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Before it became America’s most beloved game show, “Jeopardy!” was “a very unusual” quiz competition vying for a slot on NBC.
The generation-spanning series premiered on March 30, 1964, with host Art Fleming, which means “Jeopardy!” just turned 58. To celebrate the anniversary of its launch — and following a headline-grabbing year for the 39-time Emmy-winning show — “Jeopardy!” has opened its vault to finally share the never-aired pilot filmed just before its televised premiere.
Besides adding color and their evolving set aesthetic, little has changed about the show, including the iconic “Final Jeopardy!” music.
Fleming, who hosted between 1964 and 1979, introduced the brand new format to potential viewers. “This is a very unusual question and answer show, you see. We give contestants the answers and all they have to do is come up with the question,” he says with a grin.
And, as usual, three players are introduced to the audience near the beginning of the program. However, despite their believably quirky line-up of contestants — including an “artist from Connecticut” who does plumbing for a hobby and a woman who met her husband “on the HAM radio” — the featured “returning champion” reveals that the pilot was never meant to air.
“It was scripted to show what the game would be like with a returning champion,” the show explained in a comment on YouTube.
Further in the episode, additional details hint at their pre-planned responses — designed to demonstrate how errors and blunders could play out.
“While we’re not sure, it feels like the contestants may have been briefed to come up with incorrect responses to Final Jeopardy!,” they reported. “The obviously incorrect responses of William Penn, and the ‘not specific’ answer of ‘famous monster’ felt like a way for the production to show how Final Jeopardy! could play out in various scenarios. It’s also interesting that Art didn’t ‘pay off’ the Dracula response until well after the game play was finished.”
The show has made several other tweaks over the years, their YouTube comments noted. The answer clues are longer, players get a little less time to spit out their question and a little more game-play advantage is given to the losing contestant. They also went from seated to standing — to look more “assertive” — when Alex Trebek took the helm in 1984, after a five year broadcast hiatus.
Of course, the biggest change was the inflation rate — a staggering 819.46% spike since 1964.