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'Jeopardy!' 10 Most Memorable Moments

Funny Answers, Photo Finishes, and Memorable Contestants

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Jeopardy! hit the airwaves in its current format in 1984. It's tough to pick out only 10 memorable moments, since the show has had so many of them! From funny contestants to Alex Trebek's breakout humor, to shocking finishes and intense tournaments, Jeopardy! has provided us with some terrific entertainment and nail-biting games over the years. Here are some of what I feel are the most memorable moments on the show so far.

1. Ken Jennings: "What is a Hoe?" (2004)

Ken Jennings at the podium on 'Jeopardy!'
courtesy Ken Jennings and CBS
Ken Jennings is the contestant most synonymous with Jeopardy!, having won 74 games and over two million dollars. He was so prolific on the show that I could easily give him his own list of top 10 moments! In this particular case, the category was "Tool Time" and the question was, "This term for a long-handled gardening tool can also mean an immoral pleasure seeker." Jennings buzzed in and answered, "What is a hoe?" Alex quipped, "Is that what they teach you in school in Utah?" The correct answer was, of course, "What is a rake?"

2. Alex Says "Kebert Xela," Stays in This Dimension (2007)

In an episode of Family Guy, Adam West is on Jeopardy! and sends Alex Trebek to the 5th dimension by saying his name backwards. In the real game, in 2007, returning champ Jared Cohen was at the final round with only $1. Knowing that he couldn't win the game, he answered "What is Kebert Xela?" Alex recognized his own name backwards, which led to this exchange:

Cohen: I heard that sends you back to another dimension.
Trebek: Sends me back where?
Cohen: To another dimension.
Trebek: To another dimension. Yes, I will go back to another dimension as soon as we deal with the other players.

Contestant Alex Hovan won the game, and Trebek closed the show with, "Alex will get to relax for the weekend while I go off to that other dimension."

3. Three-Way Tie (2007)

Three contestants end up tied with $16,000 on 'Jeopardy!'
Courtesy Sony Pictures
Up until this point, there had never been a three-way tie (that didn't include scores of zero) at the end of Final Jeopardy. But on March 16th 2007, returning champion Scott Weiss figured out his wager to tie the score if both of his competitors bet all of their money and ended up with the correct answer during Final Jeopardy, which they did. All three contestants finished with $16,000, and all three returned for the next show, which was won by Jamey Kirby.

4. Tournament of Champions, Final Game (1998)

As luck would have it, two of the contestants in this final episode of the 1998 TOC were humorists. Bob Harris was a political humorist, while Kim Worth was a stand-up comedian. The third contestant, Dan Melia, had a commanding lead throughout the game. Harris started the game with no score, due to losing it all the day before in Final Jeopardy. After Trebek gave him a bit of a pep talk, Harris quipped, "I don't need your pity!" The banter continued, with Trebek joining in, throughout the game. Melia won the tournament quite handily, while Harris ended up with only one dollar. But the tournament was memorable because both Harris and Worth went into the final game determined to have a good time, even if they knew they couldn't win.

5. Alex Trebek Shaves his Mustache (2004)

Alex Trebek, host of 'Jeopardy!' since 1984
courtesy CBS
You wouldn't think that a small cosmetic change on the part of the host would cause an uproar, but in 2004, when Alex Trebek shaved his signature mustache, fans went into a tizzy. In 2007, Trebek wore a fake mustache for the second half of the April Fool's Day show, which sent fans running to find out if it was real or not. Trebek has hinted that his mustache may return at some point.

6. Ken Jennings Loses Game #75 to Nancy Zerg (2004)

Those of us who kept watching each week as Ken Jennings kept on winning game after game wondered how it would all end. Would Jennings go down in a blaze of glory, being beaten by thousands of dollars? Would be become overconfident and wager too much? As it happened, it came down to a question that many of us were able to figure out, but eluded the Jeopardy! champion. The question was, "Most of this firm's 70,000 seasonal white-collar employees work only 4 months a year." Jennings was in the lead going into the final round, but answered, "What is Fedex?" The correct answer was H&R Block, which contestant Nancy Zerg answered correctly. Zerg's wager was just enough to beat Jennings, ending his run as the greatest Jeopardy! contestant ever.

7. Brad Rutter Wins the Ultimate Tournament of Champions (2005)

Brad Rutter wins the 'Jeopardy!' Ultimate Tournament of Champions
Courtesy Sony Pictures
The Jeopardy! Ultimate Tournament of Champions was a huge undertaking that brought in almost 150 past champions and lasted 15 weeks. Ken Jennings got an automatic pass to the finals based on his record-setting streak, where he faced Brad Rutter and Jerome Vered. Rutter had previously won five regular Jeopardy! games, a Tournament of Champions, and a special Million Dollar Masters Tournament. His winnings on Jeopardy! total $3,255,102, including the two million he received as the Ultimate Tournament of Champions winner.

8. Contestant Ben Wiles Tries the Copycat Approach (2004)

Another one from the Ken Jennings era! Jennings had won 63 games by this point, and during Final Jeopardy, opponent Ben Wiles didn't have a clue what the correct answer was. Instead of taking a stab in the dark at the answer, he wrote, "What is see next podium," with an arrow pointing towards Jennings. Making this move even funnier was the fact that the arrow ended up pointing towards third contestant Lisa Ellis when shown on the blue screen, and Ellis had the correct answer ... while Jennings did not!

9. Pat Sajak Hosts Jeopardy! (1997)

Alex Trebek with Pat Sajak on the set of Jeopardy!
Courtesy Sony Pictures
On April Fool's Day 1997, Pat Sajak and Alex Trebek swapped shows for the day. Sajak held his own on Jeopardy!, and seemed to have a lot of fun with it. Trebek on Wheel of Fortune was also quite good, but it was a relief to see him back on Jeopardy! in the following episode.

10. Alex Takes the Stage Without Trousers (2005)

This moment was never shown on air, but was included in a special "inside look" Jeopardy! DVD and the video clip can be found on YouTube. Before the final game of the Ultimate Tournament of Champions, Alex Trebek came on stage wearing his usual suit, but sans trousers. He said that, to alleviate the tension of the game, the contestants had asked that they all play without pants, and then asked that a camera go behind the podiums to ensure that the contestants were complying. Of course Brad Rutter, Ken Jennings, and Jerome Vered were all wearing their pants, prompting Trebek to silently turn around and exit the stage. There was plenty of laughter from the contestants and the live audience!
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