For those of you who feel a "game show" (a relatively loose term in the modern world) isn't worth watching unless there is some chance of scandalous drama transpiring, it's safe to say that Jeopardy! is not your perception of appointment television. Jeopardy! isn't quite as sexy as scantily clad twenty-somethings frolicking about the sandy beaches on Survivor. There is no chance (not even the most infinitesimal) of debaucheries including extra-marital affairs commencing during commercial breaks (oh how I long for the days of Temptation Island). On most nights, frankly, it's about as titillating as wielding a couple of sparklers on the 4th of July (as your neighbors break out the heavy artillery and commence 'shocking and awing' the neighborhood while you stand tethered to a five-gallon bucket of "emergency water," insisted upon by your dear mother, and attempt writing obscenities into thin air with two flaming sticks).
Instead of a loincloth or some other strategically placed fabric (covering any dangly bits that might have a mind of their own) Jeopardy! contestants don cheap suits, bifocals, hairpieces and too much makeup. Instead of potentially fondling a tall and gorgeous coed, they get to fondle a hand-held buzzer contraption for the better part of a half hour (they can get kind of lonely).
There are no tiki torches, no exorbitant prize-winnings (apart from that Ken Jennings lad who really wasn't from this planet anyway), no chance of walking away married following the postmodern version of a shotgun wedding, and no lecherous one-night affair with a television producer (soon to be unemployed as of sunrise).
If a cushy job such as an overpaid (and overlooked by the SEC) stockbroker on Wall Street is the equivalent to a coveted spot on The Bachelor, appearing on Jeopardy! is something like digging ditches on a quasi-chain gang in Mobile, Alabama (complete with corresponding minimum-wage remuneration). It isn't sexy. It isn't alluring. It isn't provocative. But regardless, if you're not watching you are indeed missing out on some of the most tantalizing television available this side of late night programming on Cinemax.
The two most entertaining minutes on television occur after the first commercial break of each episode of Jeopardy!, when contestants provide a personal anecdote that they have obviously been waiting to divulge to a national audience since they began lusting over that hand-held buzzer. These tales are advertised as ostensible truths, which seems accurate, as the panel of Jeopardy judges would certainly only allow for such a thing after conducting some rigorous and intrusive background checks made possible via the PATRIOT Act. Furthermore, they simply have to be true, because it makes this blog all the more relevant (to what, I don't know, but it's a personal dream of mine to have at least one blog be relevant to something).
Each episode of Jeopardy! provides three stories never before heard, and never to be heard again. Have you ever been hitchhiking in Barstow, California when a man picked you up and thought it necessary to expound upon his views of the sanctity of marriage? Don't you wish your life were so exciting!
But the story gets better. As they traversed the California countryside the driver told the hitchhiker that his staunch opposition to divorce included a caveat. As it turned out, the man had been married five times, and as he coyly reminisced about each of the lovely ladies' lives, he found it imperative to mention the minor detail that each one had died in a tragic accident. As he put it "I told my fifth wife I don't believe in divorce, but I do believe in boating accidents."
My first question for the Jeopardy! contestant/hitchhiker is: how on earth could you possibly sit on such a lovely narrative without spontaneously combusting? Some would say you have a duty to humanity to share this information (certainly with each and every married man who would undoubtedly use it as a guide in his own relationship).
Can you eat 10 donuts in an hour? How would you know if you never tried? A particular Jeopardy! contestant told the tale of her female friend who often consumed 10 donuts in one hour. With the likely reaction of most people, she let her curiosity overcome her and decided to give bulimia a whirl. As it turns out, she was only able to eat nine. Again, lovely story, but her friend suddenly seems far more seductive and worthy of appearing on Jeopardy. Anyone can eat nine donuts, sweetheart!
And such stories are never ending on Jeopardy!. Twas the night before Christmas and one contestant was being read children's holiday stories by George H. W. Bush. One woman owns six dancing ferrets with her husband (the jury's still out on the veracity of the husband bit, but as for the ferrets, a story like that has got to be true!). Another woman once asked George Clooney (the George Clooney) to present his ID when picking up some theatre tickets (it was her first day and she wasn't yet complacent enough to overlook rule number one in the employee handbook).
An unemployed law clerk decided an appearance on Jeopardy! was the perfect forum to announce that he was being evicted from his home and could really use a job (unfortunately for him more bad luck would ensue as he proceeded to have his rear-end handed to him by the two other contestants). One woman met her husband of 45 years in grade seven, but dated his best friend for four years until finally giving him a try (Hell no, I am not making this stuff up!).
Is anyone else experiencing fascination overload? And I haven't even touched upon the ravenous hippopotamuses that nearly feasted on a woman kayaking the Zambezi River, or the girl whose brother recommended listening to Queen's 'We Are The Champions' prior to taking the stage for Jeopardy (she didn't heed her brother's sage advice, but that doesn't make it any less of a damn good story)!
And you have to give Alex Trebek credit, because his focus is really something to behold. After three consecutive tales filled with captivating and surreal details, he cuts the segment off after two minutes and proceeds to Double Jeopardy without giving it a second thought: "Your father shot JFK and your mother had an affair with Lassie? Oh, time's up. OK, contestant number two, your turn, Oscar Winners or European History?"
One fellow went into great detail over what caused the scar on his foot (stop trying to guess--you're not going to get it). Of course it was a pretzel (clarified as being hard, not soft, thanks to Alex Trebek's inquisitiveness) that had somehow whittled itself into a shank that would pierce through the contestant's foot whilst walking along the beach on vacation with his family. The movie rights for this particular story have already been optioned.
And stop me if you've heard this one before, but a bartender walks into an apartment in the Netherlands and ends up being held captive against his will for several hours (who knew the Dutch were such a violent lot). Of course there is a perfectly rational explanation for such a thing, like the apartment being owned by drug dealers with guns who were convinced that the contestant was a cop (as it turns out, he was actually a traveling missionary spreading the word of the lord). What strikes me as curious about this story is the fact that A) the drug dealers welcomed him inside their apartment that happened to be overflowing with "tackle boxes full of drugs" and B) he didn't sample any of the products.
It might not be the most glamorous of television game show gigs, but Jeopardy! contestants can find solace in the fact that they're bettering themselves through knowledge as contestants from other programs find new and exciting ways of becoming dumber. But in all seriousness, it's probably for the best that Jeopardy! contestants don't appear on the more popular game shows, as they are obviously far too hip and such veritable "culture vultures" that they might make the typical Survivor contestant's witty banter over a campfire seem almost jejune.