Miriam's Jeopardy Adventure

How It Went Down (as well as we can remember)

There I was, a research manager with 22 post-graduate credits towards a Library Science degree. Coming into Final Jeopardy, I had about $12,000. Second place, Steve, a writer, had $11,400. The champion, Wes, a lawyer and band manager, trailed with $5600.

The Final Jeopardy category was Reference Books. What would you have bet?

The Final Jeopardy answer was: When first published in 1928, the then British Prime minister described it thusly, “Our histories, our novels, our poems, our plays - they are all in this one book.”

We ALL got the answer wrong. But I bet enough to win against Steve if we both got it right, so I ended up in second place.

Was I disappointed? Sure, but not as much as my reference professor!

The show aired on Monday, December 15th, 2003.

If you missed it, you can see it archived (text, not video) on the web.

There is also lots of analysis for every Jeopardy game on the message boards at http://www.jeopardy.com

Scott, my brothers David and Ken, and our friends Judy, Ceilann, and Buddy accompanied me on the trip. We had lots of fun, but boy are we glad it's over! Here are Buddy, me, Scott, David, and Judy at dinner the night before the big day.

Here are some of their impressions:

BuddyAfter someone in the audience asked Alex if they could have another raffle ticket, Alex said the person reminded Alex of his first wife, who always wanted an extra ticket.

While driving on a LA street, in my rented Mustang, another older red Mustang with two homies pulled up beside me. The passenger in the other Mustang noticed my 'Jeopardy' guest wrist band, and asked me if I was on Jeopardy. While we were driving to the next red light, I explained that Miriam (in the car behind) had been on Jeopardy, and when the episode would air. This exchange took about a minute and we were both gesturing back and forth while talking and driving down the street. Miriam and Scott in the car behind noticed all this and thought we were having an angry exchange and followed us to make sure there wasn't gonna be trouble!
ScottThe Jeopardy experience resembled an urban media “outward bound” exercise. The distance from the hotel to the studio was about ten miles on the 405 Freeway. Answer: Average ten miles an hour on an LA Freeway on Jeopardy day. Question: What is impossible!? What is tension!? Parking at the studio? Being herded by frustrated actors who love to rerun their schticks! Standing in lines in the alley waiting for the school kids on a field trip to use the bathroom! What is the best reason to study in school? To win big money on Jeopardy! and be on TV at the same time. Were we going to be a witness to Buddy's involvement in a road rage incident? 1928 British Prime Minister quote about a new dictionary??

Frequently asked questions:

How did you get on Jeopardy?
In 2002, I was randomly selected to take the Jeopardy! test at a contestant search in Boston, after years and years of sending in postcards and signing up at their website. They put you in a hotel ballroom with 75 other smarty-pants, and give you 50 questions. Each one is on the big screen for only 8 seconds. You scribble responses on the answer sheet with your official Jeopardy! pen (your only souvenir if you don't pass). This takes less than seven minutes. The producers (the same ones who run the real show), grade the scoresheets, then everyone who didn't get at least 35 right gets to go home. The ten of us that were left played a mini Jeopardy!, complete with the buzzers. Then we got to go home too! The producers said maybe they'd call, maybe they wouldn't, but in any case we'd only stay in their files for a year. That was October 8th, 2002.

On September 9th, 2003 (less than one month before I fell out of their files), I got the call! Taping was set for October 21, in Los Angeles.

What happens at the taping?
First you have to get there. 9 AM in Los Angeles is no time to have to be ANYWHERE, but Scott got me there on time. He's up for sainthood for this.

Then, you fill out lots of forms swearing that you won't cheat, you won't reveal the outcome to the press (there must be some big Jeopardy betting pools out there), etc. You rehearse the stories they picked from the eight (count 'em) that you emailed in weeks before. AND, you have to think up a 'hometown howdy,' a teaser for your local station to promote your appearance.

Finally, the makeup guy looks over the job you did on your hair and makeup. He pronounced me 'good to go' without any touchups. I figured I was hopeless.

Then you hang out sizing up the competition until they're ready in the studio. Now the fun begins.

Everybody gets to play part of a sample game and get lots of practice on the buzzer. Jeopardy! fanatics know that the buzzer is key. Most of the time you're not the only one who knows the answer; you have to be first in on the buzzer, which means pressing it only after some lights go on around the game board, and not before (you can't see these lights when you watch the show on TV.

They also 'size' you. Ever wonder why everyone looks like they're the same height on the show? They prop up us short people on boxes; I needed two.

Did you study?
Yes, but it didn't do me any good.

What's Alex like?
Who knows? The only time you talk to Alex is when he's asking you the (rehearsed) question.

How much did you win?
For second place, you get $2000. Then they take out LOTS of taxes, leaving about enough to cover expenses. They don't pay for any of your travel, hotel, etc.

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