‘Jeopardy!’ EP Michael Davies Reveals Merv Griffin Gave Him His Big Break

by Joe Rutland

Pardon Jeopardy! executive producer Michael Davies for taking a journey back to the beginning for him with Merv Griffin. For many of you, Griffin’s name might be more synonymous with being an entrepreneur and talk-show host. He would have some of the biggest names in show business on there from the 1960s through the 1980s. But he also was a man who created two game shows you still watch to this day. Griffin was the creator of both Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. When Davies was 24 years old, he would get a job working as a development associate for Merv Griffin Enterprises. He talked about it in a blog post on Jeopardy! website’s blog.

“I was a 24-year-old assistant tennis pro and aspiring television writer in Florida when I got the call that I had been hired as a development associate at Merv Griffin Enterprises,” Davies wrote in a J! Buzz blog post. “This was literally my big break. I packed my bags and took the only flight I could afford cross country, leaving Orlando International and stopping in Houston and Salt Lake City before touching down at LAX….Legends like Merv literally ran the business.”

Michael Davies of ‘Jeopardy!’ Recalled Lunch With Merv Griffin

“On one of my very first days, I had lunch with the boss by the pool at the Beverly Hilton, which he had purchased in 1987, and where our offices were,” Davies wrote. “When the waiter came over and said ‘May I take your order, sir?’ Merv cooed, ‘Ooooohhh’ in his signature baritone, and made a note in a small leather-bound book. Several months later, I saw the phrase reappear as a puzzle on ‘Wheel of Fortune.'”

For fans of SCTV, that Griffin sound might be familiar as Rick Moranis would do a pretty dead-on impression of Griffin back in the day. Imagine sitting there as part of a company where Davies would play an integral role in the continuance of Jeopardy! over the years. These days, fans of the show know that he really does run the show.

Davies came up with the idea to start up an Inside Jeopardy! podcast that talks about the ins and outs of the game. Additionally, Davies also has been the man behind naming Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik as permanent hosts. Jennings will be running the daily show from September through December. He’s also going to be the man in charge of the Tournament of Champions. For her turn, Bialik will take over the daily show in January but she’s busy in the fall, too. If you tune into Celebrity Jeopardy! on ABC, then you will see her behind the podium.