Jeopardy! is a long-running game show that originally aired on NBC in 1964 through to 1975, then was revived on the same network from 1978 to 1979 before becoming a daily syndicated show produced by Sony Pictures Television from 1984 through to present day.
The original versions of the quiz show, which sees three contestants compete to give an answer in the form of a “what is” or who is” type of question, was originally hosted by Art Fleming. Don Pardo took over after, followed by John Harlan for the 1978/79 season. However, the daily syndicated version has always been hosted by Alex Trebek since it launched in 1984, with Johnny Gilbert as the announcer.
To date, more than 8,000 episodes of the show have aired, and it is considered to be one of the greatest TV shows in American history. This September, the 36th season premiered.
Want to know more? Here are some interesting behind-the-scenes facts about the iconic game show.
10 You Really Can’t Buzz In Early
It's true, you can get “locked out” if you buzz in too early. The buzzer can’t be clicked until a question has been read in full and a small light appears. If you get trigger-happy and click too early, it will be disabled for a quarter of a second before you can try to press it again.
That doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but it can mean the difference between buzzing in successfully and getting beaten by a competitor. It’s so much about timing that a good player needs to not only be smart but have cat-like reflexes and laser-focused accuracy.
9 Alex Trebek Crosses Off Clues
While watching the show, you probably notice host Trebek seemingly writing down notes after he asks questions. What is he doing? Studying for later?
Nope. He’s actually just crossing off each clue as it’s given to prevent him from reading it again by mistake. This long-time host takes his job very, very seriously. In doing this, it pays off because you rarely ever see Trebek make a mistake or fumble his words. And he’s certainly never read the wrong answer, or an answer he’s already read. Now you know why.
8 Alex Trebek Speaks 17 Languages
Trebek doesn’t just seem super smart as the host with perfect pronunciation and annunciation. He actually is very intelligent, and there’s a reason he can speak so eloquently. He has experience with many different languages.
In fact, Trebek, real name Giorgi Suka-Alex Trebek, speaks a total of 17 languages. It’s no wonder he has been able to attract an average of 25 million viewers every week and has helped the show win a total of 33 Daytime Emmy Awards.
7 The Theme Song is Called “Think”
Ever wonder about that signature theme song? You are probably humming it in your head — or out loud — right now. It’s totally recognizable, and it actually has a name. The tune is called “Think” and it was written by Merv Griffin, a television host and media mogul who created the show as well.
Griffin reportedly still owned the royalty rights to the instrumental track until he died in 2007, which meant every time it’s played on the show, he got paid. He reportedly earned upwards of $100 million just from the song alone. Not too shabby.
6 An Entire Week of Episodes Is Filmed In One Day
While you might think that when the clock is up, everyone heads home and comes back the next day to resume filming, but that isn’t the case. An entire week’s worth of episodes are filmed in a single day.
To make this look more believable, the contestants change outfits five times during filming, and Trebek switches out for another suit and tie. Trebek has been quoted as saying, in fact, that he owns more than 100 suits so that he can change things up multiple times throughout the same day.
5 Thousands Of People Take The Online Test To Audition Each Year
In order to make it through the first round of testing to continue the audition process and try to make it onto the show as a contestant, you need to first pass an online test. There’s a one-year wait list for the test, and it is taken by a reported 300,000 people annually.
Of these thousands of eager potential players, only about a third of them are able to complete the test in time. You need to answer 50 questions within 15 minutes, and you have about 15 seconds per question. In total, only about 3,000 people are invited to the next round of auditioning.
4 Potential Contestants Go Through Multiple Rounds Of Tests
Once you’ve made it passed the initial online testing (congratulations if you did, because that’s no easy feat), there are many more rounds of auditions you need to pass before actually making it onto the show.
There are regional auditions in various cities across the U.S., followed by three rounds of testing and even practice sessions where you pretend to be on the show. Even if you do well, they also reportedly look for things like mastering the buzzer process, having a good personality, and being enthusiastic. This is TV, after all.
3 Only 14 People Work On the Questions
While it might seem like Jeopardy! has a team of hundreds of people who help come up with all of those wonderful questions that cover everything from English literature to pop culture, it’s actually quite a small operation. Only 14 people work in this department: nine expert writers and five researchers.
Of course, there are many other people who work behind-the-scenes on the show, from the host to producers, cameramen, makeup, and so on. But in terms of the questions, it’s just a dozen plus two.
2 Alex Trebek Holds A World Record For Hosting
Alex Trebek holds a Guinness World Record in relation to the show. The record is for the “most game show episodes hosted by the same presenter.”
Trebek hosted 6,829 consecutive episodes of the popular game show when he was bestowed the award in 2014. He’s up to 8,000 or so now, over the span of 35 years. Even his recent cancer diagnosis hasn’t stopped him from doing what he loves to do, and what viewers love to watch him do. Trebek returned to host season 36, which is currently airing.
1 The Celebrity Tournaments Have Donated Big Bank to Charities
As with any game show, when celebrities compete on special episodes, they are typically playing for a charity of their choice. Any and all of their winnings go to said charity. In the case of Jeopardy!, the celebrity tournaments over the years have collectively donated more than $9 million to 200 charities. The first Celebrity Jeopardy! special event took place in 1992, and in total, more than 200 celebrities have competed over the years.
Some celebrities who have appeared on the show include Survivor host Jeff Probst, Ashton Kutcher, Jon Stewart, and Kelsey Grammer.