JEOPARDY! Briefly Shared Its Unaired 1964 Pilot

Okay, reader, we’re giving you “Television History” for $1,000. Answer: This iconic trivia gameshow has aired 9,200 episodes over its long history, and it briefly made its unaired pilot episode available for free on YouTube. Question: “What is Jeopardy!?” Correct! The signature television series shared what turned out to be the first step in a long journey to TV immortality. Unfortunately, the Jeopardy! pilot was only available to watch for a short time, but we made sure to tune in so we could immortalize the moment.

Jeopardy's first episode title

The official Jeopardy! YouTube channel has posted the show’s pilot episode. (Which we first saw at Boing Boing.) Host Art Fleming welcomed three (sitting) contestants to be the first to play a game that became a true television institution. But this was not the show’s first official episode that premiered at NBC on March 30, 1964. This was purely a test run.

However, many of the show’s classic elements that generations of fans know were already in place during the taping. The show consisted of three rounds, with the second round double in value of the first. Jeopardy! already had its big board of columns, too. And Final Jeopardy already had its unmistakable song that played while contestants wrote down their answers.

The three contestants from Jeopardy's 1964 pilot

Unfortunately, none of them actually got the right question to Final Jeopardy, even though it seems so easy! Sure, “Fiction” is an impossibly large category that it’s almost meaningless in terms of being a clue. But that should only have affected how much each person wagered. (Which they did before they saw the question.) You don’t have to be the 1960s equivalent of Ken Jennings to know “He prowled through the Transylvania night” was the answer to “Who is Dracula?”

Of course, that probably wasn’t too surprising to Art Fleming after no contestant knew Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. Good thing NBC didn’t let its pilot contestants’ ignorance of classic monsters sink the show before it ever took its second step to TV immortality.

Originally published on March 31.

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