Friday, October 12, 2007

Attending a Jeopardy! Taping

Feeling the need to take a break from my normal pattern, but not really being in a position to take a large block of time off from work right now, I took what I called a "mini-vacation" on Wednesday and took a half-day off of work so that I could attend a taping of Jeopardy! But I wasn't just at any Jeopardy! taping. I was able to watch both parts of the 2-part Tournament of Champions finale. I won't spoil the ending here, except to say that it was a very good game, and will be worth seeing when it airs on November 15th and 16th.

This was my first time to see a taping of Jeopardy!, and the first game show taping I've been to in quite a few years, having been to see The Price is Right a number of times before I started working full-time. The atmosphere between the two shows was very different, reflecting the very different natures of these two shows.

Whereas Price is fairly enthusiastic show, with hundreds of people in the audience clapping and yelling nearly the whole time, Jeopardy! is fairly sedate. People certainly do applaud during parts of the game, but it's definitely more "polite appreciation" than "Woo, hoo! I'm on TV!" And I was surprised to notice that during this, arguably the most important single episodes of the year, there were actually several vacancies in the audience. That never happened for any of the half-dozen or so tapings of Price I was at. Of course, the fact that every audience member at Price is a potential contestant probably has something to do with that.

There were similarities, of course. Tapings for both shows started by having the announcer (the late Rod Roddy for the Price tapings I was at, and Johnny Gilbert for Jeopardy!) come out, but even there the natures of the shows were obvious. Roddy's introduction (pretty much the same at every taping I attended) was a humorous account of his career to that point, designed to get the audience in a festive mood. Gilbert's introduction was mostly to ensure that we clapped at all the right places, but kept quiet at the times when contestants might hear our responses (an event which would theoretically cause taping to stop, and the contaminated question to be replaced, but this didn't happen for the games I watched). Both hosts also took time during breaks in taping to answer audience questions.

I don't mean to make it sound as though Jeopardy! was less enjoyable to watch personally than Price. The shows are just very different. While both are game shows of a fairly "traditional" kind (as opposed to either "reality" shows such as Survivor, or the current run of one-player games since Deal or No Deal*), Jeopardy! is undeniably a more "serious" game than Price, consisting of answers and questions (in that order) that often stump people with college degrees. In fact, Johnny Gilbert made a specific comment to the effect that, while so many shows on television deal with the stupidity of people, Jeopardy! celebrates the intelligence of people. Of course, Price can certainly be said to require a different (arguably more practical) kind of intelligence, but it relies on the fun and variety of the pricing games to keep an audience's attention.

Now that I've been to one Jeopardy! taping, I'm eager to go back for another, or maybe to catch Jeopardy!'s sister show, Wheel of Fortune. Unfortunately, taking time off is a bit of an ordeal. It's not that I don't have the potential vacation time saved up, but that it's hard to make room for the people I work for (and with) to do without me. Just maintaining my boundaries and telling folks (again and again) that I wouldn't be available after noon on Wednesday was a bit tiring. But still, I do need to do this again sometime. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

*Yes, I know Deal or No Deal wasn't the first one-player show, or even the first such show of the modern era, since Who Wants to be a Millionaire came a few years earlier. However, Millionaire is a traditional quiz show. Deal and its successors rely on a rather different kind of game.

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