As longtime fans of “Jeopardy!”, Martha and I are really enjoying the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) tournament, which is getting big ratings in primetime on ABC. According to the Hollywood Reporter, each episode has drawn more viewers than: the first four games of the 2019 NBA Finals; the first five games of the 2019 World Series; all but one of ESPN’s 17 Monday Night Football telecasts; and seven of Fox’s 11 Thursday Night Football showcases. The irony is that live sports are supposedly the only thing on TV that generates increased viewership — and they’re getting beaten by a pre-recorded game show.
What makes this tournament more enjoyable than an ordinary hour of “Jeopardy!” is the way the three contestants — James Holzhauer, Ken Jennings, and Brad Rutter — are so obviously having such a good time. Regular season players are usually nervous and don’t interact much, but these three veterans (who have appeared on so many episodes) seem loose, friendly, and happy to be back on the show’s set. As for the clues, some of them are harder than on the daily edition, but there are enough easier ones to keep fans like us engaged.
I’m rooting for Jennings, who has the lead in the best-of-seven series that continues tonight. I just like the guy, who was always a good guest on my radio show, and am a fan of some of the other trivia content he creates. Each Tuesday, we try to answer some of Jennings’ seven question quiz-by-email, but rarely get more than a couple of them right. I do a little bit better with his amusing Kennections puzzles for Mental Floss.
Of course, the real GOAT is host Alex Trebek, who maintains his usual professional demeanor amidst the fun, even while battling pancreatic cancer. Let’s also take a moment to recognize 95-year-old announcer and audience warmup guy Johnny Gilbert, who (like Trebek) has worked on “Jeopardy” since it re-emerged in 1984 — part of a TV career that goes back to the 1950s!