Jeopardy!: The Greatest of All Time
January 8, 2020 9:46 PM - Season 1 (Specials) - Subscribe

A television event featuring the three highest-earning Jeopardy! contestants of all time; Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter, and James Holzhauer, competing in a best-of-seven primetime tournament with a top prize of $1 million to determine the greatest Jeopardy! contestant of all time.

Jennings holds the record for the longest winning streak on Jeopardy! with 74 wins and is the highest-earning contestant in regular-play (non-tournament) winnings, Rutter is the highest-earning contestant (including tournaments) on the show with a total over $4.6 million, and Holzhauer holds the top 16 single-game records for winnings. The three players have won a combined $10.7 million during their runs on the show. (Summary via Wikipedia)
posted by kyleg (42 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Chrysostom at 10:18 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]

I missed night one, but caught the second night's show. I'm really taken with the comradery between the contestants and Trebeck. It's so fun to watch them joke with each other. I kind of wish they could've expanded the panel to four players and included Austin in the fun.

Interesting format, having them play two full games back-to-back (though, isn't that how they tape the regular show anyway?)

There's also a bit of a bittersweet aspect to this. There's a slight "Last hurrah with Alex" shadow hovering over the show. That might just be me, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:24 AM on January 9 [6 favorites]

The regular show tapes five shows in a day, but there's downtime between the individual shows (among other things, to allow Alex and the returning contestant to change clothes, so they don't appear to be wearing the same thing multiple days).

Based on Ken's comment here about not having played a full hour of Jeopardy! before, I gather they're going more or less directly from game 1 to game 2 in the taping of these.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:25 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]

Watched both matches so far. Been rooting for Ken. As much as I like James, I really like Ken.

I was doing other things when Rutter was originally on and I've never really caught him in the tournaments since, so I know him mostly by reputation. I hope he gets going and is able to win a match or two.
posted by Fukiyama at 7:48 AM on January 9 [3 favorites]

I used to watch a lot of Jeopardy and then stopped many years ago, so I kinda missed the whole Holzhauer phenomenon, and while I can't say he's my favorite personality, damn does he get my respect for his brain.

So many of the articles I've seen on Jeopardy strategy emphasize things like hunting for daily doubles, betting strategies, trigger reflexes, etc. but the amount of knowledge in these people's heads and the ability to recall it is awe-inspiring.

Case in point, last night, after going all in on Daily Doubles (twice!), Holzhauer, after agonizing delays, pulled the right answer seemingly out of thin air. Amazing.
posted by jeremias at 8:48 AM on January 9

I'm a Futureling, so I'm rooting for Ken! I never really took to James, although he seems more relaxed here, and I like that. I've only seen Brad on twitter occasionally (I think he and Ken became friendly a while back) but overall I'm just having fun watching them powerhouse their way through the questions. Normal Jeopardy airs here before I get home from work, which is a pain, so it's nice to have this as a Big Event that I get to see.
posted by PussKillian at 9:12 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]

There's also a bit of a bittersweet aspect to this. There's a slight "Last hurrah with Alex" shadow hovering over the show. That might just be me, though.

It's not just you.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:51 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]

Rooting for Ken, as all good people should.

I didn't care for Holzhauer at first, though I'm enjoying the obvious respect and trash talking that he and Ken seem to have with each other. I follow Ken on Twitter and I've been enjoying all the little jabs.

I expect Holzhauer to win. He constantly beats Ken on the buzzer and on night one the only reason Ken won was because of that daily double.

It's interesting because they're all so good at Jeopardy! strategy they can beat most one-time contestants, but up against each other it's a whole other game.

posted by bondcliff at 1:30 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]

omg missed the first 2 nights (chewing toenails!!) will not make that mistake tonight!!!!!!!
posted by supermedusa at 1:43 PM on January 9

I admit I started cold on James, but really grew to like him a lot as his win streak went along. He has a dry sense of humor and seems genuinely respectful of the game and the people he’s playing with.

I hate to bring it up, but, are there any rumors floating about re: Alex’s eventual replacement? Might they come from the pantheon of winners? As much as I like Ken, I really couldn’t take to him being the host.

Or, might the show go off the air for a few years to gain distance from Alex?
posted by Thorzdad at 2:49 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]

I won a baseball hat at my first Jeopardy audition for knowing that Brad Rutter won the most money, over ten years ago. That's a long time to keep that record!

On non-preview, I see that Thorzdad brought up the replacement issue. This does feel to me like an audition of sorts. I could take to Ken being the host, though. I think he'd be the best of the three. He's more personable than Brad, imo, and James' strength is as a player.

I could watch these three play every week, though. I would so watch a spinoff where they played on behalf of other people for the money.
posted by Ruki at 3:01 PM on January 9

Any possible replacement list that doesn’t include Austin, though, is incomplete.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:02 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]

Zombie Art Fleming.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:49 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]

I also started off disliking James, but now consider myself a fan. His abruptness during the game doesn't seem to translate to any actual hostility or rudeness; it just seems to be what happens when an already somewhat awkward-on-camera guy really locks in to playing mode. Still mildly rooting for Ken, though.

James did seem to falter a bit in the second half of at least two of the matches, starting to second-guess himself and go for a more obscure, and incorrect, answer a couple of times. And Daily Double luck has favored Ken a bit.
posted by pykrete jungle at 6:35 PM on January 9

[James] constantly beats Ken on the buzzer and on night one the only reason Ken won was because of that daily double.

I don't think the data bears that out, though (even before taking into account the result of match 3). One way to attempt to measure the performance of players without the luck of hitting the DDs is the Coryat score. Here are the players' Coryat scores from the three matches so far:

Match 1
Game 1: James 16600; Ken 25800; Brad 8400
Game 2: James 15000; Ken 10400; Brad 16600
Combined: James 31600; Ken 36200; Brad 25000

Match 2
Game 1: James 20400; Ken 15600; Brad 7200
Game 2: James 16000; Ken 21200; Brad 200
Combined: James 36400; Ken 36800; Brad 7400

Match 3
Game 1: James 13200; Ken 18000; Brad 12200
Game 2: James 12400; Ken 17600; Brad 8600
Combined: James 25600; Ken 35600; Brad 20800

Ken's win in match 1 was legit.

Also of note, James gave six incorrect responses to regular (non-DD non-FJ) clues in the match 3 games, which seems uncharacteristically high for him. During his regular season run it was noted that he very rarely gave incorrect responses — part of which of course was his vast knowledge, but also he generally didn't ring in if he wasn't sure of the answer. It seems like maybe at this level of competition he's feeling pressured to make a guess on some of the ones he's not sure of.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:01 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]

I could have sworn it was only three nights. How many nights is it?

Edit: Best of seven. Maybe read the whole post, dummy.
posted by bondcliff at 7:57 PM on January 9

After three nights, at least one more night (Tuesday), is guaranteed.

For reference:

J! Archive list of GOAT games

Wikipedia: Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:26 AM on January 10

Overall, I enjoyed watching this week.

The celebrity cameos were for the most part OK. Some were inspired (Bryan Cranston reading Chemistry answers). They're hard to do sometimes while keeping to a time limit. The questions were well within the range of topics J! usually covers. Some though were mini-infomercials.

Noticed James deliberately hunting for the Daily Double on night three. Ken falling out of (and into) sync with his buzzer was also interesting - milliseconds can mean the difference between getting in versus getting locked out. Watching Ken and Brad adopt strategies from James was fascinating.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:37 AM on January 10

This is thrilling to watch. I'm used to watching good trivia, so I expected that they'd be getting a lot of questions right. But the wagering is intense. That's really what I've been surprised about. James's all-in motion is the theme of the show. It's helped Ken and hurt Brad so far, but damn are these some crazy Daily Doubles.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:42 AM on January 10

This whole thing is making for some good Twitter exchanges.
posted by bondcliff at 7:52 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]

James' story last night was touching - his parents immigration stories and he and his wife's use of their winnings to support charities. I'd be pretty surprised if he had any interest in taking over for Trebek.

I couldnt get over how bad Brad's outfit was with the textured jacket and clashing patterns. . . it did not help any that Ken was pulling off a much better version of a similar look.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 8:31 AM on January 10

"I couldnt get over how bad Brad's outfit was with the textured jacket and clashing patterns"

You don't watch sports often, do you? This the new look for sportscasters.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:35 AM on January 10

"New look"?
posted by Chrysostom at 10:04 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]

Chrysostom i dont think that qualifies bc while the jacket is an offensive pattern, hes wearing a white shirt.

I think that it was brought on by a combination of what looks good in HD and the increasing prevalence of Black broadcasters bringing their fashion sense. andi guess changing tastes.

Then again, in support of your "not a new look" argument i guess theres Don Cherry and Barry Melrose, but i dont understand anything about hockey so that is very on brand.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 10:31 AM on January 10

The Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time Tournament Has Turned Into a Dogfight (Jeremy Samuel Faust, Slate)
"James Holzhauer changed the game, but Ken Jennings has proved he can play that game, too."

[…] For a typical player trying Holzhauer’s approach, a huge one-day win is now more possible (with a little luck). Also, the stigma and shame of large bets backfiring have largely become things of the past, as most viewers now understand the game theory. (In years past, the goal of many challengers appeared to be avoiding disgrace first, and winning second.) The “Holzhauer game” is more interesting to watch. It is less predictable and creates more high-pressure moments.

With elite players like Jennings, utilizing Holzhauer’s style makes the game more exciting as well. It’s as fun to watch a player dominate the competition as it is to watch them try to salvage a win after a costly error or two. Whether Holzhauer’s style overall favors a dominant player’s ability to make a long run during regular-season play or whether it helps a challenger spoil such a run is hard to know now. We should know this in the coming season or two. […]
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:35 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]

I'm really enjoying this, but I hope regular contestants in future shows don't take all the humor and trash talking as their cue to yuk it up all game long.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:37 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]

The celebrity cameos were for the most part OK. Some were inspired (Bryan Cranston reading Chemistry answers). They're hard to do sometimes while keeping to a time limit.

I wonder if some of these aren't also meant to space out the game and give the audience some breathing room--the rounds go amazingly fast when there's never going to be a single triple stumper.
posted by pykrete jungle at 5:03 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

'Jeopardy: Greatest of All Time' is getting higher ratings than [first four games of] 2019 NBA Finals and [first five games of] World Series

I won't be able to watch Match 4 "live" Tuesday, so I figure I'm just going to have to stay off the internet entirely until I can watch it Wednesday if I want to remain unspoiled.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:38 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]

I wonder if some of these aren't also meant to space out the game and give the audience some breathing room

I imagine so. Plus, with the hour format and being on a broadcast network, perhaps there are fewer commercials or the commercials are organized differently.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:55 AM on January 13

posted by bondcliff at 6:01 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]

bondcliff: "I expect Holzhauer to win. He constantly beats Ken on the buzzer and on night one the only reason Ken won was because of that daily double."

posted by Chrysostom at 6:06 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]

Ken really earned it. He really went all out the last few matches. James came on tonight, but it clearly wasn't enough to hold off Ken. I had been hoping Brad could do something tonight to at least make a showing of it, win at least one match and force another match, but it wasn't to be.

Ken and Brad had a serious hug there going at the end. That was nice to see.

Congratulations to Ken Jennings.
posted by Fukiyama at 6:07 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]

The only problem with this was that Ken won so easily. I selfishly wanted to see it go the distance. But Ken earned the title, for sure.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:24 PM on January 14

More triple stumpers than I would have expected--and not on the categories I'd have thought. Meanwhile, they're blazing through the hell of math with Roman numerals to initials to names.
posted by pykrete jungle at 6:47 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


I'm very glad to be wrong!
posted by bondcliff at 7:02 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]

Meanwhile, they're blazing through the hell of math with Roman numerals to initials to names.

I got three of those, but only after I stopped looking at the math part at all.
posted by Etrigan at 7:18 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]

Much congrats to Ken Jennings, on a well earned tournament victory.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:07 PM on January 14

Ok, James' "Brad's score is still showing" zinger might've been the best of the tourney. What a fun ride, and I got a little teared up at the end.🐐
posted by Burhanistan at 8:23 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]

I have to admire James's poker face — I suppose one would expect no less of a professional gambler. After Ken's correct FJ answer and wager in game 2 were revealed, and they moved over to James and Alex drew it out a bit, and I was watching James's face... I had absolutely no idea whether he had gotten it right until his answer was revealed. (I was on Shylock — trying to think of a non-title Shakespeare character who was prominent in their play — until I remembered that The Merchant of Venice is considered a comedy. By then there was too little time for me to try to think of another answer.)

Ken being gracious on Twitter: "@James_Holzhauer is a player so dominant that, when he took on the strongest players ever in his sport, they both had to adopt his exact style of play just to contain him. THAT's a once-in-a-generation talent."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:38 AM on January 15 [5 favorites]

Ken Jennings was masterful last night and utterly earned that win #teamken
posted by supermedusa at 7:35 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]

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