Jeopardy Pt. 5: Postmortem

Finally, here we are - theme music, applause, Johnny Gilbert reminds us all that THIS is “Jeopardy,” Trebek struts out from parts unknown. I sweat like a bastard, wind up $1400 in the hole right away.

I can tell you that I honestly thought Tim said something other than “Pekingese.” 

I can tell you that “SOFIA COPPOLA” was sitting on my stupid fucking tongue during that whole interminable three seconds or so. 

I can tell you, basically, that the perspective of the at-home “Jeopardy” viewer is completely useless when it comes to the reality of playing the game itself, and the only way you can possibly understand this is to appear on “Jeopardy.” Baseball nerds like me bristle at the assumption, put forth by various major leaguers over the years, that unless you can swing a bat you can’t understand the game. But now, a little bit more than before, I can kinda see their point. You second-guess yourself every time you open your mouth. Sometimes you open your mouth and nothing comes out at all.

Read more
Jeopardy Pt. 4: Gameday

Watching “Jeopardy” from the studio audience turns out to be sort of like that Kim Mitchell video where the whole band is playing inside the fridge. Everything’s identical to the show you’ve seen a million times - same cadences, same graphics and music, all the cues and blocking are instantly recognizable - but at Stonehenge scale. The video wall is a looming grid of plasma screens 20 feet away; I’m half-blind in one eye, but I can read clues perfectly from anywhere in the room (a prerequisite if you want to be able to buzz in exactly as Trebek finishes the answer). Trebek emerges from behind a Plexiglas scrim, walking with his familiar gait. It’s a shock to finally see him. 

Read more

Two relatively simple misconceptions about “Jeopardy” that I’d like to formally clear up, once and for all:

  1. "Jeopardy" does not, in fact, provide a cram sheet or any other kind of study guide. When it comes to preparing for the show, you’re on your own.
  2. "Jeopardy" does not, in fact, pay for you to go to California to appear on the show. When it comes to getting to LA, you’re on your own.

(Okay, sidebar: rather than the fabulous parting gifts you might expect, “Jeopardy” gives its second- and third-place finishers $2000 and $1000, respectively, which serve as a de facto reimbursement for the cost of your trip. Still - nobody, regardless of how they do on the show, gets a check until 90-120 days after their airdate. None of us will see anything until July or August.)

Lucky I travel 200 nights a year for work, right? So I was able to put together some miles and points and defray some of the cost of the trip, only whiffing in my choice of a Hilton property based on proximity to Culver City rather than quality. (“How bad could a Hilton possibly be?” I wondered aloud in the days before the trip. Well, pretty bad, if it’s the Hilton LAX. Shoulda stayed at the Checkers.)

Read more
Jeopardy Pt. 2: Backstory

When you decide you want to be on “Jeopardy,” this is roughly how it works: you take an online test, which they offer every January. Fifty questions, Flash-based. It’s mostly general knowledge, trending more to the purely trivial. (“Pure trivia” is one of those semi-pejorative pieces of “Jeopardy” jargon that you only become familiar with when you venture down the rabbit hole; serious “Jeopardy” fans, in fact, tend to consider totally obscure recall-based answers to be a little below the show’s writing staff. For better or worse, though, this stage of the “Jeopardy” contestant search is all about herd-culling, so you’d better brush up on your batting champs and Friday night prime time network lineups if you don’t have this kind of eidetic ability.)

Read more
Jeopardy Pt. 1: A Few Words about Alex Trebek

I’m going to be on “Jeopardy” next Tuesday, April 12. I’ve been unable to really say very much about it for the last four and a half months (and I still can’t really talk in concrete terms about how I did), but over the course of the last few months I’ve been jotting down some notes about what happened, which I’d like to begin sharing with you now. Forgive me if I get really longwinded about this.

At this point, jeopardy.txt is pretty enormous, so I’m going to break it up into a few different, and hopefully spoiler-free, posts over the next few days. So as a means of introduction, let’s talk about the most interesting part of the whole experience by far: meeting Alex Trebek.

Here are some things you need to know about Alex Trebek:

1. The question “What is Trebek like?” - the question everybody immediately asks you when you’ve been on “Jeopardy,” in other words - is almost impossible to answer sincerely. The correct answer is, basically, “He seems nice.” You never really see Trebek outside the context of a live game. He’s in his dressing room changing his clothes between tapings. Five new suits, one for each game on a taping day. Nice suits. And “Jeopardy” producers make it absolutely clear that you’re forbidden from communicating with anyone during the taping day. Not your family or friends, who receive similar admonishment. Not the guys from the compliance company. Not Trebek.

Read more