The Ken Jennings
Reign - November 24
If you have been
paying attention to this column, first off, THANK YOU. I
need the love :). Second off, you may have noticed that
Jeopardy!, while still laying claim to the mantle of
"America's Favorite Quiz Show" (and so far, the only one
on DVD), isn't the monster that it used to be. Not a
testament to its staying power. After all, you must be
doing something right to last 21 years. But the reason I
say this is all on the shoulders of one person... a
software engineer from Salt Lake City, Utah, Ken
It all started
one day when I got word from a Congress conference call
(Gordon is one of the higher-ups at the Game Show
Congress) of a person that will completely change the
game as we know it. That person, as he informed me while
I was at dinner, began his run in the beginning of June.
While other game shows had taken off to the pool or the
beach or to wherever the devil people go on summer break
nowadays, Jeopardy! was offering new episode after new
episode, all with the same champion. And the people came
to see one out of three things...
1) Who is this
2) How good is he?
3) When will he lose?
after his 38th win, Ken Jennings, now a millionaire 1.3
times over, was forced into sabbatical. After all, even
Jeopardy! must take periodic breaks now and then. The
numbers dropped from figures that, according to one
person at another GSC conference call, "was more popular
than CSI reruns" to the usual summer doldrum levels.
Ken Jennings returned... and so did America.
Unfortunately, they already had the answer to the
question that was on everyone's mind... "November 30,
2004, after 74 victories."
What is when Ken
Thanks to an
overzealous undercaring media (at least we carried a
spoiler alert), there wasn't an eye that was glued to
the set that night. Ken Jennings, having taken Sony for
$2.5 million in funds that WERE going to the Playstation
(no, I can't prove that before you start with the
e-mails), graciously ceded his podium to Nancy Zerg.
Fast forward one
year, past the Teen Tournament, past the Ultimate
Championship, and past the clip of Alex without any
pants on. Twenty-one percent of the audience that saw
Ken Jennings lose is finding entertainment elsewhere
nowadays. The last week of shows scored up from the
previous week, to a 6.6. Last week with the beginning of
the College Championship, it was a 6.3.
Still, it's not
as bad as it used to be. Last week alone, it was a
year-to-year drop of 32 percent, this year's College
Prelims versus last year's College Finals, segueing into
the tail-end of the Jennings run.
The week before
that, a 6.4, when we saw the beginning of what Alex, in
what, at its worst, could amount to an obvious ratings
ploy, called "the female Ken Jennings" in Maria
Wenglinsky (she stopped at 6 games, on par with
third-place streak holder Tom Walsh, but a far cry from
Jennings or 20-game streaker David Madden). Last year,
26 percent more.
Is there a
reason to panic? Of course not! After all, there is a
gigantic core of Jeop-heads and non-Jeop-heads alike
that will tune in every night to phrase their response
in the form of a question, and it's still a boon for
some of the networks that lead into programming from
that. And the positive response from the J! DVD only
reinforces that fact.
We had a good
time watching. Then we had a good time watching other
people watch, up to about 10 million of us all watching
together (better than most summer fare, I must say). Now
it's business as usual, as the world waits for another
champ to capture the imaginations of the populace.
And our world
just waits until Wheel of Fortune ends. Depending on
what time J! airs in your area, of course.
In this time of
Thanksgiving, I have prepared a list of things that I am
- You, the
readers, the fans, that keep this site alive and kicking
every day. We do this for you, and we do it because of
- Gordon, Jason
B., Jason E., JD, Joe, Mike, Julie, Rachel, Doughnut,
Eric, Travis S., Travis E., Vickers, Wolvie, Johnny,
Alex, Brian, Seidelman, and every member of the Game
Show Newsnet family, past and present, for bringing this
site into existence and propelling this experiment along
the grand scheme of things.
- GSN, for
recognizing that the big move from game shows to
everything else was a giant failure.
- NBC, for
finally giving us Deal or No Deal... now we wait for
them to admit the truth about "The Apprentice: Martha
Stewart". No more spin, NBC. Just say you made a mistake
and move on.
- Sony, for
giving us the Wheel in NOLA week.
Channel, for giving Cash Cab a chance.
- All the
creators, emcees, and producers, who work day and night
so that we can enjoy countless hours of mindless
- Those reality
writers at the convention for standing their ground.
- The legends,
the OGs of the game show world that honed their craft
and passed their knowledge on to the next generation in
hopes of keeping the genre alive. "In faith there is
virtue, in virtue there is knowledge." For every Monty
Hall, there is a Michael Davies waiting in the wings.
For every Ralph Edwards, there's a Bob Barker. For every
Richard Whiteley, there's a Des Lynam.
- Finally, for
the four years at Carolina, the two years at the
Achordants, the three years at BJ making a steady wage,
and the seven days in LA over this past summer. Just
goes to show you that you may have a good time. You may
have a bad time. But you always learn something.
I learned, as
always, that people may say one thing or another, but
the numbers never lie. May you all have a safe and happy
Thanksgiving, wherever the holiday may take you.
Alexander is immune to tryptophan, after having been
exposed to it at and college football at an early age. E-mail him at email@example.com.