What we learned from the wild first night of ‘Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time’

 James Holzhauer, Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter on "Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time."
James Holzhauer, left, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time” on ABC.
(Eric McCandless / ABC)

The biggest TV event in the history of “Jeopardy” kicked off Tuesday with its first match, and it was, as promised, must-see TV.

The long-running series’ top-earners — James Holzhauer, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter — faced off in “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time,” a battle of super wits in prime time, hosted by the beloved Alex Trebek. One walked away with a win for the night, but he’ll need to best his opponents in two more matches to score the grand prize of $1 million.

Especially in light of host Alex Trebek’s health woes, the “Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time” tournament is an ideal time to appreciate a TV institution.

It was a night of buzzer-beaters, ambitious bets, stunning losses and lots of correct answers — or, questions. Here are three of the game’s standout moments.


Jennings comes out on top

Though all three contestants have had banner “Jeopardy” runs in their own right, Jennings is technically the highest-paid participant (in regular-season play) and game champion of all time, with $2.5 million and 74 wins. And he defended his titles valiantly on Tuesday, coming away with the grand total of the night: $63,400.

Holzhauer narrowly came in second at $63,200, but it was Jennings who answered the most questions correctly throughout the two-game match with his signature prodigious flare. And viewers at home definitely noticed, with Twitter dubbing him “king” as well as “the next host of #Jeopardy.”

Alex Trebek discusses “Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time,” his cancer treatments, his legacy and more at the Television Critics’ Assn. press tour in Pasadena.

Trebek gently owns Rutter

While Jennings’ and Holzhauer’s genius duel was peak entertainment, it was amateur hour for Rutter, who — despite collecting the most money of anyone (including tournaments), with more than $4 million in his “Jeopardy” career — fell quickly and far behind his opponents.

In one sad water-cooler moment, Rutter wagered all $3,800 he had in the bank on a Daily Double: “Born in New Orleans, Louis Armstrong performed songs named for two local ‘B’ streets.” As if guessing wrong and losing the entirety of his relatively meager winnings weren’t humiliating enough, Trebek really put him to shame with his downcast reaction.

“What are Bourbon and Beale?” Rutter asked after a long, uncertain pause.

“I thought you’d say that,” the host replied gently. “That’s incorrect. It’s Basin. ‘Basin Street Blues.’ ”

Holzhauer also managed to squeeze in a dig at Rutter after beating him to the buzzer during the game. Much less subtle than Trebek, Holzhauer took a second to laugh and point at his opponent before providing the correct response.

“Ha-ha. What is Philadelphia?”

Ha-ha. Ouch.

“No need to rub it in,” Rutter replied, jokingly(?).

‘Final Jeopardy’ gets a new theme song

New year, new “Jeopardy” theme! Well, not entirely new.

During the first “Final Jeopardy” round, the show debuted an upbeat remix of its classic tune. You know the one: “Doo doo doo doo, doo doo doo.” Except, this time, it sounded like more of a mashup of Merv Griffin’s original “Think” and the stress-inducing, high-speed instrumental that marks the final lap in “Mario Kart.”

Reactions on social media were mixed, but fans can probably expect the fresh track to return for Match 2 on Wednesday night.