For almost 40 years, Jeopardy! has been a television institution. The game show is every fan’s daily dose of factoids, Alex Trebek, and the chance to see how well the couch sitter can do against buzzer giants.
You might be surprised to learn that the long-running quiz show was created by a woman. Here’s who she is.
‘Jeopardy!’ in the age of the pandemic
The show returned in September after its months-long pandemic break. The series, as practically all of entertainment during the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, had been on hiatus since March 2020 until it was safe for contestants, crew, and the host to return to the set.
Although COVID-19 is still being dealt with and navigated, Alex Trebek was eager to get the show back on the air. Contestants are a little more distanced as is Trebek but Jeopardy! is one of the few shows back in business.
In July 2020, Sony Pictures Television announced that both Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune would be returning to the studio to resume the taping of episodes for both shows’ new seasons.
Trebek, referring to the new season via a Jeopardy! press release said in September, “I feel good, and I feel excited because once again Jeopardy! has demonstrated that it’s at the forefront of television programming.”
“I believe we are the first quiz show to come back on the air in the COVID-19 era. On a personal level, I’m excited because it gets me out of the house,” Trebek admitted. “It gives me something to do on a regular basis, and I was missing that.”
The woman who created ‘Jeopardy!’
Julann Wright was married to game show great, Merv Griffin, and is credited with pitching him the idea in the 1960s that eventually became Jeopardy! The credit goes to Griffin for making the show happen, but the seed of the idea was Wright’s.
Jeopardy! began on the air in various forms from 1964 to 1979.
Alex Trebek, the show’s current host since the show’s 1984 syndicated return to the air, discussed in his book, The Answer Is… the woman who created Jeopardy!
“Merv was trying to come up with an idea for a new game show. Julann suggested giving the contestants the answers,” Trebek wrote.
“Julann then gave him an example of how it would work. I have heard two different stories about what she suggested as the first Jeopardy! clue. One version has her saying, ‘The answer is 5,280,’ and Merv asking, ‘How many feet are in a mile?’
“The other version has her saying, ’79 Wistful Vista,’ and him asking, ‘Where did [radio show characters] Fibber McGee and Molly live?’ Whichever one it was, it convinced Merv to pursue the idea. And that’s how Jeopardy! came to be,” concluded Trebek.
Merv Griffin wrote the ‘Jeopardy!’ theme song
Media mogul Merv Griffin, who died in 2007 at the age of 82, didn’t just bring Jeopardy! (and also Wheel of Fortune by the way) to American households. He also wrote its iconic jingle.
Called Think!, Griffin’s seconds-long song can be heard during Final Jeopardy, the last round of each show.
He told The New York Times in 2005 that he at first wrote the melody as a lullaby for his son, Tony, and that it took him under a minute to write it. Incredibly, the song raked in royalties for Griffin that astonished even him.
“That little 30 seconds has made me a fortune, millions,” he told the Times. “You don’t want to know. Probably close to $70-80 million.”