‘Jeopardy!’ Will Settle the Debate on the Greatest Contestant of All Time in 2020

Back when the Alex Trebek version of Jeopardy began in 1984, the thought of being a trivia nerd was considered kind of a putdown. Nerd and geek culture at the time was looked at as being the class clown, until seeing how much money one can make from having a wellspring of knowledge.

Within a few years, it became a cool thing to become a Jeopardy contestant to a point where everyone started studying up on their trivia to appear on the show.

Now 35 years later, viewers have seen a small group of elite contestants who’ve become nearly unbeatable Jeopardy champions. The show has had enough of them where producers will soon bring in the smartest to crown the greatest contestant of all time in the coming year.

Take a look at the three chosen to compete and which one has the best chance of winning.

All three contestants are mostly household names

Alex Trebek smiles for the camera
Alex Trebek | Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

Even casual Jeopardy fans will find the names Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter, and James Holzhauer very familiar. Maybe Jennings and Holzhauer are better-known names than Rutter due to more media attention, but did you know the latter is the highest-earning contestant in the history of the show?

These three collectively have the biggest payouts, which we presume really was paid out. If jokes once existed that the game show never had the money to give out because they thought no one was smart enough, they obviously had to eat their words by the time contestants truly did become smart enough.

It’s worth noting these three contestants all competed in more recent years, other than Rutter who first competed on Jeopardy back in 2000. This was when the show started to see more amazing competitors show up who were willing to memorize massive volumes of information to compete at a new level.

Whether you can consider this the true Revenge of the Nerds in the 21st century, America still celebrates it now.

‘Jeopardy’ will go into primetime on ABC with the Greatest Contestant competition

While already taped in advance, expect to see Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time as a prime-time TV event starting January 7, 2020. This will be on the ABC prime-time schedule, giving the show rare exposure outside of syndication. However, most ABC-owned local stations have long carried Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune in the 7-8 p.m. hour every weeknight.

According to the official site, the competition will work almost like a Best of 7 scenario as we see in sports finals. The difference is that it’s expected to be a three-night event, with four extra nights penciled in if there happen to be ties.

All three of the scheduled nights will air consecutively between January 7-9, with the optional shows airing up through January 16.

If you can call this the ultimate tribute to the greatest Jeopardy contestants, it’ll also be a prime-time tribute to Alex Trebek. Everyone hopes he’ll still be going strong when the show airs in January as he continues battling pancreatic cancer.

Who has the best chance to win?

A few might be scratching their heads on how Brad Rutter managed to have higher earnings, yet Ken Jennings won the most games. Doing the math, you can see Rutter hedged the best bets on the amount of money he’d make in the final part of each game.

However, Rutter’s full earnings come from tournament wins as well, making Jennings the highest earner in regular-season play.

Considering Rutter has almost 20 years of experience with the show, it’s possible he has deeper knowledge and ends up spoiling Ken Jennings’ expected win.

Jennings, though, has appeared on the show recently with the tournaments and still did very well. Plus, he has 15 years of experience on the show, with his first appearance going back to 2004.

Then you have James Holzhauer who seems almost like a cyborg with his fierce competitive spirit. Because he plays with razor-sharp precision, one could easily bet on him being the winner just based on the fact he’s competed recently and apparently hasn’t become complacent in continually upping his IQ.