Netflixing: Jeopardy!

This American quiz show, created by Merv Griffin, has won 33 daytime Emmys and has been running for 35 seasons.

This television game show host has the longest career in the medium, though he stunned the world when he shaved his famous moustache.

This streaming platform is poised to change the media landscape forever, now that it includes a certain blockbuster game show franchise.

Over the years, Netflix has delighted me more than a few times. Their many innovations and constant drive for self-improvement have given us some of the best entertainment experiences of our lives.

But occasionally, they will make a move that, though I could not have predicted it, seems like a natural fit in hindsight. These “Eureka Moments” are what gives Netflix its edge, allowing it to remain at the top of the streaming pack.

And I cannot tell you what a fantastic idea it was to bring Jeopardy! to the platform.

A Match Made in Heaven

Netflix needs Jeopardy! And Jeopardy! needs Netflix.

The streaming platform thrives on bingeable shows, and no show in history has been more bingeable than Jeopardy! Each episode is only 19 minutes long (they really pad the commercial breaks when it airs on broadcast TV), but the dramatic tension is as palpable as anything you can find in an hour-long drama series.

Regrettably, the current offering on Netflix only includes some Tournament of Champions games from 2014 and the Battle of the Decades from the same year. And while this constitutes a whopping 45 episodes, it is not nearly enough.

The current incarnation of the show has been going since 1984, and thousands of episodes could easily be made available to the public over Netflix. With the right marketing, Netflix could create something I like to call “The Netflix-Jeopardy! Challenge”, encouraging its subscribers to watch every single episode of the series. It could be a real shot in the arm for both properties.

But I digress. It’s time to take a look at the world’s greatest game show (except, perhaps, for Idiotest, also on Netflix).

The Rules

While Jeopardy! is well known outside the United States, and even has a few regional variants in other countries, there are still places in the world where it is relatively unknown. It’s only fair that we spend a moment going over the rules and format of the show, for those not in the know.

As a quiz show, Jeopardy! has a few quirks that separate it from other trivia games. To begin with, instead of giving the contestants questions that they must answer, the show gives them answers, and they have to respond with the right question.

For example, consider the following Jeopardy! clue, which was actually used on the show:

This country’s coat of arms features a palm tree and a 19th century American sailing ship.

To which you should respond “What is Liberia?”

Each clue has a monetary value attached. Getting the right answer will increase your score by that dollar amount, while getting it wrong will reduce your score by the same value. However, within each board there are two “Daily Double” clues, where the contestant may choose how much the question is worth, though they can’t pick a number higher than their current score (in most cases).

Each episode of Jeopardy! is divided into three parts, or “rounds”. The first round, called “Jeopardy!” consists of thirty clues with various prices. The second round, “Double Jeopardy!”, also consists of thirty clues, but the prices of each square are doubled. The third round is “Final Jeopardy!”, where a single clue is given to all three contestants, and instead of answering verbally, they write their question down, and the host reads their responses.

Whichever contestant finishes the game with the highest score is the winner, and is awarded with money equal to their score. 

There are lots of other rules, of course. But as far as individual games go, that’s about all there is to it.

The Contestants

Playing Jeopardy! is a good way to get famous, because the show goes to great efforts spin narratives about each of its contestants, drumming up publicity for certain players who are particularly good at the game or who come from interesting backgrounds. Schoolteachers, for example, often get highlighted, and a portion of each show is designated as a kind of “meet and greet” where the players talk about themselves.

The current Netflix offering includes the show’s Battle of the Decades, where contestants from the past thirty years were invited back to compete. These included such Jeopardy! luminaries as Ken Jennings, whose 74-win streak on the show made waves back in 2004.

And though I personally hate the “meet and greet” section of each show, I have to admit it may be the key to Jeopardy!‘s success. Most of the players are ordinary people, and when viewers see how typical their lives are, they get their own ideas about going on the show. This inspires people to actually train for Jeopardy! as you might do for the Olympics. For some fans, it’s just as big of a deal.

Playing at Home

And this is why most people watch. The show encourages viewers to play along as they watch. From the comfort of your own home, you can test your own knowledge and see if you can get the right answer faster than any of the on-stage contestants.

It is particularly satisfying when you correctly answer a clue that none of the contestants get. And the fun is magnified if you’re watching with friends.

My Judgment

Jeopardy! is the greatest game show in history. And though I wish Netflix would include all the seasons of the current show, the episodes we do have are among the best in the series’ history.

Being able to catch it at any time (as opposed to a set hour each day) is the perfect way to watch, and I look forward to the day when Jeopardy! becomes a streaming-exclusive television program. Even Netflix may not realize the opportunity it has here.

Hopefully, we’ll get more Jeopardy! before long.