Monday, March 31, 2014

Jeopardy! Turns 50

Yesterday came and went without much fanfare, but Jeopardy! reached a milestone. Fifty years have passed since the airing of the first episode.

Now, if you've been watching the current version with Alex Trebek recently, you might think I've made a bit of a typo. The Trebek version has been celebrating the show's thirtieth anniversary this year. But that's just the amount of time that's passed for the current version. Before Trebek took the reigns of America's preeminent quiz show, the show had a previous life — several lives, actually — starring Art Fleming.

The concept behind Jeopardy! actually grew out of the game show scandals of the 1950s. Creator Merv Griffin's wife was allegedly musing about how all those contestants on all those shows back then had been given the answers to questions beforehand. She wondered about a show that actually made that the gimmick, as if to say, "Sure, we'll give you the answers, but now you've got to give us the questions!"

The rest, as they say, is history.

Alex Trebek 2009The original version of Jeopardy! only lasted for nine years. There was also a syndicated version that lasted for about a year (simultaneous with the end of the original run) and a revival that, itself, lasted for only about five months just a few years after the original ended. Nonetheless, the fact that Art Fleming had hosted all of these versions meant that there was a fair bit of controversy when he was passed over for the 1984 revival in favor of Trebek, who at the time had hosted a sizable handful of shows that never seemed to last very long. Now, thirty years later (and nearly two decades after Fleming's death) game show fans can see that Trebek and Jeopardy! were a perfect match for each other. With Trebek presumed to retire in another couple of years, speculation is already high about what the future of Jeopardy! may look like. For now, it's time to celebrate!

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