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Alex Trebek, Jeopardy Host.
Alex Trebek is a true American icon. As the charismatic host of JEOPARDY!,
he has challenged and entertained millions of viewers worldwide with well
over 4000 exciting shows since JEOPARDY!'s debut in 1984. Trebek now leads
the blockbuster series into its landmark 20th Anniversary season—firmly establishing JEOPARDY! as America's Favorite Quiz Show. As a result of his work on JEOPARDY! and the series' great success, Trebek recently won his third Daytime Emmy Award for "Outstanding Game Show Host." He is a genuine audience favorite. Trebek has appeared in over 70 movies and television shows, most often appearing as himself and has been honored with a coveted star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The recipient of many special honors, he was recently inducted into the California Broadcasting Association's Hall of Fame. A native of Ontario, Canada, Trebek graduated from the University of Ottawa with degrees in Philosophy. Interested in a career in broadcast news, he joined the Canadian Broadcasting Company, Canada's premier network. While there, he specialized in national news and covered a wide range of special events for CBC's radio and television divisions, earning a reputation as a broadcaster who maintained his poise and composure in the most difficult settings.
Trebek was first noticed by American viewers when he hosted the game show, Wizard of Odds. After several other hosting roles, Trebek was chosen as host of JEOPARDY!. Now, as he begins his 20th season with JEOPARDY!, Trebek remains impressed with the series' fast-paced nature and the contestants' sophisticated level of knowledge. "It continues to be unlike any series on television," Trebek notes. "The format is an exciting concept that challenges people to think quickly and make split-second decisions under pressure."
Trebek particularly enjoys the series' road trips. "It's always exciting to go into a new city with JEOPARDY! in front of a cheering crowd," he remarks. "It gives people the opportunity to see how fun, exciting and entertaining this game really is, and it's fun for us to be in front of enthusiastic fans."
Trebek is a true public spokesman and is active with a number of educational organizations and charities. With the World Vision charitable organization, he has traveled to many Third World countries taping reports on the group's efforts on behalf of children around the world.
In conjunction with the USO, Trebek visits military bases around the world to audition prospective participants. Since 1987, Trebek has done more than ten USO tours. His efforts have been recognized with the group's Bob Hope Entertainment Award in 1998. A favorite role of his is host of the annual National Geographic Bee.
Trebek owns and manages Creston Farms in central California, which breeds, trains and provides state-of-the-art care for thoroughbreds. A true family man, he and his wife, Jean, and their two children, Emily and Matthew, live in Studio City.
Alex Trebek was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in May 2000.
I Am Become TV, the Destroyer of Worlds
One show that always makes me want to rescind my membership in the human race is Wheel of Fortune. What makes me cringe is not the desperate look in Pat Sajak’s eyes nor Vanna White’s reanimated corpse, revealing the letters in a way designed to keep her toothpick-like appendages from snapping. What gets me is the unfettered glimpse at the human mind struggling to assemble _ _ F - R _ _ D into the phrase OFF-ROAD. “Is it OWF-ROOD? BOF-ROAD? OAF-READ?”
I have a theory that game-show hosts have to strangle a puppy every now and again simply to reassert their place in the food chain. You can see this glimmer of hate in Alex Trebek’s eye during the “getting to know you” segment of Jeopardy!
“So, Rick, I hear you do some sort of crafts with old computer monitors.”
“Well, yes, Alex, what I do is I hollow them out and then create dioramas based on the novels of Harry Turtledove.”
“That sure is something. Our second contestant is Cindy from Weehawken. It says here, Cindy, that you once met Dom DeLuise on a Carnival Cruise.”
These programs suck, but it would be pure folly to place the blame on the shoulders of the hosts. It’s one thing for Oprah to do a show about women who have gotten their heads caught in ATM machines or to plug next week’s interview with Julia Roberts’ uterus. But it’s another thing entirely to watch homunculi buy vowels they don’t need or fuck up questions about “THINGS THAT END IN –ING.” Game-show hosts are dangerous creatures. Boredom has made them so. Personally, I can’t imagine any kind of reality where Alex Trebek does not feast on a live human heart before every show, and where Pat Sajak cannot face the cameras until he’s held one of his fists above the burner of a stove—Taxi Driver–style—before taping a hunting knife to his ankle.
Personally, I can’t imagine any kind of reality where Alex Trebek does not feast on a live human heart before every show, and where Pat Sajak cannot face the cameras until he’s held one of his fists above the burner of a stove—Taxi Driver–style—before taping a hunting knife to his ankle.
Imagine that you’re Alex Trebek or Pat Sajak for a moment. You’re not merely a living conduit between the TV and the audience; you are the TV. It’s the same for Mary Hart or for Regis Philbin and his Kathy Lee upgrade. People like them don’t even need a TiVo to be plugged into TV World. And TV World used to be a wonderful place, populated by Gilligan, Colonel Robert Hogan and Mr. Hooper. Didn’t it?
That’s how I remember it—or choose to remember it, since this description’s hardly true at all. While Gilligan’s antics were keeping the castaways on the island, Bob “Hogan” Crane was filming sexy movies with Willem Dafoe. And Mr. Hooper is dead. They’ve since been replaced by nimrods on reality shows and overweight men married to attractive wives, waiting for the audience to laugh in the right places. There was a time when the TV felt like a window into a fantastic world where you could escape, forgetting bits of your life one program at a time. It is this precise brand of pop nostalgia that inspired the cable network named, predictably, TV Land.
The characters that populate TV World nowadays are less than inspiring. You’ve got screaming idiots on the twenty-four-hour news channels who are looking out for you while shovelling horseshit down your throat. Then there are the super nannies brought in to correct the mistakes of parents more interested in being on TV than in raising their children; rock stars who pretend to be punk because it’s marketable; vile heiresses making fun of poor people; cartoon cretins spouting pop-culture references; failed comedians watching brain donors scarf down unattractive animal parts; an entire town of people remodelled to fit the whim of one celebrity designer; and all manner of vampires, demons, paranormal detectives and Joan Rivers offspring. TV World kinda sucks.
Before I could even sit down to write this column, I had to drive my car under a moving semi-trailer, convince my parents that I had won a million dollars, complete the phrase OFF-ROAD, vote someone off my island and eat sheep testicles.
That’s not to say the “tee-vee” can’t teach you anything. Take, for instance, this cocaine ring in Queens: the drug dealers took notes from HBO’s The Wire in order to evade police capture. In its first season, The Wire featured a group of police investigators in Baltimore working on a case about some badass drug dealers. What the real-life drug dealers learned was that one should always conduct one’s business on a disposable cell phone to make phone tracing more difficult—a far cry from Mr. Wizard’s long-ago lessons.
I may not have learned how to spell from television (try watching Wheel of Fortune from the perspective of an advanced alien race tuned into the radio waves we’ve been broadcasting into space—BOF-ROOD?), but here’s what I have gleaned from a lifetime of watching TV: There is no problem that cannot be solved within thirty minutes. Scientists and cops are incredibly attractive, unless they’re crooked or Dennis Franz. Celebrities really enjoy giving each other awards. I can let myself go completely to pot and then receive a full make-over complete with plastic surgery. You can hear better music in a car commercial than on any one of four different music channels. Sporting events are little more than advertising delivery devices. Alex Trebek has tasted human flesh.
In recent years, with the advent of reality TV, we’ve been able to see what it would be like if real people got to be on the airwaves. As it turns out, real life requires upwards of ten scriptwriters, physical challenges and quite often gross manipulation of your family’s emotions. Before I could even sit down to write this column, I had to drive my car under a moving semi-trailer, convince my parents that I had won a million dollars, complete the phrase OFF-ROAD, vote someone off my island and eat sheep testicles. The population of TV World has changed quite a bit. It’s been gentrified by boobs, jackasses, dim-wits, maroons and nimrods who are pushing out half-breeds like Alex Trebek and Pat Sajak. It makes me cower in fear of what the future might hold. Maybe, just maybe, someday television will accurately reflect our reality. And that, my friends, will be terrifying.
Alex Trebek: Good careers for $100
Answer: This philosophy major and former Canadian television and radio journalist has hosted one of the most popular quiz shows in the United States for the past 16 years.
Question: Who is "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek?
If you're thinking it could be a near-perfect job to host a game show that's smart and informative -- a show on which most contestants are brainy, not buffoons -- you're not alone: Listen to Trebek: "It's a great job. I can't think of any downside. That's not a bad thing to be able to say about your employment. It's way ahead of whatever is in second place."
"Jeopardy!" tapes 46 weeks out of the year, more than most syndicated shows, Trebek says. By contrast, "Wheel of Fortune" has 39 weeks of original programming a year. This fall, ABC of course has upped the ante on the relative newcomer of the genre, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," adding a fourth weekly installment on Wednesday nights.
When "Jeopardy!" is in production, Trebek and crew members tape five shows per day, two or three days per week.
The schedule usually is three weeks on, followed by one week off, Trebek says.
A day in the life of Alex Trebek
"I leave home about 7 in the morning," Trebek says, "get to the studio around 7:45, go over mail and sign autographs. I get the games around 8:30. I go over them for about an hour.
"Then I go into a meeting with the writers and the producer in which we discuss the games and see if there's any conflict with the material because the games are selected at random. So it's possible we could have a clue about Napoleon in one game and something about Napoleon in another game, and we wouldn't want that.
Not a mingler with guests: "You don't want somebody who's been exposed to all the material to be chatting with the contestants. You might blurt out something that would be of benefit, or an indication of where the show is going. You just want to avoid anything at all that would lead people to think that there might be some sort of hanky-panky going on."
"Then we go into the studio. I get dressed. I get my makeup on and we start taping at noon until about 3 o'clock.
We tape the first three shows -- it normally takes about a half-hour per show -- take an hour or 45-minute break for lunch and then come back and tape the last two. I'm out of there by 5 or 5:30. I'm home by 6 or 6:30. So it's about an 11-hour day, door-to-door, for me."
Trebek, who turned 60 on July 22, says he doesn't talk to the show's three contestants beforehand
It's not that he's unfriendly, but that the stench of the quiz-show scandals of the 1950s lingers like Limburger in television land.
"You don't want somebody who's been exposed to all the material to be chatting with the contestants," he says. "You might blurt out something that would be of benefit, or an indication of where the show is going. You just want to avoid anything at all that would lead people to think that there might be some sort of hanky-panky going on."
It sounds like a cushy job. He works no more than three days a week, with six weeks off, and the career pays handsomely enough that Trebek owns a home in the San Fernando Valley, plus a 700-acre horse-training facility with a three-quarter-mile track in Central California.
But there's more required than you see on the air.
Travelin' man Alex Trebek
Trebek says he also spends time reviewing and responding to viewer mail, including requests for autographed photos. He tapes publicity and promotional spots. And a couple of times a year, he joins the "Jeopardy!" contestant search team as it crisscrosses the country.
"I used to go to a lot of them because we were trying to establish the show and develop an interest every time there was a contestant search in a city," he says.
Gifts from fans: "I used to joke that I mentioned how I collected caps, so I wind up getting a lot of caps. I should have mentioned that I collect Rolex watches and see what happened."
"If I'm there, it generates more press. The local TV stations will send out reporters and the station carrying 'Jeopardy!' will do a feature story on it for their local newscast.
"It helps, but now that we're so well established, so well entrenched in American culture, it's no longer necessary. But if a particular market wants me to come for a contestant search, then we try to accommodate them."
Trebek also travels for events that indirectly promote his show. He attends conventions and he moderates the annual National Geographic Bee in both Canada and the United States.
Alex Trebek got mail
Most of his mail, Trebek says, is from people who enjoy the program. If he makes a comment praising a city, he might receive small souvenirs from appreciative viewers in that area.
"I used to joke that I mentioned how I collected caps, so I wind up getting a lot of caps. I should have mentioned that I collect Rolex watches and see what happened," he says.
He says negative letters usually critique a perceived mispronunciation of a word or phrase. As in, "You're lousy on Greek," or "Your French is good but you screwed up on this one."
"People will send me tapes and say, 'Listen to this tape. This is how it's done.'"
Trebek says he's fluent in French but he admits to some difficulties with Welsh and Hawaiian. And quite often, he says, his critics are wrong. "They're operating under a misconception and have been for many years. As long as they're polite in their critique, we are polite in our response. But if they're mean and rude, I tell them that."
So while it's not a grueling schedule, Trebek's work keeps him busy enough that, like many of us, he frets about how to find time to do everything he'd like.
"I'm at a loss," he says, "to find two open weeks where I can go up and visit my farm and do some construction." Although urbane and dapper, he's handy enough with a hammer that he helped build his own home.
Missing his son's baseball games: "I'm going crazy here thinking I want to take him to his games. I don't like missing his games. Yet if I stick around for his games, I don't have time to get up to the farm. It's not easy."
Then there are his son's baseball games. "I'm going crazy here thinking I want to take him to his games. I don't like missing his games. Yet if I stick around for his games, I don't have time to get up to the farm. It's not easy.
"But my problems are minor in comparison to what a lot of people have to deal with out there on a regular basis."
After all these years, "Jeopardy!" remains popular. And the phenomenal success of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and several other new quiz shows is doing more good than harm, Trebek says. The genre is making a comeback.
"I think what you've seen on television in recent months is a resurgence in quiz shows, as opposed to a game show. Quiz shows, I think, are more fun."
Trebek distinguishes quiz shows from game shows as programs in which contestants must answer at least some difficult questions. He has hosted both, but his academic and early professional career didn't suggest such a future.
Trebek graduated with degrees in philosophy from the University of Ottawa, then joined the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). There, he worked in both television and radio news.
He went to work in the United States on the "Wizard of Odds," the first of several game shows he'd host. Merv Griffin, then a talk show host and crooner, changed his life -- although not immediately.
It was Griffin who in 1964 created the concept of "Jeopardy!" In fact, he composed the show's "think" music. Since its 1984 syndication debut, Trebek has been the host and the show has prospered.
Tinkering with the set, not the format: "We try to keep it fresh without changing the game. It seems to have worked."
Today, "Jeopardy!" is available to some 32 million viewers per week in the United States and is seen in 42 other countries.
Trebek says he thinks "Jeopardy!" has endured because its format remains the same. "Answer. Question. One daily double in the first round. Two daily doubles in the second. Final Jeopardy! coming up at the end of the show. People are comfortable with that."
Still, at least two of the contestants are new on each show, and the categories and answers are always changing. And every few years, there's some tinkering with the look of the set, he says.
"We try to keep it fresh without changing the game. It seems to have worked."
Alex Trebek has all the answers
Trebek's appeal for viewers seems as enduring as the show's. Why is that?
"Viewers know that I have a weird sense of humor, but that I'm serious about the game," Trebek says.
"I'm solid. I think I'm perceived as a friendly individual who's there to help the contestants do their best. I don't feel that I have to be the center of attraction. The center of attraction is the game and the players.
"As long as a host understands that, he's going to do better than he would otherwise. If you have too many sharp edges, viewers will tire of you. If you're just kind of nice and easy, they feel like you're one of the family. You're in their homes every day. Most of the viewers seem to feel comfortable with me."
So how does one become a quiz show host? Through talent and luck, same as Trebek.
"Get a good education," he advises those who'd like his job. "You're going to need a background in broadcasting. You're going to have to be in a situation where you ad-lib a lot, where you can think on your feet and manage a program on the air.
"You also have to be lucky. You can be the best game show host in the world. If there are no game shows going out on the air, or if game shows are out of fashion and aren't being produced, you're going to be the best game show host in the world unemployed. So luck does play a great role in what you do."
And when you do land a show?
"You say, 'I'm going to ride this for as long as it takes, and I'm going to do my best to make it a good show. When it ends, it ends, as all things must.
"But meanwhile, I'm having fun."
Past 'Jeopardy' Champs Will Challenge Jennings
All through Ken Jennings' record-breaking "Jeopardy" run, past champions were talking smack about how Jennings' streak was fueled by rules changes more than actual trivial knowledge. Some of those game spitting past winners will get the chance to put up or shut up when "Jeopardy!" launches its "Super Tournament" this spring.
Jennings, who captivated some small portion of the nation with his 74 consecutive "Jeopardy!" wins and his $2,520,700 in prizes, has already earned his place in the finals. Nearly 150 past five-time champs will square off in what host Alex Trebek calls the "Quest for Ken." The two winners will face Jennings in the finals.
"Ever since Ken started his amazing run, people have been speculating on how some of the past 'Jeopardy!' players would do against him," Trebek says. "We're answering that question."
The winner in the "Super Tournament" will receive $2 million. Second place gets $500,000 and third place wins $250,000.
"I can't wait to see who I'll be up against in the finals," says Jennings, who was finally defeated by California real estate agent Nancy Zerg.
According to the AP, the matches in the "Super Tournament" will begin airing in February or March, with the finals coming in May.
Questions asked over the defeat of ''Jeopardy!'' trivia titan
WHEN Ken Jennings, trivia titan and nerd role model, was breaking every record in the long history of US television game show Jeopardy!, conspiracy theories abounded that he was being allowed to win to boost flagging ratings.
As millions tuned in every night to see if the 30-year-old Mormon computer programmer could keep winning, some believed he was being given answers in advance, just like in the Robert Redford film Quiz Show. Others insisted he had cranial implants.
Now that he has been dethroned, with his 74-episode winning streak coming to a shock end on Wednesday, Americans are so overcome with thoughts of dark cabals that all that was missing amid the hysterical reaction was a gunman on a grassy knoll.
It was not that KenJen, as he's known to his legions of fans, lost but how he lost that had a nation in disbelief - and rushing to dust off copies of Quiz Show, which was based on the 1959 scandal surrounding the hit game show, 21, whose producers predetermined winners based on their popularity with viewers.
For some, art mirrored life when Jennings - much like Herbie Stempel, the out-of-favour Jew who dominated 21 before being instructed to lose to the WASP-ish, handsome, aristocratic literature professor Charlie Van Doren - could not correctly answer a simple question to win what would have been a world record 75th straight show.
Stempel was ordered to pretend he did not know which film won the 1955 Academy Award, as millions of Americans were mouthing Marty in their living rooms. On a show taped in September but not shown on US television until Wednesday - the final night of the important "sweeps" ratings period - Jennings was asked in Final Jeopardy to name the firm whose 70,000 white-collar employees were mostly seasonal, working only four months of the year.
If he provided the right answer - tax firm H&R Block - Jennings would easily have defeated challenger Nancy Zerg, a 48-year-old former actress who sells real estate in California and now is destined to be the answer to a trivia question herself.
Instead, a man who demonstrated an astonishing breadth of general knowledge during his reign, answered "FedEx", for courier company Federal Express, which prides itself on its 24-hour, 365-days-of-the-year service. Some muttered darkly that Jeopardy! producers wanted him out as viewers began to tire of his success. They recalled recent comments by series creator Merv Griffin that producers "could not find anybody to really challenge (Jennings) ... and that scared me a little".
But the more likely scenario is that Jennings had simply had enough. "It's boring to have the same guy win. I'm actively rooting against myself," he said in a recent interview. Asked about his loss yesterday, he said "there was some initial disappointment" but "there was also some big-time relief". "My life had essentially been on hold for six months," he said.
But if he did throw in the towel, Jennings does not want anyone crying for him. His run earned him $US2.52 million ($3.25 million), one-tenth of which he is donating to the Mormon church, and an elongated 15 minutes of fame that he's planning to stretch out.
"I'm going to have a book coming out next year and I've got some ideas for some Ken Jennings-themed games."
''Jeopardy!'' champ does his own taxes, that's why he looses big in final
In the end, after all the mind-bendingly tough answers like Leif Ericson, Johannes Kepler, George III and Ecuador (the clue: "a Spanish dictionary defines it as 'Circulo maximo que equidista de los polos de la Tierra,' ") it was a plain old accounting firm that finally brought down Ken Jennings, the "Jeopardy!" champion, ending the longest winning streak in game show history.
Answer: Most of this firm's 70,000 seasonal white-collar employees work only four months a year.
On last night's show Mr. Jennings responded, "What is Fed Ex?," while his opponent Nancy Zerg, a Realtor from Ventura, Calif., answered correctly, "What is H & R Block?" And so, after 75 shows, 2,700 correct responses and more than $2.5 million in winnings, Mr. Jennings - a software engineer from Salt Lake City who became a smiling, brainy pop-culture hero during his winning streak - finally put down his buzzer.
Yesterday, with his wife, Mindy, in a hotel room overlooking Times Square, Mr. Jennings, who taped the last show in September and has had to keep quiet about his loss since then, said it almost made sense to lose on such a mundane topic.
"I do my own taxes," he said, grinning. "I would have never thought of taxes." But as he prepared for a post-loss media blitz that included "Late Show With David Letterman" and "Nightline," flashes of Mr. Jennings's mild-mannered but deadly competitiveness showed through.
"The woman next to me just knew it immediately," he said, describing his final final "Jeopardy!" question. "I could hear her little light pen writing, and I thought, 'Oh my gosh, she knows this.' And I had no idea."
In becoming a one-name television phenomenon - known in game-show circles as KenJen, the game show equivalent of Ali or Jordan or Tiger - Mr. Jennings single-handedly raised the ratings for "Jeopardy!," which decided to delay broadcasting his last show until last night, the final night of the television sweeps month. Mr. Jennings's streak began on June 2, after "Jeopardy!," in a move to increase its viewership, dropped its 20-year policy of retiring undefeated champions after five games. By the show that was broadcast on Nov. 3, when he hit $2.19 million in winnings, Mr. Jennings had buzzed his way past Kevin Olmstead, who previously held the record for highest game-show winnings after his success on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."
But Mr. Jennings, 30, said his life had actually changed very little since he became a celebrity, partly because he was contractually bound not to talk about his streak while it was under way, and in fact sometimes kept even his own mother in the dark - though that was mostly just in jest, he said.
He is now recognized almost everywhere, and his wife said she no longer asked him to swing by the grocery store because he would have to sign dozens of autographs in the checkout line. In New York this week, he said, a woman at St. Patrick's Cathedral interrupted her prayers when she recognized him. "It's difficult just because it never really lets up," he said. "It's always the same questions. It's always the viselike grip of the little old ladies." His wife said: "He's had bruises on his arm. I'm not kidding."
But in other ways, fame and fortune have not descended on him as they have on some lottery winners, he said. He and his wife have not gone on shopping sprees. (He did buy a big-screen television recently, but he'd been saving for it for years.) They are planning a nice European vacation, but probably not a long one because they are parents of a 2-year-old son. Devout Mormons, they have donated tens of thousands of dollars of winnings to the church. And Mr. Jennings has even - true to his "Jeopardy!" champion personality - checked a book out of his local library with advice on how best to avoid the difficulties faced by people who experience financial windfalls.
"There are unbelievable statistics," he said, "that three-quarters of all people who have some big windfall are out of money within two to five years. So many people are not smart about it. So I think it would be very ironic if I got the money for being smart and then did, like, something incredibly dumb with it." He said that he had taken a leave from his job to write a book about his experience but that he hoped the money would simply pay for him to be "Mr. Mom" for a while.
Mr. Jennings said it was often hard to read about himself and hear himself described on television as a grinning nerd and a cold-blooded game show assassin during his "Jeopardy!" reign. But he said he actually expected the anti-Ken backlash to start earlier and was gratified that many people continued to root for him even when he became a one-man Yankees of the game show world.
"People are going to think what they are going to think," he said. "I tried to remove myself from it." "You come to realize that it's not about you," he added. "They're just watching some TV game show version of you for 22 minutes," he said, adding that he sometimes was among the rapt viewers and ended up unwittingly admiring himself. "I watched myself on TV and thought, 'Wow, Ken's doing really good.' "
Mr. Jennings, getting ready for the Letterman show yesterday afternoon and tucking into a room service cheeseburger, said that though he prized his privacy, he was seriously considering trying to trade on his fame and go where many other reality-television stars have gone, onto the B or maybe C list of the celebrity promotions world. "A lot of these things might be sort of fun, you know, if somebody had an idea for a commercial endorsement or speaking," he said. "So I guess I am sort of perpetuating my own lack of anonymity."
But for the next few months, he plans to spend lots of time at home, where he will continue to read obsessively, speed through crossword puzzles and do most of the things he has always done. Except, of course, his own taxes. "H & R Block got hold of me and they've offered me free financial services for life," he said, grinning as if he had just nailed a question on medieval horticulture. "So that I never forget their name again."
Final ''Jeopardy!'' earns its name for record-setting TV winner
Ken Jennings knew the taxman was going to get him big time. He had no idea of the extent of it. Jennings' spectacular run on the quiz show Jeopardy! ended on Tuesday's telecast (taped in September) when he was unable to come up with the question to this answer:
"Most of this firm's 70,000 seasonal white-collar employees work only four months a year." Nancy Zerg, an actress turned real estate agent from Ventura, Calif., instantly wrote down the correct response, "What is H&R Block?"
Jennings, a software engineer from Salt Lake City, overlooked the tax preparation firm, scribbling the question that ended his tenure in his 75th show: "What is Fed Ex?" The audience gasped with the realization that the streak was over, then gave him a generous ovation.
Going into Final Jeopardy, Jennings was in a familiar position, ahead of Zerg by $4,400 with $14,400 despite answering a couple of Daily Doubles incorrectly. (The third contestant, David Hankins, a student from Minnesota, finished in the red and did not qualify for Final Jeopardy.)
But when the wagers of Final Jeopardy were tallied, Zerg wound up with $14,401 to Jennings' $8,799. In effect, this amounted to zero for Jennings, since only the winner earns whatever prize money he or she accumulates.
However, Jennings' total haul came to $2,520,700, a record for TV quiz shows. His 74 consecutive victories, during which he answered more than 2,700 questions correctly, also is a record.
His $75,000 in winnings in the 38th game of his streak set a Jeopardy! record for a single program. His unprecedented run, which began on June 2, also was a bounty for the show: Ratings were up 22 percent over comparable dates a year ago.
The end was not a secret, since the show was taped before a live studio audience. Web sites had reported that the end was near, claiming sources within the show or from people who were in the studio audience on the night Jennings finally slipped up.
Even without this information, it wasn't difficult to surmise Jennings was about to go down. The Television Critics Association requested an interview session with Jennings during this summer's press tour but was turned down, ostensibly because he might have given away whether his streak was intact, or when it would end.
This attitude changed abruptly in recent days. Nightline announced its Tuesday telecast would focus on Jennings and Jeopardy!. David Letterman promised him as a guest on his Tuesday show. Jennings was penciled in for today's Good Morning America and Live With Regis & Kelly. Another giveaway was that Jeopardy! interrupted his run for college tournaments and other special events, extending his appearances to what could be a Final Jeopardy question.
Answer: Nov. 30.Correct question: What was the night before the November sweeps ended?
''He's outta there'' said Alex Trebek about Jennings
Ken Jennings, the man who won 74 consecutive games and more than $2.5 million on "Jeopardy!," toppled off his throne in the episode aired Tuesday night on WEWS Channel 5.
When Jennings revealed his incorrect answer to the final "Jeopardy!" question, the studio audience gasped. Ever gracious, a smiling Jennings hugged his challenger - and the new champion - Nancy Zerg, a Realtor from Ventura, Calif.
The category: Business and Industry. The clue: Most of this firm's 70,000 seasonal white-collar employees work only four months a year. Zerg's correct answer was H&R Block. Jennnings' wrong answer, Fed Ex, dropped him to second place.
"You are, indeed, a giant killer," host Alex Trebek told Zerg, as the studio audience gave the contestants a standing ovation.
Jennings, 30, did not overpower his opponents in this game as he'd done in the past. He missed two Daily Double questions, struggled with a sports-related category and seemed uncomfortable with the "Seinfeld"-themed categories in the first round.
Jennings, a software engineer from Salt Lake City, Utah, first appeared on "Jeopardy!" in the June 2 episode. A rules change made last season allowed him to stick around past the old five-win limit.
While the game show enjoyed higher ratings, some fans complained that Jennings' streak made the show boring, and even grumbled that the fix was in. Jennings' losing game was taped in advance. In a taped television interview prepared for ABC affiliates, Jennings called his streak the experience of a lifetime.
"It's fun to see exactly how good you are and what your limits are at something you're sort of good at," he said. "And the money is pretty much just gravy."
The 21st season for Alex Trebek hosting Jeopardy!
Who was Spiderman's alter ego? What writer created Sam Spade? Rhode scholars go to what university in England? These were just some of the many questions asked to more than 1,000 people who waited for hours for the chance to become a contestant on "Jeopardy!", hosted by Alex Trebek.
Highlands resident Luke Osteen and his 17-year-old son, Alex, drove to Asheville to try out for the famous game show, now in its 21st season. "It was exciting," said Luke Osteen, who answered enough of the first round of 10 questions to be sent to the second round this morning, when he will have to answer 50 questions. "It was two minutes worth of excitement after two hours of waiting." Long lines weaved through Biltmore Square Mall, where more than 1,500 people waited eagerly for their chance to take a 10-question quiz. Cynthia Wheeler of Black Mountain, waited for two hours. "I at least want to try for my own self-satisfaction," she said.
Wheeler, who did not answer enough of the questions correctly, said the quiz was difficult. "On the show, everything is broken up into categories, and you have a feel of what is being asked," Wheeler said. "But on the quiz, the questions were just very unexpected." Morganton resident Rhonda Shuping made a day out of the contest, arriving at Biltmore Square Mall at 9 a.m. "It's been a lot of fun," said Shuping, who shopped and waited in line all day. "I've met so many people." Shuping also made it past the first round of questioning. "Just the experience is fun," she said. "The money would be nice, but I'm doing it for the experience. It's one thing I've always said I wanted to do."
"Jeopardy!" promotions manager Louis Eafalla, who traveled from Los Angeles to promote the show and help with the tryouts, said it was the first time the show has recruited in Asheville and he was glad to see a such a large turn-out. "That's the beauty of the show - it's young, it's old; every type of person tries out," Eafalla said. "We look for people who have fun playing the game."