Andy’s Weekly Thoughts: September 11–15, 2023

Welcome back to another installment of Andy’s Weekly Thoughts following the season’s first week! This column will move to Saturdays; check out my weekly recap column in Geeks Who Drink’s Questionist every Sunday! Or, you can sign up for the Questionist newsletter here!

What I Would Have Aired As Encore Presentations This Summer

In my years in charge of this site, there is generally a correlation between the number of people watching Jeopardy! and the number of people visiting The Jeopardy Fan. I have also found over the past couple of years that reruns of tournaments, as opposed to reruns of regular play games, have seen more people come to The Jeopardy Fan, as fans who missed the tournaments the first time are more invested in the overall outcome (or, they get re-invested even if they watched the tournament the first time around). Thus, it is probably a better decision overall for the show to just rerun tournaments in future summers.

This past summer, instead of Second Chance–Tournament of Champions–4 regular play episodes from last September, I would have taken the 16-episode Tournament of Champions and the 14-episode High School Reunion Tournament to get to the 30-episode count. I would also conjecture that this decision would align with what happened during the Trebek Era and be a better ratings decision for the show overall.

Why I Think Early Season 40 Ratings Will Be Down—And The Strike Won’t Be To Blame

As I mentioned in my writeup on Wednesday, search traffic levels regarding Jeopardy! has been down precipitously this week compared to normal—they are at the levels that we normally see during the summer reruns. This, once again, leads me to believe that the average American television viewer (the ones who aren’t terminally online and who aren’t aware of the labor issues plaguing Hollywood at the moment) still thinks that the show is in reruns. Moreover, viewers’ TV guides are not helpful on this front as well: these episodes are being billed as “Season 37 Second Chance”. To your average viewer, who might have seen Season 38 Second Chance earlier this summer in reruns, this says “more reruns”—and those viewers will be waiting until they see an episode they believe to be new. I would strongly recommend changing the episode descriptions to “September 2023 Second Chance” and “October/November 2023 Champions’ Wildcard” to demonstrate that these episodes are new.

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On Clue Quality During The Strike

Robert K S of J! Archive said the following this week: “As we continue to get deeper into the strike we might see some Finals that were previously set aside for a reason”. I think he has a very excellent point. The show’s writers often reject clues for various reasons, quality being one of them. I would say that it’s very likely that as the show goes through its backlog of unused clues that we may start to see clues of lesser quality—clues that might have originally been rejected for not being up to the show’s usual standards.

I also think that we very definitely saw one of those Finals on Thursday. A number of commenters here at The Jeopardy! Fan and a number of people on Reddit expressed confusion about how to parse Thursday’s Final Jeopardy, including 8-day champion Ben Chan. Ben suggested the wording “A 4-letter northern hemisphere world capital that begins and ends with the same letter”. While I might reword that still to “This 4-letter Northern Hemisphere world capital begins and ends with the same letter”, I think that would have been a much better choice of Final, bringing the players unambiguously to “What is Oslo?”

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LearnedLeague 98, Match Day 14, Question 2, And How It Relates To Jeopardy!

Here’s Question 2 from yesterday’s LearnedLeague match: “Real-life husband and wife comedy team Jim and Marian Jordan played a fictional couple on a top-rated NBC radio program from 1935 to 1959. Marian’s character was named Molly; what was Jim’s character?” The correct answer to the question is Fibber McGee.

In the 21st-century re-tellings of the history of Jeopardy!, where Julann Griffin suggested to husband Merv that he give the contestants the answers, the “first” answer posed by Julann was supposedly “5,280.” (How many feet are in a mile?) However, The Jeopardy! Book tells a much different story. In a clear case of 1940s and 1950s pop culture being less known to 21st century audiences, Merv Griffin’s version on Page 2 of 1990’s The Jeopardy! Book was just a little bit different. In that introduction, Merv recounted:

“So,” Julann joked, “why not just give them the answers to start with?”

She was kidding, but the thought struck me between the eyes. She said to me, “79 Wistful Vista.” And I replied, “What’s Fibber McGee and Molly’s address?”

What actually came first between “5280” or “79 Wistful Vista” is probably lost to time. However, it is telling that in 1990, “5280” was not mentioned anywhere in that introduction, which leads me to believe that “What is Fibber McGee and Molly’s address” is the actual first Jeopardy! question.

In Conclusion

It’s been an interesting first week of the show, for sure. Week 2 begins Monday!

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4 Comments on "Andy’s Weekly Thoughts: September 11–15, 2023"

  1. Andy, I think you are correct about encore tournaments making for better summer reruns than “random” individual episodes (even when containing particularly good players and/or interesting play), but my reasoning is mostly that tournaments provide a continuity from day to day that is more likely to keep a viewer coming back each day.

    I also agree with you about early season 40 ratings and I offered pretty much the same reasoning earlier in the week (though I have no doubt you had already formed your opinion).

    The idea that “as the show goes through its backlog of unused clues…we may start to see…clues that might have originally been rejected for not being up to the show’s usual standards” had occurred to me even before the ‘Oslo/Apia’ clue showed up, but I feel that the way in which Ben has trimmed down that clue made it TOO TOO EASY (at least for a FJ). I would have gone with “One of the only two capitals whose 4-letter English name’s last letter repeats its first” which would remove the extraneous [even obfuscating] information about hemispheres, but allow for either ‘Oslo’ or ‘Apia’ as a correct response. However, I would assume that this discussion is only for explanation about the original clue’s quality. That is to say, wouldn’t editing an old clue to improve it before use be a form of “writing” and thus a “scab” activity?

    And I have a question about that particular FJ Category itself. Would state capitals and provincial capitals qualify? [I mean, I am pretty sure that there are none that fit that clue, I just mean if there had been, would it be eligible under that category? If so, it makes for more to consider within the 30 seconds.]

  2. Real-life husband and white

    That’s a curious typo. Speech-to-text, or Swype?

  3. I had wondered about that, too, though not “how”, but “when”, i.e. on the original site or Andy copying by typing instead of cut/paste. I just now checked and the site he linked to is correct now, but he still may have cut and pasted and they later corrected theirs.

    Showing my age, I guess (though anyone can have knowledge of the past, it is just a matter of how likely they are to have heard of it), I did know of and remember ‘Fibber McGee and Molly’ but had never known enough to get it right if they hadn’t included the specification of Molly as the wife so both names had to be given.

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