This is 'Jeopardy!' Iconic game show celebrates 60th anniversary

ByRolando Pujol and Sarah Ng WABC logo
Friday, March 29, 2024
'Jeopardy!' celebrates 60th anniversary with contestant campaign
Dani Beckstrom has the story on the 60th anniversary of 'Jeopardy!'

NEW YORK -- Question: This game show debuted on March 30, 1964, quickly becoming an American institution and celebrating its 60th anniversary on Saturday.

Answer: What is "Jeopardy!"


The show, the brainchild of game-show impresario and talk-show host Merv Griffin, became a daytime-television staple, with Art Fleming as host and Don Pardo as announcer over on NBC.

The format -- simple but brilliant -- was set on that very first day: The host gives the answer and the contestants must come up with the question.

"The remarkable thing is when you go back and watch the original episodes -- what they created all that time ago is the game we put on the air today on the Alex Trebek Stage," says the show's executive producer, Michael Davies.

"Jeopardy's" original run ended in 1975, and except for a brief return in the late 1970s was off the dial, it seemed for good. But Griffin revived the show in first-run syndication in September 1984, pairing a Canadian-born game-show host named Alex Trebek and veteran announcer Johnny Gilbert, who just last week celebrated his 9,000th "Jeopardy!" episode.

"Alex and I started the show when Merv Griffin created it, put it into syndication and it was bought for 13 weeks. And if it didn't do well in 13 weeks, that was the end of the show."

Well, needless to say, it did well. The reboot of the show itself became an even bigger sensation, morphing into a cultural phenomenon and appointment viewing in millions of households.

The show has spawned a cottage industry of tournaments, kids' competitions, primetime specials and more memorable moments.

To mark 60 years, "Jeopardy!" is going out across America holding events at college campuses including next month at Hofstra University. While they are in New York, Jennings, show producers and past champions will be at a 60th anniversary celebration at Hudson Yards.

The 60th Diamond Celebration officially begins on JeoparDAY!, Saturday, March 30, with the launch of the Why Not You? Campaign. The show's producers are billing the campaign "as a contestant recruitment initiative intended to inspire more fans of the beloved game show to take the JEOPARDY! Anytime Test." The "best and brightest contestant hopefuls" are invited to take the test that could change their life.

Ken Jennings is the best example of how taking that test and appearing on the show can change your life. Not only did his 74-game winning streak make him a millionaire in 2004, it eventually led to him becoming the show's permanent host.

"It's been a great time. You know, it's the kind of thing that only comes along once in a lifetime, and I've just tried to enjoy every minute of it. I've really had a very happy life and I hope nothing really changes," Jennings said.