I Lost on Jeopardy! (on-line test), baby, ooooh-aah-ooooh

Jeopardy! fans, anyone? Cue the Jeopardy! theme music. Can you hear it running through your brain now? (Will you be able to banish it from your thoughts? or will it haunt you for days like “It’s a Small World” after a visit to Disneyland? You’re welcome.)

Like many longtime viewers, I too have dreams of being a Jeopardy! champion. And have now taken the test three times. Try Number One was a few years ago, when they happened to be in San Francisco for in-person tests. I think I did fairly well, but they never tell you your score. They only announced the names of those who passed and the rest of us shuffled quietly out of the hotel conference room, hopes dashed. Out of approximately 60 of us, only 8 or 9 were asked to stay.

Some time after that they started doing on-line tests, so Try Number 2 was last year in the comfort of my home. (Kudos to whoever it was on the Jeopardy! team who came up with that idea!) Again, I think I did fairly well, with five questions in the “I definitely missed those” category and maybe a couple others.  Not only do they not tell you your score, they don’t even tell you if you passed, only that if you did pass you might get a call sometime in the next year to come audition. But, alas, no call came.

So last Thursday evening was Try Number 3. Even though I was again at home, I didn’t feel quite as relaxed as during previous attempts for whatever reason, and that showed in my test results, or maybe it was just the questions, but I definitely did not do as well as before. I missed eight questions that I know of, and probably 2 or 3 others. (Out of 50 questions, that’s one-fifth. Ugh.) I feel like Weird Al. And I don’t even get a year’s supply of Rice-a-Roni.

I suppose my brother and sister-in-law will have to disown me for not being able to name the current Broncos quarterback. Naturally I missed the Opera Question, and the President Question, and the Classical Musical Question. And while I’m usually good at word categories, like homophones, that one left me blank.

On the other hand, I sailed through the history questions, the geography questions, and quite a few others. The only Speaker of the House from California? Pelosi. The Sicilian volcano famous for eruptions? Etna. That desert in Chile? The Atacama (I remember that from my college courses in Archaeology.) The Mohs Scale measures what in minerals? Hardness (Introduction to Geology). The national park located in Utah which is the last alphabetically? Zion. Of the three rivers in Pittsburgh which is first alphabetically? The Allegheny.

I admit that last one threw me for a loop. Not the question. But my answer. I’ve never been to Pittsburgh. Never studied Pennsylvania. How did I know that? Maybe I heard it during a broadcast of a Pittsburgh Penguins hockey game. I don’t know.

That reminds me of a different Jeopardy! experience, many, many years ago, back when Alex Trebek still had his mustache. The clue had something to do with Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The correct response was “Who is Ophelia?” Sitting at home, a cat on my lap, I blurted it out with no hesitation. And then I stopped and thought to myself, How do I know that? I’ve never read Hamlet. I’ve never seen Hamlet. (This was prior to 1990, before Mel Gibson released his movie version.) And then I thought to myself, yes I have, many times, in innumerable repeats of Gilligan’s Island. Yes, you read that right, Gilligan’s Island, the 1960’s sitcom. In the third season, they aired “The Producer” with Phil Silvers guest starring as film producer Harold Hecuba, where the castaways staged a musical version of Hamlet to showcase Ginger’s talent, using dialogue from Shakespeare mixed with music from various operas.

Don’t ask me why that episode stuck so solidly in my memory. But it must be why, when I see more current movies like Pixar’s “Up!” and you’re enjoying the overture from Bizet’s “Carmen” in that one scene, I’m hearing Alan Hale Jr. sing “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” 

Hopefully, on Try Number 4, that bit of trivia may again come in handy. Or, who knows, by the time I pass the test I’ll be old enough to qualify for the senior’s tournament. Either way, I will keep trying. And hope I don’t get eliminated from the contestant list like I did in late 2002 from “Win Ben Stein’s Money.” I was all set, selected for the last day of taping (late October, if I remember correctly), when I got an apologetic phone call from the producers announcing they had to randomly choose three contestants from that last day per an order from Comedy Central. Our replacements? The geeks from the short-lived “Beat the Geeks” in a network publicity stunt. Seriously? “Beat the Geeks” sucked and didn’t last much longer anyway, making the whole gimmick pointless. (We unlucky three were promised to be brought back the following season, but the show got cancelled.) Thanks, Comedy Central, for nothing!

To be (a Jeopardy! contestant) or not to be, that is the question I ask of me. Yes. If you, too, have taken the test once, twice, thrice (or more) with no luck, keep trying. Maybe we’ll face off against each other on national television. May whoever has the most seemingly useless trivia stuck in their brain – and can hit that button fastest – win.

Can you now hear Bob Denver singing “To be or not to be” on endless loops through your brain? You’re welcome.

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