14.4 million – that is the surprisingly staggering number of viewers who eagerly and enthusiastically tuned into the first game of Jeopardy’s The Greatest of All Time Tournament on ABC. The first of potentially seven hourlong episodes featured 74-game champion Ken Jennings, 5-time tournament winner Brad Rutter and $2.6 million champion and 2019 Tournament of Champion winner James Holzhauer face each other for the very first time.
The event was the highest rated on nighttime network television Tuesday evening in total viewers (14.37M) and in the A18-49 rating and shares (2.4/11). The game show even managed to dominate NCIS and its 10.2 million viewership, which is typically an easy win for CBS considering the network and most of its primetime programming have led the pack in being the most watched broadcast network in primetime for 11 consecutive seasons.
If you watched last night’s debut of the weeklong tourney from its empowering opening accompanied with a new revamped version of Jeopardy’s theme music that sounds like it was composed by John Williams himself to Ken Jennings narrowly sealing the deal in Game 1 by a sliver of a margin of 200 points, you can easily see why this show was at the top of the charts last evening.
Some of last night’s highlights included a flawless round one with no incorrect answers to set the fiery competitive tone, the gilded renovations to the set, the new 30-second Final Jeopardy! music think cue, Ken Jennings’ highlight and testimonial reel that is guaranteed to tug at your heart strings, James Holzhauer playfully antagonizing Brad Rutter after one of Holzhauer’s correct responses involved Rutter’s home state and the conspicuous rise in question difficulty, which also included some of the less popular and harder categories like Triple Rhyme Time and Before During & After.
The two key moments that truly defined Game 1 were without a doubt Brad Rutter’s triple-whammy, all-in Daily Double losses in both Double Jeopardy! rounds and Ken Jennings’ huge sigh of relief upon answering the second Final Jeopardy! answer correctly.
Despite unwittingly teaming with Jennings to shutout Holzhauer from selecting any of the Daily Double clues and answering his first Daily Double correctly to briefly double his first half first round total to $3,600, it was all downhill from there. From that point, Rutter incorrectly answered three consecutive true Daily Doubles throughout the course of the game. It was tough to watch his confidence wither when a case of déjà vú reared in its ugly head as he picked a Daily Double at the start of both Double Jeopardy rounds and lost everything on both attempts, virtually knocking him out of contention to win the first game. The Daily Doubles will be the true game changers in this tournament and it wouldn’t surprise me one iota if we were to see six straight true Daily Doubles in future games considering the championship caliber competition.
Speaking of championship caliber competition, at the end of the second Final Jeopardy! round after Alex Trebek notified Jennings his response “What is Shoemaker?” was the correct one, Jennings acted as if he was Atlas taking the gargantuan weight of the world off of his shoulders as his mood switched from stoic and serious to smiley and spirited. Once the final combined scores were revealed that Jennings had bested his opponent Holzhauer 63,400 points to 63,200 to win his first of three games, I don’t blame him one bit for being as unnerved as he was.
The next few days are guaranteed to be filled with tougher questions, riskier Daily Doubles, more daunting and frustrating categories, more fiery competition and even more nail-biting moments that will involuntarily make you say WOW. I think it’s safe to say this event has satisfied and exceeded everyone’s expectation so far. Stay tuned for the rest of the week and possibly next week for the Jeopardy! GOAT Tournament!