If Apple Computers Took Over the Game Show Jeopardy!  [Kicking Back with Jersey Joe] Mar23

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If Apple Computers Took Over the Game Show Jeopardy! [Kicking Back with Jersey Joe]

What would happen if you take the legendary game show Jeopardy! and redesign the set as one big giant 1980’s Apple computer?  You get Alex Trebek’s first unaired Jeopardy! episode with a set that could quite possibly go down as one of the worst in television history!

When a new TV series is launched, usually a first test episode, known as a pilot, is produced.  Pilot episodes are used to sell the show to a studio or network and to work out the kinks and casting in the new show.  Often times, these episodes never make it to air.

Some famous pilot episodes include Star Trek with Jeffery Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike, instead of William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk; The 90’s sit-com, Full House featuring actor John Posey instead of Bob Saget in the role of Danny Tanner; the pilot of Lost in Space did not feature Dr. Smith or the Robot. 

In September 1983, Jeopardy had been off the air for three years and television mogul Merv Griffen was looking to bring it back.

Also popular at the time were the new Apple personal computers.  hese were the first computers produced for the mass consumer market. They were designed for the home and had everything an inexperienced user needed to open up the box, plug it in, and get started.

The computers were a sales success and as more were bought up, the prices kept falling and more Americans were buying them up to word process and play games.  The design and operation are quite crude by today’s standards, but they still have a loyal fan following.

The new producers of Jeopardy!, being the ultimate answer and question game, decided to integrate the design of a personal computer into the set for their new show. While it was never revealed as an Apple computer, they probably could have sold Apple on the idea.

The game board was not a grid of TV monitors, but instead a series of cards that a stagehand would slide out to reveal the answer all based inside a giant cardboard computer screen.  Wait, until you see host Alex Trebek enter through the old fashioned disc drive and onto the stage!

The contestants’ podiums were also fashioned as small personal computers. The old, happy letter, logo for the previous incarnations of Jeopardy! was also used along with the original series theme music. These would all be redesigned when it finally made it to series the following fall into the show we all got to know so well.

So, let’s take a look… the video quality will improve as the episode goes on.  These were recorded from a studio master and never aired on TV so the copy is a tad crude.  What you are about to view is quite rare and was never meant to be seen by the public.

That’s some freaky computer sounds when the finally reveal the puzzle.  It gets annoying however, when the contestants are buzzing in as soon as the question is revealed. That’s a holdover from the old series and I’m glad they no longer allow this. The bells just got so annoying…

The final Jeopardy round is played exactly as it always has been, with answers being written and revealed on old fashioned cards.

Had this set made it to air, it would have gotten dated fast and I’m glad they changed it.

The current Jeopardy! set.

Technology was already improving and when they shot a second pilot, they got everything right. The show premiered on September 8, 1984 and has been a part of daily television since.  The game board and set were replaced with TV monitors and the current set has been upgraded several times with the game board now consisting of 36 42” HD monitors.

The original version of Jeopardy! aired on NBC with host Art Fleming from 1964-1975 and again in 1978-1979. A nighttime syndicated version also aired on local stations for one season in 1974-1975. Most people don’t really remember this version of Jeopardy. The set was quite basic and many of the earlier shows were in black and white. But, you couldn’t miss the veteran announcer Don Pardo giving away all those washers and dryers. He was once the voice of many NBC series, including news, and it’s amazing that he is still the current voice of Saturday Night Live at age 94!

The 65 episodes with Fleming recorded for the 1978-79 season featured a different set made of asterisks, the lowest scoring player being eliminated after each round and a different Final Jeopardy! where the remaining contestant would have to make a row of 5 correct answers across the board in 60 seconds.

Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek photographed in a Washington DC parade.

Alex Trebek was already a veteran game show host when he was called up for the new pilot.  He began his career as a Canadian newscaster, before hosting game shows both there and in the US. Some of his bigger shows he hosted were Pitfall, Double Dare, The Wizard of Odds, To Tell the Truth, and perhaps most notably for High Rollers.  Nobody can forget his big puffy fro hairstyle and thick black mustache!

Jeopardy! has sure changed over the years, but our love for it has not. It is one of the highest rated game shows on television and versions have aired in over 28 countries.

THE 411

Title: Jeopardy!

What: Answer and question TV game show

Current Host: Alex Trebek

Air: airs in daily syndication on local TV stations.  Old reruns air on GSN.

Website: www.jeopardy.com

Number of Episodes: 2900 (Art Fleming version) 6,140 and counting (current Alex Trebek version)  There were also 13 additional produced as Super Jeopardy! for ABC in 1990.

JERSEY JOE RECOMMENDS:  Jeopardy is just one of those shows that when it’s on, it’s always good to watch.  I like how they still keep the show fresh with stunt weeks, including the genius battle against Watson, the IBM computer last year.  They must be doing something right to keep all those viewers coming back week after week.

It will be hard to find a new host to fill Trebek’s shoes whenever he decides to step down, but hopefully that won’t happen for many more seasons to come.

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Image credits: Shawn M. Smith, debagel, jurvetsonmarabuchi, justin_levy, jtnolva