An early favorite to win Jeopardy! on a rainy day in New York was taken off the air last night after producers of the quiz show discovered he had played the answer wrong in the Final Jeopardy question and scored a disappointing $1,000.
Jimmy Hilliard, 40, a horticulturalist from Derry, wrote in an email to Associated Press that he did indeed ask the question wrong.
“It was an odd question to ask and a very unusual answer, but Jeopardy loves to get a little outside of the norm. I guess it was really just a case of being thrown a little curveball. That is, if you can keep that one up,” he wrote.
Jeopardy producers said in a statement that “it is disappointing when contestants lack the knowledge or character to continue.”
“Given that Jimmy fell short of our high standards for this show, we have disqualified him from the competition,” it said.
Jeff Newman, a Jeopardy! spokesman, declined to say which clue had taken Hilliard out of the competition.
Known on set as a 6-foot-8 former high school basketball player, Hilliard began by finding the answer to that Final Jeopardy question, What is the city of Rome that led to a modern-day capital?
“I had to look it up myself and then brought it to the chair,” he told WFAA in Dallas. “Then I just started with a short rundown of dates, and then it was just quicker for me to go further back, and I just kept going.”
Hilliard admitted to WFAA that he didn’t know the answer to another Final Jeopardy question, What is the definition of capital cities in 44 nations?
“I came to the conclusion that I had no clue, so I said go ahead and fill it in and hope for the best and that’s what they did,” he said.
Jeopardy! airs weekdays from 4-7pm in Dallas and other time zones, with the final five competitors in the running each week.
If he wins the final round, Hilliard will be one of only three Dallas-area residents with a shot at the game show’s grand prize of $1 million.
Recent winners in the region are Greg Koch, a retired office manager from Richardson, and Linda Voss, an insurance claims adjuster from Carrollton.
Voss and Koch were the last two contestants standing after Tuesday’s broadcast.