Answer: This TV series aired its first episode March 30, 1964, yet is more buzzworthy than “Empire.”
Question: What is “Jeopardy!”?
This fall, the ancient game show is breaking the Internet. And it’s because of casting, casting, casting!
In September, contestant Talia Lavin faced this final “Jeopardy!” answer: “This song from a 1999 animated film about censorship had a word censored from its Oscar performance.” Clueless, she wrote: “What is the love ballad of Turd Ferguson?” – a name that fake “Burt Reynolds” makes up to irk fake “Alex Trebek” on a “Saturday Night Live” spoof. Now the real Trebek had to read the name aloud! (The correct question: “What is “Blame Canada,” from “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.”)
Then along came D.C. resident Matt Jackson, who seemed to be a robot designed for “Jeopardy!” because how can a 23-year-old know SO MUCH STUFF yet not have mastered the art of the smile? In 13 appearances, the paralegal won $411,612. He’ll be back in the Tournament of Champions, which starts Nov. 9.
On Oct. 23, NPR producer Becky Sullivan was stumped by the final “Jeopardy!” answer: “The flower pictured here is called this, also a disparaging term for people on the political left.” She wrote the only insulting flower she could think of: “pansy.”(The heart-shaped flower was in fact a “bleeding heart.”) The video of her response drew 1.5 million views on “Jeopardy’s” Facebook page.
Writing for npr.org, Sullivan points out a secret of the show: “Trebek can read the Final Jeopardy responses before they’re revealed.” He teased her prior to the reveal: “I have a feeling you may have found a way to insult liberals in this country.”
And who can forget handsome bartender (and aspiring film director) Tom Flynn, who last Monday struck Zoolanderesque poses as he gazed into the monitor. His answer for the final “Jeopardy!” question, which cost him all his winnings: “What”? Sample tweet about Tom: “Best contestant EVER!!!”
I bet we’d keep watching even without such viral moments. Let’s face it: We all want to be on “Jeopardy!” no matter what our age or station in life. I once interviewed Trebek, who told me of a fan who wrote him a letter about his “Jeopardy!”-loving mother, who was comatose in the hospital when the show came on the TV. She sat up, took a stab at the first question with “What is Panama?” … then expired.
Correction: A previous version of this post misnamed Talia Lavin. It has been corrected.
Read more of Marc’s TV musings: