I’m a “Jeopardy!” nerd.
As a kid, my dad and I used to “battle” during airings of the game show post-dinner. Though I rarely knew the answers, it was fun to challenge myself — and pretend like I could “win.” Everyone knows the thrill of getting a clue correctly when the answer is so random and far-flung. Your family or spouse look at you in amazement, raising an eyebrow at your vast and underappreciated knowledge.
I’ll take Smug Satisfaction for $1,000, Alex.
When Spencer and I got word that “Jeopardy!” would be coming to Washington, D.C., for its Teen Tournament and Power Players Week, we were pumped — until we realized you had to find a certain venue at which to pick up ticket applications, wait to see if you’d be randomly selected, so on and so forth. I’m kind of lazy and don’t like jumping through hoops — even for Alex Trebek.
Lo and behold, the “Jeopardy!” fates still wanted my sluggish self to attend . . . because a friend happened to get two sets of tickets. My dad got wind of the extra pair and claimed them for us. And that’s how we wound up headed downtown at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday.
I’m not going to lie to you: I wasn’t sure what kind of game show addicts we were going to encounter. Though I’m not embarrassed by my “Jeopardy!” obsession, I didn’t really think it was, like . . . A Thing. A thing that other people equally enjoy. I guess some quick Googling would have proven no show stays on the air for 28 years without maintaining a certain level of popularity, but sometimes the most obvious things elude me.
We were in the audience for two tapings of Power Players Week: an episode featuring Chris Matthews, Lizzie O’Leary and Robert Gibbs; and a second with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dana Perino and David Faber. The contestants did reasonably well, considering what a nerve-wracking experience that must be. I mean, I was secondhand anxious just sitting in the audience. Matthews and Abdul-Jabbar — arguably the “biggest” celebs competing — had the toughest time with the clues. But maybe that’s no coincidence.
I like pretending to be mysterious, so I’m not going to tell you who won; you’ll just have to tune into “Jeopardy!” the week of May 14-18 to get the scoop. (Or, you know, do some Googling. It’s probably out there somewhere.)
Regardless of who actually took home the $50,000 for charity, attending the tapings was really exciting. A special D.C.-themed set featuring the Lincoln Memorial was constructed for the event, and Spencer and I enjoyed geeking out with the rest of the audience when Alex Trebek took the stage. The amount of hootin’ and hollerin’ for the host briefly rivaled the attention Zac Efron might expect.
After the contestants went through a practice round with a member of “Jeopardy!”‘s clue crew, the actual game began. Players completed the regular “Jeopardy” and “Double Jeopardy” rounds, pausing in between for commercial breaks. I was shocked that, for a show that wasn’t live, these breaks were actually . . . breaks. The makeup crew would come out and make sure everyone looked good; Trebek stepped away from the podium, walking out to speak with the audience. Between rounds, Trebek fielded audience questions about topics as diverse as “Do you have any pets?” and “What’s your favorite D.C. monument?”
My favorite response came to the question, “If you were on the show as a contestant, how would you do?” I mean, what devotee hasn’t wondered that at some point or other? Trebek gets to stand there, smug as a bug with all the answers, while the good people of the world take a stab at completely off-the-wall clues. Am I right? Well, Trebek’s good-natured response was that he’d “do well” against members of his own age bracket (That’s “80- and 90-year-olds,” he joked), but a savvy 30-year-old would “clean his clock.”
“I have more senior moments than you would believe,” he said.
For a dedicated (or even casual!) fan, the D.C. taping was a really unique experience. Waiting for the event to get underway, I actually felt like I was at a rock concert. The audience was buzzing with anticipation, but everyone was quiet and respectful during filming. Seeing all the behind-the-scenes action gave me a new appreciation for the game show and Trebek himself, and I’m stoked the tickets fell serendipitously into our laps.