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Matt:

How did Jeopardy get its name? What does jeopardy have to do with the game and the way it's played? What's the danger? Also, why do contestants have to answer in the form of a question? What does that have to do with anything, let alone the name of the show?

-- What is Puzzled in North Park

To me the biggest jeopardy you face is the risk of acquiring a fatal pain I the butt from being forced to spend a half hour with the insufferable Alex Trebek. Professional jealousy, you say? I think not. Simply observable, easily duplicated scientific fact. But at least Alex can't be blamed for any of the imponderables of the name or the game. Responsibility for that rests squarely on the show's developer, Merv Griffin, with a little help from his wife. Jeopardy! was devised in the mid-1960s, during the days of quiz show scandals, when certain TV quizzes were found to have coached contestants to improve their on-air performance. According to official Jeopardy! history, Merv wanted to develop a new quiz show, but he worried about viewers thinking his contestants had been given the answers in advance. Mrs. Merv had the perfect solution. Give players the answers and have them supply the questions. Mrs. Merv was just joking. It's not known whether Merv had no sense of humor or just knew a good gimmick when he heard one. Working title for his new show: What's the Question? In the original format, players risked some of their winnings in three levels called Jeopardy! Double Jeopardy! And Final Jeopardy! The on-air version dumped the risk and the working title but kept the Jeopardy! part.

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