washingtonpost.com  > Columns > TV Column

When Is Ken's Final Final Jeopardy? Rumor Has It That . . .

By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, September 10, 2004; Page C07

Answer: This company has a workforce of 17,000 people, whose average working year is only four months long.

Question: What's the alleged Final Jeopardy answer that supposedly brought down "Jeopardy!" uber-contestant Ken Jennings this week, according to reports that started circulating Wednesday?


The amazing Ken Jennings with "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek. Jennings won his 42nd contest in the show aired last night. When does he fall? (Reuters)


THIS COLUMN MAY BE A SPOILER. IF YOU WANT TO BE SURPRISED, DO NOT READ FURTHER. IF YOU DO, YOU MAY NOT COMPLAIN THAT WE HAVE RUINED IT FOR YOU. WE ARE NOT KIDDING.

According to the reports making the rounds, Jennings lost in a show that was taped on Tuesday; "Jeopardy!" typically tapes multiple episodes two days a week, banking episodes to play out over a period of weeks.

Jennings finally lost after winning 75 consecutive games and amassing about $2.5 million, according to the Web site Kottke.org, which posted the first report early Wednesday morning, citing "super-tipster Phillip" as its source.

Hours later, the same information appeared on the Web site of trade publication TV Week, which cited unnamed "sources."

This, in turn, was picked up by the Associated Press, which credited TV Week, and the rest is history. By yesterday morning, Jennings's alleged loss was being reported around the country as fact on syndicated infotainment shows and TV stations' local morning news programs. Kottke.org creator Jason Kottke told The TV Column yesterday that "super-tipster Phillip" is "just a reader of my Web site; I've never heard from him before.

"I don't know him at all," Kottke said. But, he added, late Wednesday he got another e-mail from a woman, also unknown to Kottke, who said she had gone to a taping of the show that day and no Ken Jennings was in sight.

"I kind of took that as corroboration that Jennings did in fact lose at some point after that," Kottke said. "From my standpoint I feel that it's been verified."

In response to queries about the story, production house King World said in a statement that " 'Jeopardy!' is now in its 21st season, and, since its inception, we have never disclosed whether a contestant has won or lost before a show has aired. We have no intention of changing this policy."

Last September, producers of the game show created by Merv Griffin decided to abolish the cap of five wins that it had imposed on winners since its inception. By allowing contestants to keep playing until they lose, the new rule paved the way for super-colossus contestant Jennings. Broadcasts of the winning ways of the software engineer from Salt Lake City began airing June 6. This week he returned to the fray after the show took a six-week summer hiatus.

As of Thursday night, when he won nearly $22,000, Jennings had won 42 consecutive games for a total of $1,402,461.

"It would be very easy to start a hoax and spread the rumor," former "Jeopardy!" contestant Nick Aretakis told The TV Column yesterday.

The report going around this week "is within the realm of possibilities," said Aretakis, who is among those who have gone down in flames opposite Jennings.


CONTINUED    1 2    Next >

© 2004 The Washington Post Company