnote . In addition to that, he set the then-one day record of $30,600 on his fifth and final day.
    • At the time, there was a $75,000 winnings cap, so Frank had to donate $27,597 of his winnings to Gift of Love Hospice, a facility operated by the Missionaries of Charity. In a moment that also doubles as a Heartwarming Moment, his money was used to bring the place up to fire code.
    • Frank later went on to win the Tenth Anniversary Tournament in 1993, and made appearances in all of Jeopardy!'s other "all time" tournaments (the only person to do so), including a run to the semifinals of 2005's Ultimate Tournament of Champions, but he was eliminated in the opening round of Super Jeopardy!, the Million Dollar Masters tournament, and the Battle of the Decades.
  • June 23, 1990: Eugene Finerman becomes the first player to defeat Frank Spangenberg during his Super Jeopardy quarterfinal game.
  • August 11, 1990: Dave Traini becomes the first player to defeat Chuck Forrest during his Super Jeopardy quarterfinal game. Appropriately, during his semifinal game, he defeats eventual 1990 Tournament of Champions winner Bob Blake, who had broken Forrest's 5-day record.
  • September 8th, 1990: Bruce Seymour, a four day champion from January 1988 that was eliminated in that year's Tournament of Champions quarterfinals, completed a major underdog run in ABC's Super Jeopardy! by defeating 1987 Tournament of Champions winner Bob Verini and finalist Dave Traini in the one day final to claim the $250,000 top prize, largely thanks to two correct Daily Doubles in Double Jeopardy! He's never returned for any later Jeopardy! tournaments, but what a way to go out.
  • May 18 - 22, 1992: Jerome Vered wins $96,801 as a 5-time champion (second all-time under the original dollar amounts to Frank Spangenberg's record), though he shattered Frank's one-day record by winning $34,000 in his 4th game (May 21, 1992). The record stood until the show's dollar amounts were doubled, and while Vered's score held up when adjusted for inflation, Ken Jennings broke the record anyway with a $75,000 game in 2004. Vered would go on to finish third in both the 1992 Tournament of Champions and the 2005 Ultimate Tournament of Champions.
  • November 19, 1992: The first of the two Final games in the Tournament of Champions was a rapid-fire affair, with finalists Jerome Vered, Leszek Pawlowicz and Bruce Simmons having accumulated $25,400 as a group going into Final Jeopardy. Unfortunately, FJ was very difficult, with all three players losing substantial amounts of money.
  • December 3rd, 1993: Frank Spangenberg finally winning a Jeopardy! tournament, claiming the $25,000 top prize in the show's 10th Anniversary Tournament by overcoming a $13,000 deficit (pre-inflation, no less) against reigning TOC winner Tom Nosek after game 1 to win the event, thanks to betting everything on Final Jeopardy! in game 2, and Tom and fellow finalist Leslie Frates both missing the question.
    • Not to mention, his correct response of "Who is Wendy Wasserstein?" in game 2 of the finals (for the clue: "1 of 3 women who won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in the 1980s") earned him a dinner invite from Wasserstein, as she "wanted to meet the man that remembered her name."
  • November 25, 1994: Rachael Schwartz becomes the first woman and 4-time champion to win the Tournament of Champions, winning by $1 over Jeff Stewart, the 1994 College Championship winner.
  • October 20 - 26, 1999: Eddie Timanus, the first blind contestant to compete on the show; he was expertly accommodated by the show — he had a Braille keyboard at his podium to type Final Jeopardy! responses, and was given a Braille card containing the categories by Alex before each round (this was shown on-camera, although it was up to Eddie to recall what clues were remaining on the board). As well, a mild audio tone was used so he knew when to ring in, as he couldn't see the blinking lights used for that purpose. Merely competing on the show with such a...well, some would consider it a handicap or disadvantage...would have been awesome on its own, but Eddie was a great sport about the whole matter and was very smart — he became an undefeated champion!
  • February 16th, 2001: Then-reigning Tournament of Champions winner Robin Carroll won Jeopardy!'s third and final International Tournament in dominant fashion, winning $50,000 and overtaking Bob Blake as the winningest contestant ever on the regular syndicated Jeopardy! with $214,100, a record she'd hold until the next year's Million Dollar Masters tournament. She was also the show's winningest female player until Celeste DiNucci won 2007's Tournament of Champions.
  • May 14th, 2002: Reigning Tournament of Champions winner Brad Rutter defeated early Jeopardy! greats Bob Verini and Eric Newhouse in the two day final of Jeopardy!'s Million Dollar Masters tournament, becoming the show's third "all time" tournament winner, and the biggest cash winner in game show history, which he still holds today thanks to two more major Jeopardy! tournament wins (albeit after trading the record with Ken Jennings a couple of times)
  • June 2 - November 30, 2004: Ken Jennings' miracle run. He won seventy-four straight games and won over two million dollars. Four facts to put this in perspective:
    • Before he started his run, the record-holder had been on for eight straight days and had only won about $200,000. In fairness, though, up until 2003 (about a year before Jennings's appearance), 5-time champions were retired from the show undefeated, so this by itself doesn't tell the whole story.
    • More amazingly, in nine years of post-Jennings play, only four other people (David Madden with 19 wins in 2005, Arthur Chu (11) and Julia Collins (20) in 2014, and Matt Jackson in 2015) have even made it into double-digit non-Tournament victories, and until Julia Collins in mid-2014, none had gotten to 20 straight.
    • A typical winning score on a non-tournament episode of Jeopardy! is around $15,000 (give or take a couple thousand - below $10,000 or above $20,000 are both fairly uncommon). Ken Jennings averaged just over $34,000 per non-tournament game. He also tied the then-one day record of $52,000 three times before finally making a big enough wager to exceed it by $23,000 in the season 20 finale.
    • 65 of Ken's 75 games were won in lock fashion — in other words, over 85 percent of his games had him dominating his opponents so thoroughly that he was guaranteed to win no matter what he or his opponents answered/wagered during Final Jeopardy! unless he pulled a Clavin. Additionally, before his 75th game, he had only one game (his 5th) in which he would have lost in Final Jeopardy! if his closest opponent had gotten their answer right.
    • Ken's 18th game is also notable. He had $28,200 at the end of Double Jeopardy!, but his opponent was not that far behind with $24,400 thanks to a true Daily Double. Both got the correct Final Jeopardy! response, and Ken's opponent finished with a very high second place total of $44,400. If only there was an exception to the 1984 rule patch...
  • February - May, 2005: Jeopardy!'s Ultimate Tournament of Champions, which united 144 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions competitors and/or Teen Tournament winners back to the show for a massive single elimination tournament, with the last two contestants remaining taking on Ken Jennings in a three day final. Every living Tournament of Champions and College Championship winner was in the field, plus all but 3 Teen Tournament winners to that point, and numerous other 5+ day champions dating back to season 1, so competition was very tight.
    • The event saw numerous upsets too, with only 6 of the 19 prior Tournament of Champions winners in the field winning even a single game, and none of them came from Jeopardy!'s first 11 seasons. 1994 TOC semifinalist John Cuthbertson was among the surprises of the tournament, defeating TOC winners Bob Verini & Bob Blake and 2001 finalist Tad Carithers along the way to the Ultimate TOC semifinals, where he became one of just two men to ever lead Brad Rutter after a Jeopardy! game (though Brad largely dominated game 2 to advance to the finals.)
    • Brad Rutter owning Ken Jennings and fellow finalist Jerome Vered in the Ultimate Tournament of Champions finals from May 23rd-25th, getting almost twice as much money as Ken, reclaiming his titles as both Jeopardy's biggest winner and the largest game show winner in history with over $3 Million.
  • May 19th, 2006: Michael Falk winning the first post-Jennings Tournament of Champions in unlikely fashion, advancing as a wild card after losing to 19 day champion David Madden in the quarterfinals, only to win his semifinal game and rally from a $13,400 deficit behind Vik Vaz after game 1 of the finals to win the tournament. Falk remains the only 3 day champion to ever win a TOC, partially helped by the fact that the nine highest earning contestants in the field were all eliminated in the first two rounds in an upset-riddled tournament, leading to a final round with no 5+ day champions.
  • July 20 - 27, 2006: Fourteen years after her brother Dennis lost to Jerome Vered, Celeste DiNucci won five games and amassed $84,601 in winnings. She later won the Tournament of Champions in November 2007.
  • March 16, 2007: With his two opponents tied at $8,000 and within reach, Scott Weiss figured they would risk it all. So he bet for a tie instead of the win, which led to the show's first and only nonzero three-way tie and a very interesting intro by Johnny Gilbert on the next episode.
    • And as Alex explained in that next episode, Scott did that because he overheard a boy asking Alex before Final Jeopardy! if a three way tie had ever happened. Alex told him no, so Scott set up the wager hoping it'd force the tie. Everybody wins!
  • September 13 - 16, 2010: Season 27 began with a runaway win by Roger Craig, who also posted a total runaway in the next game — setting a new one-day record of $77,000 (beating a record set, incidentally, by Ken Jennings) in the process.
    • Roger's third and fourth games were quite impressive, too. On the third, he took a $10,000 tumble on a Daily Double and finished Double Jeopardy! only $1,600 ahead of second place. Luckily, he was the only one to get Final Jeopardy! right. The fourth day, another contestant held a significant lead over him in the first half, but Roger quickly jumped back into the lead during Double Jeopardy!, including a True Daily Double.
  • The IBM Challenge. All of it. Watson wins both games by a landslide... not too shabby for a computer!
    • That may be so, but Watson GUESSED on a Daily Double with 32% confidence and got it RIGHT. Not only that, but Watson actually made the wager on that day's Final Jeopardy himself! (He got it wrong, but wagered only $947!)
    • Ken Jennings' Final Jeopardy card: "I for one welcome our new computer overlords".
  • November 14, 2011: In the final match of the Tournament of Champions, Roger Craig hunts down two Daily Doubles, one after the other. He bets all of his money on both of them, and gets the answers right; effectively quadrupling his score.
  • December 16, 2011: Jason Keller had been auditioning for the game for 16 years; he remained champion on Jeopardy! for nine days, winning $213,900.
  • February 12, 2013: Leonard Cooper wins the Teen Tournament despite being a wild card non-winner in the quarterfinals… helped in no small part by a ballsy $18,000 (yes, eighteen thousand) wager late in Double Jeopardy! on the final game of the tournament.
  • February 26, 2013: Teachers Tournament winner Colby Burnett wins the Tournament of Champions, becoming the first to do so. He's also the first non-regular Tournament of Champions winner since 1989, and is still the only Teachers Tournament winner to even advance out of the quarterfinals in the TOC.
  • July 31, 2013: During a Kids' Week game, Skyler Homback, a 12-year-old from Kentucky, amasses an impressive $36,600 heading into Final Jeopardy!, while his opponents have scores of $9,600 and $6,400. The Final Jeopardy! category is "The Civil War", Skyler, who is deeply interested in this topic, wagers a hearty $30,000 note . Skyler gives a correct response, finishing with a grand total of $66,600 — the fourth-highest single-day score in the show's history, standing only behind Roger Craig (with $77,000) Ken Jennings (with $75,000), and Andy Richter (with $68,000 in a Celebrity Invitational Tournament game.)
  • 2014: The entire "Battle of the Decades" tournament, where contestants from the 1980s onward competed against each other. Luminaries such as Chuck Forrest, Eddie Timanus, and Ken Jennings were among the competitors. The three finalists on the last two episodes of the tournament? Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter, and Roger Craig.
    • And the ultimate winner? Brad Rutter, keeping his record of never being defeated by a human opponent intact, beating Ken Jennings for the second time, and passing Jennings to retake the lead for all-time game show winnings thanks to an unprecedented four Jeopardy! tournament wins. Not only that, but he was actually in last place for a majority of both final matches before mounting a comeback both times midway through Double Jeopardy!
      • In a subversion, Rutter was reduced to being a spectator in Final Jeopardy in the 2nd game. Rutter brought a $3000 lead over Jennings from game 1, while Jennings had an $1800 lead over Rutter going into Final Jeopardy in game 2. Craig couldn't catch either of them, so the outcome of the Tournament rested entirely on whether or not Ken Jennings would answer the Final Jeopardy clue correctly. If he did, Brad Rutter's lead from the first game couldn't hold up, even if Brad doubled up in Final Jeopardy, and if he missed, Brad would win regardless of what he did. In recognition of this fact, Brad Rutter's wager during Final Jeopardy was $0.
  • April - June 2014: Julia Collins' hot streak of 20 games. By her 11th game, she became the longest-running female champion in the show's history, and just kept rolling. Most of her games have been "locks" as well, but game 20 became even more impressive as she salvaged the win through a narrow lead. Only Ken Jennings had a longer reign as champion, and she easily became Jeopardy!'s top money winner among female contestants before even entering the Tournament of Champions.
  • After the Battle of the Decades and Arthur Chu and Julia Collins' runs, the impressive 30th season ends in a tiebreaker at the end of the Teen Tournament, with Jeff Xie pulling off the win.
    • The Tournament of Champions in the following season saw both Arthur Chu and Julia Collins make it all the way to the finals. The winner? Ben Ingram, using both days' Final Jeopardy to pull an impressive upset.
  • So far, Season 31 has had FOUR instances of a game ending in a tie between two players and both coming back the next day.
  • December 1, 2014: On the first episode of Kids' Week, a young boy named Cerulean Ozarow goes for a True Daily Double in Double Jeopardy! despite being well in the lead... and gets it right. Alex remarked that his parents in the audience must've had a heart attack when he asked to go true Daily Double, and another when he got it right.