‘Jeopardy!’: Alex Trebek Explained How Show Attracted ‘Brighter’ People Over Time After Show’s Return in 1984

by Jennifer Shea

Late, great “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek noticed something when “Jeopardy!” returned to the airwaves in 1984 after a ten-year hiatus. The show began drawing brighter people as time went on.

The show had originally aired in 1974. But it was in 1984 that Merv Griffin launched the version of “Jeopardy!” that people today know and love.

In an interview with “Pepper & Friends” on KOMU in 1994, Trebek talked about how much bright people enjoy showing off their intellects. He conceded that might be one reason why the show became so popular.

“In recent years, another very important reason, I suspect, is the amount of money that can be won,” Trebek said. “In our first year on the air, 1984, the average winnings per show were about $7,000. Then, the following year, it went up a little bit, 8,000, as people got more used to us and understood the format… they said, ‘Hey, maybe I should try out!’ So we started attracting brighter people all the time.”

“And even though the material is every bit as difficult, and some people think our material now is more difficult than it was ten years ago, our winners are averaging about 10, $12,000 per victory,” he added. “So that’s not bad.”

Watch the full “Pepper & Friends” interview here:

‘Jeopardy’ Is Searching for Alex Trebek’s Replacement

Since Trebek’s final episode aired posthumously early this year, a string of temporary guest-hosts have been filling in for the legendary “Jeopardy!” host. But the show will eventually need to find a permanent replacement for Trebek. And executive producer Mike Richards recently said a little bit about when that is likely to happen.

On the Wall Street Journal podcast “The Journal,” Richards said “Jeopardy!” will have a permanent host by the time the new season kicks off in late July or early August of this year.

“It’s going to come down to the heads of Sony [Television] to make that decision, ultimately,” Richards told “The Journal.” “And it’ll come down to testing. They’ve been a part of it. They know what’s going on in the studio. They’re watching the feed, the tapings. It’s very extensive. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of, as far as testing in its size and scope.”

Richards added that they’re using analytics to make an informed decision.

According to Nielsen ratings rankings compiled by The Wrap, the earlier guest-hosts did better in the ratings than subsequent guest-hosts. Guest-hosts Ken Jennings, Mike Richards and Aaron Rodgers lead the pack. Rodgers at least has publicly expressed interest in the permanent hosting gig.

But with summer stretching out before us, there are plenty more guest-hosts to see, and plenty of time for the analytics to change. “Jeopardy!” fans still have lots of time to watch the guest-hosts interact with the bright contestants before a permanent replacement for Trebek emerges.