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Jeopardy!

Jeopardy! is a popular international television game show. The show originated in the United States. Jeopardy! debuted on March 30, 1964.

The US show is currently hosted by Alex Trebek[?]. The current version debuted in 1984; the original version from the 1960s and 1970s was hosted by Art Fleming[?], as was the short-lived The All-New Jeopardy! in the late '70s.

Game play

Each day, there are three contestants, one of whom is usually the winner from the previous show. (Five-time winners are not allowed to continue but get a special prize (now a car) and are invited to return for later Tournaments of Champions.)

The show consists of three rounds. The first one is called just "Jeopardy". The game focuses on a video wall containing six columns and five rows of trivia "answers" or "clues". Each column is a topical category, and categories change on each show. Each categories has five questions, worth $200, $400, $600, $800, and $1000. (Before 2001, the values were half as much as they are now.)

The returning champion starts the game by picking the category and the monetary value. The host reads off the "answer" (which also appears on the video monitor for that clue) and then any of the three contestants can ring in with a response. The contestants must wait until the host finishes reading the question before they can ring in, and pressing the signaling button too soon locks it from ringing in at all. For easy questions, ringing in at the right moment is important. The responses must be phrased in the form of a question (usually "What is...?" or "Who is....?" but some contestants have been more creative in responding), and an answer that is itself a question may be given as-is ("What, me worry?" for example). If the response is correct, the contestant wins the amount of money the question is worth, if it is wrong, he or she loses that amount and the other two contestants regain the right to ring in. The current scores are shown on the front of each player's podium. (Negative scores can and do happen often). The person with a correct response then has the right to choose the next "answer"; if no correct response is given, that choice is given to the last person who gave a correct response.

(A note about the "answers" and responses: The "answer" is usually a phrase or statement describing the intended response, which is often a proper noun or familiar expression. For example, if the clue was, "This city is the Capital of the United States", the correct response would be, "What is Washington?")

One of the spots on the board is a "Daily Double", which only the contestant who selected it is allowed to respond to. They can wager as much as the maximum amount of a clue on the board or as much as they have accumulated, if that is more; the minimum wager is $5.

The second round, "Double Jeopardy", works like the first round, with the following exceptions:

  • The categories are different.
  • The value of each clue is double what it was in the first round (that is, $400 to $2000 in each category).
  • There are two Daily Doubles.
  • The contestant with the lowest amount of money at the end of the first round picks first in the second round.

The third round is "Final Jeopardy". Contestants with zero or negative scores are not allowed to participate in Final Jeopardy and automatically win the third-place (and possibly second-place) prize. The host first announces the category, and the contestants risk as little as $0 or as much money as they have accumulated, by writing it on an electronic drawing board no one else can see. Then the clue is revealed. Contestants have 30 seconds to come up with a response, again phrased in the form of a question.

The contestant who wins the most money is the day's champion and usually returns the next day. The champion is the only one who wins the amount of money accumulated on the show, and the other two contestants win consolation prizes. If more than one contestant ties for first place, they all win the money and come back (unless it's their fifth win). The most it is theoretically possible to win on the show in one day is $424,000 with the clues at their present value.

Popular culture

The Jeopardy! theme song, which was composed by Merv Griffin[?], serves as the "think music" of the final jeopardy countdown and has insinuated itself into everyday communication. The song applies to any situation in which one person is waiting for another to answer a question.

There are often games where the contestants are chosen from a certain class instead of the general public, such as former winners on the show, celebrities, or college, high school, or younger students. There are versions of Jeopardy! in many languages and countries around the world, as well as board games and computer games.

Weird Al has written a song called "I lost on Jeopardy", and the show has been portrayed (or parodied) on many television shows over the years, usually with one of that show's regular characters appearing as a contestant. Jay Leno often hosts such parodies on The Tonight Show. Saturday Night Live has done several parodies of the show. One version, aired in 1976, posited a futuristic "Jeopardy 1999", with Steve Martin appearing as the host, named Art F-114 (after Art Fleming). The series also aired a sketch based on Celebrity Jeopardy!, with Alex Trebek played by Will Ferrell and featuring contestants such as Sean Connery, Burt Reynolds, and David Duchovny being very stupid. The plot of the movie White Men Can't Jump[?] revolved in part on the character played by Rosie Perez[?] trying out for Jeopardy!.

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