I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person, so I enjoy the challenge of watching Jeopardy! I get a thrill out of answering some (very few) of the questions correctly, but I also like to feel superior to those who perform poorly on the show, confident that I could’ve done better.
Jeopardy! has been in the news recently due to the overwhelming success of contestant Ken Jennings, a dorky guy who, as of this writing, has managed to win $1,635,061. He’s appeared on over 40 episodes. He’s a young, clean cut guy from Utah. He doesn’t drink. He’s donating 10% of his winnings to the Mormon Church. He’s even done the talk show circuit.
Needless to say, I hate Ken Jennings, Champion of the Geeks.
This is not sour grapes, mind you. I think the guy is extremely smart with a well-rounded base of knowledge, but he’s been built up into this trivia machine who can’t be defeated. BULLSHIT, I say. He’s lasted this long because the Jeopardy! producers want him to keep winning, because they know his streak provides a positive buzz around show, and advertisers are salivating to get in on the action. In fact, I charge that the Jeopardy! producers have gone out of their way to ensure that Jennings keeps winning.
As someone who once worked for various game shows in Los Angeles, I can attest to the behind-the-scenes machinations that go into selecting which contestants will be matched against each other. It’s not as simple as finding three players who want to appear and then slotting them into an episode.
For instance, quiz show producers will never put two hot, attractive females on the same episode. Why? Because not many hot, attractive females audition for quiz shows. You don’t want to waste the ones you have in your contestant pool by pitting them against each other. You spread out your hot, female contesants over the course of the entire season. Watch an episode of Jeopardy! You rarely, if ever, see more than one female on any given show.
Most quiz shows give a written test during the audition process in order to gauge a potential contestant’s intellect. There is a minimum score needed to be considered as a contestant. For argument’s sake, let’s say that Jeopardy’s audition test has 30 questions. Let’s also assume that Ken Jennings would’ve scored a perfect 30 on said test. After picking Jennings to appear on the show, there is no way in hell the producers would match him with another player who also scored a 30. It’s the hot chick theory again. You wouldn’t want to waste two high-caliber players on the same show, now would you?
Taking it a step further, you can see why Ken Jennings never seems to play against young males who are close in age or intellect. Men aged 25-40 tend to fare best on quiz shows with a buzzer because they grew up in the Atari/Nintendo age; consequently, they developed fast reflexes and good hand-eye coordination through years of playing video games. This explains why Jennings is usually the first to ring in and answer. He’s developed a rhythm with the buzzer.
Using this logic, if the producers matched Jennings against two 30 year olds of similar intellect, who were also quick on the buzzer, then the chances of Jennings being defeated are astronomically increased. So, we get what we’ve had for the past few months: Jennings playing against old-fart college professors and overweight, middle-aged librarians who have no chance of matching up with him.
Having said all that, I could accept the fact that Jeopardy! is deliberately easing Ken Jennings through the show to boost ratings if he weren’t so chronically annoying! The show is no longer fun to watch because this smug asshole is always leading by $5,000 before the first commercial break! Why the Jeopardy! producers would go out of their way to tirelessly promote a self-satisfied, geeky teetotaler from Utah is beyond me. Watch as Jennings shakes his head in disbelief when he’s introduced, as if he can’t fathom his success. See him struggle with a “Daily Double” answer, until he magically pulls it out of his brain at the last moment. Witness me vomit in the corner because I’m sick of his “gee-shucks-I’m-just-a-regular-guy” phony self-deprecating routine.
Jeopardy! producers, do me a favor and boot this guy off the show before I run screaming from the TV set forever.
Ken Jennings, you’re no Charles Van Doren.Powered by Sidelines