The idea for "Jeopardy!" came out of a quiz show industry mired in scandal going into the 1960s. Merv Griffin, a TV host and actor, was looking for a new game format that would stand out as different and honest. His wife, Julann, came up with the reversed format while they were flying back to New York from a family vacation, and the rest became history.
In the 1950s game shows were rocked by scandal. Shows such as "The $64,000 Question" routinely rigged results, and the truth was hidden from the public. When the scandals broke into the limelight, Congress created a law disallowing game show fixing. By then, most of the networks had pulled what was left of their flagging shows.
Years later, in 1963, Merv Griffin was flying back from a family vacation in Michigan with his wife, Julann. They were brainstorming a game show for a new era when she suggested Merv give the contestants the answers, from which they would have to form questions. It was a simple but radical idea.
Merv and Julann practiced and refined the show's format in their dining room, and they eventually settled on the title "What's the Question?" When they pitched the show to NBC, executives worried that it would be too difficult, but the network bought it regardless.
"Jeopardy!" debuted in 1964 with host Art Fleming. It quickly became the most popular daytime show ever, and its overall format has never changed during its 50-year lifespan that continues to this day.
As for the name? Merv Griffin scrapped "What's the Question?" after a network executive remarked that the game didn't "haven't enough jeopardies." And with that, a star was born.