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Jeopardy (1977)


Producer: Merv Griffin
Host: Art Fleming
Announcer: Charlie O'Donnell
Taping Info: March 6, 1977 for CBS
Made it to Air: After a second pilot in 1978, it joined the NBC lineup on October 2, 1978, replacing the soap For Richer or for Poorer and leaving on March 2, 1979 for the expansion of the soap Another World to 90 minutes.
Availability: UCLA Archive

Jeopardy! was a mainstay on the NBC daytime lineup from 1964 until 1975. Not necessarily saddled with bad ratings, it instead clashed with the image of then NBC daytime head Lin Bolen, who wanted flashy shows and hunky hosts. Jeopardy! wasn't flashy and Art Fleming wasn't hunky, so it was shuffled around the schedule until Bolen and executive producer Merv Griffin agreed to a mercy killing. In doing so, Griffin was able to snag a commitment to a flashy show-hunky host combo with Wheel of Fortune and Chuck Woolery. Meanwhile, Jeopardy! was taken into the shop for some tinkering.

The first thing that changed was the dollar values, now they were 2 times the NBC version (25-50-75-100-125 for the first round, 50-100-150-200-250 for the second round). The set was larger (very similar to the 1978 version) and the contestants were now on the right. However, otherwise things seem normal. Charlie O'Donnell introduces the contestants and Art Fleming cordially invites us to play Jeopardy!. But wait, why aren't the contestants sitting down?

Because we have a new first round, silly. Art chit chats with the first contestant, we'll call her Joan, because that was her name. Joan gets 30 seconds to answer any question on the board she wants, and she picks up $75 for mostly low-level questions. Stan comes out, surveys the board, decides to go for high value questions, and plucks off $375. Debbie, our last contestant, tries the same strategy and also plucks off $375 worth. In this round, there is no penalty for an incorrect question. With my jaw still on the ground, we go to commercial.

After the commercial, it's back to normal Jeopardy!. The contestants are sitting down, and they play what they can of the remainder of the board which only has 18 questions left after the prior round plucking. Joan dominates, grabbing the lead with $650 while Stan gets a few more to have $475. Meanwhile, Debbie can't master the buzzer, is stuck on $375, and therefore is in last place at the end of the round. She doesn't get to play anymore. A personal pet peeve in this round was the acceptance of 'stock car racer' for Shirley Muldowney. I didn't sit through Heart Like a Wheel to not have at least some knowledge of Ms. Muldowney's career.

We come back from commercial break, and Art Fleming notes how "Science is Marvelous" because the Single Jeopardy board rotates on a trilon into the Double Jeopardy board. Standard fare here, if you can accept there is only two players and due to the time constraints of the upcoming bonus round only 22 of the 30 clues got played. Stan forges a comeback and is leading $1,700 to $1,350 over Joan when time is called. Stan moves onto the bonus round, since there is no Final Jeopardy!

In the bonus round, known as Super Jeopardy!, the player gets a new board, this time 5x5. He or she has 90 seconds to make a bingo either by clearing a category vertically or clearing a difficulty level horizontally. You could also be cute and go for a diagonal. If you could do this in 90 seconds, you won an additional $5,000. Otherwise, you got $100 per correct question.

When Jeopardy! returned to the air in 1978, the opening round was gone, the losing player leaving after round one stayed, and the bonus was played until a player got three incorrect rather than a time limit. Other than that, the new and improved Jeopardy! limped along for six months in two time slots in 1978 and 1979 before the game would leave network daytime. Two pilots were tried again in 1984 with all of the gimmicks removed, and the rest, they say, is What is History?

This pilot has been viewed 11886 times since October 6, 2008 and was last modified on Dec 12, 2009 14:46 ET
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