We saw a Jeopardy taping today!
Jeopardy has been a favorite program of both of us for about as long as we can remember. Since we are parked outside of LA, I decided to see about tickets -- and found they were easy to get with about a week's notice -- so off we go!
We needed to be in Culver City at 10:45 (for an 11:30 taping), so we left at 8:45 for the 70 mile trip and just barely made it in time -- even this late in the morning, traffic was a bear (one of the things I don't miss from my time in Baltimore!). We would be there until 2:00 P.M., seeing three consecutive shows. A week's shows are filmed on a single day in two sessions: three shows before lunch, and two after. Each session has a different audience.
The taping took place at Sony Studios, the current home of both Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. Interestingly, this studio used to be MGM's, and one of the now-paved roads we walked down was originally THE yellow brick road. If only I'd worn my ruby slippers!
After the ID check, intro talk, and body scan, we entered the studio. No cameras, no phones, no videos allowed (cameras could be taken in, but only if the guard saw that the batteries were removed). The audience section is divided into two completely separate -- and separated -- sections: one for us, and one for the friends and relatives of the contestants. The latter were admonished to make absolutely NO contact with their friends -- even a "hello" or a wave could get the contestant disqualified (the ghosts of the quiz show scandal are still taken very, very seriously).
Our audience section held 70 people, and the seats were plush and comfy. We were warned that a difficult requirement for us would be to stop doing what we normally do in our living rooms -- shouting the responses! If we did, the show would stop, and a new question would be used. That did turn out to be very difficult but John and I managed -- we had microphones placed above us to capture our applause, and they would also have captured our words so we couldn't even whisper to each other. We did nudge a bit here and there!
The taping began right on schedule. The shows have very little post-production work needed -- just about everything is captured on the tape from the beginning. The opening graphic starts things off, with Johnny Gilbert's announcing "This is Jeopardy!" along with the contestants' names, home towns, and occupations. Alex Trebek walks out, and the game begins. It stops when the normal commercial breaks occur, although the commercials are not shown. In most cases the breaks are the same amount of time as the commercials will be so they can be inserted later.
During the breaks, the judges discuss any responses that may have been incorrectly ruled as wrong. If there are none, Alex Trebek poses for customary still photos with the contestants or takes audience questions.
After the first show, one of the pages asked if anyone had to go to the restroom -- "YES," my bladder screamed, sorry that I had earlier gulped so much coffee. To reach the restrooms, we had to leave the building, walk outside along the side of the building, and around a corner. Really, how hard would it be to have a couple restrooms there in the studio? The page then told us we had "two minutes." We actually had a lot longer, but we all hurried!
When we got back, Johnny Gilbert was taking questions. Soon, the previous winner came out, having changed into a new outfit to make it look like a different day, and two new contestants were brought in.
Each show went by very quickly. We did get to see a discussion among the judges about an answer (two of the contestants wound up getting their money returned as their answers were ruled to be correct), a Daily Double that had to be redone with another question because someone in the audience called out the answer (the contestant got the first one right, but missed the replacement), and a contestant who won the game by only $1. Plus we got to meet the Clue Crew -- they were sitting in the front and stood to be introduced.
Some other interesting things we learned:
- Categories, of course, are reused, but never clues. When a category is selected, writers go back and review all previous responses in the category to be sure they are unique.
Second place contestant gets $2000; third place $1000.
- If two contestants tie for a win, they are both brought back. If all three wind up with nothing, there is no winner and none of them come back.
- The judges not only have phones available (to call a friend?), but a stack of paper dictionaries and reference books.
- The judges will give Alex a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" for a quick verdict on a contestant's response.
- Alex has the answers and questions in front of him on paper (he crosses each one off as he reads it). He does not see the video clues before hand, but he does review the pages.
At the end of the show, they had a drawing, and the prizes were the soon-go-be-released Jeopardy game for WII and Nintendo. They showed us a brief video of it -- you can set it up so your MII is sitting there as a contestant. Too cute! We didn't win, but we will probably need to buy one.
We had a fun time seeing a bit of the backstage goings on. "Our" three shows will air the week between Christmas Day and New Year's Day.