Tony Griffin once described his father as a visionary with a love for business. Merv Griffin (1925-2007) was a visionary, an entertainer, and an entrepreneur. He was always seeing new opportunities, and always taking new risks; he made a huge impact in the television and entertainment, in horse racing, and in real estate.
During his life Merv Griffin started many business ventures and enjoyed success in multiple sectors, but today we honor him for his contribution to game shows. Griffin is the creator of Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune, and Merv Griffin's Crosswords.
Griffin created and produced Jeopardy! in 1964 after his wife came up with an idea for a game show where the question and answer part of the show was switched so the constants gave the questions. Griffin developed this idea and took his concept to NBC. The network bought the show without seeing a pilot episode. The original Jeopardy! ran for 11 years and was hosted by Art Fleming.
When NBC canceled the show in 1975, Griffin produced the shows successor Wheel of Fortune. Like Jeopardy!, the show enjoyed modest success with Chuck Woolery and Susan Stafford as hosts.
Both shows became huge successes once they reached syndication, Jeopardy! in 1984 with Alex Trebek as host and Wheel of Fortune in 1983 with Pat Sajak and Vana White as hosts. These are the two most successful game shows in television syndicated history.
Griffin sold his production company, Merv Griffin Enterprises for $250 million to Columbia Pictures upon his retirement in 1986. That year, Forbes Magazine listed Griffin as the richest Hollywood performer in history. Not only did Griffin create these shows, he also wrote the theme song for Jeopardy!, still used today, and wrote the theme music "Changing Keys" used by Wheel of Fortune from 1983-2000.
Griffin was developing a new syndicated game show through Merv Griffin Entertainment when he became ill in 2007. Merv Griffin's Crosswords was in its first week of production when Griffin died. He is listed as the shows creator and posthumously as the executive producer.
Today, Griffin is celebrated as a hero of capitalism for the entertainment his shows bring to millions of people every night, for his keen business sense, for his clear, distinctive, and specific goals for the future, and for his love of game shows. Celebrating the other great gifts Griffin has given to us through being an entrepreneur will have to wait for another day, for they are numerous.
Merv.com - About Merv
MSNBC Entertainment - Merv Griffin, 82, dies of prostate cancer
Wikipedia - Merv Griffin
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