Memo to Ken Jennings: Watch More 'Seinfeld

’It was a masterstroke in the marketing of the new Seinfeld DVDs. The boxed set of the first three Seinfeld seasons was launched in November by Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment—as opposed to Columbia TriStar Television, the company that produces Jeopardy!, which was enjoying banner ratings thanks to Ken Jennings’ astonishing run of victories. Why not piggyback on the game show with a major plug for the Seinfeld DVDs? Use Seinfeld catchphrases for categories, create a Seinfeld category featuring Seinfeld stars on videotape giving Seinfeldian clues. Even get Alex Trebek to mention the DVD release. Brilliant! When the Jeopardy! installment that Columbia TriStar chose for the stunt turned out to be the very one that saw Jennings finally lose—even better! That episode garnered the show’s best numbers in almost eight years, according to preliminary numbers, pulling in an estimated 18 million viewers.

But some Jeopardy! fans were left wondering: Did Columbia TriStar’s big push for Seinfeld have the unintentional effect of helping kill the contestant who laid the golden ratings egg? During his winning streak, Jennings made a practice of starting fast, building an insurmountable lead and then coasting through Final Jeopardy. On this night, though, he wobbled right from the beginning. Five of the first six clues came from the Seinfeld trivia category, and Jennings managed to answer only one correctly, for $400. He stumbled through the first round (nailing only two of five questions in the “No Soup for You” category), and, when Final Jeopardy rolled around, he was in the unaccustomed position of being vulnerable to the competition.