The Man in My Living Room: Alex Trebek

If you have read Don’t Blink for even the shortest amount of time, you know that my wife and I are diehard Jeopardy fans. For most of our years as a couple, the show was a consistent part of our nightly routine. We literally kept score.

But my fandom for Jeopardy stretches back pre-Sidney. I watched it with my college roommate nightly in our dorm room. Growing up, my family would tune in multiple times per week. Our favorite computer game for our clunky desktop was Jeopardy. We had flash cards.

What made Jeopardy so endearing was its consistency. You had the structure, you had the theme music, and you had Johnny Gilbert. But of course the undisputed anchor piece—the glue that made the show a smashing success—was Alex Trebek.

RIP Alex Trebek

Waking up to the news yesterday morning that he had passed was not surprising but it was sad. A force who had been a part of my life for three decades, albeit from my television screen, was gone. Say what you will about having a connection with someone you had never actually met, Alex was in all of the numerous living rooms I have called home over my years on this planet. He really was like a houseguest.

I admired Alex Trebek because he was fair. The man hosted a hit game show with skill, accuracy, and diplomacy. There was never any doubt that a contestant would get a fair shake or that a round would go off without a hitch. He never showed bias and he took his personal integrity seriously. Because of this, Jeopardy was a game that could be enjoyed and trusted by everyone. He was the ultimate impartial referee.

Another redeeming trait of Alex’s that I respected was his dry sense of humor. Whether it was during his interviews with contestants or his quips between clues, Trebek never ceased to amaze me with his wittiness. He had a true knack for not missing a beat. It always came across as genuine, sly, and hilarious.

But I think maybe his best quality was his tenderness. Because of pop culture portrayals, Alex Trebek might be classified by some as an ultra serious, deadpan brainiac with a robotic personality. But for those of us who watched him regularly, we knew there was much more to him than an SNL parody or a cameo on “Jury Duty.” Alex was appreciative, compassionate, and authentic—all qualities that were evident as he interacted with contestants and viewers at home.

Jeopardy will never be the same. Hopefully Ken Jennings will be the new host and he will add his touch to the show, but there is simply no replacing the person who dealt out clues for the past 37 years.

I’ll take, I miss you for $1,000, Alex. Don’t Blink.

The Five Things I Hate About Jeopardy

About a year ago, I wrote about both my love for Jeopardy as well as my disdain for the current Jeopardy champion at the time. I bring this up solely to illustrate my love for the show. Lately I have found myself watching the program a lot more. Having a job where I don’t work such long hours and dating a girl who also loves the show has contributed to me spending a lot more of my evenings with Alex Trebek.

As I have watched the show more, certain little things have started to get under my skin. Attribute my crankiness to my escalating age but there are some practices and tendencies that frustrate me about Jeopardy. In today’s blog post I want to offer up my top five annoyances with my favorite game show (in no particular order).

Speaking Over Trebek: A few times each show right in the middle of a round, there will be that awkward moment when a contestant will answer a clue and then immediately choose another clue without waiting for Alex to finish talking. Many times Alex will be elaborating on an answer or sometimes he will just be telling the contestant to make a selection but he or she will be too excited to wait. What will result is Alex and the contestant talking at the exact same time. It makes me feel uncomfortable and it ruins the flow of the game.

Contestant Interviews: Speaking of awkward moments, nothing is more embarrassing and cringe-worthy than the interviews/introductions with Alex and the contestants in the middle of the first round. You have to understand, many of the Jeopardy contestants are weird people to begin with. Having them talk to a person who is socially-different as well, like Alex, spells disaster. I hold my breath through all three interviews. Many of them are beyond bad. My suggestion would be to bring out a super model or a high profile sideline reporter to do the quick interviews. It would shake things up a bit, decrease the awkwardness, and give us all something nice to look at.

Leaving One Clue on the Board: I literally yell at the television screen when either the first or second round ends and there is one remaining clue on the board. I mean come on!! Is there really that much of a time crunch to not finish out the board? Make that blue screen look complete and just read the damn clue. The contestants, the people at home, and the people in the audience will all have no idea if the timer expires and there is a single remaining clue. Please producers, refrain from sounding that awful noise signaling the end of the round and let Trebek present the very last question.

Video Clue Categories – The video clue categories in Jeopardy are a complete joke. No one enjoys them. Maybe 20 years ago they were instituted to show that Jeopardy was with the times and savvy with technology but they are completely counterproductive now. All what they do is slow the game down and eat up precious time in the round. I don’t care about the correspondents traveling to exotic places, demonstrating techniques on screen, or trying their best to make the audience laugh…it is the biggest pain ever. I plead with the Jeopardy producers to axe the video categories and leave the clue asking to Alex Trebek.

Jumping All Over the Board – In the post I mentioned above, I complained about the strategy contestants utilize of jumping all over the board, surfing to different categories and random dollar amounts. In the post-Arthur Chu era, this method has become more and more prevalent. I understand that the players who employ this strategy want to find the daily doubles and they want to fight against their opponents getting into a rhythm, but for my own selfish sake I dislike it. My small brain wants the categories to be revealed starting with the $200 clue in one category and continuing in that category through the $1,000 clue. I don’t want the $600 clue in “British Poets Rhyme Time” then the $1,000 clue in “Shakespeare Characters” followed by the $1,000 clue in “Supreme Court Law.” I know this won’t change, but it would help me be more competitive when I am playing against my family and girlfriend.


Jeopardy is a wonderful game show. I have watched it for most of my life. I think my appreciation of the show is evidenced by my willingness to write a whole blog post on the little things that annoy me about it. Out of the five things I mentioned, if there is one change I would love to see implemented it would be the elimination of video clue categories. Maybe they could salvage the jobs of the correspondents who record those clues and have them give the contestant interviews during the show. Don’t Blink.

My Disdain for the Current Jeopardy Champion

Growing up in my family whenever we all happened to be in the house when it came on we all liked to watch “Jeopardy” together. Actually, I should rephrase that. We all liked to compete against each other. When it came to us kids more than once fights broke out about who answered the clue first, who had answered the most clues correctly, and what penalty should be levied for blurting out wrong answers. We went as far as to participate in Final Jeopardy by writing our answers on computer paper and to reveal them as the actual contestants did. Shoot, our parents even bought us a Jeopardy computer game one Christmas. After a couple months it was pretty much useless because we had played it so much that we had all memorized every single answer in the game.

When I went home for Christmas this past December my brother, dad, and I got to reignite our game show rivalry by watching a couple episodes of Jeopardy. With my brother and I now more caught up to my dad’s knowledge it became a contest of out of the three of us who could read the clue at warp speed and spit out the answer before Alex Trebeck could even get out the first couple words. It got intense.

I bring all of this up to illustrate that I am a Jeopardy fan. I mean come on, if you take the time to read Ken Jenning’s book it pretty much goes without saying, right? Well anyway I want to use my Jeopardy loyalty status to serve as my right to weigh in on the newest Jeopardy champion. His name is Arthur Chu and to put it nicely, he is kind of a tool.

Chu is currently a four day champion with over $100k in winnings. After a special “Battle of the Decades” tournament that started this week he will return on February 24 in an attempt to win his fifth straight game and qualify for the champions tournament. As he has dominated the competition over the course of four nights he has gained haters mostly because of his unorthodox play and arrogance.

Chu’s strategy centers on him jumping all over the board selecting random categories and dollar amounts. This gives him a better chance to find the crucial daily doubles while also preventing his opponents from getting into any sort of a rhythm. Chu’s arrogance hinges on him showing apathy on the set and cockiness off it. In the interviews he has given over the past few days he seems about as likeable as Jim Harbaugh.

I don’t like the guy’s style of play for the exact same reason his opponents, Alex Trebek, the producers, and Jeopardy purists don’t like it: unpredictability. His opponents have no idea what clue is coming next, Alex has to search frantically for the note card he must pull, the producers know more editing will need to be done, and Jeopardy purists have a heart attack when the $200 clue in “American Potpourri” is not followed by the $400 clue in “American Potpourri”. Personally it messes with my Jeopardy Mojo when I am playing along as well. I feel smarter when I can answer three or four consecutive clues from a category that I know rather than get iced while Chu takes a tour around the board. I also just hate the sight of a Jeopardy board that has blank clues in the most random spots rather than orderly blanked out columns.

But make no mistake about It, the guy has a sound strategy and it has won him $102,000. I don’t blame him one bit for utilizing a smart and legitimate game plan to win a lot of money. Well done.

But what I can’t tolerate is the less than respectful way he conducts himself on stage. I don’t have as much of an issue with his comments he makes to the media outside of the studio as I do with what he does on set. You can win a lot of money and stand leaps and bounds above the competition while doing so with class. Ken Jennings did it for 74 nights. Arthur Chu couldn’t even do it through the first segment of the first show he appeared on. He acts disinterested and aloof. He has little concern for his opponents. But what I can’t stand the most is his disrespect for the God of game shows, Mr. Alex Trebek. While Chu calls Alex a “national treasure” you would never know it by watching him during the episodes. Besides speaking over Trebek when giving answers he also had a very bush league moment during a daily double clue that he didn’t know. When Trebek asked Chu how much he wanted to wager on a daily double based on a sports category the four time champ responded with $5. Jeopardy purist or not, that is a very disrespectful bet and should anger even the casual Jeopardy viewer. Then, to make matters worse, Chu responded “I don’t know” before Alex could even finish reading the clue. Pure classlessness.

While I don’t like Arthur Chu’s playing style I respect it. However, no one on this planet has the right to disrespect Alex Trebek. On February 24 I hope Chu loses. In fact I hope he suffers a humiliating defeat. For all I care he can end Double Jeopardy with an incorrect answer that will leave him with a negative amount thus disqualifying him from even participating in Final Jeopardy. No one crosses Trebek. Don’t Blink.