My sister Leslie is friends with Ellen Green out in SoCal. Best I can tell, she’s no relation to us. But she has been on JEOPARDY. In her appearance on Show #4074 – Thursday, April 25, 2002, she started strong but ended up in third place. But it’s cool to even get to the stage.
This fall, I got to meet Ellen during my weekly Zoom meeting with my sisters. She seems very nice. Subsequently, Leslie sent me a link to Ellen’s appearance, which is housed on archive.org.
In fact, there are several dozen Jeopardy episodes there, some going back to 1984 when Alex Trebek first started hosting the show. They tend to be items likely originally recorded on VHS tape from the local affiliate as opposed to a pristine copy put out by the Jeopardy folks. Some include the ads, which are entertaining on their own. There is even something labeled as Islamic Jeopardy.
Can I find either of my episodes? Well, not so far. I found specific references to my one win, on services such as Yideo.com and Trakt.TV. Oddly, I did find a sparse reference to Roger O. Green on IMDB, which made me laugh.
Looking through YouTube, I had little expectation of finding anything. Their copyright police are quite vigilant. But I did come across the credit roll for 11/10/1998, my second and final appearance.
So it gets me wondering. Can I upload the episodes to Archive.org? I have a VHS tape of the shows. It also contains some behind-the-curtain footage. Don’t ask how I got it. Now, this tape has been kindly transferred to a DVD. But can that be uploaded? I have no idea since I own no computer that has a drive where the shiny disc used to go. Any insights would be appreciated.
Incidentally, my sister also has ANOTHER friend who was on Jeopardy, Jim, who was a four-day champion in 1989 and got to the Tournament of Champions. Ellen and Jim recently met, and as Leslie reported, they were “like 2 peas in a pod…could not get a word in edgewise, but it was ok.” Jeopardy folks are like that.
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Unsurprisingly, quite a few people have asked me how I felt about Matt Amodio as a JEOPARDY champion who won more money than all but two contestants. I think of the topic in two related, but separate ways.
The guy: I have no special feelings about him. According to my daughter’s Twitter feed, some folks are annoyed because he ALWAYS responds, “What’s…” Not “What is…” or “Who is…” or “Where is…” It is efficient, and always using the contraction saves him a fraction of a second…
…to figure out the answer. He now seems to ring in if he thinks he’ll come up with the correct question in the allotted time. In most cases, this works.
He only gives the minimum information required. This usually means giving the last name only in name categories. Occasionally, there were times when I thought the host might have sought more clarification, but that’s on the show, not him.
Like many recent champions, he started on the row of the highest value clues and works up the board. When he got the Daily Double in the first round, he usually bet it all. But, usually with a commanding lead by the beginning of the Double JEOPARDY round, his wagers tended to be more conservative, if betting $6,000 when one has a $15,000 lead is conservative.
He wasn’t as bold as 32-game winner James Holzhauer, who’s now third in the number of regular-season wins, but second in regular-season cash, barely less than Ken Jennings, who had won 74 regular-season games. James threw shade at Matt because the new guy hadn’t won as much per game as James had, which made Matt a bit sympathetic to me.. That’s because James has the 10 highest single-game winnings. No one has the per-game average of the gambler from Las Vegas.
The larger problem
It wasn’t until September 2003 when JEOPARDY changed a major rule. Prior to that, once you were a five-day champion, you had to stop. But you were almost certainly going to appear in the Tournament of Champions, comprised of those five-day winners and a few four-day contestants.
The rule change tipped the ToC on its head. When Ken Jennings won 74 regular-season games, his ToC had a three-day winner. So the rule change has made stars of people such as Amodio and 32-game winner James Holzhauer. And I gather there are people who appreciate their excellent play.
But when these people dominate so that Final JEOPARDY, and heck, the second half of Double JEOPARDY, doesn’t matter – it’s a lock game – the joy of watching it diminishes terribly for me. It’s boring TV, like a 43-12 football game.
As a matter of protest, I always root against the defending champion once they’ve won five games. Part of the problem is the way I watch the program. I might watch a week at a time. But I can’t now because either I’ll hear no J news, which means Matt Amodio won again [snore], or I’ll hear the rumors as I did when Jennings and Holzhauer finally lost.
I’m reminded of an episode of MASH when the camp was always getting for dinner “A river of liver and an ocean of fish.” Hawkeye Pierce jumped onto a table, leading the chant, “We want something else.” On JEOPARDY, I wanted someone else, somebody who’s waited their whole life to get on the show and might have a fighting chance of coming home victorious.
Uncopyrightable is the longest word we have that doesn’t contain any repeated letters.
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I learned a new term very recently. It’s Milkshake Duck. Hey, it’s only been around since 2016.
The term is “an Internet meme that describes people who gain viral popularity on social media for some positive or charming trait but are later revealed to have distasteful histories or offensive behavior.”
Know Your Meme: On June 12th, 2016, Twitter user @pixelatedboat posted a tweet about the internet’s love for ‘Milkshake Duck,’ followed by the revelation ‘we regret to inform you the duck is racist’. Within one year, the tweet gained over 22,700 likes and 9,600 retweets.” Huh? Whatever.
Mike Richards was pleasant enough as a fill-in host of Jeopardy. But, as you may know, he stepped down as the newly-named permanent host of the show, following reports of a number of inappropriate comments he made on a podcast that ran in 2013 and 2014. The podcast was appropriately named The Randumb Show.
Much of the offensive comments that targeted Jews, Haitians, and especially women are documented extensively in The Ringer, as well as mentioned in Parade. Just one example: him calling his colleague on-air a “booth ho” and “booth slut.”
I now believe Mike Richards should resign – or be fired – as JEOPARDY’s Executive Producer because he has harmed the show.
Institutional memory lost
Long-time executive producer Harry Fridman retired in May 2020, after 23 years. “Then, just months into Richards’s debut season, Trebek died due to complications of pancreatic cancer.” And though it started before Richards’ tenure, Glenn Kagan, longtime coordinator on the show, says “he was discriminated against based on his age and ultimately fired from the show on the pretense of Covid-19 safety procedures, while being replaced by a much younger employee.
There were other recent departures of several key staffers—including the longtime head of the contestant department, Maggie Speak, and stage manager John Lauderdale. Add to that “the taping difficulties caused by the pandemic, which left many staff members working from home, there was a widespread perception internally of a power vacuum.”
(BTW, I LOVED Maggie. She made me feel good after my loss. “You were the only one to get Final Jeopardy correct!”)
A bunch of paragraphs from The Ringer on how Richards undercut Ken Jennings:
Sources close to the show cast doubts on Richards’s decision-making surrounding Jennings. Many Jeopardy! staffers and former contestants long presumed that Jennings would be Trebek’s anointed successor, an expectation that only grew in the months after Trebek’s 2019 cancer diagnosis.
After Jennings won 2020’s Greatest of All Time tournament, Friedman hired him as a consulting producer—a move from contestant to staff that some interpreted as a bridge to hosting, with Jennings’s early duties including presenting categories of his own creation. Trebek furthered this perception, asking Jennings to narrate much of his 2020 memoir, The Answer Is …, and arranging a call with him to discuss guest-hosting just two days before Trebek’s death.
As The New York Times reported, the host left Jennings a pair of his cuff links, which awaited him in Trebek’s dressing room, along with a note from Trebek’s wife, Jean, when Jennings arrived at the studio to serve as the season’s inaugural guest host.
Jennings taped six weeks of episodes before a minor conflict with an upcoming tape day emerged… Sources say the show’s production staff was able to accommodate the conflict, only for Richards to step in and insist on hosting instead. When the time came to tape the preamble to his first episode, Richards blamed COVID-19 for the change and exaggerated the nature of Jennings’s conflict.
Mike to the rescue?
After Jennings’s curtailed run, which posted the highest ratings of any guest host this season, Jeopardy! did not air any additional [clue] categories hosted by [Ken]. Previously, the categories had aired roughly once a month, about as often as those hosted by members of the Clue Crew. Categories featuring clues read by the Clue Crew, celebrities, and affiliate station news anchors continued to air…
After Richards was named the executive producer of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune in 2019, another former Let’s Make A Deal employee remembers a supervisor who had worked closely with Richards remarking, “I bet he hires himself.”
“I think that one reason why Jeopardy was aspirational for many of its contestants was its sense of integrity,” says Kristin Sausville, who won five games on Jeopardy! in 2015. ‘There was something intrinsic to the show and Alex Trebek’s hosting of it that elevated it above other game shows.
“‘The baggage Mike Richards has brought from his previous experience as an executive producer, as well as the optics of what comes across as his self-selection as host, have tarnished that. I think there’s a real danger of Jeopardy! becoming just another syndicated game show, and that makes me concerned for its longevity and standing.”
Out goes he
I’ve been in touch with other Jeopardy contestants. A few noted a decline in the quality of the clue-writing under his tenure. “It has long been more than clear that Richards’s focus has not been on the good of the show. · Most [contestants] don’t understand how he can stay on, as he was the guy in charge of this whole guest host year of distraction in the first place.”
As a columnist noted, it makes “one wonder why the Jeopardy team didn’t perform much due diligence on Richards. Oh, wait … I forgot who was put in charge of it.” And, presumably, Richards will be choosing his own successor as host.
This is why I think that the self-aggrandizing Mike Richards, milkshake duck, should be fired as Executive Producer of JEOPARDY!