Top 10 Ways to Improve Jeopardy
August 27, 2012 | Lists
Jeopardy! has been frustrating viewers of Wheel of Fortune who thought they were on a roll for years. In part that’s because the show requires contestants to be capable of doing more than fogging up a mirror, reciting the alphabet without any missteps and bending slightly forward to spin the wheel to qualify. Those who make it on the show — even those who will be leaving $10,000 to the negative (does Alex ever collect?) — still know more than the reigning nine-month champion of Wheel.
Jeopardy! offers a respite from other, dumber shows, and there is also Alex Trebek, Sudbury’s proudest export since the first postcards featuring the world’s largest Canadian nickel were printed. However, as much as we enjoy the show and as often as we have fantasized about humming the theme song while applying for a bank loan, Jeopardy! is at risk of going stale. The show has been around since 1964 and even with the addition of Watson (who is likely only a few years away from building its own Merv Griffith-like empire), the format has remained pretty much unchanged. So we’re going to take “Not evolving” for $200 and the answer in the form of a question is “What is the surest way to sink a historic television franchise?” Here we offer 10 suggestions to keep Jeopardy! buzzers going for many years to come.
1. Make Contestants Tell Better Anecdotes.
The most awkward segment of the program occurs when Alex Trebek, himself not exactly Norman the Accepting Therapist when it comes to human engagement, goes around talking to the contestants. Nobody is interested in the person’s odd hobbies outside of the internet forums they are glued to and the anecdotes are always on a par with chatting to Christian values spokesman Michael Medved in an NSA screening line.
More interesting tales are badly needed. We suggest that applicants be encouraged to tell saucier anecdotes — a time they cuckolded some jerk who totally deserved it, perhaps. Basically anything to manufacture a trace of an expression on Alex Trebek’s granite face.
2. Jeopardy! Prison Edition.
Johnny Cash’s prison concerts were thundering successes that helped define his career. There is no reason why Alex Trebek and the Jeopardy! team cannot enjoy a similar success playing to a group of miserable, criminal men, who are probably tired of the bad food and all the comedians’ assumptions that they are getting raped all the time in there.
Jeopardy! Prison Edition would need to be modified slightly to suit the setting. The rule that states a contestant must answer in the form of a question should be bent when needed, lest Trebek becomes the target of blood vengeance by a psychopath who thinks him too pedantic. Also security precautions would likely be necessary to ensure that the buzzers cannot in any way be used for strangulation or bludgeoning purposes.
3. Jeopardy! College Edition for Poorly Ranked Schools.
Instead of Stanford, Harvard, Yale and Columbia reinforcing stereotypes of the Jeopardy pedant, the most poorly-performing schools according to SATs or graduating percentage – those that give course credit to their football mascots – should do battle. Scores would inevitably not be high unless the categories were limited to that week’s content on TMZ and which local clubs offer the likeliest prospects of getting laid, but it would be more inclusive and draw viewers in who never went to college and now feel justified in having made that decision.
The show could also offer five-time champs scholarships to better schools. Just think of the kind of feelgood TV that would be — a champ doffing his hoodie from Scopes Monkey Trial Question Still Not Settled University and donning the slightly more prestigious garb of the local technical institute where he or she can at least learn a trade.
Going back to Wheel of Fortune, the show is popular because it gives contestants who have made it to the final round some of the most common letters in the English language to help them out. This holds tremendous appeal for those who want to win a boat but aren’t interested in bursting a forehead blood vessel to get it.
If current education trends in the US continue as they are, Jeopardy! might well be regarded as too difficult and be unable to attract contestants or viewers. Following in the tradition established by Wheel could help.
5. Response must be in the form of an incredulous, snarky reply.
“I mean, c’mon, what kind of idiot doesn’t know that Mehmed II conquered Byzantine Constantinople?”
6. Allow heckling.
The studio audience remains respectfully silent during most Jeopardy! broadcasts, which can make for some pretty dull television. By recruiting people from nearby bars and mic’ing the more obnoxious ones, the show would add a needed layer of interactivity. Contestants could also win points for successfully shouting down a heckler. Answering in the form of a question would not be a problem here, as in, “You kiss your mother — who likes to be kissed, promiscuous — with that mouth?
7. Throw in the Odd Category Devoted to Alex Trebek
“A member of its English Debating Society and interested in a career in broadcast television, Trebek attended this Canadian university” and watch as contestants come to realize they know next to nothing about the socially awkward chap popularly assumed to be essential to the show’s success.
8. Jeopardy! The Reality Show
An excellent way to cash in on the, ahem, unique characters who appear on the show. “How will a group of socially awkward Cliff Clavin like characters who have immersed themselves in trivia for the past 37 years fare when forced to live in the empty house of some rich guy in Hollywood? Find out on ‘Jeopardy! The Reality Show’”
9. Mixed Martial Arts edition.
Many mixed martial arts fighters are university educated and fairly bright – at least, in the beginning of their career before the cumulative effect of receiving a knee between the eyes would move them over one studio to Family Feud.
Bringing them on board would help Jeopardy! shore up their much neglected male 12-45, violent and with no legal outlet for the rage simmering underneath market.
10. Allow contestants to Put Their Mortgages up for Daily Double and Final Jeopardy
This could be extended to include all property that can be quickly valuated by the show’s producers in the weeks leading up to a broadcast. Players who are confident enough in their knowledge of American state birds could enrich themselves far beyond the paltry sums up for grabs on Jeopardy! by putting their personal wealth up for grabs. This would result in intense, compelling broadcasts — watching someone build a property portfolio in 30 minutes solely on the basis of a competitor’s Final Jeopardy! folly. For those who come up short, well, Trebek looks like the kind of guy who wouldn’t be near the Kleenex while breaking the news.