- High Difficulty
- Speakers (1 or 2)
- Microphones (Minimum 4, 5 for Super Jeopardy!)
- 3 contestants per 30 minutes of runtime (4 for Super Jeopardy!)
- CGA Space Coast (Spring 2012)
- METROCON 2012
Three contestants compete in three rounds: the Jeopardy! Round, the Double Jeopardy! Round, and the Final Jeopardy! Round. If there is a returning champion, he or she occupies the leftmost lectern from the viewer’s perspective.
Six categories are announced, each with a column of five trivia clues (phrased in answer form), each one incrementally valued more than the previous, ostensibly by difficulty. The subjects range from standard topics including history and current events, the sciences, the arts, popular culture, literature and languages, to pun-laden titles (many of which refer to the standard subjects), wordplay categories, and even sets of categories with a common theme.
The value of each clue within categories has increased over time (with Super Jeopardy! values in points rather than dollars):
The contestant at the leftmost lectern from the viewer’s perspective—the returning champion during non-tournament games—selects the first clue from any position on the game board, and the selected clue is revealed. The host then reads the clue, after which any of the three contestants may ring-in using a hand-held signaling device. The first contestant to ring-in successfully, following the host’s reading of the clue, must then respond in the form of a question.
A correct response adds the dollar value of the clue to the contestant’s score, and gives them the opportunity to select the next clue from the board. An incorrect response or a failure to respond within a five-second time limit (shown by the red lights on the contestant’s lectern) deducts the dollar value of the clue from the contestant’s score and gives any remaining opponent(s) the opportunity to ring-in and respond. If none of the contestants give a correct response, the host reads the correct response and the contestant who selected the previous clue chooses the next clue.
One clue hidden on the Jeopardy! Round game board is designated a “Daily Double”. Only the contestant who selects a Daily Double may respond to its clue, and make a wager no smaller than $5 on it. If the contestant has a score of less than the highest dollar value in the round, he or she may wager up to that top value. Alternatively, a contestant may wager all of his or her money, which is known as a “true Daily Double”.
Daily Doubles are occasionally designated with special tags, such as “Audio Daily Double” or “Video Daily Double,” in which an audio or video clip is played along with the clue. Such tags are displayed as soon as the Daily Double has been revealed.
Contestants must wait until the host finishes reading the clue before ringing in; doing so before this point locks the contestant out for one fourth of a second. Lights mounted around the game board illuminate to indicate when contestants may ring-in, and the contestant has five seconds to offer a response. Additionally, a tone sounds in conjunction with the illuminated lights on episodes that feature visually impaired contestants.
Prior to 1985, contestants were able to ring in at any time after the clue had been revealed, and a buzzer would sound whenever someone rang in. According to Trebek, the buzzer sound was “distracting to the viewers” and sometimes presented problems, as contestants would inadvertently ring-in too soon, or ring in so quickly that by the time he finished reading the clue, the contestant’s five-second limit had expired. He also said that, by not allowing anyone to ring in until the clue was finished, home viewers could play along more easily, and faster contestants would be less likely to dominate the game.
Phrasing and judging
All responses must be phrased in the form of a question. For example, a contestant might select “Presidents for $200,” and the resulting clue might be “The Father of Our Country; he didn’t really chop down a cherry tree,” to which the contestant would respond “Who is George Washington?” Griffin had originally intended for the phrasing to be grammatically correct (e.g., not accepting any phrasing other than “Who is…” for a person), but after finding that grammatical correction slowed the game down, he decided that the show should instead accept any correct response that was in question form.
During the Jeopardy! Round, contestants are not penalized for forgetting to phrase a response in the form of a question, although the host will remind contestants to watch their phrasing on future clues. During the Double Jeopardy! Round, or on Daily Doubles (regardless of the round), adherence to the phrasing rule is followed more strictly, but contestants are still permitted to correct themselves before their time runs out.
At times, the show’s producers may determine that a response previously given by a contestant was wrongly ruled correct or incorrect. When this happens, the scores are adjusted at the first available opportunity. If, after a game is over, a ruling change is made that would have significantly altered the outcome of the game, the affected contestant(s) are invited back to compete on a future show.
Double Jeopardy! Round
The second round, Double Jeopardy!, is played largely like the first round. In it, a new set of categories is revealed, and the value of each clue is doubled (except during Super Jeopardy!, see below). In addition, Double Jeopardy! has two Daily Doubles on the board instead of one. The contestant with the lowest amount of money at the end of the Jeopardy! Round makes the first selection in Double Jeopardy! If there is a tie for second place or a three-way tie for first place, the contestant with the tied score standing at the left-most lectern selects first.
The value of each clue within categories has increased over time:
Finishing Double Jeopardy! with $0 or a negative score
Contestants who finish Double Jeopardy! with $0 or a negative score are not allowed to participate in the game’s final round, Final Jeopardy! Instead, they leave the game and receive the third place prize, which has been $1,000 since May 16, 2002. On episodes of Celebrity Jeopardy!, in which celebrities compete against each other for charity, contestants are granted nominal scores ($1,000) to compete in Final Jeopardy! should their score fall below $0. These episodes also feature a “house minimum” of $25,000. On at least one Fleming-hosted episode, all three contestants finished Double Jeopardy! with $0 or less, and as a result, no Final Jeopardy! round was played that day.
Final Jeopardy! Round
A category is announced by the host followed by a commercial break. During the break, barriers are placed between the contestants and contestants are asked to make one final wager (between $0 and their total score), writing it down. After the final commercial break, the Final Jeopardy! clue is revealed and read by the host. The contestants have thirty seconds to write a response, again phrased in the form of a question. During the time in which the contestants write their response, the iconic “Think!” music plays in the background. Since 1984, contestants use a light pen to write down their Final Jeopardy! wager and response. Contestants are also provided with a pen and index card in the event of a malfunction with the light pen. The light pen is automatically turned off at the conclusion of the 30-second period. A keyboard with Braille keys is provided to visually impaired contestants. Contestants giving the correct response are awarded the value of their wager. Those that fail to come up with the correct response or phrase their response in the form of a question (even if the response itself is correct) have that amount subtracted from their score.
Final Jeopardy! betting has been discussed by mathematicians as an exercise in game theory.
During tournaments, if two or more contestants are tied for first place at the conclusion of Final Jeopardy!, a one-question tiebreaker round is played. The tied contestants are presented with a category and the clue is then revealed. The contestant who rings-in and provides the correct response becomes the champion and moves on to the next round of play. Contestants are not eliminated from play for providing an incorrect response.
If two or more contestants are tied for first place following Final Jeopardy! during non-tournament play, both (or all three) are declared co-champions and appear on the next episode.
The top scorer on each show keeps his or her winnings and returns as the champion in the next match, and non-winners receive consolation prizes. The current prizes are $2,000 for the second-place contestant and $1,000 for the third-place contestant. Since the show does not provide airfare or lodging for most contestants, these cash consolation prizes alleviate the financial burden of appearing on the show. Prior to May 16, 2002, the second-place contestant typically received a vacation package or merchandise and the third-place contestant received lesser-value merchandise. Prior to 1984, all contestants kept their winnings, and contestants who finished with scores below $0 received consolation prizes.
When the 1984 version began, the show’s creators decided to award full winnings only to the champion as a means of making the game more competitive, so that the final outcome is not always evident until the end of the game. On the Fleming version, contestants would occasionally decide that they only wanted to win a certain amount of money, and stop ringing-in when they reached that amount, instead of attempting to become a returning champion. Others would refuse to write down a question for Final Jeopardy! if another contestant had a significant lead.
If no contestant finishes Final Jeopardy! with a positive total, nobody wins and three new contestants appear on the following show. In such cases, the three new contestants participate in a backstage draw to determine their positions at the contestant lecterns. This first happened on the second episode of the current run, on September 11, 1984,and most recently on June 12, 1998.
If two or three contestants tie for first place, they are declared co-champions; each keeps his or her winnings and comes back on the following episode. Three contestants have each finished two consecutive games as co-champions.
A three-way tie for first place has only occurred once since 1984, and only one contestant from the same period has won a game with the lowest amount possible, $1.
Special considerations are also given for contestants who are unable to return as champion for medical reasons. This occurred for the first time in Season 25: three new contestants appeared on the January 19, 2009 episode, owing to the previous show’s champion, Priscilla Ball, taking ill. At the top of the episode Alex Trebek explained that in such a case, the contestant would return at a later date as a co-champion. Ball returned on the episode that aired April 9, 2009.
Until 2003, a contestant who won five consecutive days retired undefeated, with a guaranteed spot in the next Tournament of Champions; three new contestants would appear on the following show. From 1997 until 2001, an undefeated champion was also awarded his or her choice of Chevrolet cars or trucks. From 2001 to 2003, the winner won a Jaguar X-Type. Similarly, as part of the deal with Ford Motor Company for the 2001–2002 season, Ford also added a Volvo to the Teen Tournament prize package.
From 1984 until 1990, champions kept all winnings up to a limit of $75,000; any amount above that was donated to a charity of the champion’s choice. The limit was increased to $100,000 in 1990, after Bob Blake ($82,501) and Frank Spangenberg ($102,597) exceeded the old amount, and raised again to $200,000 in 1997.
In September 2003, with the start of Season 20, the show eliminated both the five-episode limit on returning champions and the total cash winnings limit. Champions can now remain on the program indefinitely until defeated, although champions who appear on five or more consecutive episodes no longer receive an automobile. The most successful returning champion after this rule change was implemented is Ken Jennings, who won seventy-four consecutive games from June 2 through November 30, 2004 and amassed a total of $2,520,700, breaking several records for both Jeopardy! and American game shows in general.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS SHOW CANNOT BE PERFORMED UNLESS FWE HAS THE REQUIRED TECHNOLOGY.