Ken Jennings: interim JEOPARDY! host

following Trebek

Ken JenningsIt’s time to start answering those Ask Roger Anything questions. You may still pose queries to me. My friend Mary asked:
How long will Ken Jennings last as the ‘interim’ host on Jeopardy?

You put “interim” in quotes, I see. I have no reason to disbelieve SONY regarding the announcement. “The show announced [November 23] that it will resume production on Monday, Nov. 30. Though a long-term replacement host will not be named at this time, Jeopardy! will return to the studio with a series of interim guest hosts from within the Jeopardy! family, starting with Ken Jennings.”

“Within the Jeopardy family?” That would suggest a former champion or a member of the Crew Clue, or maybe whoever the warm-up host is. Or perhaps someone from ABC? The Jennings episodes will start on January 11. The Trebek episodes were supposed to end on Christmas Day, but the show offered up a couple of weeks of reruns so that Alex episodes wouldn’t be preempted by Christmas Day basketball or New Years’ football.

You may have noticed that Jennings, James Holzhauer, and Brad Rutter will appear on a U.S. adaptation of The Chase. It has been “a British show where contestants face off against trivia masters.” It’s scheduled to air for nine weeks starting in early January.

Name of the game

The upcoming show is part of ABC’s efforts to move deeper into that genre. “Nearly 15 million viewers tuned in to the network for each episode of the ‘Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time” tournament, putting it on a level with the 2019 NBA finals and the 2019 World Series.”

ABC has gone to the game show format heavily for the past several summers, with shows such as To Tell the Truth, Celebrity Family Feud, Press Your Luck, and Match Game. Who Wants To Be a Millionaire is currently airing.

Game shows are cheap, compared with scripted shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, and it’s simpler to follow COVID social distancing protocols. Grey’s, BTW, showed only six episodes so far this season and won’t be back until March 4.

But to your question, I have to think they’d need to give Ken Jennings a minimum of four weeks. After all, the show tapes a whole week’s episodes in one day. Even Jennings, who’s been made a consulting producer, and has been at a player podium about 100 times, will be nervous. It’ll be difficult for anyone to be The One Who Follows Alex Trebek.

When Kathie Lee Gifford left Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, they had an extensive audition period. Ditto Kelly Ripa auditioning Regis’ replacement on the morning show. Still, I imagine the producers would want a permanent host by the time the new season begins.

Minced Oaths

Somewhat off-topic, I loved the category MINCED OATHS category on the JEOPARDY! episode of the show that aired on December 17.

$400: There were 6 British kings named this, but saying “By” him actually meant “By God”.

$800: This “sticky” oath, a variant of “damnation”, goes back to 1790 and may be derived from “eternal”.

$1200: This, also the surname of a prolific 19th c. British author, was sometimes substituted for “devil” in oaths.

$1600: Instead of referencing the almighty’s son, this rhyming phrase with the same initial letters was used.

$2000: On St. Patrick’s Day, you might hear someone exclaim “Faith and” this word meaning “by God”.

I think I enjoyed it because, while I knew all of the terms, I’d never thought about the derivations. Well, except for the $1600 clue. Some folks in my past thought even this substitution was inappropriate because it was still supposedly taking the Lord’s name in vain.

Of course, these were also people who thought saying, “Oh, sugar” was vulgar because it was presumably a substitute for defecation.

Anyway, the answers: George; tarnation; dickens; jeepers creepers; and Begorra, which no one got correct.

Nov. rambling: the Opposite of Déjà Vu

The djt library

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TREBEK

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Alex Trebek (22 July 1940-8 Nov 2020)

most game show episodes hosted by the same presenter on the same program

Alex TrebekMy daughter came up to the office yesterday and said, “Why didn’t you tell me about Alex?” A minute later, I got the sad, but not unexpected news from a Los Angeles Times newsflash that Alex Trebek had died.

In March 2019, Trebek told JEOPARDY! fans that he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. It is a nasty disease that killed three people I knew in real life in 2019, as well as astronaut Sally Ride and QoS Aretha Franklin.

Alex Trebek kept up his hosting, and his humor, wisdom, and grace did not seem to diminish. If anything, he was more forthcoming, such as when he asked fans to guess when he needed a toupee after his treatments.

He was born George Alexander Trebek in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada on July 22, 1940, After growing up in a bilingual household, he earned a degree in philosophy at the University of Ottawa. He did various jobs with the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC), before moving to the United States in 1973.

I first noticed Trebek hosting a variety of game shows, most notably High Rollers, before taking over JEOPARDY! in 1984. Having seen the first two episodes recently, it took a little time before he honed the persona that has suited him so well for over 8,000 episodes in 37 seasons.

As I’ve noted several times on this blog, I appeared on JEOPARDY! on November 9 and 10, 1998. It was filmed in Boston. I mentioned that most recently here.

Record setter

Trebek held the Guinness World Record for the most game show episodes hosted by the same presenter on the same program since June 13, 2014. He overtook Bob Barker of The Price is Right. He also hosted the National Geographic Bee for 25 years, until 2013.

Trebek has won five Daytime Emmy Awards for outstanding game show host. In 2011, he received a Peabody Award for “encouraging, celebrating and rewarding knowledge,” and a lifetime achievement award from the folks who present the Daytime Emmys.

But beyond his hosting, Trebek became a cultural icon. He had appeared in dozens of television shows and movies, usually as himself or a variation thereof. The What is… Cliff Clavin? episode of Cheers in 1990 was one of the first of many. His star is on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, near those of Ann-Margret and Vincent Price. Trebek was the familiar spokesperson for Colonial Penn Life Insurance.

Alex Trebek participated in 13 USO tours. He “traveled to many developing countries in support of World Vision, reporting on the organization’s efforts on behalf of children. He adopted a village in Zambia, Africa, helping to build a school, homes for teachers, and a medical facility.”

The book

He spoke of writing his memoir, The Answer Is… which was released on July 21, 2020. “The longer I’ve lived with the cancer, the more my definition of toughness has changed. I used to think not crying meant you were tough. Now I think crying means you’re tough. It means you’re strong enough to be honest and vulnerable. It means you’re not pretending.”

Check out soon a video reel, which will expire 1/1/2021.

When he married Jean Trebek (Jean Currivan), at the ceremony he gave his wedding vow as a joke on the Jeopardy! rule of phrasing an answer as a question by saying, “The answer is … yes”. He taped his last shows on October 29, 2020. He died at home, surrounded by Jean, and their two adult children, Emily and Matthew, and other family and friends. Here’s a brief obit.

JEOPARDY! episodes hosted by Trebek will air through December 25, 2020. The show is not announcing plans for a new host at this time.

JEOPARDY! withdrawal syndrome

Alex Trebek’s memoir

Alex TrebekIt appears I must be going through JEOPARDY! withdrawal. For the past several years, the game show would air for 46 weeks. There would be six weeks off, in late July and August, during which they’d rerun the Tournament of Champions and/or other highlights.

But because of the coronavirus, the season ended early. Even before the last show, which aired June 12, they reran the Greatest of All Time tournament in early May that had aired on ABC primetime back in January.

Now what? The JEOPARDY folks have gone into the vaults to show, among other things, the first two episodes from 1984. Game #1, airing September 10 showed Greg Hopkins, an energy demonstrator from Waverly, Ohio, with an insurmountable lead after Double JEOPARDY. Greg had $8,100, Lois $3,800, and Frank $2,500.

After everyone got the HOLIDAYS question correctly. “The third Monday of January starting in 1986.” Frank’s wager was revealed: $300, a quite rational choice. Anything up to $499 made sense. But Alex said to Greg about his wager, “Chicken!” BTW, the question, “What was Martin Luther King Day?”

Guess what? The episode was a hit!

On the second day

Game #2 pitted Greg against two players that caused Alex to ask if the information cards were switched. Yes, Paul WAS a registered nurse. Lynne WAS a carpenter because she was good at it and made money. Alex learned to curb his assumptions, at least openly, somewhat over the years.

Paul went into Final JEOPARDY with $1,100, Lynne with $5,000, and Greg with a not quite insurmountable lead at $9,500. In the category THE CALENDAR, “Calendar date with which the 20th century began.” Paul wrote, “What was Jan 1, 1900?” WRONG. He had bet it all. Lynne also answered incorrectly and had also gone all in. Greg, as we now understand the game’s wagering, really only needed to bet $501. If Lynne had gotten it right and Greg got it right, he’d win. If they both missed it, with a conservative wager, Greg still wins.

Greg gave the same response as his opponents. And bet the whole $9,500. I have to wonder if Trebek’s “chicken” comment affected his wagering. Alex said, “Oh, boy. What… I’m at a loss for words in a situation like this. {Whistles}. Hey folks, easy come, easy go.” Audience members joined in with the “easy go” part. “Because all of our contestants wound up with nothing, we have consolation prizes for each of them.” Paul got an exercise machine. Greg and Lynne each received a range and cookware.

“Tomorrow on JEOPARDY, we’ll be bringing in three new players to play the game.” As Alex was about to sign off, voices from offscreen yelled, “The answer!” Trebek replied, “You mean, ‘What is the QUESTION?’ The question is: What is January 1, 1901?”

There have been only a handful of games with three players at zero, which includes some players not even making the Final because their score was zero or below.

The answer is

Unsurprisingly, on these episodes there were ads for The Answer Is, Alex Trebek’s memoir. It has reviewed well. The audiobook is read by Trebek and Ken Jennings. Maybe Ken WILL succeed Alex?

Back in April, Sarah Jett Rayburn, a returning champion, decided to explain her incorrect answer in Final JEOPARDY to Alex. I thought it was goofily endearing.

Finally, Alden Shoe Company sues Bianca de la Garza for $15 million. “Lawsuit alleges former Alden CFO Richard Hajjar embezzled funds and funneled them into the TV personality’s television and beauty companies.” I note this only because de la Garza, then a reporter for WTEN in Albany, interviewed me in the moments before I appeared on JEOPARDY in 1998.

Hey, if you ever see ads for the reruns for “first regular JEOPARDY shows recorded outside of the studio” or “first shows filmed in Boston,” please let me know! I may have a vague interest in them.

R.I.P., Regis

Regis Philbin died recently. I watched Who Wants To Be A Millionaire a couple of decades back religiously. And just a couple months ago, I saw Reege pass the mantle to Jimmy Kimmel on the celebrity edition.

October rambling: direct the whirlwind

Washington can’t be trusted

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