Monday, February 28, 2011

This... Is... Jeopardy!

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

With the premiere of Watson, the IBM computer, as a contestant two weeks ago, I thought that it would be cool to write about Jeopardy! this week. I've posted about this particular game show a few times before, notably writing about its life as a long-running series, and a particular episode where I could've potentially won quite a bit of money. I've always loved Jeopardy!, since I was six or seven years old. I loved the game for NES, and I had the SEGA one as well. For a while I watched both Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune regularly, but now I just catch it if I'm home and bored at 7pm, or if that's the channel that's on at the gym. Anyway, back to the purpose at hand...

Brief history: Merv Griffin, known as a master at creating gameshows, created Jeopardy! in 1964. It was his wife who originally shared the idea with him, thinking that it would be more interesting to make contestants come up with the question to which they were given an answer. NBC bought the show without even seeing a pilot! It ran from 1964 to 1975, then was revived in 1978 for another year. However, the syndicated version that we know today began in 1984, and is nearing 27 years old. 

The game: There's a Jeopardy round, then Double Jeopardy (prize values are doubled), then Final Jeopardy. There's almost always a defending champion at the stage right podium. You must phrase your response in the form of a question (although Alex will let you get away with it once at the beginning if you forget). You win the prize value if you answer correctly, and your score is deducted by that amount if you answer wrong or don't say anything before the five-second time limit is up. There are Daily Double spaces on the board where a contestant can wager between $5 and the top prize value for that round. True-blue Jeopardy! players say "True Daily Double" and go all-or-nothing (the way, in my opinion, it should be done... and the way I usually play it in any Jeopardy!-esque game).

There are six categories in each of the first two rounds, usually on blue screens. If you have less than $1 at the end of the second round, you get eliminated and don't get to play Final Jeopardy. In Final Jeopardy, like Daily Doubles, you choose your wager... only it can be anything, including $0. You get to hear the category before wagering, just like in Daily Doubles. Alex reads the question, and you scribble down your answer, and then you find out who got it right or wrong. If there's a tie for first place, those contestants are considered co-champions, each gets to keep his winnings, and each will appear again.

Notable changes to the way the game is played: The values of the squares have changed through the years. I'm not even sure when it happened, but one day I turned it on and everything was double what it was when I was a kid, LoL! They also had red backgrounds in Double Jeopardy for a while, but that didn't last.

Special contestants: There have been many types of special contestants, including college games, high school games, and celebrity games. In celebrity games, they still play Final Jeopardy even if they have less than $1 to work with. Champions are awarded a flight allowance for subsequent appearances (like Tournaments of the Champions) but otherwise no travel or lodging accommodations are given to players. Oh, and let's not forget the newest special contestant, the IBM supercomputer, Watson. Many people associate the name "Ken Jennings" with Jeopardy! right after Alex Trebek because of Jennings' VERY long run on the show. However, he isn't the biggest winner ever, due to the tournaments and stuff, which is interesting. The most-winnings award currently goes to Brad Rutter. 

Favorite Rounds: In this case, I'm going with favorite categories. I'd have to say that I really enjoy the musical categories, the biblical topics, and the geography questions the best. I tend to be pretty bad at the ones where all you know is the number of letters, and I'm not great at the ones where they just give you the starting letter. I'd love to say I like the history questions, but I am better at listening to them than I am at guessing them, LoL.

My take: I'd jump at the chance to be on Jeopardy!. I haven't tried out or anything (I know plenty of people who have, and one person who has been on the show), but maybe someday. I'm kinda fearful because there are a lot of categories that I'd be awful at - like movies, actors, directors (I know next to NOTHING about directors), poetry, European literature, fashion, and ancient art. But, I do know a lot about other categories, LoL!

Do you watch Jeopardy!? What categories do you hope to see, or hope not to see? Would you go on it?
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