Thanks, Weird Al, for giving me this lifelong earworm. Of course, I have only myself to blame, me and my crazy affection for Jeopardy. Well, my mom gets a lot of the credit. Mom was a big fan of Jeopardy in the 60s and 70s and, using the plinking notes for Final Jeopardy as accompaniment, she’d sing, “I love you and I love you. I love you and I! Love you-ou-ou-ou…” It became a family song. On my wedding day, I surprised my mom with a mother/daughter dance – the dj had barely begun playing the Final Jeopardy music and onto the dance floor she came, already bopping to the beat and laughing with her arms wide open. And we danced and sang again. O Jeopardy Joy!
That first run of Jeopardy went off the air after the mid-70s but the show was brought back into syndication in 1984 with Alex Trebek at the helm. A persnickety host who seemed somewhat dry and humorless at first (and still does in so many of those awkward interviews with the contestants), Trebek has mellowed with time and become one with the show. And let’s face it, it’s a persnickety show. But it’s fun to watch and play along at home. It’s a nightly Trivial Pursuit game and everyone gets the chance to answer, well, that is to answer by posing your reply in the form of a question, of course. Which is only slightly less tricky than controlling the signaling device, apparently.
Over the years, Jeopardy has branched out and created segmented tournaments: Teen Jeopardy, College Jeopardy, and my favorite, Celebrity Jeopardy. It’s been a bit of a surprise to see which celebrities are the Jeopardy ballers. Michael McKean is the top celebrity winner, the most successful on the show, winning over one million dollars for his charity. What would Squiggy think of his buddy Lenny now? I remember watching the late Jerry Orbach play brilliantly years ago when he won big. Talk about range: From the crooning French candelabra Lumiere to the dad in Dirty Dancing to the hardened city cop on Law & Order, was there anything Orbach couldn’t do? His only bad move was putting Baby in the corner. Even Aaron Rodgers proved his mettle; Green Bay Packer star quarterback by day, Jeopardy star by night! We had a local celebrity as well. One of our high school’s English teachers competed in the Teacher Tournament last year and handily won his first appearance. Giddy excitement around here! His 15 minutes were dashed in the semifinals, however, as he was bested by a quick-witted science teacher – a master of both content and signaling device.
Jeopardy has also produced its own celebrities, as any fan of the show could tell you. Ken Jennings is the most famous of all, with the most consecutive wins. Julia Collins was a pleasure to watch as she became the winningest female. And then there’s the infamous Arthur Chu, who played with reckless intent, hopscotching around the board in search of the elusive yet lucrative Daily Double, pissing off millions of Jeopardy fans and offending their collective OCD sensibilities in the process.
For a different kind of celebrity, Jeopardy has taken up temporary residence here in my home city of Washington, DC, this week. Instead of movie and tv stars, contestants are news anchors, politicians and columnists. Power and influence, movers and shakers. Lobbyists, pundits and staffers, oh my! What a relief it will be to see these people talking about something else besides the election.
Sadly, I lost on Jeopardy. When my husband and I were dating, he was pretty amused by my Jeopardy fascination. So much so that he scored an audition for me for my birthday one year. I was going to be on Jeopardy! Well, on the Jeopardy set! Well, in the Jeopardy studio! Ok, ok, I was going to TRY to be on Jeopardy. Gulp. Sure, Jeopardy is easy at home but obviously a bit tougher at try-outs. I didn’t even make it past the first round. Trebek was nowhere in sight. But, as I was surrounded by dozens of like-minded Jeopardy geeks with silly grins on our faces, I noticed we all had something in common: Total entertainment and delight trying to figure out the questions to some of the most obscure answers ever. What is Jeopardy?