Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.


Merv Griffin created this quiz show in 1963 when his wife, Julann, suggested (in a reaction to the quiz show scandals still in recent memory) that he reverse the trivia format — Give the contestants the answers and have them provide the questions. He pitched it to NBC as What's the Question?, but was told that the game needed "more jeopardies". Jeopardy! debuted on NBC in 1964 with Art Fleming as host and Don Pardo as announcer. It ran until January 1975, with a brief revival in 1978-1979 (also hosted by Fleming, but announced by John Harlan) that had drastically altered rules.

After two pilots, Jeopardy! came back in 1984 with host Alex Trebek, current announcer Johnny Gilbert and much higher cash totals. This version has far outlasted the original, with its 28th season starting in September 2011. Other than a few cosmetic changes and the doubling of dollar amounts, the format is almost entirely unchanged. Alex Trebek has passed away as of November 8th, 2020.

Three Spin-Offs have aired over time. In Summer 1990, ABC aired a 13-episode tournament of champions titled Super Jeopardy!, which was paired with another one of Griffin's creations, a game show version of Monopoly. GSN also ran a children's version called Jep! from 1998 to 2000, and VH-1 created a rock music-themed version called Rock & Roll Jeopardy!, which aired from 1998 to 2001.

Often aired in an hour block (usually 7:00-8:00 PM Eastern) with sister show Wheel of Fortune.

It should be noted that the A&Q concept isn't original, as it had already been done in 1941-42 with Gil Fates' CBS Television Quiz.

These tropes took their names from Jeopardy!, making the show a Trope Namer.

Correct. Pick again.

Here are your categories:
  • Bonus Round: The Jackpot Board for the first part of the 1974-75 syndicated run, "Super Jeopardy!" on the 1978-79 version.
  • Bonus Space: The Daily Doubles. Also the very short-lived Bonus categories listed below.
  • Complacent Gaming Syndrome: Sometimes present in the Fleming era, which paid full winnings to all contestants, winning or losing; some contestants intentionally stopped ringing in if they felt that they had earned enough money, or if an opponent had picked up an insurmountable lead. The Trebek era gave this an Obvious Rule Patch by offering the full winnings only to the winner, to create more of an incentive to compete. Losing contestants initially got parting gifts, but starting on May 16, 2002, second and third place respectively won a flat $2,000 and $1,000 respectively (funnily, one contestant won one game with $599 and came in third place on the next episode, meaning that they actually won less than the second-placer they defeated!).
  • Double the Dollars: Double Jeopardy! and, of course, the Daily Double.
  • Game Show Appearance: Cliff Clavin, Marge Simpson, Thelma Harper, Fran Fine, and Gloria Clemente all played on Jeopardy! Ellen DeGeneres and Rose Nylund played Jeopardy! in dream sequences. Heck, even Craig Ferguson did a sketch!
    • Also, the premise of "Weird Al" Yankovic's Affectionate Parody "I Lost on Jeopardy", which took place during the original Art Fleming era. The music video not only had a pretty accurate reproduction of that set, but both Fleming and announcer Don Pardo came along for the ride, 14 weeks before the Trebek era launched.
      • Al later appeared on a celebrity edition of Rock & Roll Jeopardy! — and lost. Guess what song was played over the end credits?
      • Art Fleming and the Jeopardy! gameboard make a cameo in Airplane II: The Sequel.
  • Game Show Winnings Cap: Until 2003, contestants could only stay on for five days and win up to $75,000 (later $100,000), with the balance donated to a charity of the contestant's choice. Now, a contestant can stay on so long as s/he keeps winning, and keep all winnings. Shortly after the cap was removed, Ken Jennings ran for 75 games (74 wins and then his defeat by Nancy Zerg).
    • Jeopardy! is far more lenient than Wheel of Fortune when it comes to making a repeat appearance (as in, they'll actually let you play again) — if you have already appeared on a version hosted by Alex Trebek, you're ineligible (except for tournaments, of course). Otherwise, you're good to go! No doubt this will change in 2021.[please verify]
  • Golden Snitch: Averted and inverted; more often than not, Double Jeopardy ends in a "lock" situation; second place has less than half of first place's score.
  • Home Game: Several board games, video game versions as early as the NES (an Atari 2600 version was planned shortly before the market crashed), and several PC versions as well. THQ released Wii versions of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune in 2010. There's also a school version that uses a dedicated console and allows custom answers and images to be used.
    • Milton Bradley's home game merely reused the plastic board from its Concentration home games and tinted the window red. As such, only five categories could be played per round and one window in Double Jeopardy! had to be reserved for Final.
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer: Noted game show announcer Don Pardo announced the first two Fleming versions, with John Harlan behind the mic on the 1978-79 revival. Jay Stewart of Let's Make a Deal fame announced the 1983 pilot, and Johnny Gilbert both the second pilot and every Trebek episode.[1] Loretta Fox announced the first two seasons of Rock & Roll Jeopardy!, with Stew Herrera taking over for the third.
    • Game Show Host: Art Fleming's biggest role, without a doubt, was this. This was also Trebek's biggest role, but unlike Fleming, Alex had several other shows to his name (The Wizard of Odds, High Rollers, Double Dare, Battle Stars, Classic Concentration). Voice actor Bob Bergen (the voice of Porky Pig since Mel Blanc's death) hosted Jep!, and Jeff Probst hosted Rock & Roll Jeopardy! before he became known for Survivor.
    • Lovely Assistant: Sort of. The show makes frequent use of the Clue Crew, three assistants (down from five) who provide prerecorded visuals related to the clue.
    • Studio Audience
  • Retired Game Show Element: During Season 14 (1997-1998), the show briefly tried "bonus" categories — clues with two correct responses. If a contestant gave one response, he or she could try for the second response for the same amount of money, or leave the second one free for another contestant to ring in. It only lasted from December 1997 to February 1998, and even then, was used in only three games.
  • Think Music: The 30-second melody used during Final Jeopardy - which is actually called "Think!" - may be the best known example in the genre.
  • Unexpectedly Obscure Answer: July 23, 2009, which gave a rather notoriously difficult Final Jeopardy! clue:

A: This cheese was created in 1892 by Emil Frey & named for a New York singing society whose members loved the cheese.
Q: What is Liederkranz?

    • The day this episode aired, the Jeopardy! forums were abuzz with people (including the returning champion on that episode) who pointed out the difficulty of that clue, as none of them had even heard of the cheese, nor was it listed in two different cheese encyclopedias. Whenever an extremely difficult clue pops up on the game, it is now sort of a Running Gag on the Jeopardy! forum to mention Liederkranz in some way.
    • A few other Final Jeopardy! clues have been criticized by fans of the show for being too difficult, particularly when they rely on some arcane, obscure piece of trivia such as the clue above.
    • If Opera or Ballet is a category, expect the contestants to save it for last and get maybe one or two right at most. Lampshaded whenever an opera category is named something like "The Dreaded Opera Category".

I'll take Tropes for $200, Alex:
  • Affectionate Parody: Sesame Street of all things. Complete with a Suspiciously Similar Song of "Think!", Alex Trebek played host of "Special of the Day", with Telly Monster as the contestant. Check it out for yourself right here.
  • April Fools' Day: In 1997, Pat Sajak hosted that day's Jeopardy! while Alex hosted the day's Wheel of Fortune (which also had Pat and Vanna as contestants, and Pat's wife at the puzzle board). Jeopardy! lampshaded the switch by including Wheel-themed category names in Round 1, and "Amateur Trinidadian Icthyologists" as the Final Jeopardy! category.
  • Artificial Stupidity: In the IBM Challenge (February 2011), Watson had a few cases where its imposing intelligence faltered.
    • In one instance, Ken Jennings got an answer wrong. Immediately afterward, Watson buzzed in with the same answer. Justified in that Watson was technically blind and deaf — the programmers didn't bother with visual or voice recognition. It was merely an analytical machine based on information through text received electronically.
    • The programmers had Watson put very low weight on categories as a clue to the answer itself. As a result...
      • In the category regarding decades in history, part of the clue mentioned a flight at Kitty Hawk. Watson guessed 1920. The answer was 1900s.
      • In the first day Final Jeopardy! round, the category was U.S. Cities. The clue was a city with an airport named after a famous World War II battle and combatant. Watson guessed Toronto (The answer was Chicago). However, the programmers suggested that there were so many contextual ambiguities that Watson simply was confused, as there are cities in the US named Toronto, and Toronto in Canada has a US Baseball team (the Blue Jays). In light of this, Trebek (a Canadian native) jokingly remarked that he learned that Toronto is now a U.S. city and one of the producers wore a Blue Jays jersey.
      • Watson also placed a large number of question marks after this answer, which is apparently a gauge of how "unsure" it was about the answer. So the computer knew the answer was probably wrong, it just couldn't come up with anything better.
      • In the "Literary APB" category, the clue made it very obvious that it was looking for the main villain of the Harry Potter franchise. Watson was stumped—it figured out that it was being asked for a Harry Potter character, but because it wasn't putting much weight on category name and didn't seem to make the connection that APBs are only issued for criminals, it couldn't figure out which character it was being asked for.
      • The "Also on your computer keys" category tripped Watson up really badly. In fact, it was the only category where Watson got the wrong answer for every single question.
  • Ascended Extra: During a Fleming-era celebrity week in April 1974, one of the guests was a young Canadian named Alex Trebek.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Subverted; you'd think Kelly Miyahara of the Clue Crew and any Asian contestant would be here, but while this is regarded as the "smart person's game show", there's no guarantee that the actual contestants are smart.
  • Auto-Tune: "Alex Meets Auto-Tune." Played for Laughs.
  • Badass Mustache: Trebek had one of these until 2001. He later said that he shaved it off on a whim, and decided to leave it off because nobody noticed. But possibly because it's so iconic and recognizable, most modern depictions in the media (such as a Pearls Before Swine arc in late 2010, where one of the crocs plays Jeopardy!) still show him with the 'stache.
    • And as a joke, one of the categories on the episode he first appeared shaven was a visual clue category with pictures of his iconic mustache in places that the contestants had to guess.
    • Five-time champion Frank Spangenberg, who was at one point the show's biggest one-day winner and the biggest money winner all before the dollar values were doubled.
  • Badass Normal: Ken Jennings, to some — a shy, nerdy Mormon who just happened to know everything (including quite a bit about alcohol). Well, everything except H&R Block. Others, however, see him as a Boring Invincible Hero.
  • Bootstrapped Theme: This show has quite possibly the most well-known game show theme ever, the "Think!" music was originally just used for the Final Jeopardy! question rather than the opening of the show itself (in a lesser example of this trope, the 1978-79 version's opening theme was used as a prize cue on Wheel of Fortune for several seasons).
  • Brad And Ken: Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings, the two super-champions who have each won over $3,000,000 on Jeopardy!. In contrast, no other human contestant has ever won even $1,000,000. Elite though they may be at trivia, the real skill comes from their reaction times and wagering skills. The IBM Challenge proved they were both equally inferior to computers, even managing to bust Rutter's no-loss Jeopardy! record.
  • Brick Joke: Some Rule of Funny categories will have counterparts in the Double Jeopardy! round; for instance, on the January 18th, 2011 show, the sixth category in the first round was "Team Jacob" and the sixth category of Double Jeopardy! was titled "Team Edward".
  • Canada, Eh?: Generally averted; Trebek is a native of Ontario, but he hides most Canadianisms pretty well — except for "sorry" and "dollars", both of which he says with long "O" sounds.
    • The writers, however, are fond of using "eh" in Canadian-themed categories and clues.
  • Catch Phrase: "Let's make this a true Daily Double." and "I'll take [category] for [dollar amount], Alex."
  • Celebrity Edition: One of the most famous in the game show industry. The concept is well-known through Saturday Night Live's "Celebrity Jeopardy!" sketches, with Will Ferrell as Trebek.
  • Clip Show: Fleming #2,753, plus Trebek #3,000 and #4,000. The first two had the clips interspersed amongst the gameplay, while #4,000 was purely a clip show.
  • Compound Title: Sometimes, the categories for each show may be related to each other (for example, in episode 4456, Genesis, In the Big Inning, God, Created, The Heavens, and The "Earth") even if the actual questions aren't.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Averted with Watson (IBM Computer), who is not connected to the internet (or the outside world in any way) when competing, relying on his data in memory.
  • Crossword Puzzle: A recurring category is "Crossword Clues [letter]", where the clues are phrased as crossword puzzle clues (e.g. A: Object that you might find hanging around TV Tropes (9). Q: What is a lampshade?).
  • Curb Stomp Battle: A "Celebrity" episode with Andy Richter and Wolf Blitzer. The score as they were going into Final Jeopardy! — Andy, $39,000; Wolf, -$4,600 (in celebrity tournaments, any celeb with a negative score is automatically given $1,000 to participate in Final Jeopardy!). This is perhaps even more awesome when you consider that the comedian is beating the living crap out of the journalist.
    • Mark McGrath's (of Sugar Ray) appearances on Rock & Roll Jeopardy!, where it became less of a game and more of "How much will he win by?" (even voiced by his opponents themselves). Say what you will about Sugar Ray, but the man knows his rock and roll inside and out.
    • Dave Mustaine of Megadeth. The first video is here.
    • The first game of the two-game IBM Challenge (February 14–15, 2011). The IBM Watson computer finished with $35,734 (even after a wrong Final Jeopardy answer). Ken Jennings ($4,800) and Brad Rutter ($10,400), Jeopardy's two most successful players, weren't even as close as the score made it seem—they both doubled up in Final Jeopardy.
    • In the March 16, 2011 game, Tom Kunzen, the returning champion, absolutely owned his opponents who struggled to even remain on the plus side: the scores at the end of DJ! were $29,200 for Tom and -$3,600 and -$1,400 for his opponents respectively, leading to only the second single-player Final Jeopardy! in the show's history.
    • Harking back to the original NBC version, one of the era's most biggest winners was Burns Cameron, who won a record $11,000 during his five-day romp. In one game, he played against two contestants who were said to be inebriated during their show; they were so drunk they struggled to even press the lock-out buzzer (leading Cameron to at times intentionally delay ringing in to give his opponents a chance to answer). Needless to say, he was the only one around for "Final Jeopardy!"
  • Deadpan Snarker: Who was Alex Trebek?
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The name of a category on November 3, 2010, where each correct response contained or completed a phrase with the same word twice.
  • Downer Ending: Trebek's second episode. All three players ended Final Jeopardy! with scores of $0 after giving the same incorrect day the 20th Century began — all three responded with "January 1, 1900"... but the correct response was January 1, 1901.
    • This has happened a few other times, including a Fleming episode where all three contestants were disqualified before Final Jeopardy!. There was no Final Jeopardy! clue, and Fleming spent the rest of the show chatting with the contestants.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first episodes in 1964 had a slightly different board (with the category titles located above and below the dollar amounts) and different contestant podiums (the score displays were directly in the middle, while the nameplates were on top). By mid-1965, the lower category displays had been removed and the contestant podiums reworked into the form used for the rest of the run. See also Obvious Rule Patch, below.
    • The first Trebek season, for that matter. Contestants could ring in as soon as the clue was revealed; Alex would often add chatter about each clue; there was applause after nearly every right answer and "ooh"s after wrong ones; and of course, a Rules Spiel before each round. Small wonder that they never once cleared the board in the first season.
  • Epic Fail:
    • February 23, 2005. To elaborate:
      • 24 clues stumped all three players: 8 in the Jeopardy! Round and 16 in Double Jeopardy!, including a whole category about Oscar hosts.
      • All three Daily Doubles were bombed as well. That's 45% of the entire game.
      • One contestant managed to get only five right answers, and four wrong answers (including two of the Daily Doubles). This poor contestant finished the Jeopardy! Round with $200, but fell back into the red on the fourth clue of Double Jeopardy! and never got back out.
      • The game became a Foregone Conclusion with one whole category left: the middle contestant also knocked himself out with two straight wrong answers, and nobody gave a right response for the next five clues.
      • The last clue on the board was a Daily Double, which went to the only contestant who still had money; he wagered $1,000 and got it wrong. Because a player has to have a score higher than $0 to play Final Jeopardy!, he played against the house. Luckily, he gave a right answer and wagered generously. Keep in mind this was the Ultimate Tournament of Champions. Then again, by virtue of winning, he was assured the minimum for the game and a spot in the next round. No contestant who made it to the second round left with less than $25,000.
    • On the aforementioned episode from the NBC era, where all three contestants were disqualified from Final Jeopardy! due to their negative scores. One history of game shows claims that a three-way loss this way happened more than once, although -- since most of the NBC run has been erased from memory -- this can never be verified.
    • In one episode, they had an "Oops!" category in which all five clues were related to facts that the show had gotten wrong on previous episodes. One such clue referenced a clue that called the St. Louis Globe-Democrat a defunct newspaper, and the paper was re-established by the time the episode aired. However, by the time they aired the episode with the correction, the paper went under again!
    • February 23, 2012 had an entire "Potpourri" category in which no one gave a correct response.
    • The May 29, 2012 episode, where the Final Jeopardy! answer was about classic mystery novels. The answer mentioned cities on the Nile River, which should have directed contestants to say Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie. All three knew it was an Agatha Christie novel that was being referred to, but unfortunately, all three thought it was Murder on the Orient Express.
  • Excited Show Title!
  • Expy: The Challengers (1990–91).
  • Foregone Conclusion: If the player in the lead has more than twice as much as the second-place player going into Final Jeopardy!, no one can catch them. This is known as a "lock" game, assuring the first-place contestant of winning given that he does not do something amazingly stupid as bet everything.
  • Funny Background Event: The set pieces for road shows in the 2000s often included over-sized replicas of books, most of which had funny titles that were only seen for a couple seconds as the camera panned the set going in and out of commercial breaks.
  • Grand Finale: The last NBC episode of the original Fleming era featured some clips of notable moments — the end of the 1967 College Tourney (with Fleming as the most excited guy in the room), Mel Brooks on the 2,000th episode (1972) and Gene Shalit amusingly tackling a Daily Double. At the end, Fleming thanked the viewers and left the now-darkened set to Charlie Chaplin's "Smile".
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Ken Jennings would occasionally give his responses in foreign languages (e.g. "¿Qué es nada?"). Sometimes, entire categories focus on foreign languages, and the answer usually must be a translation, or the word itself. Trebek is rather good at accents.
  • Gretzky Has the Ball: This gem:


"Who is Magic Johnson?"

    • The best part? The correct answer was Wayne Gretzky!
    • Another episode had "Football" as a category, and all of its clues went unanswered, to Trebek's amusement.
  • Handicapped Badass: Eddie Timanus, the first blind contestant on the show and quite the high winner. Although he proved that it's not that difficult for Jeopardy! to accommodate blind contestants, only one or two others have ever appeared after him.
    • According to Alex, only three changes were made to accommodate him: a card with the categories printed in Braille (handed to him at the start of each round), a tone would denote when the contestants could buzz in (usually, the contestants would see a light around the board when Alex was finished speaking and they could buzz in without a small time penalty) and a Braille keyboard to type in his wagers and responses in Final Jeopardy!.
  • High Definition: Jeopardy! and partner Wheel of Fortune were the first two game shows to switch to hi-def, both doing so in 2007.
  • Hollywood Tone Deaf: Averted. Instead of singing, Alex (or occasionally Johnny Gilbert) read the lyrics in a hilariously deadpan manner. One category even had prerecorded clues where Trebek performed five songs with the help of Auto-Tune and Johnny Gilbert's hamstastic singing.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Variations on "The 'L' You Say" to indicate that correct responses will begin with L, are just one example of these.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: If a contestant mentions alcohol in any way during their interviews, Alex seemed to take great notice.
    • Subverted in a notorious clip that shows Trebek swearing like a sailor and supposedly drinking while trying to shoot a "Phone Jeopardy!" promo. Although the Cluster F Bombs are real, Trebek was actually alternating between Diet Coke and a glass of water.
  • Irony: An Indian contestant once missed a question about New Delhi. The contestant hung his head in shame and Alex called him out on it.
    • In April 2012, a contestant missed the last clue of the game, which presented the lyrics to "I Lost on Jeopardy" by Weird Al Yankovic. She didn't recognize the song and ended up losing in Final Jeopardy!.
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": If a contestant dares to mispronounce something, expect Trebek to casually correct them while awarding them the money.
  • Jeopardy Intelligence Test:
    • What is a Trope Namer?[2]
    • IBM's Watson computer, an AI experiment, was a contestant February 14–16, 2011. Intelligence test indeed!
  • Laser-Guided Karma: On October 12, 2009, one of the contestants was Jeff Kirby, who originally appeared on the show in December 1999. As stated in Game Show Winnings Cap, Trebek-era contestants are not allowed to appear again, but Jeff somehow got through the audition process. He didn't get caught until someone on the show's message board pointed out that he was wearing the same tie he had worn in his 1999 appearance (either he has a spectacularly limited wardrobe, or he was thumbing his nose at the powers that be). What makes him fit into this trope? He finished in third place on both shows (and of course, was denied the $1,000 third-place winnings from his 2009 episode).
  • Lighter and Softer: The clues were initially far more straightforward, as compared to the show's current affinity for puns, Shout-Outs and Getting Crap Past the Radar. Whether or not this has dumbed down the show is up to the viewer.
    • Trebek himself. During the early seasons, Trebek was more akin to a very strict teacher: he would snap at the contestants if they forgot a rule (most commonly, phrasing with "What is ...?") or giving an answer that was inappropriate to the category (such as in a category about numbers, anything other than a numerical answer), and treated the show very seriously. Once the writers began loosening up with more esoteric and humorous categories, Trebek's hosting style became less formal with it. Particularly in the 2000s, it's now become very common for him to laugh, smile and joke around with the contestants.
  • Long Runner: Trebek's version began its 28th season in September 2011, placing it third behind only Wheel of Fortune (nighttime version started in 1983; daytime in 1975) and The Price Is Right (CBS version started in 1972; the show itself started in 1956).
    • Even the classic 1964-75 Art Fleming version as a standalone could count — it ran for nearly 11 years, and was practically a tradition for businessmen and college students on their lunch break (which is how the show got mega-popular in the first place).
  • Loophole Abuse: Back when champions could only stay on for five days, at least one champion wagered for the tie on his fifth episode so he could play a sixth.
    • Any time a contestant bends the "form of a question" rules by saying something like "Could that be ____?" or "Is that an ____?". The judges aren't terribly picky on what constitutes a question.
      • One contestant actually got credit for answering "Time Magazine. [[[Beat]]] What's that?", and another got credit for just saying "Who?" when the correct response was "Who are The Who?"
    • If the response itself is a question, nothing more needs to be done. (i.e. "Who Framed Roger Rabbit")
  • Moon Logic Puzzle: Commonly used, usually by putting a key word in quotes to hint at the right response, or wording the clue so that it mentions something else of an identical name. Referred to as the "Tease-Out Metric" by the fandom, and lampshaded by the show with "Stupid Answers".
  • Obvious Beta: Compared to the circulating 1964-75 Fleming episodes, the clips shown from the March 5, 1964 "test" episode look like one. The September 18, 1983 pilot is basically Alex Trebek in the Fleming era with a "personal computer"-themed set and Jay Stewart announcing.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: Several.
    • Very early in the original Fleming run, only the proper phrasing was ruled as correct — contestants phrasing a question incorrectly (e.g. "What is Abraham Lincoln?") were asked by Fleming to use the "proper" phrasing. After Merv Griffin discovered that this was slowing down gameplay, the rule was slightly altered to give credit for a correct response so long as it was phrased in the form of a question. As mentioned above, this rule often gets exploited to its limits.
    • Early on, the Final Jeopardy! board was located to the left of the contestants; such a viewpoint not only hurt some necks, but also gave the contestants the ability to see their opponent jotting down their response during the 30-second writing time.
    • For the first season of the Trebek era, contestants could ring in as soon as the clue was revealed. This often led to more than one podium lighting up at the same time, or premature buzz-ins that led to the time limit expiring before Trebek could finish the clue. From Season 2 onward, the buzzers activate after the clue is finished, and premature ring-ins are locked out for 1/8 of a second.
    • After a contestant lost because he forgot to phrase his Final Jeopardy! response as a question, they changed the rules so that the contestants write the "What is" part on their screens during the commercial break along with their wager, as opposed to writing it concurrently with the response.
    • Celebrity Jeopardy (played for charity) is much more forgiving of the "must be in the form of a question" rule.
    • Money equal to their score used to be awarded to all contestants, but "winner-take-all" promotes more risk taking for a more exciting show, and prevents contestants from ending participation if they've reached some needed goal amount.
  • Off the Rails: A contestant who obviously doesn't know the right Final Jeopardy! sometimes draws a picture, makes Shout-Outs, or writes "Kebert Xela" in hopes of returning the host back to his home dimension. Sometimes a contestant knows the answer, but just because the game has become a Foregone Conclusion in their favor, just puts down something silly like "Hot Pastrami Sandwiches" or "Woo Hoo Yee Haw Yeah Baby".
    • At least twice during Ken's run, a contestant wrote some variation on "What is Whatever Ken Wrote Down?", and variations on "What is I Have No Freaking Clue?" aren't rare, either.
    • At least once, a contestant has proposed to his girlfriend in the audience via Final Jeopardy!.
    • And of course, if there's a list of things in the answer, giving a response of "What are X things that have never been in my kitchen?"
    • In the final episode of the IBM challenge, Ken Jennings wrote "I for one welcome our new computer overlords" with his answer and bet. This got a Shout-Out on September 21, 2011.
  • One Steve Limit: In the 1996 Tournament of Champions, two of the finalists were Michael Dupee and Michael Daunt. Dupee, the eventual winner, went as "Mike" to avoid confusion.
    • In a similar vein, two of the finalists in the 2008 Teen Tournament were named Rachel. One of the two went by "Steve".
  • Opening Narration:

Johnny Gilbert: "This... is... Jeopardy! Introducing today's contestants: [lists off the two challengers and their occupations and city], AND our returning champion, [gives occupation, city, and name], whose [X] day cash winnings total [amount] dollars. And now, here is the host of Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek!"

    • In the 2000s, the original "now entering the studio are today's contestants" is replaced with one of five slightly different intros, depending on the day. This coincided with the contestants no longer actually entering the studio, not coincidentally around the time Eddie Timanus, a blind man, was on the show.
  • Person as Verb: In the Cheers episode "What Is... Cliff Clavin?", postman Cliff Clavin appears on the show and racks up an insurmountable lead, but loses after he gets Final Jeopardy! wrong and wagers everything. Making such a wager is often called "pulling a Clavin".
  • Pilot: There have been several over time.
    • 1963-64: The original run-through used a board with ten categories containing ten clues each, which filled nearly all of the stage and jutted into the audience area. Seeing how problematic such a board was (and could be), Merv Griffin cut it down to the far more manageable six-by-five for each round.
    • March 6, 1977: Used a revolving gameboard and a timed Super Jeopardy!, but otherwise faithful to the eventual series. This pilot was originally prepared for CBS.
    • September 18, 1983: Alex Trebek with the 1978-79 set layout and music, now themed like a personal computer. Final Jeopardy! was reinstated, and Jay Stewart was the announcer.
    • Early 1984: Similar to the eventual series, except 1) the dollar amounts were halved ($50-$250/$100-$500), 2) the contestant podiums had nameplates along with each contestant's personal signature, 3) the Jeopardy! logo on the board was very basic, 4) the theme music was a slightly different arrangement of what it would eventually become, and 5) Alex's podium looked remarkably like the "clicker podiums" (with the Jeopardy! logo on top) seen in various Home Game adaptations.
  • Popcultural Osmosis: You know this has happened when your once-niche favorite is a subject on Jeopardy!.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "This! Is! Jeopardy!" Also qualifies as a Title Scream.
  • Ratings Stunt: The Celebrity Editions and the "IBM Challenge" (Ken Jennings vs. Brad Rutter vs. the IBM Watson supercomputer, the first-ever nonhuman to play a live game of Jeopardy!). Truth be told, it's a legitimate method of research testing.
  • Reaction Shot: First used on Nancy Zerg when Ken Jennings came down to earth, it was dubbed the "Zerg Cam" by fans, and referred to as such by Trebek during a repeat showing of Ken's losing game.
  • Rearrange the Song: Though they kept the original 1964 "Think!" recording for Final Jeopardy!, that same melody was used as the main theme once the 1984 version started up. At first, the main theme was performed on synthesizer and saxophone. The pitch was altered in 1990 and the intro truncated; in 1991, the pitch returned to normal and bongos were dubbed in. Starting in 1997, both the main theme and the "Think!" music have received multiple orchestral re-arrangements. Rock & Roll Jeopardy! used an electric guitar remix of the theme, which the parent show has since appropriated for teen and college tournaments.
  • Running Gag: There are several recurring categories, but the various names given to the opera categories ("Uh-Oh, Opera"; "The Dreaded Opera Category") would count.
    • "Potent Potables", until the aforementioned SNL skits turned it into their own running gag. On the original series, Fleming regularly said it was announcer Don Pardo's favorite category.
    • "Those Darn Etruscans" was another early recurring category on the Trebek version.
    • "The Dreaded Spelling Category" for Teen Tournaments, wherein you had to spell the response.
    • "Stupid Answers": The correct response is in the clue, although sometimes not as obviously as you might think (e.g. "Now named for James Brady, this room in the White House is where the briefing of the press takes place." What is the Briefing Room?).
    • "Before and After" and "Before, During, and After"; see "Shout-Out", below.
  • Schmuck Bait: Frequently, a clue is written so that it may hint at one answer but then throws in a key word at the last second to negate what would seem like the more sensible answer. For example, "His efforts to hold the Union together were ineffectual; 7 states seceded on his watch." Luckily, the contestant avoided the Schmuck Bait response and gave the correct one (James Buchanan, not Abe Lincoln).
    • There's no way the writers didn't expect someone to say it, but there's almost no way they expected Ken Jennings to say "What's a ho[e]?" to "This term for a long-handled gardening tool can also mean an immoral pleasure seeker."
      • Hilarity ensued.
  • Serious Business: Many fans who play from home use a scoring system developed by former contestant Karl Coryat and consider the game to be such. What's more, there is a large lexicon of terminology used by the fanbase, including several terms coined by former contestants.
    • Painfully averted in most of the Celebrity Edition games Celebs often insisted on Chewing the Scenery, ringing in on clues they obviously didn't know with an "Oh, I know this! What is it?" attitude, and otherwise clowning around. It didn't help that the game threw in unnecessary diversions (such as having a singer perform before a Daily Double!) which led to as few as 14 clues being revealed in each round. Fortunately, the celebrity tournament of the 2009–10 season was taken far more seriously, with more focused (and generally sharper) celebs who treated their games with respect.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Some categories use long words to obfuscate what would be otherwise be a simple clue. In fact, it's the whole point of any category that ends with "In Other Words".
  • Shout-Out:

Naomi Judd: Well, Jane, I guess you're not such an ignorant slut, after all!

    • Several references have been made to the Cheers crossover episode.
  • The Show Must Go On: In one episode, a contestant fainted during Final Jeopardy!. After a stop-down, Alex roused the contestant and asked him to write down his Final Jeopardy! response. Apparently, the contestant was on a crash diet and had not eaten in almost two days.
  • Sophisticated As Hell: Trebek could seamlessly jump from a sophisticated, professional tone to offbeat, wry, and often self-deprecating humor, then throw in a timely pop-culture reference just for fun.
  • Spin-Off: The 1970s syndicated version, Super Jeopardy!, Jep! and Rock & Roll Jeopardy!.
  • Status Quo Game Show: The second Trebek episode ended in a three-way tie at $0 due to all three players wagering all of their winnings on Final Jeopardy! and getting it wrong.
  • Subverted Catchphrase: A few contestants have said "I'd like to solve the puzzle" or "I'd like to buy a vowel" on a Daily Double, often to Trebek's amusement.
  • That's What She Said: A category on the March 16, 2011 game.
  • Those Two Guys: Alex and Ken regularly played off each other, with several recurring "bits".
    • The two trying to figure out what to discuss in Ken's interview. By about the 25th or so episode, they were getting into more obscure facets of Ken's life; by the end, the two just had small, random conversations.
    • Whenever Ken hit a Daily Double, Alex would try to "read Ken's mind" and anticipate what he would wager; Ken would sometimes switch it up and bid a few dollars more or less.
    • Alex's various monologues at the top of each show referred to Ken's winning streak; once, he walked out and stated that, since Ken had been returning champion for so long, he was essentially working at the show — and held up one of the show's timecards with Ken's name written on it.
    • Ken himself lampshaded this in his book, where he said that the end of his streak surely broke the hearts of countless Alex/Ken Shippers.
  • Tick Tock Tune: The Final Jeopardy! music.
  • Title Drop: In the first season, Alex would "caution [the players] about the Jeopardy!" (i.e. that they would lose money on an incorrect response).
  • Trans-Atlantic Equivalent: Among other countries, the UK had a version for a while. It never really caught on, leading to an odd inversion of Germans Love David Hasselhoff — Britons are aware of Jeopardy!, but are nonplussed by how mainstream its influence is on American culture and stock phrases. The same is true of Wheel of Fortune.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: The "Think!" music used in Final Jeopardy! has always gone up a minor third in the second verse. Also, every variation of the current version's theme tune has used several key changes; the 1984 version was all over the place in particular.
  • Unperson: Not only do players who finish Double Jeopardy! with no money not stick around for Final Jeopardy!, they don't even get to participate in the credits sequence of the players chatting with the host.
  • Up to Eleven: Before and After is a pretty tricky category; There are two clues and you need to come up with an answer that bridges them together. Near the end of a particularly long tournament, there was a category "Before, During, and After", where every correct response involved three answers with two bridges.
  • Urban Legend: The 1978-79 version was supposedly canned because Merv, returning from a vacation in Europe, saw the format changes and demanded that NBC cancel the show immediately (and only hastened its demise, as NBC was already planning to cancel it). The legend falls apart because the first pilot for this version, with a slightly different format, was taped on March 6, 1977...followed by another in mid-1978.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: One of the main reasons that game shows are popular is because they allow people to "play along" from home. But considering the vast amount of sometimes-obscure clues that are given every day...
  • Voice of Dramatic: Johnny Gilbert; see Title Scream above. Often tends to be parodied in later seasons.
  • We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties: Happened during the 2012 Teen Tournament. It was a video clue about the MVP of the Super Bowl XLVI. The home audience saw the picture of the MVP,[3] but there was a technical glitch during the game which resulted with the contestants not seeing the picture of the MVP. He got it wrong, but after the break, Alex decided that it wasn't the contestant's fault he got it wrong seeing how there was technical glitches, and so he decided to redact the penalty.
  • Your Mom: "Your Momma" was a category on December 16, 2010. Of course, the first thing out of the contestant's mouth was "I'll take Your Momma for $400, Alex."
  1. On the very rare instance that Johnny misses a taping, he's dubbed in post.
  2. (Correct. Pick again.)
  3. Who was Eli Manning?