Little Bits of History

I’ll Take Television for $200, Alex

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 30, 2010

Ken signing in on Jeopardy! over his run

November 30, 2004: Ken Jennings make Jeopardy! history when he finally loses during his 75th game after winning $2,522,700. He went on to win another $500,000 on the Ultimate Tournament of Champions for the 2004 season. Jeopardy! is an internationally televised game of answers and questions. Three contestants vie for top earnings giving the proper questions to the answers provided. Jeopardy! entered it’s twentieth season in 2003 and at that time changed the rule concerning returning champions. Prior to 2003 the limit was five appearances after which the champion was retired and three new contestants would begin play the next show.

Jennings was born in Edmonds, Washington but grew up in Seoul, South Korea and Singapore. He is a Mormon and served two years of missionary work in Madrid, Spain. He worked as a software programmer and also wrote and edited questions for the National Academic Quiz Tournaments.

Jennings said he practiced for the show by reading, watching the televised program, making flashcards, and practicing using the buzzer. In fact, he has said that it is the buzzer that makes or breaks the contestants. If you ring too soon, you are blocked out for a short time and if you wait too long a competitor has won the right to give the question. The longer he was on the show, the more time the new contestants were given to practice using the buzzer to help offset this advantage.

Jennings began his run on the quiz show on June 2, 2004 and continued through 74 wins that spanned two seasons. He worked in Utah and flew to California where the show is taped every other week for two days, Tuesday and Wednesday. He finally lost to Nancy Zerg when he missed a Daily Double and then Final Jeopardy for a loss of $10,400. The Final Jeopardy business answer he missed was H&R Block, giving the wrong question as FedEx. Both companies used him as a spokesperson soon after his loss.

“Most of this firm’s 70,000 seasonal white-collar employees work only four months a year.” – Jeopardy! answer Ken missed

“It’s so much fun that the money is just icing on the cake. There seems to be a lot of icing.” – Ken Jennings

“It’s boring to have the same guy win. I’m actively rooting against myself.” – Ken Jennings

“Can You Beat Ken. My experience is that a 15 year old can sometimes know more than his dad. Trivia has an all-age attraction.” – Ken Jennings

“Being a nerd really pays off sometimes.” – Ken Jennings

Also on this day, in 1934 the Flying Scotsman reaches speeds of 100 mph.

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