Jeopardy! has provided terrific trivia questions while producing lovable champions, countless memeable moments and a host for the ages. It’s hard to imagine a gameshow outdoing itself after more than 35 years on air. But that’s exactly what Jeopardy! has done.
Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time begins tonight. The show’s three greatest champions will compete over the course of several days for a $1 million prize and eternal bragging rights for greatest Jeopardy! contestant ever.
Here’s what to expect.
Holzhauer is the newest legendary champion. He took the Jeopardy! world by storm last year when he won more than $2.4 million during a 33-game winning streak and surpassed the previous single-game winnings record 16 separate times. By a week into his run “Jeopardy James” was a sensation, aggressively betting on Daily Doubles and choosing the highest value clues first regardless of category. It led some to argue that Holzhauer had broken the game.
By the end of his incredible streak, Holzhauer’s per game winnings average was more than $75,000—just $2,000 less than the single game record prior to his run. He topped that off by winning another $250,000 in the 2019 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions. He’s the prohibitive favorite coming in, even if you factor in recency bias.
Jennings is perhaps the best-known Jeopardy! champ. His 74-game winning streak is still a record, during which he amassed a total of $2.5 million in winnings. The show’s ratings spiked during the 182 calendar days in 2004 where he dominated the show. Jennings has also cleaned up in post-run Jeopardy! tournament appearances and has won more than $3.5 million on the show. His streak was so revolutionary it literally changed Jeopardy! forever, from contestant rehearsal time to buzzer timing. He doesn’t have a distinct strategy like Holzhauer, but has played the game better than almost anyone.
Rutter is one of the greatest “what-ifs” in Jeopardy! history. His first appearances back in 2000 came when the show still enforced a rule that forced champions to retire after their fifth consecutive win. Rutter won more than $55,000 over the course of those give games, but his post-run Jeopardy! career has left fans wondering what he might’ve done without a streak cap. In the years since, Rutter has won more than $4.78 million in Jeopardy! tournaments, including a couple in which he defeated Jennings head-to-head. His winnings also make him the highest earning American game show contestant of all-time.
The show will air hour-long episodes, during which two Jeopardy! games will be played. The contestant with the highest aggregate total across both games wins that day’s “match,” and play continues nightly (except Mondays) until one contestant has won three matches.
The winner receives a $1 million prize; second place wins $500,000 and third place wins $250,000. There’s a fair chance the contestants wind up donating their winnings, but the outcome could have an impact on the highest earning game show contestant rankings—Rutter’s first, but leads Jennings by just $600,000.
Alex Trebek has hosted the show since its inception in 1984, but his run could finally be coming to an end soon. He took a brief hiatus after announcing his diagnosis of stage four pancreatic cancer and eventually returned. But it seems that Trebek is nearing his finish as host—he recently told ABC that he has his final episode speech prepared, but didn’t let slip what date that might be.
Any show fan will tell you that Trebek is Jeopardy! He’s been the steady face and voice of the show for its entire run. Bringing back the three greatest champions isn’t just about awarding prizes and bragging rights—it’s a celebration of Jeopardy! history, showcasing Trebek as the stalwart of the greatest game show of all-time. And that alone will make it worth tuning in.