On November 30, 2004, Nancy Zerg, a Los Angeles real estate agent dethroned reigning Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings. The champ had recorded an unprecedented 74 consecutive victories and was so dominant that in 64 of his matches he entered Final Jeopardy with an insurmountable lead. In his 75th appearance. Jennings had a slight lead over Zerg going into Final Jeopardy. The category was “Business & Industry” and the clue was “Most of this firm’s 70,000 seasonal white-collar employees work only four months a year”. Jennings incorrectly responded, “What is FedEx?”. Zerg responded correctly with “What is H&R Block?” resulting in her first and only Jeopardy victory. Jennings won over $3M during his streak and receives complimentary financial services for life from H&R Block for the free publicity the fateful final answer brought the company. Jennings also made it to “Letterman” where he presented the “Top ten ways to irritate Alex Trebek.” My favorite is “Ask Alex on air: So, who did your Botox?’”

Jennings, a computer scientist/author was a star of his quizbowl team at Brigham Young University however he claims that his greatest asset for Jeopardy were his quick reflexes. The buzzers don’t work until after Trebek has finished the question. Contestants are locked out if they answer too early so timing is crucial.

The Franchise 
While on an airplane flight in 1963, emerging media mogul, Merv Griffin and his wife Julann began creating a game show called “What’s the Question?”.  It was renamed “Jeopardy” and debuted on NBC in 1964 with Art Fleming as host.  The syndicated version with Alex Trebek launched in 1984.  Jeopardy has won 30 Emmys and has adaptations in 30 countries including Indonesia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, and Turkey. Griffin sold Merv Griffin Enterprises to Coca Cola in 1986 for $250M but he retained the rights to “Think!”, the instrumental played during Final Jeopardy.  Griffin originally wrote the song as a lullaby for his son entitled “A Time for Tony.” A royalty is paid every time and anywhere the song is played earning Griffin and his estate nearly $100M.

More than 100,000 people take the Jeopardy online application quiz each year. Only 3,000 applicants are chosen for an interview. They are then given a 50-question test and play a live round before being chosen to appear. Only 0.4% applicants are eventually chosen causing one observer to advise that you are more likely to write a New York Times bestseller than compete on Jeopardy. It would be worth the effort if you could become the first person to win the maximum winnable sum in a single game. You only need to sweep both boards, find all three Daily Doubles, make them true Daily Doubles and then wager everything in Final Jeopardy to make $566,400.

Some nuggets from http://j-archive.com/
A list of all questions and answers from Jeopardy can be found online at the J-Archive. This unofficial website is maintained by fans and covers most games from the past twenty years. It is a fountain of information:The category which appears most often is the incredibly annoying “Before and After”. Its 114 appearances edges out “Literature” (106).  “Before and After” gives you clues such as “Mouselike boy in an E.B. White story traveling through the heavens as Ursa Minor” The correct question is ‘Who is Stuart Little Dipper”. Ugh.“Presidents” has 49 Final Jeopardy appearances easily topping second place “Word Origins”.”Classical Music,” is the toughest category with just 72% of its clues being solved. “Art and Artists” at 76% and “Word Origins” at 79% are the next-hardest. Contestants have a 90% success rate solving “Sports” “Stupid Answers” “Food” and “The Movies”.  There has only been one three-way tie in Jeopardy history.The most common answer given by contestants on Jeopardy is “What is Australia?” although it isn’t the most common correct answer. If you ever find yourself on Jeopardy and are stumped for the answer, know that the most common correct response is “What is China?” This is different than the advice of my wily, Jeopardy-loving wife who advises when in doubt, say “Who was Copernicus?” 
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