Sunday, October 25, 2015

Things I Don't Get #11: Jeopardy Shenanigans and the Cult of Personality


I like Jeopardy, always have, and for the same reason everybody who does, does: I like to think I'm a lot smarter than I am. Trivia, aka random facts, are neither knowledge nor wisdom, and small cause of celebration. Still, the questions are the appeal of the show, that and Alex Trebek's awkward questions and segues. You know what isn't the appeal, though? The contestants. Pace The Trebek himself, the show is not about rooting for anyone, at least not for viewers who themselves can answer the questions. Most other game shows delight in their contestants. Spastics bounder up the aisle on The Price is Right and kooks guess off-the-wall answers on Family Feud, and on and on in the circle of television antics. Jeopardy doesn't encourage wrong or silly or creative answers. We don't get to know the contestants. They are there to bludgeon their competitors. The end.

Lately there has been a trend toward making celebrities of contestants though, perhaps triggered by the ratings garnered when certain players won much money or consecutive games. The trend is worsening and more often contestants are letting their precious foibles and ever-so-fascinating identities bleed over into the show. One has to make a little joke when he answers, another does a little dance during her opening introduction, another has to explain the whole thought process of his wager.

Must everything be personalized? Does everything have to center around people? We ought to be content with being ball players, actors, contestants, doctors, librarians–with being good at our job and station in life. Yet you can discuss nothing–sports, politics, movies, anything–without leaving the world of ideas for that of gossip. It's not a good turn for Jeopardy.

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