Alex Trebek is on the phone, plugging his "Jeopardy Book."
The book is full of sample answers and questions, plus the genesis of "Jeopardy" and what happens behind the scenes.Skip the questions. Cut to Trebek's answers:
- "The size of the (studio) audience can range from 20 to 150 . . . The audience is instructed not to shout out responses. If I hear a response from the audience, I will invalidate the question. If something goes wrong, we will back up and replace the clue and go on as if nothing had happened."
- When an answer appears on screen at the instant it is requested, rather than a second later, it is because "we are anticipating the next choice of answer, as when someone is running a category. . . . It doesn't always work out (that they stay in one category), and when it doesn't, we just cut to the wide-angle shot and go in from there."
- "We save all unused material, although sometimes an answer that isn't used one day will turn up later under a different category."
- The seniors tournament may feature almost any category, except something like rock `n' roll, but the teen and college tournaments are highly unlikely to have a category such as Rodgers and Hammerstein. "We do want them to look good. . . . We have used more serious music for teens, but they tend to be weak on those. Even in some of the other categories like math and science, we tend to use more curriculum-oriented material."
- "The electronic pens can be a problem if not used properly. Depending on how they hold the pen and touch the surface of the screen, they may create a squiggle or what appears to be a slash or an underline. For the most legible results they need to hold the pen almost straight up and down."
- Five episodes are taped a day (three per afternoon and two after a dinner break) on Mondays and Tuesdays. "Normally we tape about six weeks ahead. We're not that far ahead when we start in the fall, but we get further ahead as we go along."
- About three years ago a contestant who was retired as a five-time champion was atypical in that she beamed when opponents missed questions. The following November, she did not turn up on the annual tournament of champions. "Right. We disqualified her because we learned she had lied on her application. She had been on seven or eight other game shows under four other identities and Social Security numbers."