When Merv Griffin, inspired by his wife, came up with the concept of JEOPARDY! four decades ago, it was a stroke of genius. Three players who thought they knew a thing or two get to compete in a game where they give you the answer and you have to come up with the question. If you win five games, you go away, but you come back for the Tournament of Champions.
After a champion has retired, through the luck of the draw, there would be three new players; one of them would be able to go back to their hometown and say that he or she was a JEOPARDY! Champion.
What the rule change a couple seasons ago has meant has been the creation of scarcity. Under the old rules, Ken Jennings would have been gone after day five; under the new rules, and Ken’s 74th victory, about 15 people won’t even make it onto the show. The Tournament of Champions of 2004, in order to fill the fifteen slots allotted, needed to go to more four-time and even three-time champions.
This really isn’t about Ken Jennings, though I admit that I had tired of him in the same way some people root for anybody except the Yankees; it’s about the game. This is the designated hitter in baseball, the shot clock in basketball. And while those changes in other sports have produced MORE offense for SEVERAL, the new JEOPARDY! rule change has been beneficial for only a few, and as detrimental to the game as Astroturf is on the knees of a football running back.
I wish they would change the rule, if not to five appearances, then certainly 10. I want MORE JEOPARDY! champions, not fewer. But with the spike in ratings during Jennings’ run, I don’t anticipate any change. Sigh.
(Oh, yeah, for those joining me recently, I was on the show. I discussed it at length in this blog for 11 Saturdays starting May 28.)
I was flicking through the channels Saturday afternoon, and I saw Alex Trebek on one of those celebrity poker matches. Usually tight-fisted, according to the announcer, he won about $10K on a bluff (6 and 7 of hearts, I believe, with no pair). Tom the Dog can tell you more about celebrity poker in this column than I choose to know. And if you want to see the episode in question, I believe it’s airing again on Bravo this Thursday at 7 p.m., just before a new episode.