Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Show in Jeopardy?

We're back from a short vacation, one of the highlights of which was attending a taping of the Jeopardy! quiz show in the Sony Studios in Los Angeles, CA.

(Sorry, no spoilers on who was on, and who won. It wouldn't be fair to the avid followers of the show. The episodes will air three months from now.)

We scrambled for the online tickets once our travel dates were confirmed. I thought it would be harder than merely filling in a name, contact phone and clicking on Submit, but they made it extremely easy at
 The big day came, and in our anxiety to reach early, we actually headed to the wrong building.All for the good though, we were able to see movie memorabilia from favorites like Ghostbusters, Jumanji, Stuart Little and many more encased in display cases in the Sony Studios main lobby. Fun, fun!
The waiting in the right location started. A large sign warned us that no cameras or cell-phones or video recording devices of any kind would be allowed. An additional warning from the 'gatekeeper' had a dozen people scrambling back to their cars to drop off everything from e-books to bluetooth headsets to...I nearly had a heart attack when I realized that my MP3 player was buried deep in the bowels of my handbag, and timidly asked the cheery cheerleader guy who came to 'pump' up the studio audience's enthusiasm. "Hmmm... so long as you keep it powered off. Can't record anything on that, I guess."
A long line formed outside Sound Stage 10, as we waited impatiently in the sun for entry into the studio. After an interminable 15 minutes, we finally filed inside to take our seats. Nice plush red velvet ones. Wow. Maybe they would actually show the audience, to not waste the money spent on those lovely seats. Not that we had much hope of more than a millisecond's worth of screen time. Jeopardy is not the show to be on, if you were looking for audience shots.
We were told that we would supply applause on cue, and that Alex Trebek loved to speak to the audience and answer questions from them during the commercial breaks. Except that we weren't supposed to ask too personal questions that cross the boundaries of good taste. I was dying to ask the name of his plastic surgeon, but politely refrained. M asked him for his favorite movie ( How Green Was My Valley), S asked him about his hobbies (he's huge on Crossword puzzles, and rambled on about them for a good 1 minute). S was lording it over M because of the longer answer.
One snarky question from an audience member got a pitch-perfect impression of the Mad Flight Attendant from Alex Trebek, leaving the audience howling with laughter, before we returned to the taping.
We also got to quiz Johnny Gilbert, the director of the show and the voice behind the opening lines. He had some interesting show trivia for the audience, including a fairly illuminating one on studio audience clothes and camera angles, in answer to a question from Yours Truly.
The taping went off well. No untoward screaming of answers from the audience. Or fainting contestants. Or impolite questions. Peace and goodwill and perfect poise prevailed, as we filed out of the studio.
However, it did cause some mild alarm to see that the audience seating area could hold maybe 60-70 people. From statistics stated by Alex Trebek, the audience used to be as large as 300, for some shows held years ago. That must have been before the 'dumbing down' of America, I guess. Now the audiences for live TV have ballooned only for the no-brainers like 'American Idol' and 'Dancing with the Stars', and the like, while more 'cerebral' pursuits languish. How long, I wonder, will Jeopardy hold its claim to the top-watched quiz show on TV? Will the love of learning and trivia outlast the diminishing attention spans of this wired generation?
I wish I knew the answer.


Lekhni said...

I wonder how much of the decline in popularity of quiz shows can be attributed to google? Everything is now just a search box away; there's no advantage to remembering trivia.

On another note, I keep wishing BBC would telecast "Mastermind" in the US.

Sujatha said...

You might have a point there. As search engine use goes up, we have a reduced need to memorize information, and have delegated remembering facts to remembering keywords to search on.
After a few more years, I imagine Alex Trebek will retire to enjoy his sunset years, while Jeopardy will be replaced by the Googley, where contestants will vie to show off their speed-googling skills

Lekhni said...

If today's rumors about Google Instant are anything to go by, in future you don't even have to do any thinking about search keywords..I wonder where we are heading on this slippery slope?

kochuthresiamma p .j said...

'Will the love of learning and trivia outlast the diminishing attention spans of this wired generation?'
paople do grow out of shows just as we grow out of certain authors and types of movies, dont they?
anyway, out here, there are not such shows anymore. once we had a siddharth basu show. there were regional versions of those too. now reality shows rules.

Sujatha said...

I tried the Google Instant, and find it more annoying than psychic. Maybe I'm too likely to look up arcane phrases rather than the most common terms searched and don't really end up saving time by finding what I need before I finish typing the whole word or phrase.
Slippery slopes can annoy the heck out of people, who may decide to get off the slope altogether.
As the media goes in the western world, so follow the Indian TV stations. Reality shows have taken over the mantle of entertainment from the soaps, so all the weepy/conflicted mega-serials will soon give way to the scripted conflicts and politics of the reality shows as the next time-waster.
A fascinating narrative always has the power to enthrall the viewer, and is more evident in the 'reality' shows, than in the drier confines of the quiz shows.

Sujatha said...

I would have loved to go to a taping! Little N was too young. We were there during Spring break. We visited the NBC studios, though.