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Quiz WriterKen Jennings
In 2004, Ken Jennings won 74 consecutive games and $2.52 million dollars on Jeopardy!, becoming the second highest-earning game show contestant of all time. Motivated by those afternoons religiously tuning in to the show while growing up, when Ken learned he’d won the chance to appear on Jeopardy! in 2004, he spent weeks making flashcards on popular subjects.. Not only did he fulfill his childhood dream, but Ken broke already-impressive American game show records. His winning streak was a feat no one in the history of Jeopardy! — or American TV show history — had ever seen. After his Jeopardy! win, Ken became a published author. He wrote about his experience in Brainiac, which explores the trivia phenomenon in American culture. He also published Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac, “the biggest American trivia book ever assembled.” Ken currently lives in Seattle with his wife and children.
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.
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