J is for JEOPARDY!

For reasons I will explain later, this is my favorite Final JEOPARDY! answer- the category is SISTER CITIES: San Francisco, California is a sister city to this one in Italy.

I started watching the game show JEOPARDY! fairly early on. It started in 1964 as a noontime show on NBC-TV. Art Fleming was the host; you can see some of his 1970s work here. I would stop at the home of my maternal grandmother and great aunt Deana; Deana and I would watch the show while we ate lunch, which grandma Williams usually prepared, and then I would return to school. The show lasted for 11 years, and I probably watched it for the first four regularly, until I went to high school, and again as often as possible once I got to college in 1971.

It is the Fleming version of the show that shows up in the film Airplane 2 (about the only original bit in that movie sequel), and in the “Weird Al” Yankovic video I Lost on Jeopardy.

Then, after a short-lived version in 1978, JEOPARDY! returned in syndicated (non-network) television in 1984 with Alex Trebek as host. I recognized Trebek from a game called High Rollers, which involved answering a couple questions then using these oversized pair of dice.

The other thing that was different from the original game, is that the values of clues had increased tenfold, from $10-$50 in JEOPARDY! (and twice that in Double JEOPARDY!) to $100-$500 in JEOPARDY! (The values doubled in the beginning of Season 19, in the fall of 2002, to $200-$1000 in JEOPARDY!) Not incidentally, in the current game, “the minimum wager on a Daily Double is $5, which was half the smallest clue value on the original version of Jeopardy! that premiered in 1964 with Art Fleming as host.”

I always love the story about the creation of JEOPARDY! After the game show scandals of the 1950s, where certain players were leaked the answers, rigging the results, the late entertainer Merv Griffin was having a meal with his then-wife. He was musing about how he could put together a show in that atmosphere of distrust. She suggested giving the contestants the answers. He said something equivalent to “Are you crazy? That’s been the problem!” She responded, “5280”; he said, “What is the number of feet in a mile?” The ah-ha moment arrived.

Merv Griffin also wrote the Think Music that plays for thirty seconds while the contestants are writing down their Final JEOPARDY! responses.

Oh, that question at the top: What I loved about it is that, obviously, the JEOPARDY! folks wouldn’t expect you to KNOW San Francisco’s Italian sister city. So there must be some linkage between SF and one city in Italy. And I figured it out. Any guesses?

One of the things people occasionally ask me when they try out for the game show JEOPARDY! is what sources they should use. Sure, there’s the official JEOPARDY! site. But THE most valuable tool, I think, is the JEOPARDY! archive, specifically the help function.

Some intrepid JEOPARDY! fans have gotten together to archive almost every show in the past 13 years, and have captured some earlier episodes as well. If one can’t watch the show, then reading the answers and questions will help prepare you for playing. There is also information about wagering, a LOT of info I think, other than general knowledge, waging is the most important aspect in the game. The site even describes the episode on the TV show Cheers when postman Cliff Clavin was on JEOPARDY!, had an insurmountable lead and still managed to lose.

Karl Coryat, a two-day champion back in 1996, has some good tips for what to study: “…there are a few things you absolutely must know. These are, in order of importance: State and world capitals; U.S. presidents (order, years of office, and general biographies); state nicknames; and Shakespeare’s plays, including basic plot lines and major characters.” I might have put Presidents first, but I don’t disagree with his general premise.

“Prior to a rule change that went into effect at the beginning of the 20th Season [2003-2004], a champion could win a maximum of 5 games, whereupon he/she would retire and later return for the next Tournament of Champions.” It was the rule change that allowed Ken Jennings to win 74 games in a row. It was great for Jennings, but I’m still not convinced it was great for JEOPARDY! The Tournament that year, instead of having a bunch of 5-time champions, and maybe one or two 4-timers, actually had a 3-day champ, diluting the process.

One variation on JEOPARDY! you may or may not remember was called Rock & Roll Jeopardy. It ran from 1998 to 2001 on VH-1 and was hosted by Jeff Probst, who would later host a reality show called Survivor. I thought it was a lesser program, in large part because, for most of its run, one played for “points” rather than dollars, with the person with the most points getting $5,000.

You can read about my JEOPARDY appearances here; the Boston shows in 1998 were the first non-tournament games ever played outside the Los Angeles-area studio. I only discovered recently that I had the second highest one-game dollar amount in the 1998-1999 season.

The question: What is Assisi? San Francisco is named for Saint Francis of Assisi.

ABC Wednesday


Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

29 thoughts on “J is for JEOPARDY!”

  1. How do you 'know' all this stuff????? Another amazing and informative post thanks to you. And, isn't that a rather young looking Merv!

  2. Great post as always, Roger! And, how fun to read about your Jeopardy experience!! That's terrific! Was always a Jeopardy fan — well, until we stopped our television service, so this was a fun read! Have a great week!


  3. Congratulations Roger. I could always tell that you were super intelligent : ) and now I know it for certain! Way to go. Do you have a tape of your appearance?

  4. Oh wow, I got the question right! We don't have this game in the Netherlands, although I have seen some episodes somewhere. It's always great to know an answer, you feel so clever (with all the other quiz shows it's the same: know the answer, feel clever)

  5. I'm UK raised too, so all I know about Jeopardy and twin cities ia taht there are thousands of jobs there.
    Thousands of jobs in Jeopardy? Where is this place?

  6. I wonder how you managed to get the answers with the mildly irritating thinking music going. How great to fulfil an ambition, and even better win. All those million and one facts that build up in a Librarian's mind come in useful sometimes.

  7. Now I know why you know so much. Congratulations.
    Great question and I had forgotten how Jeopardy came to be. Thanks for an interesting post.

  8. Tum-tum-tum-tum, de-dum-dum, tum-tum-tum-pum, dee-dee-dee-ra-dum-dum…
    Can you hear the tune? I certainly can. A GREAT J post.

  9. Life with Kaishon – Actually, I DO have a tape of my appearances, but I'm afraid to look at it because our VCR is eating tape. I need to get it transferred to a DVD, because my daughter has actually never seen the shows.

  10. I can hear the music from the show playing in my head now, over and over and over… 🙂 Great post!

  11. How exciting! I've watched Jeopardy for years, off and on but I've never 'known' a contestant! I hope you can get the tape transferred very soon! Wonderful post, as always.

  12. Great post, – would love to see your part in Jeopardy, Roger. Lots of interesting information about the show, and its beginnings.

  13. Man… You'll call me stupid because I've never heard about this show? And I feel stupid because it seems like so much fun! have I lost?! :o)

    Thank you for so many curious, cool information, loved it!

    Kisses from Nydia.

  14. Jeopardy was once televised here in Singapore, I love watching it. Didn't know it history though, now I do thanks to you.

  15. Jeopardy: it's a good thing. (<– I sound like Martha Stewart, don't I? LOL!) P.S. You are my most recent brush with fame. Where does the autograph line begin? *unsuccessfully searching for a scrap of paper to be signed* Do you have any 8 x 10 glossies you'll be distributing? I thought so. Thanks!

  16. The original must have been better than the local copy they sent here.
    Nice J, though.

  17. I love the personal aspect to your post for this week. Congrats on being so darn smart! 🙂 I also loved watching Jeopardy…when I had time to watch TV.

  18. one of our favorite shows we like to see who knows your post was full of interest for sure

  19. oh my!!! I love this show! I've been dreaming of seeing my boys playing. I felt bad from last celebrity version that my favorite Anderson Cooper didn't win.

  20. I have never heard of Jeopardy, but it sounds good!
    You asked about Jersey if it was attached to the mainland before that?

    I think all the Channel Islands were attached to France and even England was attached to the rest of Europe, though I don't know how long ago. You can probably find it in Google.

  21. We don't have that show here, but I think I might like it! Sounds like a good brain-teaser. And you appeared on it! I'm impressed!

    Love the 'Italian sister city' question. I wouldn't have guessed it. I'd have stood there like a rabbit in the headlights. LOL!

  22. I've never seen this show either. I probably wouldn't watch it as I really dislike quiz shows, however cleverly they're put together.
    Well done for your success though:-)

  23. such a great post! I love Jeopardy, not so much because I watch it all the time but because whenever we watch it as a family I always seem to get one or two answers no one else can get so it makes me feel smart, Lol!
    I can't wait to share (impress them with) this trivia too!

  24. Thanks for all the information, I never really watch the show only aware that it was plan on the TV. A lot of interesting facts that you provided.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial