One of the biggest highlights of this trip must be watching the taping of Jeopardy! I left my hotel 75 minutes before I had to be at the Sony Studios in Culver City, which would have been plenty of time—if I had been in northwest Pennsylvania. Luckily, I made it in the nick of time.
Getting onto the Jeopardy! set is comparable to going through airport security. We went through metal detectors and had our bags checked. Cell phones and cameras were verboten.
The sound stage is every bit as tidy and smooth as it appears on the show. The audience’s seats are divided in the middle by a wall. One side is for people who want to watch the show and the other side is for contestants and special guests. The set looks just like it does on TV. For a virtual tour, go to http://www.jeopardy.com/showguide/virtualsettour/. There really is a large wall full of television screens for the categories and the clues. Just in front of the audience is a long table, which is filled by writers and judges, each with their own monitor. Three reference books are on the table. There are staff members at another location, which keeps on top of the responses and is ready to provide clarification if needed. In all, it takes approximately 75 people to produce the show.
Announcer Johnny Gilbert was at home recuperating from knee surgery so he was not on set to warm up the audience. Instead, a member of the Clue Crew, Jimmy McGuire, stood in. Jimmy is from Pittsburgh! Johnny was patched in from home to introduce the show and Jimmy handled the introductions of the guests.
The Game Show network is producing a documentary on the making of Jeopardy, so it was difficult to tell which cameras were for the documentary and which were for the show.
Five shows are taped each day. Alex Trebek has to change suits five times in one day. The morning audience sees three episodes and the afternoon sees two. I attended the morning session. The shows that were taped today will be aired on October 27, 28, & 29. Interestingly, they didn’t tell us to keep the winners a secret.
Before each show, the contestants record “hometown howdies,” which will be broadcasted in the contestants’ market area to increase viewers. Each contestant records a short version and a longer version.
I actually like Alex Trebek better now than I did before. He’s pretty witty and very smart. He took questions from the audience during breaks and was quick-witted in his responses. I asked him whether what he looks at on his podium is electronic or paper. It’s a piece of pink legal-sized, landscape paper on which he crosses off clues as they are answered. He receives the clues at 7:30 a.m. each morning of taping.
During one of the tapings, “Becca” answered “a San Francisco trolley.” Alex said her answer was incorrect because it should have been “a streetcar.” Aren’t they the same? There was a ten-minute break during which the judges researched the matter. Ultimately they ruled that they are different and that the correct answer would have been streetcar. I never knew there was a difference. For fun, I went to dictionary.com and here is the definition for streetcar, “a public vehicle running regularly along certain streets, usually on rails, as a trolley car or trolley bus.” Hmm. If I were Becca, I’d make a stink.
Several times during the breaks, Jimmy from the Clue Crew gave out little prizes, such as pens and key chains. At the end two new-edition electronic Jeopardy games were given away. As much as I concentrated, they were given to others. . . . Oh well, I know what to put on my Christmas list.
Here’s a gallery of photos from the trip.
A Couple of Articles Written for Suite 101:
Ann Silverthorn (Twitter: @annsilverthorn) is a versatile blogger who also writes about a wide variety of topics in numerous genres, including technology, travel, creative, and grant writing.