Jeopardy! December 15, 2015Posted by Rusty in Uncategorized.
So I was recently selected to appear on Jeopardy and my first episode is scheduled to air on January 21. Do not ask how I did. The worst case scenario is winning a thousand bucks and I am not going to risk a thousand bucks to satisfy your curiosity.
(Well, winning a thousand bucks after flying to LA and back and three nights at a hotel. Let’s just say the worst case scenario is grossing a thousand bucks.)
I will tell everyone what filming an episode is like. You get picked up at a local hotel at 7am, meaning East Coasters had a bit of an advantage here. 7am Pacific is 10am America.
They film five episodes a day and have two alternates there just in case. No one knows who the alternates are as all episodes are randomly drawn. There are apparently some episodes where they have locals who can drive in serve as alternates, but we didn’t have that for our taping.
We did have co-champions because of all the rescheduling around Alex Trebek’s knee surgery. I was supposed to be on a month ago, and all of my showmates were in the same boat. We also had two former alternates who were guaranteed to get on that day. One was formerly a local alternate, the other had the bad luck to be there for Matt Jackson’s huge run. That guy’s name was also Matt. Two people with the same name are not allowed on stage together.
You get there at 7:15 and fill out paperwork. For the next ten hours you’re hanging out with your competition. Our group of 12 (10 of whom were shuttled in together) were stuck in a room together for the whole time so of course we all ended up rooting for each other. That was the most surprising thing to me. When you are watching these people on stage you are rooting for them to get every answer right. You want everyone to win. There was one guy in our group that, uh, we didn’t really like. But we were rooting for him too.
(Of course, on stage, it’s the opposite. The negative vibes I sent my opponent when she got a Daily Double…)
So you get the rules explained to you and they even go over strategy. They specifically tell you to hunt for Daily Doubles if there’s less than a minute left in a round or to go after the big money clues. They ask you to shorten categories (Don’t say, “2015 In Memorium.” Say, “2015.”) so we can get to everything. They even reminded contestants that jumping around the board is fair game.
One question I got a lot is whether I was told what to study. No, they don’t tell you what categories you’re going to get. It’s random. No hints. Luck comes into play there. There was one game I didn’t take part in where I was superconfident I would have won a ton of money (and that was before no one got Final Jeopardy right). There was another game I didn’t take part in where I would have gotten destroyed. That’s what makes the Matt Jacksons, Arthur Chus, Julia Collinses, and the Ken Jenningses so impressive.
Oh, another question that comes up: The Buzzer. Is the buzzer annoying? Yes! It is! Especially at first when the defending champion has that in-game experience. They do have rehearsals with the buzzer, but it’s different when the lights are on and its Alex Trebek reading to you, ready to pounce if you do something stupid. They asked a $1,000 question about one of my favorite horror movies and someone else beat me to it. That feels TERRIBLE. It feels like your whole life has been coming to THIS MOMENT and someone else usurped it.
But… I also buzzed in when I could feel my opponents trying to do the same. That feels great. It feels like finding a $100 bill on the ground. All this money up for grabs and they gave it to me!
Another fun game thing that people don’t know is that you actually have unlimited amount of time to make a Final Jeopardy wager. So when you see someone screw that up, it’s really unforgivable. Except I screwed it up. I effed up my math twice. It’s only addition and subtraction, but under the lights, around makeup people and tech guys putting up barriers and the sound guy checking your mic and ARRRRGGGHHHH. Here’s how bad it was: I forgot how to carry the one.
(My screwup did not affect the outcome of that game which is either really good or really bad, so I don’t mind letting you know I screwed it up.)
The whole show still takes 20-30 minutes and there are other fun behind the scenes things happening. Like, does Alex Trebek ever screw up a question? Sure! All the time! He pronounced Don Juan as Don Jew-Ahn. They just rerecord him during the commercial breaks. There was one question where he said “Ireland” instead of “island.” Bad news when the answer to the question (or more accurately the question to the answer) is “Ireland.” They scrubbed it and replaced it with a different clue.
If you’re not on TV, you’re in the audience watching with everyone else. You’re actually sequestered which means no cell phones and you can’t go to the bathroom without an escort. Someone was watching me while I hit up the Sony cafeteria salad bar. I was sitting across from my fiancee, brother, and sister-in-law and we were told not to make eye contact with each other. I low-fived my brother when he came in during a rehearsal and he got in trouble.
After my run was over (SPOILER: I did not win the seven straight games necessary to make me defending champion going into the next game), I just called my family down and we left for drinks. God, did I need those drinks. Our group of 12 featured one smoker, one vaper, and four ex-smokers. Everyone wanted cigarettes. One person who had never smoked before said she wanted a cigarette. We were happy, friendly, soaking it in. But we were so nervous.
Finally, the thing I’m most interested in now is how I came off on TV. I was surprised to see our backstage alpha, the woman who was everyone’s favorite, on stage. She, in my opinion, came off as cold, quiet, and humorless. I can vouch for her. She was none of those things. The guy I didn’t like that much? He came off fine. I do know that my introduction smile was incredibly creepy. I looked at the monitors when they were doing the THIS IS…JEOPARDY! intros and what did I see? A fucking Jeopardy logo! I couldn’t see when I was supposed to smile. My family saw. They said I muffed it.
Win or lose, I was on Jeopardy. I have a very achievable bucket list. Get married to someone I love. I’m engaged. Don’t need to be rich, but need to be comfortable. When I started Lifetime, Wow! I was making less than 30K in a very expensive city. I’m a public health official now and even though I wouldn’t say no to more money, I am comfortable. Someday I want to raft the Upper Gauley river in West Virginia. It’s supposedly brutal, but I think after multiple Lower Gauley runs, I’m ready. And I’ve always wanted to be on Jeopardy. Once I got the call, I have tried avoiding the trap that my goal was winning Jeopardy. Or winning five Jeopardies to qualify for the Tournament of Champions. My goal was to be on, so, win or lose, I did it.
HEY! IT’S THAT GUY!: 2
I am giving this a couple of points because I hold myself in high regard. I don’t think my opponents are going to become super famous. I did go toe-to-toe with a veterinarian specializing in shark’s blood. That’s pretty metal.
I am going to assume that any question my female opponents got that I didn’t know was because of their women’s intuition. Very Lifetimey. Also, more importantly, Alex Trebek may have asked me about a certain Lifetime review blog…
GRAND TOTAL: 26
Not quite as good as the best Lifetime movie, but pretty darn special to me. Please watch my first episode on January 21.