(NEXSTAR) — Art Fleming, who hosted the first few iterations of “Jeopardy!” between 1964 and 1979, was not a fan of how the producers changed the show’s gameplay for subsequent versions.
He also wasn’t shy about letting people know.
In an interview on “Later” with Bob Costas in the early ‘90s, Fleming said the newer version — hosted by Alex Trebek — wasn’t his cup of tea, despite his approval of Trebek’s performance.
“Well, it’s a different show,” he told Costas. “It’s still one of the best shows, game shows, on television. But there are three things that I just cannot fathom.”
Among them, Fleming said he thought the clues had gotten much easier.
“They say that it’s difficult, and to me that’s laughable,” said Fleming, who claimed he “bumped into” one of the show’s producers and said as much to his face.
On top of that, the original version of “Jeopardy!” allowed contestants to buzz in at any time, rather than being forced to wait for Trebek to read the entire clue. This, too, sat badly with Fleming.
“I would say, ‘The answer is, “He was the first…’” and they would buzz in!” said Fleming, who claimed he preferred this method of gameplay because it resulted in more wrong responses, and therefore a more exciting game.
“It’s changed the pace of the game,” he said.
Finally, Fleming said he had a problem with the prizes. In the original version, contestants were allowed to keep whatever cash they had accumulated throughout the game, no matter if they finished first, second or third. But in the early ‘90s, consolation prizes for the second-and third-place finishers included various merchandise provided by the sponsors. (Today, the second-and third-place contestants are awarded $2,000 and $1,000, respectively.)
“You could be in second place, one dollar away from the lead, and you get a year’s supply of dog food… It’s kinda chintzy,” Fleming said.
Despite Fleming’s issues, he told Costas he was proud of his tenure on the show. He also took great pleasure in meeting fans who assumed he was some sort of trivia buff. But when Costas asked if Fleming thought he could be a “Jeopardy!” champion himself, Fleming was quick to admit he had “lost drastically” the few times he played along.
“If I didn’t have that sheet in front of me, you wouldn’t find me within a mile of that studio,” he said.