Jeopardy! by the Numbers
- The original daytime version of “Jeopardy!” debuted on NBC in 1964 and ran until 1975. The current daily syndicated version premiered in 1984 with Alex Trebek as host.
- Alex Trebek has hosted more than 7,300 episodes.
- More than 450,000 clues have been played over 33 seasons.
- Contestants have won more than $100 million in prize money since 1984.
- Jeopardy! has won 33 Emmys and holds the Guinness World Records record for the most Emmy Awards won by a TV game show.
It had been 18 months since Justin Braddock went to the audition in Atlanta and, since no one had called, he figured, “Oh well, I didn’t make the cut.”
Then the phone rang last January and the caller asked if he could be in Los Angeles in February.
He’d made the cut; he’d made it on “Jeopardy.”
Braddock, a UTC graduate who earned bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and applied math in 2012 and a master’s in business administration in 2015, was on “Jeopardy” Monday night. He didn’t win, but still enjoyed the experience.
“It was very, very cool,” says Braddock, who works as a power engineer at TVA. “You tick something off your bucket list.”
He taped the show on Feb. 22 — or perhaps taped the “shows,” since they run through five episodes a day. Win one and you go on to the next.
The day starts at 7 a.m. when a shuttle picks up contestants at the hotel, but actual taping doesn’t start until about 10:30 a.m. In the meantime, contestants sign tax forms and go over the rules, among other tasks, he says.
Before taping starts, contestants are brought into the studio to play a couple of mock games with producers, who stand in for host Alex Trebek.
“It gets the brain thinking so you’re not just sitting there and the show starts and it’s, ‘Here you go!’” Braddock says.
The pre-game buildup also helps contestants get accustomed to using the buzzers and gives producers a chance to offer some instructions.
“They say, ‘Smile more. Speak up.’ They want to put on a good show,” says Braddock, who flew out to L.A. with his wife then met up with his parents, who live in California.
For some, however, the hours before showtime are a time for nerves to start jangling and anxiety to ramp up, but Braddock says that didn’t really happen to him.
“I’m not that afraid to be up in front of a crowd,” he says, “but I can see how, if you’re not comfortable doing something like giving a speech, you might be more nervous.”
As for boning up on knowledge before heading out to L.A., Braddock says there really wasn’t much he could do. He received some advice from people who had been on the show, he says, and there are some websites that have “Jeopardy” shows going back decades. Basically, though, you know the stuff or you don’t, he says.
“I did a little bit of studying, but there’s not really many things to study.”
Watching the show on a regular basis is the best tool and is something he’s done for years, he says. Familiarity with the categories and the way the answers are written can help you figure out what the correct question is.
“If they say ‘German composer,’ it’s probably going to be Wagner,” he says. “If there’s ‘iron’ and ‘French engineer,’ it’s going to be Eiffel.”
He can’t say much about which categories came up when he played, but he will say he did well on “States by Beer.” Contestants don’t know what the categories are “until they pop up onscreen,” he adds.
And no, contestants don’t get to hang with Trebek. The host didn’t show up onstage until just before taping started and, except for the brief time when he talks to contestants near the beginning of each show, he’s not a chitchatter, Braddock says.
Still, that didn’t matter, he says.
“I had a blast.”