Archive for June 4th, 2005

Continued from Saturday, May 28.

Great. I pass the mini-test for JEOPARDY!, but I can’t go on the bus to Boston because I had made previous plans. Swell.

I told the person who informed me that I had gotten an acceptable score of my problem, and she suggested that I call WTEN, the local affiliate that carries the show, the next day.

So, I called the station, and spoke with a sympathetic woman about my situation. She indicated that there would be tryouts in Boston on May 15, the day after the bus trip, but that didn’t address the issue, as I would still be away in the Midwest. She then recommended that I talk with another person, a guy, who was then in a meeting.

Later in the day, I called this second WTEN employee and retold my tale of woe. He told me that I should talk with a woman at SONY in California, and gave me her number.

Susanne Thurber is the “talent coordinator” for JEOPARDY!, in Los Angeles. I called her and told her my plight. She informed me about tests in Washington, DC the following week (May 17-21), and THAT was helpful. (Coincidentally, the son of a friend of mine was also trying out in DC that week, but I never heard the results.)

I had planned to take two weeks off from work for vacation. The first week would be traveling in the Midwest. The second week, I would stay home and take care of reading, paperwork, stuff around the house. The heck with that: the second week I’m going to our nation’s capital! Subsequently, I received a letter informing me of my test that turned out to be May 20 at 9 a.m.

I took the train out to Detroit and see some sites (more about that another time). The only JEOPARDY!-related story is this: my friend Sarah and her boyfriend and I are watching the show one night. The Final comes on, and immediately, the boyfriend comes up with an answer. Then he derides the show as too easy. He also mocks the fact that I would be trying out the following week. I didn’t know the answer to the Final, but I knew enough to know that HIS response was WRONG, and I told him, “No, I don’t think so.” Sure enough, his answer WAS wrong, and he muttered something unintelligible. I took some pleasure in that.

After Cleveland (also, more later), I went back to Albany, then went down on another train, this time to DC. My old colleague Jennifer, with whom I used to work, had been nagging me to visit for some time, so it became the perfect opportunity to go see her, and take the REAL JEOPARDY! test. The night before the test, I ate fish for dinner; “brain food,” said the mother of a friend of mine.

The next day, I went to some hotel conference room, where 45 or 50 people were seated the test. I decided to wear a suit, something I almost never do voluntarily, because it seemed like the appropriate thing to do.

First, we saw a film clip of Alex Trebek. I don’t remember it much, except that I thought it was supposed to be inspirational. Then, on a blue screen, much like the individualized version of the JEOPARDY! board (and in the same font), the answers would appear for eight seconds, then disappear. We wrote the responses (no, they didn’t have to be in a form of a question) on a sheet of paper. There would be 50 questions in 50 categories.

At first, the test seemed easy, almost too easy. Then, the questions were getting tougher. Or was I just getting jittery? Even the things I knew, I didn’t know. At one point in the test I said to myself, “I don’t know ANYTHING!” One clue about a movie (question 23 or so), and I said, “Mel Gibson. Blue face. Scotland. But what’s the NAME of the film?” I had even SEEN this film at Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady, on a wide screen. I drew an asterisk and went on; at about question 35, suddenly it came to me: “Braveheart!”

One question I got wrong didn’t bother me that much. It was about a Playboy Playmate and an older man. I was actually PLEASED that I couldn’t remember Anna Nicole Smith.

The last question was in the Before and After category. After the test was over, someone asked me, on behalf of a few test takers, “What was the last one – Woodrow Wilson?” No, it was Woodrow Wilson Phillips. Had they not watched the show? Or at least Wheel of Fortune, where this category is also quite popular?

There were eight of us who passed the test. One of the talent people complimented me on my apparel, and chastised some of those who had come in jeans. It seems as though they treated this activity like one would treat a job interview and they were the job interviewers.

Then we played a few mock games, complete with buzzer. Someone said that I wasn’t buzzing in correctly. You don’t click once, you click repeatedly until someone’s name is called. I missed some questions, got some right. All of this is being videotaped. And at the end, we were told that there were only a few hundred slots open each year, so we may be called in a few months, or up to a year later, or we MIGHT NOT BE CALLED AT ALL.

Continued on Saturday, June 11

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