‘Jeopardy!’ Man Vs. Machine, Day 3: Watson Wins As Ratings Soar

by | February 17, 2011 at 1:04 PM | TV News

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UPDATED: The third and final day of “Jeopardy’s” Man vs. Supercomputer faceoff gave the quiz show another boost in the ratings. The Wednesday show — in which human “Jeopardy” champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter went down in defeat against the IBM superbrain named Watson — scored a 9.1 rating, according to data provided Thursday by Sony Pictures Television, the show’s syndicator. The number was far and above the show’s average for last February (7.0) but not as high as the 9.5 the show scored on Day Two of the “IBM Challenge” on Tuesday.

PREVIOUSLY: All hail Watson!

Though human genius Ken Jennings mounted a stiff defense of his species Wednesday, the IBM supercomputer named Watson won the final “Jeopardy!” faceoff between Man and Machine.

It was the second full game played between Watson, Jennings and fellow “Jeopardy!” champion Brad Rutter since this special “IBM Challenge” event began on Monday. Wednesday’s show managed to fit in an entire, standard, three-round “Jeopardy!” game, while Game One stretched over two days to allow for viewers to become acclimated to this unusual contest pitting the world’s most advanced electronic brain against the planet’s most gifted “Jeopardy!” players.

Supercomputer Is New Superstar as “Jeopardy!” Ratings Rise

For most of Tuesday’s show, the contest was really no contest as Watson nearly shut out his flesh-and-blood competitors as he tore through the Double Jeopardy board. But on Wednesday, Watson faltered. The computer failed to buzz in for long stretches, while Jennings (and to a lesser extent, Rutter) racked up correct answers. And when Watson did buzz in, he sometimes gave answers that were surprisingly far off the mark.

For example, for one Daily Double question in a category headed “Nonfiction” (on which Watson wagered one of his unusual sums – $2,127), Watson’s answer made no sense. The clue was: “The New Yorker’s 1959 review of this said in its brevity & clarity it is ‘unlike most such manuals, a book as well as a tool’.” The answer turned out to be: “What is ‘The Elements of Style’?” But Watson answered, “Who is Dorothy Parker?”

Man vs. Machine, Day 2: Humans Suffer Crushing Blow

But by the time Wednesday’s Double Jeopardy round was over, Watson was ahead with $23,440; Jennings was in second place with $18,200; and Rutter had just $5,600. Nevertheless, all three gave the correct answer in final “Jeopardy!” but Watson still won by a wide margin.

The Final Jeopardy clue, in the category of “19th Century Authors,” as read by host Alex Trebek: “William Wilkinson’s ‘An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia’ inspired this author’s most famous novel.” The answer was: “Who is [“Dracula” author] Bram Stoker?”

And, unlike the night before, when Watson wagered just $947 in Final Jeopardy, the computer bet $17,973 on Wednesday to win with $41,413. Jennings finished second with $19,200 and Rutter came in third with $11,200.

Jennings broke long-standing “Jeopardy!” protocol when he wrote a joking editorial comment under his “Bram Stoker” answer in Final Jeopardy. He wrote: “I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords.”

Well, “Jeopardy!” fans don’t have to welcome them. On Thursday, the show returns to its traditional, all-human format.

Watch Watson Whip Some Butt on “Jeopardy!”

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