Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here and discuss here.
"This...is...JEOPARDY!"Game Show created by Merv Griffin in 1963 when his wife, Julann, suggested (in a reaction to the quiz show scandals still in recent memory) that he reverse the trivia format give the contestants the answers and have them provide the questions. Merv pitched it to NBC as What's the Question?, but was told that the game needed "more jeopardies" note (which was resolved with the Daily Double). Jeopardy! debuted on NBC in 1964 with Art Fleming as host and Don Pardo as announcer. It ran until January 1975, with a brief revival in 1978/79 (also hosted by Fleming, but announced by John Harlan) that had somewhat different rules.After two pilots, Jeopardy! came back in 1984 with host Alex Trebek, announcer Johnny Gilbert (both Long Runners on the show) and much higher cash awards. This version has far outlasted the original, starting its 31st season in September 2014. Other than a few cosmetic changes, the doubling of dollar amounts, and the five-day championship limit becoming a "sky's the limit" policy, the format is almost entirely unchanged.Three Spin Offs have aired over time. In summer 1990, ABC aired a 13-episode tournament of champions titled Super Jeopardy!, which was paired with another of Griffin's creations, a game show version of Monopoly. GSN also ran a children's version called Jep! from 1998 to 2000, and VH-1 created a rock music-themed version called Rock & Roll Jeopardy! which aired from 1998 to 2001. A number of countries produce local versions of the show with few changes, including keeping the title even if it makes no sense in their language.A fourth spinoff, Sports Jeopardy! (hosted by Dan Patrick, a former ESPN/current NBC Sports Network and radio sportscaster), debuted on the online video portal Crackle in fall 2014.Often aired in an hour block with sister show Wheel of Fortune.Interestingly, the answer-and-question concept is Older Than They Think, as it had previously been used for Gil Fates' CBS Television Quiz (1941/42).
The Jackpot Board: Used for the first half of the 1974-1975 syndicated version, the winner selected a number off the board from 1-30, revealing a bonus prize (car, trip, more cash), or half of "$25,000" (which earned one more pick to find the other half).
Super Jeopardy!: Not to be confused with the 1990 tournament, this was basically J! Bingo; five categories, must make a line across/up and down/diagonally. $100/pop, a win earns a Progressive Jackpot.
Bonus Space: The Daily Doubles. Also the very short-lived Bonus categories listed below.
Sometimes present in the Fleming era, which paid full winnings to all contestants, win or lose; some contestants intentionally stopped ringing in if they felt that they had earned enough money, or if an opponent had picked up an insurmountable lead. The Trebek era gave this an Obvious Rule Patch by offering the full winnings only to the winner, to create more of an incentive to compete. Losing contestants initially got parting gifts, but starting on May 16, 2002 second and third place win a flat $2,000 and $1,000 respectively.
There's also the fact that the vast majority of contestants pick clues from top to bottom within each category, even in cases where it might be advisable to do otherwise (for example, if Alex has said "Less than a minute" and several high-value clues are still on the board and/or a Daily Double hasn't yet been uncovered the Daily Doubles are almost never in the top two rows).
Even better: As soon as a contestant named Arthur Chu avoided this, the media called him out despite his strategy still following the rules of the game.
9 times out of 10, the leader going into Final Jeopardy will wager $xx01, so if both he and the second-place player get it right and second place wagers everything, he wins by one measly dollar. For example if second place had $7,000 and first place had $12,400, you can expect the leader to wager $1,601.
Also the premise of "Weird Al" Yankovic's "I Lost on Jeopardy", which took place during the original Art Fleming era. The music video not only had a pretty accurate reproduction of that set, but both Fleming and announcer Don Pardo came along for the ride, 14 weeks before the Trebek era launched.
Al later appeared on a celebrity edition of Rock & Roll Jeopardy!...and lost. Guess what song was played over the end credits?
Game Show Winnings Cap: Until 2003, contestants could only stay on for five days and win up to $75,000 (later $100,000), with the excess donated to a charity of the contestant's choice. Since then, a contestant can stay on so long as s/he keeps winning, and keep all winnings. Shortly after the cap was removed, Ken Jennings ran for 75 games (74 wins and then his defeat by Nancy Zerg).
Jeopardy! is far more lenient than Wheel of Fortune when it comes to making a repeat appearance (as in, they'll actually let you play again) if you've already appeared on a version hosted by Alex Trebek, you're ineligible (except for tournaments, of course, and the occasional re-invite for special circumstances like the games with IBM's Watson). Otherwise, you're good to go!
Golden Snitch: Played with. In theory, Final Jeopardy can result in people doubling their money or losing everything. It is, however, rather common for Double Jeopardy to end with second place having less than half of the leader's score. The leader can simply bet nothing and be guaranteed a victory.
Home Game: Several board games, video game versions as early as the NES (an Atari 2600 version was planned shortly before the market crashed), and several PC versions as well. THQ released Wii versions of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune in 2010, and again for multiple systems in 2012. There's also a school version that uses a dedicated console and allows custom answers and images to be used. Modified scoring calculators are also sold which allow playing along with the actual show.
Milton Bradley's home game merely reused the plastic board from its Concentration home games and tinted the window red. As such, only five categories could be played per round and one window in Double Jeopardy! had to be reserved for Final.
The Announcer: Noted game show announcer Don Pardo announced the first two Fleming versions, with John Harlan behind the mic on the 1978-79 revival. Jay Stewart of Lets Make A Deal fame announced the 1983 pilot, and Johnny Gilbert both the second pilot and every Trebek episode. note (On the very rare instance that Johnny misses a taping, he's dubbed in post.) Loretta Fox announced the first two seasons of Rock & Roll Jeopardy!, with Stew Herrera taking over for the last two.
Retired Game Show Element: During Season 14 (1997-1998), the show briefly tried "bonus" categories clues with two correct responses. If a contestant gave one response, s/he could try for the second response for the same amount of money, or leave the second one free for another contestant to ring in. It only lasted from December 1997 to February 1998, and even then was used in only three games.
Think Music: The 30-second melody used during Final Jeopardy (which is actually called "Think!") may be the best known example in the genre. TV Guide called it "the Beethoven's Fifth of game show music."
American Accents: Don Pardo had a New England accent (he was from Massachusetts), and Newport News native Johnny Gilbert has a Tidewater one.
April Fools' Day: In 1997, Pat Sajak hosted that day's Jeopardy! while Alex hosted the day's Wheel of Fortune (which also had Pat and Vanna as contestants, and Pat's wife at the puzzle board). Jeopardy!lampshaded the switch by including Wheel-themed category names in Round 1, and "Amateur Trinidadian Icthyologists" as the Final Jeopardy! category.
Artificial Stupidity: In the IBM Challenge (February 2011), Watson had a few cases where its imposing intelligence faltered.
In one instance, Ken Jennings got an answer wrong. Immediately afterward, Watson buzzed in with the same answer. Justified in that Watson was technically blind and deaf the programmers didn't bother with visual or voice recognition. It was merely an analytical machine based on information through text received electronically.
The programmers had Watson put very low weight on categories as a clue to the answer itself. As a result...
In the category regarding decades in history, part of the clue mentioned a flight at Kitty Hawk. Watson guessed 1920. The answer was 1900s.
In the first day Final Jeopardy round, the category was U.S. Cities. The clue was a city with an airport named after a famous World War II battle and combatant. Watson guessed Toronto (The answer was Chicago). However, the programmers suggested that there were so many contextual ambiguities that Watson simply was confused, as there are cities in the US named Toronto, and Toronto in Canada has a US Baseball team (The Blue Jays). In light of this, Trebek (a Canadian native) jokingly remarked that he learned that Toronto is now a U.S. city and one of the producers wore a Blue Jays jersey.
Watson also placed a large number of question marks after this answer, which is apparently a gauge of how "unsure" it was about the answer. So the computer knew the answer was probably wrong, it just couldn't come up with anything better.
In the "Literary APB" category, the clue made it very obvious that it was looking for the main villain of the Harry Potter franchise (who is Voldermort?). Watson was stumped it figured out that it was being asked for a Harry Potter character, but because it wasn't putting much weight on category name and didn't seem to make the connection that APBs are only issued for criminals, it couldn't figure out which character it was being asked for.
The "Also on your computer keys" category tripped Watson up really badly. In fact, it was the only category where Watson got the wrong answer for every single question.
Ascended Extra: During a Fleming-era celebrity week in April 1974, one of the guests was a young Canadian named Alex Trebek.
Ascended Meme: One Double Jeopardy! round had categories that all referred to the Celebrity Jeopardy! sketch on Saturday Night Live, including "Sean Connery", "Surprise Me, Trebek", "Therapists"Alex's aside Not "The Rapists", "The Number After 2", and "Rhymes With 'Dog'". Other categories from the sketch (including "Japan-U.S. Relations" and "Things You Shouldn't Put in Your Mouth" (a category about poisons)) have made appearances on the show as well.
Badass Boast: On the eve of his preliminary match in the Battle of the Decades, Ken Jennings said of his opponents, "They actually think they can win." He backed it up with a lock-win.
Badass Mustache: Trebek had one of these until 2001. He later said that he shaved it off on a whim, and decided to leave it off because nobody noticed. But possibly because it's so iconic and recognizable, most modern depictions in the media (such as a Pearls Before Swine arc in late 2010, where one of the crocs plays Jeopardy!) still show him with the 'stache. On yet another whim, he's grown back the 'stache for Season 31, and the world breathes a sigh of relief... only to see him shave the stache off yet again.
And as a joke, one of the categories on the episode he first appeared shaven was a visual clue category with pictures of his iconic mustache in places that the contestants had to guess.
Five-time champion Frank Spangenberg, who was at one point the show's biggest one-day winner and the biggest money winner all before the dollar values were doubled.
Badass Normal: Ken Jennings, to some a shy, nerdy Mormon who just happened to know everything (including quite a bit about alcohol). Well, everything except H&R Block. Others, however, see him as a Boring Invincible Hero.
Bash Brothers: Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings, the two super-champions who have each won over $3,000,000 on Jeopardy! In contrast, no other human contestant has ever won even $1,000,000. Elite though they may be at trivia, the real skill comes from their reaction times and wagering skills. The IBM Challenge proved they were both equally inferior to computers, even managing to bust Rutter's no-loss Jeopardy! record.
Bootstrapped Theme: This show has quite possibly the most well-known game show theme ever, the "Think!" music was originally just used for the Final Jeopardy question rather than the opening of the show itself. (In a lesser example of this trope, the 1978-79 version's opening theme was used as a prize cue on Wheel of Fortune for several seasons.)
Brick Joke: Some Rule of Funny categories will have counterparts in the Double Jeopardy! round; for instance, on the January 18th, 2011 show, the sixth category in the first round was "Team Jacob" and the sixth category of Double Jeopardy! was titled "Team Edward".
The Cameo: It's not uncommon to see sitting and former Presidents, Vice Presidents, First Ladies, and other notable members of the White House participating via giving clues for a category at least a couple of times a year, as well as other high-profile celebs and figures like Oprah Winfrey.
Canada, Eh?: Alex still has a bit of Canadian accent, most notably in how he says "sorry" and "dollar" with long O sounds, and pronounces "produce" as "praw-duce".
Catch Phrase: "Let's make this a true Daily Double" and "I'll take [category] for [dollar amount], Alex".
Clip Show: Fleming #2,753, plus Trebek #3,000 and #4,000. The first two had the clips interspersed amongst the gameplay, while #4,000 was purely a clip show.
Compound Title: Sometimes, the categories for each show may be related to each other (for example, in episode 4456, Genesis, In the Big Inning, God, Created, The Heavens, and The "Earth") even if the actual questions aren't.
The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Averted with Watson (IBM Computer), who is not connected to the internet (or the outside world in any way) when competing, relying on his data in memory.
Crossword Puzzle: A recurring category is "Crossword Clues [letter]", where the clues are phrased as crossword puzzle clues (e.g. Object that you might find hanging around TV Tropes (9).Response What is a lampshade?).
Curb-Stomp Battle: A "Celebrity" episode with Andy Richter and Wolf Blitzer. The score as they were going into Final Jeopardy! Andy, $39,000; Wolf, -$4,600. (In celebrity tournaments, any celeb with a negative score is automatically given $1,000 to participate in Final Jeopardy!) This is perhaps even more awesome when you consider that the comedian is beating the living crap out of the journalist.
The majority of Ken Jennings's games were these.
Mark McGrath's (of Sugar Ray) appearances on Rock & Roll Jeopardy!, where it became less of a game and more of "How much will he win by?" (even voiced by his opponents themselves). Say what you will about Sugar Ray, but the man knows his rock and roll inside and out.
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth. The first video is here.. Like Mark above, he has an incredible knowledge of music (fellow contestant Moon Unit Zappa even comments at one point "How do you even know that?"). Any fan of Megadeth would know Dave is an incredibly intelligent person, but anyone who just saw him as some kind of dumb metal guy would probably be surprised how he runs away with the game.
The first game of the two-game IBM Challenge (February 14-15, 2011). The IBM Watson computer finished with $35,734 (even after a wrong Final Jeopardy answer). Ken Jennings ($4,800) and Brad Rutter ($10,400), Jeopardy's two most successful players, weren't even as close as the score made it seem — they both doubled up in Final Jeopardy.
In the March 16, 2011 game, Tom Kunzen, the returning champion, absolutely owned his opponents who struggled to even remain on the plus side: the scores at the end of DJ! were $29,200 for Tom and -$3,600 and -$1,400 for his opponents respectively, leading to only the fifth (at least) single-player Final Jeopardy! in the Trebek era.
Harking back to the original NBC version, one of the era's most biggest winners was Burns Cameron, who won a record $11,000 during his five-day romp. In one game, he played against two contestants who were said to be inebriated during their show; they were so drunk they struggled to even press the lock-out buzzer (leading Cameron to at times intentionally delay ringing in to give his opponents a chance to answer). Needless to say, he was the only one around for "Final Jeopardy!"
Death or Glory Attack: A True Daily Double late in Double Jeopardy, which is Roger Craig's signature strategy. Get it right, and you double your score, potentially securing victory or denying an opponent a lock-win. Miss, and you drop to $0 without enough time to recover.
Defeat Equals Friendship: Many champions and contestants who have played against each other have become friends over the years. Further reinforced by the Championship games, where Alex and the contestants - most defeated by each other - chat on old times.
The name of a category on November 3, 2010, where each correct response contained or completed a phrase with the same word twice.
July 17, 2013: Jimmy McGuire of the clue crew announced "Vietnamese Water Puppets—The Water Puppets of Vietnam" as one of the category titles.
"Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: On the original version, Merv Griffin composed both the theme tune and the think music. When the revival was made in 1984, the think music became the theme tune, and is still in use to this day.
Downer Ending: Trebek's second episode. All three players ended Final Jeopardy! with scores of $0 after giving the same incorrect day the 20th Century began all three responded with "January 1, 1900"... but the correct response was January 1, 1901.
If no contestant on Jeopardy! finishes with a positive total, three new contestants compete on the next show. Overall, this has happened in the Trebek era at least six times. It's uncertain how many times this occurred in the Fleming era but on one episode he hosted, all three contestants were disqualified before Final Jeopardy! There was no Final Jeopardy! clue so Fleming spent the rest of the show chatting with the contestants.
Early Installment Weirdness: The first episodes in 1964 had a slightly different board (with the category titles located above and below the dollar amounts) and different contestant podiums (the score displays were directly in the middle, while the nameplates were on top). By mid-1965, the lower category displays had been removed and the contestant podiums reworked into the form used for the rest of the run. See also Obvious Rule Patch, below.
The first Trebek season, for that matter. Contestants could ring in as soon as the clue was revealed; Alex would often add chatter about each clue; there was applause after nearly every right answer and "ooh"s after wrong ones; and of course, a Rules Spiel before each round. Small wonder that they never once cleared the board in the first season.
The shots of the clues would rotate between the now-familiar full-screen zoom of the text and an actual shot of the monitor where the text was displayed. Eventually the latter was phased out.
February 27, 1986: Thirteen of the clues in Double Jeopardy! stump all three players. Between that and a lot of wrong answers, two of the three players are in the red. As a result, the only player with money flies solo in Final Jeopardy!
November 19, 1986: During a Tournament of Champions semifinal match, a contestant in third place finds the Daily Double with two other clues left in play. He wagers everything and provides the correct response...but forgets to phrase it in the form of a question. To make matters worse, his opponents snag the other two clues, knocking him out of the tournament.
October 12, 1999 had 15 out of 28 clues in Double Jeopardy! stump the players, three of which are in the top boxes.
24 clues stumped all three players: 8 in the Jeopardy! Round and 16 in Double Jeopardy!, including the entire "Quotable Oscar Hosts" category. All three Daily Doubles were bombed as well. That's 45% of the entire game.
One contestant managed to get only five right answers, and four wrong answers (including two of the Daily Doubles). This poor contestant finished the Jeopardy! Round with $200, but fell back into the red on the fourth clue of Double Jeopardy! and never got back out.
The game became a Foregone Conclusion with one whole category left: the middle contestant also knocked himself out with two straight wrong answers, and nobody gave a right response for the next five clues.
The last clue on the board was a Daily Double, which went to the only contestant who still had money; he wagered $1,000 and got it wrong. Since he was the only one with money, he was also the only one around for Final Jeopardy! Luckily, he gave a right answer there and wagered generously. Keep in mind this was the Ultimate Tournament of Champions. Then again, by virtue of winning, he was assured the minimum for the game and a spot in the next round. No contestant who made it to the second round left with less than $25,000.
The October 15, 2001 show, which turned into such a bloodbath in Double Jeopardy! that all three players emerged with lower scores than they started from $1,000/$2,800/$1,900 to $800/$2,000/-$100. (Even worse, all three Daily Doubles were answered correctly.)
On the aforementioned episode from the NBC era, where all three contestants were disqualified from Final Jeopardy! due to their negative scores. One history of game shows claims that a three-way loss this way happened more than once, although — since most of the NBC run has been erased from memory — this can never be verified.
In one episode, they had an "Oops!" category in which all five clues were related to facts that the show had gotten wrong on previous episodes. One such clue referenced a clue that called the St. Louis Globe-Democrat a defunct newspaper, saying that the paper was re-established by the time the episode aired. However, by the time they aired the episode with the correction, the paper went under again!
Anytime an entire category goes without a correct response. Besides the Oscar Hosts one mentioned above:
March 22, 2012 (in a round that also had at least seven other clues that stumped all three playersnote Three clues went unrevealed even though Alex never gave the "less than a minute" warning, so it's possible that the last three were edited out due to no one ringing in, as there is precedent for this being done.): "Historians"
January 2, 2013: "Broadway Lyrics". This one is even worse since, unlike all the other examples, no one even rang in with a guess!
November 3, 2014: "CIA Directors". 15 triple-stumpers altogether in the round.
November 21, 2014 (final episode of the Tournament of Champions): "McWriters".
However, it should be noted that the "British Art & Artists", "Give the Order", "CIA Directors", and "McWriters" categories each included a Daily Double, so one of the other two contestants could have given a correct response in either case. Still...
April 26, 2012. Start in the Jeopardy! round, where three of the clues in "Great Lakes" were triple-stumpers. Then add eleven triple-stumpers in Double Jeopardy!
July 9-10, 2012: A contestant finishes with a very likely record low final score of -$6,400 on the former episode, and another contestant briefly drops to -$6,600 on the latter (but finishes with -$2,600).
These are not the lowest known scores, as a contestant in the Super Jeopardy! tournament dropped to -6,800 points before finishing with -2,800 (but to be fair, he was already a 5-time champion and finished in 2nd place in a Tournament of Champions).
On February 7, 2013 in the second of three semifinal matches in the Teen Tournament, not only did all three contestants give the same incorrect response in Final Jeopardy!, but all three contestants bet their entire earnings as well, meaning none of the three contestants advanced to the finals. Jeopardy! actually changed the rules regarding finishes in tournaments to prevent this from happening again.
Expy: The Challengers (1990-91), which was really an updated version of The Who, What Or Where Game (NBC, 1969-74).
Foregone Conclusion: If the player in the lead has more than twice as much as the second-place player going into Final Jeopardy!, no one can catch them. This is known as a "lock" game, assuring the first-place contestant of winning given that he does not do something amazingly stupid as pull aCliff Clavin.
And then there's the 2011 Tournament of Champions, for which "lock" was an understatement. Champion Roger Craig finished the first day of the final with a $31,200 lead over 2nd place opponent Tom Nissley, who finished Double Jeopardy! with $14,600 on the second day; Roger was therefore guaranteed to win the tournament by $2,000 or more no matter what everybody wagered.
Funny Background Event: The set pieces for road shows in the 2000s often included oversized replicas of books, most of which had funny titles that were only seen for a couple seconds as the camera panned the set going in and out of commercial breaks.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: One early example from November 1985 had Johnny Gilbert reading the prize plugs (the last of which was a carpet from Joy Carpets, Inc.) shortly before Final Jeopardy; followed by Alex making a joke about how the 3rd place finisher (a Roman Catholic priest who finished in the red and was eliminated from Final Jeopardy) might be "having fun with that carpet".
Grand Finale: The last NBC episode of the original Fleming era featured some clips of notable moments the end of the 1967 College Tourney (with Fleming as the most excited guy in the room), Mel Brooks on the 2,000th episode (1972) and Gene Shalit amusingly tackling a Daily Double. At the end, Fleming thanked the viewers and left the now-darkened set to Charlie Chaplin's "Smile".
Gratuitous Foreign Language: Ken Jennings would occasionally give his responses in foreign languages (e.g. "¿Qué es nada?"). Sometimes, entire categories focus on foreign languages, and the answer usually must be a translation, or the word itself. Trebek is rather good at accents. He also likes to throw foreign phrases at contestants who mention that they are fluent in another language.
Hammerspace Hair: Leonard Cooper, champion of the 2013 Teen Tournament, reveals in an anecdote that a fellow student hid a highlighter in his afro, and it remained undiscovered for several days.
Handicapped Badass: Eddie Timanus, the first blind contestant on the show and quite the high winner. Although he proved that it's not that difficult for Jeopardy! to accommodate blind contestants, only one or two others have ever appeared after him.
The changes that were made to accommodate Timanus were: no visual clues or Video Daily Doubles; a card with the categories printed in Braille (handed to him at the start of each round), a tone that would denote when the contestants could buzz in (usually, the contestants would see a light around the board when Alex was finished speaking and they could buzz in without a small time penalty) and a Braille keyboard to type in his wagers and responses in Final Jeopardy!
Also, though not related to Timanus's blindness, it is notable that starting with his shows, contestants began the show already standing at their podiums when Johnny Gilbert introduced them, instead of the old practice of them walking up to the podiums as they were being introduced. The practice became permanent starting in September 2000.
Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Averted. Instead of singing, Alex (or occasionally Johnny Gilbert) reads the lyrics in a hilariously deadpan manner. One category even had pre-recorded clues where Trebek performed five songs with the help of Auto-Tune.
I Need a Freaking Drink: If a contestant mentions alcohol in any way during their interviews, Alex seems to take great notice.
Subverted in a notorious clip that shows Trebek swearing like a sailor and supposedly drinking while trying to shoot a "Phone Jeopardy!" promo. Although the Cluster F Bombs are real, Trebek was actually alternating between Diet Coke and a glass of water.
Irony: An Indian contestant once missed a question about New Delhi. The contestant hung his head in shame and Alex called him out on it.
On April 27, 2012, a contestant missed the last clue of the game, a Daily Double which presented lyrics to "I Lost on Jeopardy" by "Weird Al" Yankovic ("My hope of winning sank, 'cause I got the Daily Double now, and then my mind went blank"). She didn't recognize the song and ended up losing in Final Jeopardy!
1987 contestant Barbara Lowe, who was said by many eyewitnesses to be a total Jerk Ass. She quibbled with Trebek on-camera when one of her answers was ruled wrong, and, according to ex-writer Harry Eisenberg, drew irate letters from fans for her behavior. Nonetheless, she retired undefeated. However, she had previously appeared on several game shows, most by using aliases, and had lied to Jeopardy! about how many she'd been on (at the time, you could only be on two in a five-year span). She was barred from appearing in the Tournament of Champions, and her winnings were withheld until she threatened them with a lawsuit.
On October 12, 2009, one of the contestants was Jeff Kirby, who originally appeared on the show in December 1999. As stated in Game Show Winnings Cap, Trebek-era contestants are not allowed to appear again, but Jeff somehow got through the audition process. He didn't get caught until someone on the show's message board pointed out that he was wearing the same tie he had worn in his 1999 appearance. (Either he has a spectacularly limited wardrobe, or he was thumbing his nose at the powers that be.) What makes him fit into this trope? He finished in third place on both shows (and of course, was denied the $1,000 third-place winnings from his 2009 episode).
Trebek himself. During the early seasons, Trebek was more akin to a very strict teacher: he would snap at the contestants if they forgot a rule (most commonly, phrasing with "What is ...?") or giving an answer that was inappropriate to the category (such as in a category about numbers, anything other than a numerical answer), and treated the show very seriously. Once the writers began loosening up with more esoteric and humorous categories, Trebek's hosting style became less formal with it. Particularly in the 2000s, it's now become very common for him to laugh, smile and joke around with the contestants.
Long Runner: Trebek's version began its 30th season in September 2013, placing it third behind only Wheel of Fortune (nighttime version started in 1983; daytime in 1975) and The Price Is Right (CBS version started in 1972; the show itself started in 1956).
Even the classic 1964-75 Art Fleming version as a standalone could count it ran for nearly 11 years, and was practically a tradition for businessmen and college students on their lunch break (which is how the show got mega-popular in the first place).
Any time a contestant bends the "form of a question" rules by saying something like "Could that be ____?" or "Is that an ____?". The judges aren't terribly picky on what constitutes a question.
One contestant actually got credit for answering "Time Magazine. [beat] What's that?", and another got credit for just saying "Who?" when the correct response was "Who are The Who?"
If the response itself is a question, nothing more needs to be done.
One Final Jeopardy! had the correct response of "What is oxygen?" A contestant only got as far as writing "What is O?" before time ran out, but the judges took it because "O" is the periodic symbol for oxygen.
Looping Lines: If Alex stumbles when reading a clue, he usually re-records it in post. This is easy to do, since his reading is usually done over a shot of the clue's text.
Manipulative Editing: If a round ends with multiple clues on which no one rings in, then they are typically edited out. So to home viewers, it merely appears that they ran out of time instead.
Moon Logic Puzzle: Commonly used, usually by putting a key word in quotes to hint at the right response, or wording the clue so that it mentions something else of an identical name. Referred to as the "Tease-Out Metric" by the fandom, and lampshaded by the show with "Stupid Answers".
Musical Gag: The fanfare at the end of the 2008-present theme is the same melody as the Daily Double jingle.
Obvious Beta: Compared to the circulating 1964-75 Fleming episodes, the clips shown from the March 5, 1964 "test" episode look like one. The September 18, 1983 pilot is basically Alex Trebek in the Fleming era with a "personal computer"-themed set and Jay Stewart announcing.
Very early in the original Fleming run, only the proper phrasing was ruled as correct contestants phrasing a question incorrectly (e.g., "What is Abraham Lincoln?") were asked by Fleming to use the "proper" phrasing. After Merv Griffin discovered that this was slowing down gameplay, the rule was slightly altered to give credit for a correct response so long as it was phrased in the form of a question. As mentioned above, this rule often gets exploited to its limits.
Early on, the Final Jeopardy! board was located to the left of the contestants; such a viewpoint not only hurt some necks, but also gave the contestants the ability to see their opponent jotting down their response during the 30-second writing time.
For the first season of the Trebek era, contestants could ring in as soon as the clue was revealed. This often led to more than one podium lighting up at the same time, or premature buzz-ins that led to the time limit expiring before Trebek could finish the clue. From season 2 onward, the buzzers activate after the clue is finished, and premature ring-ins are locked out for 1/8 of a second.
After a contestant lost because he forgot to phrase his Final Jeopardy! response as a question, they changed the rules so that the contestants write the "What is" part on their screens during the commercial break along with their wager, as opposed to writing it concurrently with the response.
Celebrity Jeopardy (played for charity) is much more forgiving of the "must be in the form of a question" rule.
Money equal to their score used to be awarded to all contestants, but "winner-take-all" promotes more risk taking for a more exciting show, and prevents contestants from ending participation if they've reached some needed goal amount.
After the above-mentioned Epic Fail in the Teen Tournament, the tie-breaker rules in tournament play were changed so that every game would have a declared winner.
At least twice during Ken's run, a contestant wrote some variation on "What is Whatever Ken Wrote Down?". A couple others have written variants of "What is I have no idea?"
Double subverted on Ken's 64th game. The middle contestant wrote "See next podium" with an arrow, only to point to the one on the right from the audience's point of view. It turned out that the contestant on the right gave a correct response while Ken did not, although Ken won anyway thanks to a "lock" game.
At least once, a contestant has proposed to his girlfriend in the audience via Final Jeopardy!
Johnny Gilbert: "This... is... Jeopardy! Introducing today's contestants: [lists off the two challengers and their occupations and city], AND our returning champion, [gives occupation, city, and name], whose [X] day cash winnings total [amount] dollars. And now, here is the host of Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek!"
In the 2000s, the original "now entering the studio are today's contestants" is replaced with one of five slightly different intros, depending on the day. This coincided with the contestants no longer actually entering the studio, not coincidentally around the time Eddie Timanus, a blind man, was on the show.
Painting the Medium: A clue from March 9, 2005, about fonts read "Bauhaus or Arial, for example", with the words "Bauhaus" and "Arial" written in those respective fonts.
1963-64: The original run-through used a board with ten categories containing ten clues each, which filled nearly all of the stage and jutted into the audience area. Seeing how problematic such a board was (and could be), Merv Griffin cut it down to the far more manageable six-by-five for each round.
March 6, 1977: Used a revolving gameboard and a timed Super Jeopardy!, but otherwise faithful to the eventual series. This pilot was originally prepared for CBS.
September 18, 1983: Alex Trebek with the 1978-79 set layout and music, now themed like a personal computer. Final Jeopardy! was reinstated, and Jay Stewart was the announcer.
Early 1984: Similar to the eventual series, except 1) the dollar amounts were halved ($50-$250/$100-$500), 2) the contestant podiums had nameplates along with each contestant's personal signature, 3) the Jeopardy! logo on the board was very basic, 4) the theme music was a slightly different arrangement of what it would eventually become, and 5) Alex's podium looked remarkably like the "clicker podiums" (with the Jeopardy! logo on top) seen in various Home Game adaptations.
Person as Verb: In the Cheers episode "What Is... Cliff Clavin?", postman Cliff Clavin appears on the show and racks up an insurmountable lead, but loses after he gets Final Jeopardy! wrong and wagers everything. Making such a wager is often called "pulling a Clavin".
Player Nudge: If a contestant hits a Daily Double, Alex will sometimes remind them of their score in comparison to their opponents for instance, "You have exactly half of X's total", which pretty much translates to "you really should make it a true Daily Double". He sometimes gives similar score-related nudges going into Final Jeopardy!
Sometimes subverted for laughs if a player with a significant lead hits a Daily Double, and Alex jokingly suggests that they make it a true Daily Double.
Popcultural Osmosis: You know this has happened when your once-niche favorite is a subject on Jeopardy!
Tumblr was the answer to a clue on December 16, 2011.
A clue about planking was on February 2, 2012.
A "Viral Videos" category was on February 13, 2012's episode (the first game of the 2012 Teen Tournament finals). There were clues about "Leave Britney Alone", "Double Rainbow", "Charlie Bit My Finger", and "Numa Numa".
The categories in the Jeopardy! Round on February 6, 2013 (a Teen Tournament episode) were as follows:
Ratings Stunt: The Celebrity Editions and the "IBM Challenge" (Ken Jennings vs. Brad Rutter vs. the IBM Watson supercomputer, the first-ever nonhuman to play a live game of Jeopardy!). Truth be told, it's a legitimate method of research testing.
Reaction Shot: First used on Nancy Zerg when Ken Jennings came down to earth, it was dubbed the "Zerg Cam" by fans, and referred to as such by Trebek during a repeat showing of Ken's losing game.
Real Life Writes the Plot: September 18, 2013 had a category based on fetus development, which featured Sarah delivering clues on the baby she was actually pregnant with at the time.
Rearrange the Song: Though they kept the original 1964 "Think!" recording for Final Jeopardy!, that same melody was used as the main theme once the 1984 version started up. At first, the main theme was performed on synthesizer and saxophone. The intro was truncated by 1990, and in 1991, bongos were dubbed in. Starting in 1997, both the main theme and the "Think!" music have received multiple orchestral re-arrangements. Rock & Roll Jeopardy! used an electric guitar remix of the theme, which the parent show has since appropriated for teen and college tournaments.
Running Gag: There are several recurring categories, but the various names given to the opera categories ("Uh-Oh, Opera"; "The Dreaded Opera Category") would count.
"Potent Potables", until the aforementioned SNL skits turned it into their own running gag. On the original series, Fleming regularly said it was announcer Don Pardo's favorite category.
"Those Darn Etruscans" was another early recurring category on the Trebek version.
"The Dreaded Spelling Category" for Teen Tournaments, wherein you had to spell the response.
"Stupid Answers": The correct response is in the clue, although sometimes not as obviously as you might think (e.g., "Now named for James Brady, this room in the White House is where the briefing of the press takes place." What is the Briefing Room?).
"Before and After" and "Before, During, and After"; see "Shout-Out", below.
Schmuck Bait: Frequently, a clue is written so that it may hint at one answer but then throws in a key word at the last second to negate what would seem like the more sensible answer. For example, "His efforts to hold the Union together were ineffectual; 7 states seceded on his watch." Luckily, the contestant avoided the Schmuck Bait response and gave the correct one (James Buchanan, not Abe Lincoln).
There's no way the writers didn't expect someone to say it, but there's almost no way they expected Ken Jennings to say "What's a ho[e]?" to "This term for a long-handled gardening tool can also mean an immoral pleasure seeker." (The correct response, "rake", was given by another contestant.) Judging by Ken's massive grin and how ridiculously far ahead he was at the time, he likely threw the question intentionally just to be funny.
An example from July 20, 2005 had a player win a game from behind because he didn't fall for the Schmuck Bait in Final Jeopardy. The clue alluded to the "Ode to Joy" in Beethoven's 9th Symphony, but the use of "70-minute work" meant that the correct response specifically meant the entire symphony. The player in the lead put "Ode to Joy" and wagered everything, ending up losing.
An egregious example was used on July 12, 2013: "The title princess of this game, which launched a best-selling franchise, was named for F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife." It was used in the Final Jeopardy! round, meaning Alex could not remind the contestants to be more specific if they provided a response. The end result started a debate on Kotaku. (Only one contestant gave the correct response of "The Legend Of Zelda", but the other two contestants simply wrote "Zelda" and were therefore penalized.)
Serious Business: Many fans who play from home use a scoring system developed by former contestant Karl Coryat and consider the game to be such. What's more, there is a large lexicon of terminology used by the fanbase, including several terms coined by former contestants.
Painfully averted in most of the Celebrity Edition games Celebs often insisted on Chewing the Scenery, ringing in on clues they obviously didn't know with an "Oh, I know this! What is it?" attitude, and otherwise clowning around. It didn't help that the game threw in unnecessary diversions (such as having a singer perform before a Daily Double!) which led to as few as 14 clues being revealed in each round. Fortunately, the celebrity tournament of the 200910 season was taken far more seriously, with more focused (and generally sharper) celebs who treated their games with respect.
Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Some categories use long words to obfuscate what would be otherwise be a simple clue. In fact, it's the whole point of any category that ends with "In Other Words".
One recurring category is "Before & After", which works the same way as its Wheel of Fortune counterpart. This category debuted on the April Fools' Day 1997 episode of Jeopardy!, when Pat Sajak hosted.
They have further lampshaded this Trope on rare instances since October 2001 with a category called "Before, During, and After", which fuses three ideas together with two linking words. Wheel has yet to adopt this category, even as a joke.
Inverted in the late 1990s, when Wheel introduced a category called Rhyme Time based on the Jeopardy! category of the same name.
On April 1, 2010, the reigning champion mentioned during his interview, that he considered Pitfall (another Trebek-hosted game) "the best thing ever" when he was young. Alex couldn't disagree more, pointing out that it was the only time he was ever "stiffed" for his salary.
The Simpsons: At the end of his match against IBM's Watson, Ken Jennings paraphrased Kent Brockman by writing under his Final Jeopardy question "I for one welcome our new Computer Overlords".
And continuing in that same vein, champion Jason Keller copied Watson's "What is Toronto?" on his ninth game.
One contestant is obviously a Family Guy fan, as he wrote down "Who is Kebert Xela?" for his Final Jeopardy! response. (Also an example of Off the Rails, since he went into Final Jeopardy! with only $1 thanks to a Daily Double gone wrong.)
Naomi Judd: Well, Jane, I guess you're NOT such an ignorant slut, after all!
Several references have been made to the Cheers crossover episode.
The Show Must Go On: In one episode, a contestant fainted during Final Jeopardy!. Alex roused the contestant and asked him to write down his Final Jeopardy! response. Apparently, the contestant was on a crash diet and had not eaten in almost two days. This did not affect the final outcome, as another contestant already had a "lock" game and gave a correct response.
Sophisticated as Hell: Trebek can seamlessly jump from a sophisticated, professional tone to offbeat, wry, and often self-deprecating humor, then throw in a timely pop-culture reference just for fun. The announcer also does much the same, in categories that require him to speak the category questions... or sing.
Spin-Off: The 1970s syndicated version, Super Jeopardy!, Jep!, Rock & Roll Jeopardy! and (coming soon as an app) Sports Jeopardy!
Status Quo Game Show: The second Trebek episode ended in a three-way tie at $0 due to all three players wagering all of their winnings on Final Jeopardy! and getting it wrong.
Stopped Numbering Sequels: A variant. Partway through Ken Jennings' run, Johnny Gilbert stopped declaring how many days he had been champion at the start of each episode, believed to be a result of the date of Ken's last game being leaked online, so that viewers would have a harder time knowing that day's result. For his 75th and last game, they announced his 74 day reign again like normal at the show's beginning.
Sublime Rhyme: The June 12, 1998 show had 12 of the 13 categories ending in "-ation(s)". The only exception was the Double Jeopardy! category "Crustaceans".
Subverted Catch Phrase: A few contestants have said "I'd like to solve the puzzle" or "I'd like to buy a vowel" on a Daily Double, often to Trebek's amusement.
Tempting Fate: Averted in the Teen Tournament finals on February 12, 2013. Contestant Leonard wrote "But I just won $75,000!" despite not having a "lock" tournament. note Similar to a "lock" game in that neither trailing contestant can cover a wager of $0 by the leading contestant. In this case, contestant Nilai made a $7,000 wager, and a correct response would have given Nilai a higher 2-day total than Leonard. Because contestant Nilai gave an incorrect response, Leonard did win the $75,000.
Those Two Guys: Alex and Ken regularly played off each other, with several recurring "bits".
The two trying to figure out what to discuss in Ken's interview. By about the 25th or so episode they were getting into more obscure facets of Ken's life; by the end, the two just had small, random conversations.
Whenever Ken hit a Daily Double, Alex would try to "read Ken's mind" and anticipate what he would wager; Ken would sometimes switch it up and bid a few dollars more or less.
Alex's various monologues at the top of each show referred to Ken's winning streak; once, he walked out and stated that, since Ken had been returning champion for so long, he was essentially working at the show and held up one of the show's timecards with Ken's name written on it.
Ken himself lampshaded this in his book, where he said that the end of his streak surely broke the hearts of countless Alex/KenShippers.
Truck Driver's Gear Change: The "Think!" music used in Final Jeopardy! has always gone up a minor third in the second verse. Also, every variation of the current version's theme tune has used several key changes; the 1984 version was all over the place in particular.
Un-Person: Not only do players who finish Double Jeopardy! with no money not stick around for Final Jeopardy!, they don't always get to participate in the credits sequence of the players chatting with Alex.
Up to Eleven: Before and After is a pretty tricky category; There are two clues and you need to come up with an answer that bridges them together. Near the end of a particularly long tournament, there was a category "Before, During, and After", where every correct response involved three answers with two bridges.
Urban Legend: The 1978-79 version was supposedly canned because Merv, returning from a vacation in Europe, saw the format changes and demanded that NBC cancel the show immediately (and only hastened its demise, as NBC was already planning to cancel it). The legend falls apart because the first pilot for this version, with a slightly different format, was taped on March 6, 1977... followed by another in mid-1978.
Viewers Are Geniuses: One of the main reasons that game shows are popular is because they allow people to "play along" from home. But considering the vast amount of sometimes-obscure clues that are given every day...
Violation of Common Sense: Some wagering situations in Final Jeopardy! are not immediately intuitive. There are situations where it's actually advantageous for a player who's behind to bet nothingnote If the second-place player has between 2/3 and 3/4 of the first-place player's dollar amount; the J-Archive fan site explains the logic. or, in a related situation, the first-place player does not bet to cover the second-place player's largest possible wager.
We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties: Happened during the 2012 Teen Tournament. It was a video clue about the MVP of the Super Bowl XLVI. The home audience saw the picture of the MVP note Who was Eli Manning?, but there was a technical glitch during the game which resulted with the contestants not seeing the picture of the MVP. He got it wrong, but after the break, Alex decided that it wasn't the contestant's fault he got it wrong seeing how there was technical glitches, and so he decided to redact the penalty. The marker and card are now standard equipment for all players.
Another glitch interfered with a playing of Final Jeopardy!; the light pen of one of the contestants wasn't writing properly. The contestant held up the pen to indicate this, and he was granted a card to write his answer in with a regular pen. The contestant won the game (and the partially-written answer on the light board seemed to indicate that he knew the correct answer all along, and that there actually was a problem with the pen), but because of the special treatment, both he and the second-place contestant for that game appeared in the next game.
"YEAH!" Shot: One promo for the Teacher's Tournanent ends with a shot of the contestants raising their hands.
You Make Me Sic: On the October 14, 2013 episode, the defending champion was penalized for misspelling Kazakhstan for his Final Jeopardy! response (he misspelled it as Kazkhistan). This led to backlash from angry viewers on Jeopardy!'s Facebook page who thought the judges were being too harsh on spelling, even though the rules for Final Jeopardy! clearly state that "the clue is correct so long as the spelling does not affect the pronunciation". Since then, after episodes where contestants misspelled Final Jeopardy! responses but they were correct under this rule, backlash on the Facebook page has not been uncommon.
Your Mom: "Your Momma" was a category on December 16, 2010. Of course, the first thing out of the contestant's mouth was "I'll take Your Momma for $400, Alex."