Most fans of Jeopardy! know Ken Jennings well since he’s the winningest contestant in the game show’s history. However, if the answer “Greg Hopkins” popped up on the show, could you state his significance to the history of Jeopardy! in the form of a question?
If you buzzed in and guessed “Who was the first-ever winner of Jeopardy! during Alex Trebek’s debut episode?” then you’d be correct and picking the next category.
In 1984, producers revamped Jeopardy! with a new game show host – Alex Trebek. Hopkins, a native of Ohio, was an energy science teacher who frequented California during his time off. He spoke to local Ohio news station WSAZ in January and shared his experience on the quiz show.
He would visit his aunt and uncle in California just to attempt getting on a game show of some sort. In fact, Hopkins tried more than 40 times before finally landing on the debut episode of Jeopardy! with Trebek. His only stipulation, he didn’t want to be on a game show with celebrities.
“I didn’t want to get on any games with stars,” Hopkins explained to WSAZ. “Because if you get on ‘$100,000 Pyramid’ and Betty White screws up, you can’t hate Betty White for the rest of your life.”
Jeopardy!‘s inaugural champion was the first person to ever buzz in during Trebek’s debut episode. He went on to win the first show and took home $8,500 in winnings. Hopkins spoke highly of the show’s staff, calling both production crew and Trebek “class acts.”
“Alex (Trebek) interacted with us off-camera,” Hopkins said. “He was a class act and the entire production staff were class acts.”
‘Jeopardy!’: Ken Jennings’ Records Lead to Guest-Host Gig
As the highest-earning American game show contestant ever, Ken Jennings‘ notoriety is well documented. In 2004, he set a record with 74 consecutive wins that still stands as the longest winning streak in Jeopardy! history.
During his 74-episode winning streak, the champion raked in $2.52 million. In addition, his total Jeopardy! earnings after further appearances exceed more than $4.5 million. Jennings is arguably the most well-known contestant in the history of the game show. Therefore, it was a no-brainer to bring him back as a guest host after Trebek’s tragic death in November.
On Friday, Feb. 19, Jennings’ guest-host run on Jeopardy! came to an end. After his time came to a close as host, he took to Twitter to thank Jeopardy! and its longtime host.
“That’s a wrap on my six weeks of @Jeopardy guest hosting. Thanks for watching, thanks for your patience with a tough learning curve…and, as always, thank you Alex,” Jennings tweeted.
Rumors have flown around that Jennings’ interim appearance was a tryout for possibly becoming Trebek’s full-time replacement. Following Trebek’s death from pancreatic cancer, the game show has not committed to any permanent host. Instead, Jeopardy! is utilizing a series of guest hosts. Jennings hosted the first run from Jan. 11 to Feb. 19. Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune producer Mike Richards took over on Monday, Feb 22, but his run will end after this week.