Viewers who missed out on the GOAT tournament should watch "because you’ll never have another chance to witness this particular alchemy again—in Jeopardy! or any other contest," says Brian Barrett. I’ll take HYPERBOLE for $800, you might be thinking. Fair. Every sport has an All-Star game. TV competitions like Survivor bring back favorites every few years. Even Jeopardy! held an All-Stars team tournament recently, its first ever, featuring not only GOAT competitors Jennings and Rutter but 16 fan favorites from the past few decades. The format's been done. Except not like this. If you follow Jeopardy! even casually, you’ve heard of (James) Holzhauer and (Ken) Jennings. After a barnstorming run last year, Holzhauer holds every consequential single-game Jeopardy! record in the books, and reshaped how future generations will play it. Jennings' 74-game win streak, meanwhile, has proven unapproachable, and he still holds the record for single-season Jeopardy! earnings. (Brad) Rutter may be less familiar to the uninitiated, but he’s won more money playing Jeopardy! than anyone alive, despite first appearing in the days when the show imposed a five-game cap on winners. Mount Rushmore makes for an easy comparison here, those three lumped together with Alex Trebek as their adjacent Lincoln.... Respect to all the other Jeopardy! greats—and there are plenty—but these really are the three undisputed best to have played the game. And now they can play one another, a rare opportunity in the world of elite competition." But there's a problem, says Barrett: age and time. "Yes, next year could bring a primetime rematch," he says. "Or maybe another Jeopardy! champion will emerge who puts Jennings, Holzhauer, and Rutter to shame. (This is … not likely.) But don’t settle for the rerun. There’s never been anything like the Jeopardy! GOAT. There never will be again."
Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time looked like a bad idea, but it's been a welcome surprise: "It’s really fun!" says Daniel D'Addario. "The tournament is obviously not what Jeopardy! itself is — the semi-egalitarian entity described above and still airing in syndicated daytime or early-evening TV. It’s, first, a suspension of the typical, like Monopoly played using unorthodox house rules or a substitute teacher letting you watch a movie instead of doing the lesson. And it’s a genuinely rollicking thrill to see players who are frankly too good at Jeopardy! to make the show watchable against normal competitors go up against one another. Everything about this Jeopardy! event seems maximalist — the fast-reaction buzzer moves, the wagers, the drama. And yet because all three participants have already been made wealthy (and because, perhaps more crucially, all are already legends within the game-show universe), the show feels pleasantly lower-stakes than the nightly version. Jokes can be exchanged between competitors; the contestant running a distant third, Brad Rutter, is at least presenting the image of being unbothered."
Why Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time is the king of low-stakes TV: "Jeopardy! is fun to watch because it’s a game show you feel like you can play and win," says Joshua Rivera. "And maybe you could! As a combination of trivia, gambling, and reflexes, it’s the perfect combination of things no one can truly be the best at — just the best in a given room. It’s also easy to overestimate your performance: trivia always feels easy because when you know an answer, you know. This also makes it easy to overestimate your own performance."
Executive producer Harry Friedman on coming up with the Greatest of All Time tournament: "We did debate a lot of different scenarios," he said. "ABC wanted each episode to be an hour. Two of our usual half-hour games could have worked. But we had to think in terms of energy and momentum. We had the advantage of a built-in format, the two-day final that we know works and that the players already understood from their own past experience. The most important thing was that we just wanted to make it fun, interesting, and competitive. And, of course, settle the question."