Jeopardy! (1964)/At a Glance

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Basic Information

  • Format: It was basically as it is played today, with six categories and three players, providing their responses to the clues in the form of questions. Back then, though, in the post-scandal era, the money values were $10 to $50 in the first round and $20 to $100 in Double Jeopardy. All players got to keep the money won (provided they weren't in the negative scores) with the top scorer returning as champion. This version originated from NBC's New York studios.

The theme, written by Merv Griffin's wife at the time, Julann, was called "Take Ten." On the series finale, a recording of the song "Smile" was played as the credits rolled over a darkened studio, with only the scores on the contestants' podiums illuminated.

International Viewings


Merv Griffin had a daytime talk show on NBC in 1962. When NBC canceled it, fans were incensed, but the network allowed Merv to create a new show. Word for Word was his first show, and then he began thinking of a quiz show to counter the taint of the 1950s Quiz Show Scandals. On a flight, his wife suggested giving the answers to the contestants. "Yeah," he replied, "and I'll get locked in the slammer."

Julann started rattling off answers. "5,280 feet." Merv replied "How long is a mile?" Julann: "72 Wistful Villa." Merv: What was Fibber McGee and Molly's address?"

Merv had a format--now he had to hammer it out as a game. He presented the concept to NBC under its working name What's the Question? NBC bought it sight unseen but rejected the format because "it didn't have enough jeopardies." Merv added the Daily Double elements and retitled the show Jeopardy!

Once the show hit the air, most of the clues were relatively simple but as time went on, they got harder. NBC wanted Merv to dumb down the material, but he didn't listen. Before long, Jeopardy! became appointment TV to college students the country over.

The Final Jeopardy! think music was originally written as a lullaby for Merv's son.

Awards and Accolades