Chris Hicks: Mormons popping up all over TV these days

Published: Friday, Aug. 1 2014 7:15 a.m. MDT

Alex Trebek hosts the syndicated game show "Jeopardy!" which features Mormon subjects among its answer/question format from time to time.

Sony Pictures Television

Related: A look at Mormons on reality TV shows since 2000

It has been well documented that Mormons are something of a staple on reality television, from “Survivor” to “The Amazing Race” to “Dancing With the Stars” and many, many more. But LDS references on at least one game show and Mormon characters on a number of fictional programs are also popping up with increased frequency.

If you watch the syndicated game show “Jeopardy!” with any regularity, you may have noticed that every now and then The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints figures in the answer/question format.

Of course, when Ken Jennings was winning all those pots ’o gold back in 2004, the LDS Church was often the topic of conversation on the show and also showed up in a category or two.

But a friend and I were recently talking about how often the church seems to crop up on “Jeopardy!” in the post-Jennings era. True, it’s on an irregular basis, but we speculated that perhaps one of the show’s writers is a member of the LDS Church. Why else would Mormon subjects show up so often?

Our discussion was prompted by a category in May that was labeled “Popular Books” with “The Book of Mormon” as an answer (or more correctly, a question).

And we remembered that last fall, for the first time to my knowledge, “Jeopardy!” devoted an entire five-clue category to LDS Church subjects. In fact, the category was labeled “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” sandwiched between “Celebrities’ Kids’ Names” and “Hit Parades.”

The five questions/answers were “missionaries,” “the Mormon Tabernacle,” “apostles,” “Joseph Smith” and “Deseret.” It was the first category chosen by the three contestants, all three chimed in and all five were correctly answered (or questioned).

This was so unusual that a story about it appeared in the LDS Church News.

But it’s not so unusual anymore. This past June, “Jeopardy!” did it again. This time the category was “The Book of Mormons,” and it was the first listed on the board, just before “Quirky News.” (Had it been “Peculiar News,” there would have been some degree of symbiosis.)

The “Book of Mormons” category referred to LDS Church members who had written books. Four clues were descriptions looking for authors’ names, and one was an author and part of his book’s title, looking for the full title. The questions/answers were: Stephenie Meyer, Mitt Romney, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Steve Young and Harry Reid. Only two of the contestants’ guesses were correct.

That was fun but I didn’t think much more about it until I started noticing Mormon characters right and left on fictional TV shows, like some kind of strange “Mormon Moment” revival.

During Episode 4 of the dark, satirical FX cable mystery-thriller “Fargo,” an odd Mormon reference pops up out of the blue. Two of the show’s supporting characters are partnered hit men, and one is deaf, so when he converses using sign language it is subtitled. During a heated exchange between them in a restaurant, the hearing hit man says, “No one likes to be watched while they’re eating.” His deaf partner replies, “Some people do.” His partner asks, “Who,” and he responds, “Mormons.”

Say what? So, does he mean that he’s a Mormon and because he’s deaf he likes to be watched so he can communicate? Or is he saying that Mormons in general like to be watched while they eat? (If it’s the latter, I’m done with restaurants.)

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