How Jeopardy Came to Be
In 1963, TV host Merv Griffin and his wife Julann were flying home from Michigan to New York City. On the plane, Merv was trying to figure out a new game show format, and Julann asked if he could do a question-and-answer show. Merv replied that those were out of fashion, due to the 1950s scandal when it was revealed that rigged quiz shows secretly gave contestants the answers. That triggered an idea in Julann: why not admit that you're giving contestants the answers, and have them provide the questions? That idea became "What's the Question?" which the Griffins played with friends around the dining room table. When NBC bought the format, they wanted more moments of "jeopardy," or risk, and the show got its new name. After a successful ten-year run from 1964 to 1974, the show was revived in 1984 with Alex Trebek as its host, and has been a TV institution ever since. In 2019, contestant James Holzhauer rewrote the Jeopardy! record book, earning $131,127 in a single episode — but that's still a long way from the show's theoretical biggest payout. If you could arrange to answer every question correctly, and find the Daily Doubles at the right times, you could hypothetically win $566,400 in a single game. Not bad for a half-hour's work.