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Jeopardy! champion Amy Schneider is an unstoppable force. Hailing from California by way of Ohio, the engineering manager has won 33 consecutive games since her streak began on November 17. Her latest win marks yet another broken record — surpassing James Holzhauer’s 32 games — and brings her closer to Jeopardy! host Ken Jennings’ historic 74 games. But at one point in the long-running quiz show, none of these Jeopardy! contestants would've had the opportunity to get this far in the game because of a rule against long winning streaks.
It all began in 1984 when late Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek was tapped to produce the third rendition of the game show. There had been two previous versions of it in 1964 and 1978 that didn’t take off, but under the leadership of Alex, Jeopardy! found its rhythm. Five years in, more than 15 million people were tuning in daily. During this time, Jeopardy! had a rule in place that stated returning champions could only appear on the program for five consecutive days, better known as the “five-day limit rule.”
But as years went by the show progressed and evolved, and former executive producer Harry Friedman made the decision to get rid of the rule. According to his bio on the Jeopardy! website, he called for it to be lifted in 2003 before the start of the 20th season. Although it may have only seemed like a minor tweak to the quiz show, it quite literally set the stage for Jeopardy! contestants to try their luck and win as many games as possible. The next year, in 2004, Ken made Jeopardy! history after winning an astonishing 74 straight games and earning a total of $2.52 million.
During his run, from June to November 2004, there was a 30% increase in Jeopardy! viewership and it became one of the most talked-about shows. Seeing the then 29-year-old software engineer from Salt Lake City night after night captivated folks watching from home and many grew invested in his victories. Later that year, Barbara Walters named Ken one of The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2004, and he’s been a household name ever since.
Dropping the five-day limit rule was one of several creative decisions Harry made during his time as executive producer. He was also the genius behind Jeopardy!’s Clue Crew, which has been traveling around the world and recording visual clues for the show since 2001. What’s more, Harry was also the producer for Wheel of Fortune and switched out cohost Vanna White’s manual puzzle board for a modern electronic one.
Today, loyal Jeopardy! fans are familiar with a handful of champions, including Ken and James, plus recent additions, like Matt Amodio and Amy. As fans may know, Ken, James and Jeopardy! all-time earnings winner Brad Rutter now star in their own quiz show called The Chase. Meanwhile, many can’t wait to see Matt return to the stage to compete against Amy and other champions from this season, like Jonathan Fisher.
Now, can you imagine Jeopardy! without its incredible victors? Because we can’t.
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