Alex Trebek and Jeopardy Come Home
Source: By CHRIS JANCELEWICZ
Posted: 08/13/08 11:57AM
Filed Under: Television
Alex Trebek has one of the most recognizable faces in the world, and he doesn't hide the fact that he's Canadian. For those who forget, one only has to tune in to Jeopardy and hear him pronounce something with his impeccable French for a little reminder. Having been on CTV for most of the show's tenure, Jeopardy is now moving to CBC, and in a sense, back home to its rightful place.
Are you glad to be coming home?
Happy to be coming home, good to be coming back to where I had my start. Good ol' CBC.
Are there going to be any changes in the game format?
The game will be the exact same, but we will do some special programming for CBC, for prime time, featuring Canadian contestants. That'll be little different.
Even now, there's a smattering of Canadian contestants now and then.
In fact, in the Tournament of Champions this year, a Canadian contestant came in second and won $100,000. I think we've had one Canadian win the Tournament of Champions in the last 24 years.
So when you have Canadian contestants this season, will you replace, say, American history with Canadian history?
That's where I thought the Canadians might suffer, with American-based questions.
Well, you'd be surprised. We had a Canadian on recently, and he was very knowledgeable about American history. Not just the superficial aspects of it, but all of it. He knew it. And that's one of the differences between Americans and Canadians. Canadians are more likely to know about American history than the other way around.
Did Ken Jennings change the show?
[Ken Jennings] didn't change the show in any way, except in terms of ratings. Our ratings went up...we didn't end up using as many contestants because he was the returning champion for 75 programs. I spent more time with him than I did with my wife during that period.
How did you come up with new topics to talk to him about?
(laughs) I was running out of things to talk to him about. In fact, there was an episode where I said, 'Is there anything you want to ask me?' David Letterman was saying we were moving to Massachusetts together and taking out a [marriage] licence.
How much have you learned during the course of this show?
I've always been up on trivia, and on general knowledge. But as I've gotten older, I've forgotten more. It's more difficult for me to retrieve it now, from my little brain cells, which are shrinking and dissolving by the minute. If a clue has to do with something I'm interested in, I'm more likely to retain the information. If it's not, then I read it and it's gone. But I must retain some element of it, because on some occasions, I'll tune in and watch, and I'll be able to come up with correct responses in subjects that I really know nothing about.
Will you ever participate in a game of Jeopardy?
No. My answer has been the same for many years. If I was a contestant, someone else would have to be a host, and they might do a really good job and the producers might look at that host and think, 'Gee, Alex is really long in the tooth, this person did a good job.' I don't want to give them anything to think about.
You don't think that would make a good game? With you and say, Pat Sajak? You'd clean up!
I love to host the program, but that's it. People ask me all the time how they think I'd do, and I tell them that I'd do well if I were against my peers, people my own age. But against regular folk, like say a 30-year-old, he or she would clean my clock.
Is it about reflexes?
It has to do with reflexes, signalling in on time. A lot of our clues have to do with pop culture, and I'm not into the current pop culture scene, music groups...I don't know any of that.
A lot of people on the show look exasperated when they're clicking the button.
That's because they're clicking too soon, and they get frustrated. You have to wait until the clue is read in its entirety.
What is your favourite version of Jeopardy?
I've always had a warm spot in my heart for the Teen Tournament. But the college championship is very exciting, b/c it's done usually at a university in one of their arenas. Instead of doing it in front of 200 people, we're doing it in front of 2, 3, or as was the case at the University of Wisconsin, 3,500 people. A lot of the young people are very into the game. They have natural rivalries that are focused on - we had Michigan and Michigan State, we had Harvard and Yale. There's a lot of added energy. Rowdiness contributes to the atmosphere.
What is the most bizarre experience you've had on the show?
We had a totally blind contestant, Eddie Timanus, win five shows and two cars. That's unusual. He would be able to remember which clues and which categories had been selected on the board. The skills involved in that are just mind-boggling. When he left after the fifth win, I had a tear in my eye.
Catch Alex and Jeopardy on CBC at 7:30 pm on weeknights.