Jeopardy!’: Watch Alex Trebek Explain New Buzzer Timing Rule in 1985 Video

by Josh Lanier

Jeopardy! made a major change to its format in Alex Trebek’s second season as host. In 1985, the game show reworked how it handled the buzzer system. And this small change completely overhauled players’ strategies.

This made Jeopardy! not just bar trivia for people with Master’s degrees. It also added a reflex element that required the player have brains and on the spot-on timing. It also gave at-home know-it-alls a moment or two more to hear the question and mull and answer.

Trebek explain the new rule and why Jeopardy! did it in an episode of the show.

Ken Jennings, who has the most Jeopardy! wins ever, wrote on his website that a “victory most often goes not to the biggest brain; it goes to the smoothest thumb.”

“If you buzz in too early, the system actually locks you out for a fifth of a second or so,” he elaborated. “But if you’re too late, the player next to you is going to get in first. Somewhere between too early and too late is a very narrow sweet spot, like swinging a tennis racket or a baseball bat. No, that’s not right. The Jeopardy! buzzer, she is like a woman. No, that’s not it either. All I know is, the more I thought about the timing, the less I could nail it. When I could somehow just Zen out and not think about what I was doing, I would do okay.”

Anderson Cooper Begins 2nd Week at ‘Jeopardy’

Anderson Cooper said he was petrified heading into his first week as host of Jeopardy! He was a lifelong fan and taking over as guest host for Alex Trebek who died in October seems an impossible task. But most fans have seemed to enjoy him behind the podium.

He posted his trepidation last week on Instagram.

“Tonight is the first night I guest host on Jeopardy! I rarely get nervous, but I definitely was the first moment I stood behind Alex Trebek’s podium,” he begins via his official Instagram Monday. “It was a great honor and very moving for me. I have watched @Jeopardy since I was in high school (back when I had brown hair.)”

“I am such a fan of the show and miss watching Alex, who was the perfect host, and conducted himself with such intelligence, humor and grace,” Cooper continued.

But after a week at the helm, fans seem to be enjoy seeing him at the podium.

TVInsider asked its readers in an unscientific poll how Cooper was doing, and he got most rave reviews. More than a third of the nearly 6,000 votes at the time of this publication said he “fit in well” with the show. And nearly 30 percent said he should be the permanent host. Only about 1,300 said he shouldn’t be behind the podium.