For years, I’ve had the following item on my bucket list: “Attend a taping of Jeopardy!” Typically, you have to venture out to Culver City, CA, to see the famous game show. However, in the last five years, the iconic clue board, buzzers, and contestant stands have come twice to DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, DC.
The first instance was in 2012, when I witnessed CNN anchor Anderson Cooper beat NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell and economist Thomas L. Friedman. That same afternoon, I saw Fox News anchor Chris Wallace win against Dr. Mehmet Oz and BBC America’s Katty Kay. These contests were among several panels in the highly anticipated Power Players Week: when well-known individuals in media, news, and politics compete and win prize money for charity.
Two weeks ago, I returned to DAR for another Power Players Week taping. I don’t know how the filming transpires in California, but it’s a unique experience in our nation’s capital. For starters, reporters and camera crews milled around onstage for interviews until the contestants took their places. When the familiar opening credits finally rolled, Jimmy McGuire from the Clue Crew walked out to run the practice games instead of Alex Trebek.
The first match-up consisted of Louis C.K. (Horace and Pete), CNN’s Kate Bolduan (At This Hour), and the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart. I loved their chemistry on-stage as they laughed about the clues that they missed in the practice game. It was also amusing when a clue winner forgot that he or she needed to pick the next clue. Senator Al Franken, political analyst Ana Navarro, and legal analyst Sunny Hostin were not so enjoyable during their practice. There was something about the exchanges between Franken and Navarro that felt slightly off compared to the joviality and easygoing nature of first group.
Alex Trebek, who turns 76 this year, managed the actual games and announced clues at a quick pace. However, the astonishing aspect of the taping is what he did off-script and off-camera. Trebek was very involved with the crew in catching errors; he reread clues for the sound team and pointed out dollar amounts to be removed from the board. “I love the power,” he joked. “Say it and it’s done!”
“We can chat or you guys can take naps,” he said to the audience when he strode to the front of the stage at the first commercial break. He would cast Kevin Kline, Johnny Depp, Kevin Spacey, or Betty White to play him in a biopic. “Get her out of here,” he quipped after a little girl asked who he knew from the Harry Potter films – yes, the late Alan Rickman. He looked out solemnly during another break and reminded everyone, “Canada is your neighbor.” Trebek would have made a brilliant and entertaining stand-up comedian.
Serious questions were also interesting. He spent the previous weekend rebuilding the washing machine. Dancing with the Stars reached out to him 3 times with invitations to compete. He’d like to have Kevin Spacey as a Jeopardy! contestant someday. He wisely refrained from weighing in on the 2016 Presidential election.
I can’t imagine what’s in store for Jeopardy! when Trebek eventually leaves the helm of what’s become the longest-running game show on American television. He’s been the host since 1984, before quite a few fans like me were even born. It’s truly amazing to see him in action with the crew, contestants, and audience. His current contract concludes with the 2017-2018 season. If that’s indeed the end, I highly recommend that you obtain tickets, which are free, for a taping session.
Be sure to check out Power Players Week when it airs the week of May 16.