Friday, July 13, 2007

This. Is. Shepardy.

Yesterday finally saw the airing of the long-ago taped Jeopardy episode. Contractually, I was not allowed to blog about the experience. Telling all of my friends and sending numerous e-mails was somehow fine, but blogging (even on a craptastic blog such as this) was a no-no. So now it can be told. I finally fulfilled my dream of losing on Jeopardy.

The first round went swimmingly for me, and then everyone got comfy with the buzzers and I didn't ring in nearly as much in the second round. In order to have a prayer of winning, I had to bet it all, which is what I did. Sadly, I could not figure out the Final Jeopardy clue, so I lost everything and wound up in third place. Jeopardy is a cruel mistress.

For the record, the reason people bet everything on Jeopardy is that you don't get to keep your winnings unless you win first place. Second place gets $2000, and third place gets $1000 -- or about enough to cover the trip out to California. Thus, I could either settle for $2000 or play for $18,000, knowing I'd at least walk away breaking even. You do what you gotta do. It didn't help that the Final Jeopardy clue was crazy hard. Nobody got it, and I didn't have to kick myself for not getting it right.

If you're at all curious about the content of the clues, and OCD-infused analysis of wagering and game dynamics, check out the job the wingnuts at J-Archive have done. The Internet is good.

Here's the interesting stuff: Taping a show involves coming in at about 8 am to the studio lot, and eating yummy pastries while filling out all kinds of paperwork and making friends with the 20 or so people who will playing in the five shows that will be filmed that day. The green room is very well-appointed and very, very cold. You get to play a bunch of practice rounds on the set with the buzzers, and a producer stands in for Alex Trebek. The set is very blue and very shiny.

When the audience comes in at about 10 am, you are instructed not to even look at your loved ones on pain of death, because they might have seen the clues getting readied on the board before you're trotted out there. Naturally, everyone finds some lint on their shoulder or something so we can all steal furtive glances at our families to see where they're sitting. Players for each of the five shows are picked "randomly," though I think performance at practice might have something to do with the lineups, and between each show all the contestants are herded back and forth to the green room. Makeup is extensive and thorough -- they literally airbrush you with foundation. Short folks are given steps to stand on behind the podiums. Some special short people get two boxes. After your show tapes, you can leave, or watch from the audience (where you are now allowed to acknowledge your family). You get a tote bag and a glass picture frame in which to insert your souvenir photo of you and Trebek on the set that they take during a commercial break.

You don't get to talk to Trebek much, because he's seen all the clues, and they don't want you talking to anyone who's seen the clues ahead of time. He's nice and chatty at the end of the show, though. After my show he came right up to me and said "I thought you were gonna catch him." I was all, "I thought so too, Alex." Then you go to the front of the stage for the "rapping with Alex" part that you see when the credits roll and everyone's talking together but you can't hear what they're saying.

The staff and the other contestants were all really nice. By the time I was called up to play in the fourth show, I was more than ready to go, and was so comfortable that I forgot I was being taped for a show that would be seen by a whole, whole lot of people. Honestly, the saddest thing about losing was that I still felt like I wanted to play some more. I couldn't even be mad at the dude that beat me, because we had been hanging out all day, and you kind of support everyone. It's a bit twisted like that.

I watched the show this Thursday with about 20 friends camped out on my apartment floor eating pizza and drinking beer and champagne. Good times were had, and I think massive humiliation was avoided. Besides $18,000 in winnings, I couldn't ask for much more.

Now to start training for the World Series of Pop Culture.