Back in January, longtime jeopardy! Executive producer Harry Friedman did something he had never done in two decades of running the show: called a candidate on the phone.
Normally this is strictly against the rules, but Friedman had a good reason to break protocol. He knew that that night America would see Ken Jennings win the Jeopardy! The greatest tournament of all time. He also knew that Jennings, who became a franchise icon with his 74-game winning streak in 2004, had sworn it would be his last appearance as a nominee. And Friedman, who was due to retire in May, didn’t want to let Jennings stray from the iconic trivia game.
He said, Hey, we’ve talked, and if you’re serious about your retirement from Jeopardy !, would you like to come aboard? Like, moving to the front office? Jennings recalled in a phone interview. It was good, because I was already missing the show. (And no, he also can’t believe the tournament aired before the pandemic shut everything down. Who knew the GOAT tournament would be the last thing in the human history textbooks? He joked. )
This is how Jennings officially joined the Jeopardy team! who kicked off his 37th season Monday as a consulting producer. His new responsibilities include what he calls a vague portfolio: raising candidate awareness, consulting on writing clues, appearing in video clues (his first airing on Tuesday) and generally being the show’s ambassador, which he has. already done informally.
I’ve been watching for 36, 37 years, so I have the perspective of the fans, and I have the perspective of the competitors; I played more hours of Jeopardy! than anyone on the planet, said Jennings, 46. So I thought: I’ll probably do this stuff for free anyway, why not get on the payroll?
As with most Hollywood productions, the show ceased filming in the spring due to the novel coronavirus, so fans missed eight weeks of not bad new episodes considering, but still a disappointment to viewers who saw it. watch religiously every night. Jennings calls Jeopardy! the ultimate comfort food, which is something especially precious in a time of pure chaos.
It’s a bit of normalcy every night for half an hour, Jennings said. Every time you see Jeopardy !, you are in a timeless space where you remember all the other times you saw it and how you used to watch it with grandma, or watch it in the dorm at the university, whatever. Its real continuity in our culture, and there isn’t much to it, especially nowadays.
The show is back to studio filming, but with strict pandemic precautions including only a very small crew on site, rearranging the set so there is more space between contestants and no audiences. studio. The health of host Alex Trebeks is also obviously a priority; he was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer last year.
Jennings said he had heard that no one was more saddened by the unexpected end of the pandemic than Trebek.
Despite the cancer and the age of 80, he couldn’t wait to get back to work, Jennings said. Danger! still records five shows a day. It’s a long and trying day … and Alex feeds on it, from what I hear. He’s having good days and bad, but he can still get the job done and enjoy it.
Meanwhile, millions of viewers will also be delighted to have the distraction of Jeopardy! return, especially since everything (television, social networks, countries) is starting to become more than ever centered on the elections. Miraculously, Jeopardy! maybe the only bipartisan thing we’ve left in our culture.
You think it would be the post office, the national parks, or the public airwaves, but then all of that stuff got politicized, Jennings said dryly. But Jeopardy! has been studiously apolitical, and I don’t think so by design, but just by the strength of the format, it’s extremely popular with both Americas. No one has a bad thing to say about Jeopardy!
I think that’s good, he added, because it represents that half hour every night where, in fact, questions get answers, correct answers, and facts matter. It’s important to have a universally accepted outpost on the air.