modernity / Pop Culture

Jeopardy, what have you done? A Dork’s Lament

We all have our ways of coping with the stress laid on thick by school, work, and Chicago’s soul-crushing weather. My own extremely nerdy method is to pop my headphones into the jack of elliptical #38 and watch Jeopardy.

This started back in my even nerdier high school/middle school/elementary days when I would watch Jeopardy at home, usually three times a week. I know, I know. But it was relaxing, yet pseudo-academic enough to not make me feel guilty. Living in the dorms without easy access to a TV for two years made me largely forget about Jeopardy, until I happened to fix a 3:30 time slot for myself at the gym this third year and found that the exercise screens offered my old, comfortable fix.

Today, I hit the gym at my usual time and plugged into the semi-final rounds of Final Jeopardy. “Celebrity Jeopardy” flashed across the screen—contestants who had won consecutive games in the past would compete against each other, promising a more exciting and rigorous game.

I realize that what I’m about to say might only be interesting to a tiny fraction of the nerdy population, but I have to say it, because what I saw today made me so sad. Jeopardy has dumbed down unbelievably. I’m not even going to mention the category I saw last week that asked contestants which states bordered each other (a fifth-grader’s level of geography would have been sufficient, in my opinion).

Today, a woman who had won five games in a row didn’t know how to answer (I guess technically ask) a category called Jeoportmanteau. Fair enough–if you’re not an English major really into trivia games, a portmanteau may be something you’ve never heard of. For the record–

portmanteau (Listeni/pɔrtˈmænt/; plural portmanteaux or portmanteaus) or portmanteau word is a blend of two (or more) words or morphemes into one new word.[1][2] A portmanteau word typically combines both sounds and meanings, as in smog, coined by blending smoke and fog

OK? Ok.

She missed the first one. But even after another contestant had given a correct answer, giving her a model for what a correct answer should look like, she still flubbed and cost herself $1000. The model clue and answer: “Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. and artificial teeth”=”Presidentures”. This woman’s attempt: “Addendum to a letter and revered text” = “Post…Sacred?”


Excuse me?

Finally, the same guy who’d given the first correct answer stepped in and said, “Post scriptures”, which was the correct answer. And I know that I’m being overly nitpicky. I don’t consider myself smarter than the contestants, many of whom are freaking rocket scientists and doctors. But if you put yourself out there on national television as a brainiac who might win big bucks for answering trivia (and easy trivia at that), you should be able to deliver. When I was younger, I used to be in awe of the contestants on Jeopardy because of how knowledgeable they were.

Now, even when the questions have been dumbed down A LOT (name the order of a gorilla? Primate. No one got it), we have three “celebrity” contestants dangerously close to the red after the first round–meaning they answered so many clues wrong that they hadn’t even earned any money.


That’s just sad. I miss the Jeopardy of old, with its old standards–the one that was actually worth watching.


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