Forget about the Rumble in the Jungle. Beginning this week on Jeopardy!, it's all about the Quest for Ken.
Ever since Murray, Utah, software engineer Ken Jennings became a national sensation last year by winning more than $2.5 million on the game show, Jeopardy! viewers and previous winners have been gunning for a superstar play-off. "The whole [Ken] phenomenon reminded people what a terrific format [this game] is," says Jeopardy! executive producer Harry Friedman. "It brought viewers back."
The 15-week Super Tournament, which kicks off this Wednesday, will feature nearly 150 former champions from as far away as Thailand and Sarajevo to compete for a shot at the $2 million prize. "Once the excitement of the competition is in your blood, it doesn't leave," Freidman notes. "Nobody seemed to care how much money [they'd win], even though that's an added bonus. When asked about [his availability] dates, one [former contestant] said to us, 'Every day except this day because I'm getting married — but I can change the wedding date if I have to!'"
The past winners will battle each other until May. Then the top two will go up against Jennings in the final round. "Maybe we'll be able to satisfy a lot of viewers and former contestants who keep wondering, 'What if?' I don't know if we'll completely or conclusively answer that question, but we'll try."