‘Jeopardy!’ Has Been Canceled Twice: Here’s Why

by Emily Morgan
(Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty)

For decades “Jeopardy!” has been the beloved quiz show fans of all generations have come to adore. Everything about the show is unique: the contestants, the questions, and of course, the late host, Alex Trebek. Even the catchy “Think!” song that plays during each episode is known worldwide.

However, there were moments— two in fact— when “Jeopardy!” was canned. On Jan. 3, 1975, NBC canceled the quiz show. A decade earlier, it had made its daytime debut on the network in March of 1964, with Art Fleming as the original host. In the beginning, the show seemed promising as it was setting new viewership records for the network.

However, things took a turn in 1974 when NBC’s daytime manager Lin Bolen decided to move the show from its daytime slot to an earlier time to garner more female viewers. Unfortunately, “Jeopardy!” ratings sunk dramatically. As a result, the network decided to pull the show off the air. The final episode ran on Jan. 3, 1975, marking a sad day in “Jeopardy!” history.

However, due to contractual obligations, the network had to air “Jeopardy!” through 1976. To get around this, “Jeopardy!” creator Merv Griffin proposed another game show to NBC. As a result, he came up with an idea for a new game show called “Shopper’s Bazaar.”

After pitching the initial idea, NBC told him to go back to the drawing board. Later, after some fine-tuning, he came up with a game show that would go on to rival every other game show in history: “Wheel of Fortune.”

With the new show’s overwhelming success, NBC decided to revive “Jeopardy!” in 1978. Yet, this time it would look much different.

To begin with, the network moved the show’s headquarters from New York to Burbank. Next, the contestants with the lowest score at the end of the rounds were eliminated, leaving just one player as the winner. The winner would then play in a new segment called “Super Jeopardy” for a chance to win cash starting at $5,000, with the opportunity to go up from that.

Despite all the new changes, one person wasn’t happy with them: Merv Griffin. NBC failed to mention the changes to Griffin. As a result, he demanded NBC cancel the show, and “Jeopardy!” was pulled from the air for a second time on Mar. 2, 1979.

After “Wheel of Fortune” continued to rise in ratings, Griffin felt inspired to bring back “Jeopardy!” in 1984. This time, Alex Trebek would take his place behind the podium.

By the start of 1986, “Jeopardy!” claimed the number two position in syndication, just below “Wheel of Fortune.” The new updated version of “Jeopardy!” consistently averaged 25 million viewers per week.