LIKE millions of others, my husband and I watch Jeopardy every night, well, pretty much every weeknight. I don’t know why we are addicted when we lose so regularly. It’s like asking to be punished and coming back the next day and the next day and the next day for more punishment, hoping somehow after enough punishment there will be a reward.
We are not alone. Jeopardy, the most popular game show of all time, averages nine million viewers per night. During peak times like the college championship, when the toughest questions are asked with the least chance of the home audience answering them correctly, viewership reaches 15 million.
With all the really important things going on in the world, I can’t imagine why I’m trying to figure out what’s causing this love-hate relationship with Jeopardy. For anyone who doesn’t suffer from the same addiction to a time slot and predictability (7:30 p.m. ABC, immediately after ZNS National Report or EyeWitness News), I’ll summarize what Jeopardy is all about. It’s a game with questions. Originally, before it was called Jeopardy, it was called “What’s the Question?” and to this day, 58 years after it first aired, Jeopardy is still the show of answers and questions – that is, the format is a&q. There is one host and three contestants. The host provides the answer and the contestant who presses the buzzer first tries to answer it correctly with a question that begins with the words “What’s that?” or “Who is? Or “When was that?” You get it. If they guess correctly they can walk away, if incorrect the next contestant to buzz has a chance.
There are 61 questions per show, 30 in the first 15 minutes, another 30 plus Final Jeopardy in the last half of the half-hour show. Contestants and the home audience play together (only contestants can take home money that night), choosing questions from one of six categories and the dollar amount they want to risk up to. to $1,000 in specific amounts. In Final Jeopardy, they can risk any amount they want until they have won before.
Here is an example of what we think is an easy question: The category is Island Nations. The contestant says he will risk $200. Host: “This English-speaking island nation was once part of the British Empire which oversaw its 700 islands.” The contestant who buzzes first and answers in question form: “What is the Bahamas?” win $200 and the chance to start over on the next question. Sounds simple, right? It’s because we know the answer. But most of the time we don’t, which is why it’s so mind-boggling that we keep trying. And, except in Final Jeopardy where contestants have 30 seconds to write an answer, they only have about two seconds to get it right or lose the opportunity to think aloud. So either you know it or you don’t. No time to figure it out.
So, let’s try a $1,000 question in the same category, Island Nations. It was recent: Host ‘What is this nation now that withstood naval sieges by the Berbers in 1429, the Ottomans in 1656 and Axis air assaults WW11?’ Not so easy when you don’t have the answer at hand.
A good night, I can have six to eight good questions, a bad night, two to three. So why am I turning on and logging into Jeopardy only to be beaten by something in which, at my best, I score around 10% and often less?
Why, like others, did I think Jeopardy would fade away when longtime host Alex Trebek died in November of pancreatic cancer, by the way, the same cancer that caused the death of his predecessor Art Fleming who was the show’s first host from 1964 to 1975. Trebek, who took over in 1984, filmed over 8,000 episodes in 36 years. No other game show host has retained Trebek’s popularity, credibility, and likeability over such a period. A welcome guest in the house every evening, he was as comfortable a companion as warm slippers on a cold night. The show, the host, the pattern – predictable, regular, routine and yet challenging, mostly manageable.
And maybe that’s why we keep watching and playing, despite our low scores. There are so many things we can’t control, so out of our hands and our reach, whether or not to send troops into battle, that we have to admit that one day we will receive orders from robots , perhaps with so little control over what happens around For us, Jeopardy’s mere 24 minutes on air reminds us that even if we don’t get the answers right, the choice to be in the game we belongs.
Oh, the answer to that $1,000 question: I think it was Malta, but if I’m wrong, it wouldn’t be the first time, and I’ll still be watching Jeopardy on hold, hoping to pass the next one.
King has a prince of an idea for these tanks tiefs
Every once in a while, a problem that seems almost unsolvable turns out to have a simple solution. Take the case of the theft of propane gas cylinders.
Gas cylinder thieves, those who deprive others of the ability to cook by taking the tank and any cooking or heating fuel it contains, get away with their crime because unlike easily identified vehicles, all cylinders are created approximately equal. Don’t let common looks fool you. There is a secret. Each cylinder has a serial or identity number. The reason tank destroyers get away with tiefin tanks is because no one checks the serial number to find out who owns the tank.
A tank shooter can steal a cylinder sold by one supplier and call another to fill it, which is perfectly legitimate, and no one checks to see if the tank is at the residence or business of its rightful owner. Nine times out of ten, the tank belongs to the person who calls and asks for a refill. But when the pandemic hit and people lost their jobs and went hungry, tanks were a quick win and filled tanks were even better. So there has been a wave of propane tank thefts and, as you can rightly imagine, it’s not a police priority of culprits to be caught and cases to be solved.
But there is a very sharp young woman whose idea could prevent the costly interruption. Her name is King and she works for one of the major propane gas companies. She says if all the local gas companies got together and insisted that drivers check where the tank they are filling belongs, it would solve a problem that affects the poorest of us where the tanks are most exposed. All it takes is cooperation between companies and drivers. Over time, a database would emerge, making the verification process even easier.
And don’t think these tank shooters aren’t brave. They recently transported a 200 pound propane tank that had just been filled, weight – about a ton? Looks like Ms. King has a big idea.