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Tuesday, June 02, 2015

June 2, 2004

Well, what a crazy week it's been!  It's a week in which a peacock got loose on the streets of Toronto, and Bruce Jenner decided that he wanted to be called Caitlyn. 

I have no idea what's going on with the peacock, but I support Caitlyn on her quest to find herself.  It's definitely going to be an interesting experience, but I think she's holding her own.

Why, Caitlyn's journey could very well be mentioned in a future entry for the Tuesday Timeline

But not today.  Today I have another subject in mind.  And, as far as what the answer is...well, you'll have to place your wager on Final Jeopardy.  Do that while we go over the list of other events that took place on June 2.  And keep in mind that today's entry will fall sometime between 1981 and 2015.

455 - Vandals enter Rome and plunder the city for two whole weeks during the Sack of Rome

1692 - The first person goes to trial upon suspicion of being a witch in Salem, Massachusetts - Bridget Bishop would be found guilty and hanged just eight days later

1731 - Martha Washington (d. 1802) - the first First Lady of the United States - is born

1774 - The Quartering Act is enacted

1835 - P.T. Barnum hosts his very first American tour of his circus show

1896 - Guglielmo Marconi applies for a patent for his new invention - the radio

1919 - Eight American cities become the target of anarchists, who planted bombs to go off simultaneously

1924 - President Calvin Coolidge signs the Indian Citizenship Act into law

1941 - Baseball player Lou Gehrig passes away at the age of 37

1962 - A series of fights between Italian and Chilean soccer players take place during one of the games of the 1962 FIFA World Cup Championship

1983 - Twenty-three passengers aboard Air Canada Flight 797 are killed after a flashover takes place following an emergency landing caused by an in-flight fire.

1995 - U.S. Air Force Captain Scott O'Grady's F-16 is shot down over Bosnia

1996 - Game show host Ray Combs takes his own life following a battle with depression at age 40

1997 - Timothy McVeigh is convicted of fifteen counts of murder and conspiracy in regards to his role in the Oklahoma City bombings of April 19, 1995

2001 - Actress Imogene Coca passes away at the age of 92

2008 - Blues musician Bo Diddley dies at the age of 79

2012 - Original Family Feud game show host Richard Dawson dies at the age of 79 - exactly sixteen years after his replacement Ray Combs died

And for celebrity birthdays, we have the following people turning one year older; Sally Kellerman, Robert Paul, Ron Ely, William Guest, Susan Hart, Stacy Keach, Charlie Watts, Maree Cheatham, Jerry Mathers, Joanna Gleason, Dennis Haysbert, Dana Carvey, Michael Steele, Jonathan Stack, Tony Hadley, Kyle Petty, Andy Cohen, Jon Culshaw, Anthony Montgomery, Wayne Brady, Wentworth Miller, Matt Serra, Tim Rice-Oxley, Zachary Quinto, Dominic Cooper, Nikki Cox, Justin Long, Morena Baccarin, Fabrizio Moretti, Jewel Staite, Brittany Curran, and Jemma McKenzie-Brown.

Okay, so here we go.  Have you got your wagers ready yet?  Let's begin.

The answer is...June 2, 2004.

The question is - What is today's Tuesday Timeline date?

Okay, let's double the value of the next answer.

The answer is...this quiz show that has been hosted by Alex Trebek since the 1980s tests your knowledge in a variety of subjects.  Just remember to phrase your answer in the form of a question!

The question is - What is Jeopardy?

Yes, today's topic has to do with the game show Jeopardy.

Ready for Final Jeopardy?  Here we go.

On June 2, 2004, this contestant began a record-breaking run on the game show "Jeopardy".  He managed to last a total of seventy-five episodes winning thousands of dollars as a result.  You have thirty seconds.  Good luck.

Oh, what the probably already know the answer to this one already.

Who is Ken Jennings?

Yes, today we're going to take a look at the record-breaking run of Jennings, who went to battle against over one hundred and fifty people in his 75 consecutive appearances on the show as a contestant.  How did he accomplish such a feat?

Well, let's take a look at some events that took place prior to 2004.

Now, I grew up watching Jeopardy and loved the show.  Mind you, I didn't know any of the answers as a six year old unless the category just happened to be about Saturday Morning Cartoons, but it was a show that everyone in my family watched, so I guess I learned to like it through osmosis.  Anyway, one of the long standing rules of Jeopardy was that a contestant was allowed to play the game for a maximum of five games.  After their fifth game, they retired from the show and three new contestants were brought in.  Those contestants would later come back at the end of the season for the Jeopardy Tournament of Champions.

At least, that was the case until 2003.  That year, producers decided to remove the limit on how many episodes players could appear on, meaning that if a player won their fifth game, they could come back for a sixth, and so on.  It never really dawned on the minds of the producers that a contestant could ever last more than ten episodes, but they went ahead with it.  And until the summer of 2004, the record of most Jeopardy appearances was eight.

But then Ken Jennings came along.  A then 30-year-old computer science graduate who served on the Brigham Young University Quiz Bowl Team who grew up watching the show.  His first appearance on the show was Wednesday, June 2, 2004, and he unseated then two-time champion Jerry Harvey.  But due to the way that Jennings answered the Final Jeopardy question, he almost lost the game!  It was to his good fortune that the judges accepted the question "Who Is Jones?" (the answer to the Final Jeopardy question was Marion Jones), because Alex Trebek reasoned that because the subject was female athletes, there weren't a whole lot of female athletes to choose from - which admittedly was a sad but true commentary, even in 2004!

Anyway, Jennings won that game.  And the next.  And the next.  In fact, Jennings won so often that when the season ended in late June, they had to go on hiatus, and Jennings returned at the start of the 21st season where his streak continued!  And that wasn't the only time his run was interrupted.  He survived the 2004 Tournament of Champions, 2004 Kids' Week, the 2004 United States Election coverage, and the Jeopardy College Championships!  That is a huge streak.

Oh, sure, contestants tried their hardest to defeat the unbeatable Ken Jennings, but they failed.  It was hard to deny the charm that Jennings had though.  From the way he wrote his name in different fonts and styles to his cheeky bugger nature each time he answered a question, Jennings soon became a superstar in the world of game shows and a media sensation, appearing on "Live With Regis and Kelly" and "The Late Show with David Letterman" due to his long-running streak.  A total of one hundred and forty-nine contestants went up against Jennings and he managed to defeat them all.  It seemed as though nobody was ever going to take him down.

That is, until Nancy Zerg appeared alongside him on the Jeopardy episode that originally aired on...get this...November 30, 2004 - nearly a full six months after Jennings first appeared on Jeopardy!

That particular episode was a tough one for Jennings.  Although the third contestant, David Hankins, had a negative score and was unable to play in Final Jeopardy, Zerg proved to be quite a formidable opponent for Jennings.  Jennings had lost both of the Double Jeopardy questions, and Zerg had answered quite a few questions correctly.  By the time the Final Jeopardy round had arrived, both Zerg and Jennings' scores were quite close.  All it took was the Final Jeopardy question.

Oh, you know what?  Let's watch it together!

And that was how Nancy Zerg put a stop to Ken Jennings' reign as ultimate Jeopardy champion!  Of course, Zerg didn't last 75 episodes herself.  Not even close.  But you have to give her mad props for doing the one thing that 149 people before her couldn't do.

As for Jennings...don't feel too bad for him.  His final score after the November 30, 2004 episode?  A cool $2,522,700!  At the time, it made him the highest earning contestant in game show history until that record was broken by another Jeopardy contestant, Brad Rutter.

(Interestingly enough, Jennings and Rutter competed against each other in 2011 in the IBM Challenge where both took on Watson, the supercomputer.  Watson won.)

And since appearing on Jeopardy, Jennings has appeared on several other game shows including "1 vs. 100", "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?", and "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?".  He has also authored a book "Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs" in 2006.

I have always said that I wanted to appear as a contestant on a game show.  But if I found that Jennings was my competitor, I may run out the door. 

But again, that's part of his charm.  Charm that we were first introduced to eleven years ago today. 

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