12 Things You Didn't Know About 'Jeopardy!'s 1984 Pilot Episode — Not Much Has Changed Besides Alex Trebek's Hair
Weekdays would not be the same without ABC showing Alex Trebek giving answers to average — yet brilliant — people to pose the correct questions to. Jeopardy! is beloved by generations and there have been many iterations of the show, but the first episodes of Jeopardy! with Alex Trebek as host are important for any Jeopardy! junkie to revisit. If you're like me, you have big dreams of landing on the show to get told what's what by Trebek like Dorothy in The Golden Girls or Gloria in White Men Can't Jump. And only Jeopardy! can offer the special blend of high-brow and low-brow trivia on our TVs five days a week.
The history of "American's Favorite Quiz Show" (seriously, Jeopardy! has a patent on that saying) is as complicated as one of the Final Jeopardy! round questions. Jeopardy!, created by game show icon Merv Griffin, first hit TVs in 1964 with its familiar question-as-the-answer format. Art Fleming hosted, but the show was canceled in 1975. The show came back to TV in 1978, but was canceled again only months later. The current incarnation of Jeopardy! with Trebek at the helm aired in 1984.
When Trebek took over, he actually filmed a pilot in 1983, but the pilot in 1984 more closely resembles what Jeopardy! looks like today (and is more easily found on YouTube). Of course, if you're feeling particularly nostalgic, the world of YouTube also provides clips of the very first Jeopardy! episode back in 1964. But since Trebek has been the face of Jeopardy! for the last 31 years, I went back to the 1984 pilot.
Here are 12 things you didn't know (or remember) about the 1984 pilot episode of Jeopardy!
There Was Already A Returning Champion
A sales executive from Los Angeles, Jack Campion had already earned $17,600 when he was announced in the 1984 episode. Uh, how? Wasn't this the pilot? Well, he was a part of the aforementioned 1983 pilot. Jack ended up winning the 1984 pilot game as well (err, 30-year-old spoiler alert?), with his grand total being $24,600 after three matches. (I still can't figure out when he played the second match.)
Trebek's Hair Was Much Darker — And Longer
Did somebody say dreamboat? The Canadian Trebek didn't have super long hair for his game show hosting gig, but he was a much younger man than 2015's Trebek. And the proof is in the pudding/hair. He even had his iconic mustache, which has an official homepage and Twitter account through Jeopardy!
The Theme Song Was Synthesized & The Round Over Sound Was Ridiculous
The 1983 pilot theme song was not the song we are used to hearing at the beginning of Jeopardy!, but by the 1984 pilot, it was the familiar tune in all its synthesizer glory. The end of the round buzzer, on the other hand, sounded more like the stabbing sound from Psycho. By the first official episode of 1984, the noise indicating that the round was over was much more normal.
"What Is Bonanza?" Was The First Question-Answer
The first category that was selected was Television and the $50 question asked about a show featuring the Cartwright clan. The answer was "What Is Bonanza?" about the TV western with 14 seasons.
The Game Board Amounts Were Different
In the first round of the pilot, the questions ranged from $50 to 250, while in the second round they ranged from $100 to 500. The format of the Daily Doubles was the same — with one in round one and two in round two. In the first non-pilot episode of 1984 Jeopardy!, the amounts ranged from $100 to $500 in round one and $200 to $1,000 in round two.
Trebek Was Already A Master
Trebek is known for hosting with swagger (and some pretentiousness) and he showed in the 1984 pilot that he was always like that. The traits he is known for — his fast pacing, his quick wit, and his making the contestants feel inferior — were all there.
The First Daily Double Was A True Daily Double
Contestant Cynthia selected the first Daily Double, and she didn't hold back. She had $250 and decided to risk it all on a television question about the only All In The Family spinoff to still be in production at the time. (The answer? The Jeffersons.) It didn't hurt that the Daily Double had been a $250 question in the first place.
As Per Usual, The Player Anecdotes Were Lame
After the first commercial break, Trebek asked the players about a little fact of their lives like he does currently. Contestant Michael's hobby was restoring full-sized passenger railroad cars (OK, that does sound interesting — just super nerdy) and Cynthia was planning to take the bar exam in July in Los Angeles right before the Olympics. Returning champ Jack had the most dynamic convo with Trebek, telling him he was planning on buying a new car and going to the Caribbean with his previous Jeopardy! winnings. I honestly think there is no way to sound cool during the Jeopardy! chats.
The Attitude Was More Laid-Back
Although Wheel of Fortune is known for its casualness and chants of "Big Money," Michael and Cynthia weren't as stoic as some of the Jeopardy! contestants we are used to seeing now. Michael clapped once he got out the negatives and Cynthia would jump up and down and cheer when she got answers right.
The Questions Weren't Easy, But They Weren't Crazy Hard
The players eventually got all of the answers right (even if one person got it wrong, someone else answered correctly) — and I fared pretty well too. If I couldn't answer a question, I usually had a reasonable guess, which is not always normal for me during a regular Jeopardy! viewing. And the show didn't cover much serious geography with "The only state with a one-syllable name" as a Daily Double question.
Johnny Gilbert Was The Announcer
The iconic voice of Jeopardy!, Johnny Gilbert, has been alongside Trebek since the beginning as part of the 1984 pilot. The show would not be the same without Gilbert announcing, "This is Jeopardy!" (which he actually didn't actually say in the pilot).
Trebek Corrected The Contestants
Jeopardy! really hasn't changed much over the last 31 years as evidenced by the fact that Trebek managed to make a contestant feel a baby-bit stupid like he normally does. When Cynthia guessed Treasure Island in Final Jeopardy! (The prompt? "Classic American novel which begins 'Call me Ishmael.'"), Trebek made sure to tell her that Treasure Island was a British novel — not an American one. (Duh Cynthia. Everyone knows that.) The right answer was Moby Dick and the winner, Jack, got to keep his money. But Cynthia and Michael as the runner-ups got sent to Hawaii, which I may say is a better deal than taking home $1,000 and $2,000 for third and second place, respectively, like they would have today. But getting scolded by Alex Trebek on national television is always priceless — and timeless.
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