cathy and alex

(Originally published March 20, 2012)
So, I just watched the second “Jeopardy!” episode I got to see in person. It’s nice not having to be quiet like in the studio, that’s for sure!

One of tonight’s contestants, Vince Gatton, wrote a wonderful guest post on The Jeopardy! Blog, which you should read if you want to know more about what the contestant experience is like. (And I’ll be cross-posting on that blog later this week.)

Now, let’s continue my trip down memory lane.

My “Jeopardy!” packet told me to report on a Tuesday and Wednesday, so I flew from Newark to Los Angeles that Monday. The flight was thankfully uneventful, although when I found out about Alec Baldwin’s outburst a day later on his plane at LAX, I have to admit I was a bit jealous of those folks!

At an airport bookstore, I saw a book by one of my Calvin professors, Gary Schmidt, who led a January class in New England that I took my senior year. He writes phenomenal children’s/young adult books, and this one, “Okay For Now,” has been getting great reviews. I’ll have to get a copy of it when I go to the Festival of Faith and Writing next month.

Upon arriving in L.A., I caught a shuttle to the Doubletree. The driver asked me and the other passenger, a man, what brought us to the area. The man said he was attending a meeting; I said I was there for “Jeopardy!” The driver said he had suspected that. Not sure what gave it away. The man wished me good luck.

At the hotel, I got one of the famous cookies and looked around for other contestants, but didn’t see any. I got settled and ordered dinner from room service. It arrived as I was watching that night’s episode. The man who delivered it got a question right; I smiled. (Maybe he’ll be on the show someday.)

As I packed up my things for the next morning, I realized I had left a skirt I wanted to wear back across the country in New York. D’oh! They had told us to bring enough clothes for three games, but I had packed an extra blouse just in case my other clothes got dirty, so I matched that with the pants I had brought.

I slept remarkably well that night — the time zone change didn’t seem to bother me. Tuesday morning, I got up on time, got dressed and went downstairs for breakfast, still looking for other players.
The desk clerk had thrown in free breakfast when I called to reserve my room, and I was glad. Once I was sufficiently fed and caffeinated, I headed back upstairs to get my things.

Back down in the lobby, I found a seat and chatted with a woman who was there for another meeting. Then I started to notice other people clutching “Jeopardy!” envelopes and garment bags. I talked a little bit with Nancy from Seattle, who was very friendly, until the driver called us to get on the shuttle to the studio.

“Anyone going to LAX?” he asked once we were on board. We laughed, but apart from that, the ride to the studio was quiet.

At the studio, we were greeted by the contestant coordinators, taken through security and met a few contestants who arrived on their own. Then we entered the green room, filled with photos of past champions and tournaments and replicas of big winners’ checks. We sat around a table, went over our interview questions with Robert, listened to Maggie pontificate and got to know each other a little better. Hannah, the returning champion, was there. We also had our makeup done and got fitted for microphones. (I almost felt like I was back in graduate school, doing broadcast lessons.)

I’ve heard people say that being on a game show is kind of like jury duty, in that you’re cut off from the outside world for a day or two and have to sit around a lot. I’ve never been on a jury, but I suspect that’s accurate — although jury duty can’t be nearly as much fun as rooting for people you’ve come to like in the few minutes you’ve known them.

Unlike some of the other contestants, I didn’t have anyone as a guest in the audience — but I think I actually preferred it that way, with less pressure.

Eventually, it was time to play the mock game on stage. Glenn filled in for Alex Trebek, and I had a great run in a category on “Popular Music.” (If only the real game was that easy!)

Once we were done practicing, it was time for the real thing. During taping, those of us not on stage sat in our own area, listening to Johnny Gilbert give the audience instructions and playing along. In between games, we were herded back to the green room.

After the first two games, it was my turn. More on that on Thursday.

(Photo courtesy Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)