On April 11 and 12 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, two weeks of episodes for the 2001 Jeopardy Teen Tournament were taped. The tournament, which featured high school students from all across the United States, will begin airing on television during the week of April 30.
Several of the contestants were from the Philadelphia area, including one player who went to my old high school (and at least made it to the semifinals). The winner of the Teen Tournament would not only end up receiving cash, but a brand new car as well.
The episode tapings were divided into four sessions, two sessions on each day, and I attended the first taping on April 11. Before they started taping the regular episodes, a practice game of Jeopardy was held. The 15 contestants scheduled to participate in the tournament took turns playing the practice game and getting used to the signaling buttons. The practice game was hosted by Alex Trebek’s stand-in. Trebek didn’t appear on stage until the first actual game of Jeopardy was about to begin.
Finally, the regular episodes were ready to be taped. Each of the three shows taped during the session I attended featured one local contestant. The first episode featured someone from Philadelphia, the second episode included someone from Pottstown, and the third show had a player from Wilmington. All of the local contestants played well, but only one of them won their game.
Two things surprised me about the Jeopardy production. First of all, the game board is much smaller than it appears on television. Second of all, they actually take commercial breaks during the tapings of the show, often lasting more than two minutes. While the show lasts for 30 minutes on television (about 22 minutes without commercials), it took approximately 50 minutes to film one episode.
Also, Alex had to change his wardrobe between episodes to give the appearance that the show was being filmed over a span of several days as opposed to several episodes back-to-back on the same day.
During the commercial breaks, Alex Trebek re-read several clues if he ended up mispronouncing them, and contestants’ scores were changed if a mistake was made. Also, he and announcer Johnny Gilbert answered questions from audience members.
The set, which was designed to look like part of Old City Philadelphia, featured a replica of the Liberty Bell. During one of the commercial breaks, Trebek joked that he wished he had brought a hammer, referencing the man who was arrested several weeks ago for chipping away part of the Liberty Bell.
Although Trebek is a Los Angeles Lakers fan, he predicted that the Sixers would make the NBA finals and meet the Lakers. Ironically, one of the categories in Double Jeopardy was “’76ers,” which wasn’t a reference to the basketball team, but to famous historical people and events of 1776. He also mentioned that he grew up as a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Overall, the experience of seeing a television show live was enjoyable and Trebek is actually funnier in person than on television.