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Paying homage to shows such as "Pardon the Interruption", "Around the Horn", "The Best Damn Sports Show Period", "Best Week Ever", and "The Soup", We Love to Interrupt is a weekly raw, frank, red-blooded, two-fisted, full-bodied look into the world of game shows. Comments are always welcomed here!

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Gordon: Well, speaking of idolizing, our guest is idolized by many. He is none other than Eddie Timanus, who despite being blind, was a 5 time champion on Jeopardy. This year, he takes home $50,000 with him on his appearance in Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Eddie spends time with us on 20 Questions. Eddie, Thanks again for joining us. 1) Tell us about your game show addiction. How did you get hooked into game shows?
Eddie: It goes back a long way. I've just always found them appealing. I think part of it was that my mom was a regular Jeopardy! watcher -- we're talking the original Art Fleming Jeopardy! in the early '70's. "The Price is Right" debuted not long after that. I just grew up watching games. I think it was the sound affects. They always got my attention. My parents used to complain that whenever I got a new toy, no matter what it was -- mini car, toy organ, anything --, I'd figure out a way to make a game show out of it when I played with it. "You could win this new car!" or something along those lines. I was a game-show geek before I knew there was such a thing.
Joe: 2) How did you get your sportswriting position at USA Today?
Eddie: Long story. I'll try and give you the condensed version. I was looking for something in the sports field after I got out of college. I didn't find anything right away, so about a year after I graduated, I accepted an internship at the U.S. Supreme Court in the Public Information office. After that, I began taking graduate courses in sport management, but meanwhile my former boss at the Court heard via the USA Today reporter who covered the Court at the time that there was an opening for a part-time news aid at the paper. I interviewed and was hired, and the rest is history. I first went to work there in the fall of 1992, and was promoted to full-time reporter in 1995.
Ryan: 3) What was everyone's reactions when you got on the shows? Which show got more of a reaction?
Eddie: Jeopardy! got the most attention. I'm afraid my Millionaire appearance suffered a bit from being preempted by football during Thanksgiving week. Also, my original performance on Jeopardy! was a bit more exceptional just based on what was possible on each given show. I maxed out as a five-timer there. On Millionaire, $50K wins are fairly commonplace. It also took a lot
less time, so there wasn't a lot of reaction from it.
4) We know that you suffer from vision impairment, Can you talk more about that and how it affected you on each show?
Eddie: Jeopardy! and Millionaire questions are all read out loud, of course, so in that regard there wasn't much of an impact. I'm sure most fans are aware that on Jeopardy! you aren't allowed to ring in until Alex finishes reading the question. That's the rule that made it possible for me to compete. The only disadvantage was that my sighted opponents could read ahead and possibly better anticipate the last word of the clue. For the most part, however, I don't think that was a big factor. Now, against the elite players I was up against in the 2000 Tournament of Champions and in the 2002 Masters Tournament, that might have been a different story. But against most players, I think I could hold my own on the buzzer. That isn't even a consideration on Millionaire, naturally, since there's no time limit on questions and no buzzers used. If I'd been on the network version and had to get through a fastest-finger question, that would have required some modifications, but nothing like that is needed on the daily show.
5) Did either show give you any sort of aid to help you equalize the playing field due to your vision impairment? If so, how?
Eddie: Jeopardy! had to provide only a couple accommodations. I had a Braille sheet with the category list in front of me during each round, and a Braille copy of the Final Jeopardy clue was also provided. The only other thing I neededwas some way to write down my FJ response -- I can hand print but not very efficiently and I can't attest to its legibility. So they hooked in a computer keyboard so I could type in my wager and response. A few people who missed the beginning of my first show when they announced that I'd be using a computer actually didn't realize it and were impressed by my handwriting. "Um, thanks. I believe it was Times New Roman." Anyway, Millionaire just made some minor modifications to the phone-a-friend lifeline. You actually saw it in action as Meredith helped me read the choices to my lifeline, and she gave him the 10-second warning. Otherwise, the game played pretty much the same as for everyone else.
Joe: 6) How did you find out about the auditions for Millionaire and Jeopardy? What was the audition process for Millionaire and Jeopardy? How were they alike and what was the differences?
Eddie: I passed the Jeopardy! audition at a contestant search here in the Washington, D.C., area. I auditioned for Millionaire in New York this past summer after getting an appointment via the show's website. The process is quite similar for the two. Both began with a written test. In each case, one of the staff members wrote down my answers for me. The Jeopardy! test is 50 questions. Millionaire's was 30. I think they both had pretty high percentages required to pass. There weren't all that many in my sessions that passed either time. I'd actually passed the J! test a total of three times before I was called to be on the show. The first time, they took my mom. We'd taken the test at the same time, and of course we couldn't both be on the show in the same season, so I had to wait a few years. She didn't win, by the way -- ran into a guy who wound up winning four games. Strangely, we saw him in the audience in New York at the Masters Tournament. But I digress. To continue, those who pass the J! test then play a mock version of the game just to make sure you know the rules and know how to keep the game moving. This is followed by a brief interview similar to what you see on the show. After the Millionaire test, there is no mock game -- just an interview with a producer. Given the one-on-one nature of the daily
version of the game, they want to make sure they get people who will interact well with Meredith and keep it lively. Apparently, they decided I could do that.
Ryan: 7) What was the biggest obstacle on both shows and why? How did you handle it?
Eddie: There were a number of technical details that needed to be worked out by the Jeopardy! folks before they could bring me out and have confidence that everything would go smoothly and that I wouldn't be at a disadvantage. Mostly, they involved the computer hookup, I think. I passed the audition in May of 1998. They first contacted me in December, but I didn't actually tape
until August of 1999. Once all the technical hurdles were cleared, there weren't anymore obstacles. As far as Millionaire went, there was really nothing in the way.
Chico: 8) Who did you like better - Alex Trebek or Meredith Vieira - why?
Eddie: Ooh, not fair. Well, I think even Alex would have to admit that Meredith is cuter. But seriously, both do a great job on their respective shows. Obviously, Meredith can get a bit more personable with the contestants since there is only one out there. Alex has to maintain a bit of detachment. Nevertheless, he's certainly spoken highly of me in subsequent interviews. I
think he was sort of pulling for me when I taped my initial shows.
Gordon: 9) What was the bigger thrill? Winning on Millionaire, or winning on Jeopardy? Why?
Eddie: Probably Jeopardy! That was my first national game-show experience. Millionaire was a lot of fun, but since I didn't get to the top of the ladder, it wasn't going to be life-changing like my original J! run was.
10) Do you think you have the skill to beat Ken Jennings? What would be your strategy against him?
Eddie: Ken has that button mastered. I'd have to practice a lot with my ballpoint pen before playing against him. My strategy would be just to get in as often as I could, and bet big on Daily Doubles if I find them.
Ryan: 11) If you could go back on Jeopardy and play against any two players of your choice (besides Ken Jennings, who I'm sure would be at the top of your list), who would they be and why?
Eddie: Jeremy Bate, who defeated me in the ToC 2K semifinal, and Bob Verini, who defeated me in the Masters Tournament first round. Why? Revenge, man, why else? You said two, but I'd also love to play against Robin Carroll, who won the ToC that year. I don't think anyone ever enjoyed playing the game as much as she did.
Chico: 12) You mentioned on your Millionaire appearance that you had a musical background and that you have perfect pitch. Do you play any instruments? What sort of musical background do you have?
Eddie: I've always been musically inclined. I minored in music with a concentration in piano performance in college. My piano background was mostly classical, but I branched out a bit in school. I played in the jazz ensemble one year, and I played keyboard in a couple rock bands as well. Nothing that ever got national exposure, just played a few frat gigs around campus. And yes, I've always had perfect pitch. I think that's just something you're born with. Ironically, it was a music question that stumped me on Millionaire, and a music question I missed on a huge Daily Double in the J! Matsers Tourney. Oh well.
Gordon: 13) You are a sports writer. Did the idea of auditioning for ESPN's Dream Job enter your mind? Would you consider it if you were offered a shot? Why or Why not?
Eddie: Nah, I don't think I'm anchor material. I've got the personality and the sense of humor and all, but I think my sports acumen is more geared toward analysis, and I think it's easier to do that as a writer. "Two-Minute Drill" might have been a different story, but I don't think they have any plans to bring it back.
Joe: 14) Do you still divulge in some of those online games like on the netgames groups? Which ones do you still play and how can people get involved in playing them?
Eddie: Oh absolutely. In fact, it's quite an honor to be in the virtual room here with the creator of "FastTalkers." I still play that one with its new host, and several others. Just check out the netgames list on yahoogroups if you want to see what they're all about.
Chico: That would be Joe, by the way =p
Ryan: 15) What are your future game show aspirations?
Eddie: On hold at the moment. There's really nothing else out there that fits my talents. "The Price is Right" is fun to watch, but I don't think I'd do well there. "Wheel of Fortune" would be extremely hard to make accessible for me. I'd have loved to have gotten a shot at Ben Stein's money, but his show had run its course. In the '70's and '80's, there were a lot of nice quizzers and word games, but alas, those are going the way of the dinosaur. Perhaps Ken Jennings' success will spark some interest in reviving the genre.
It's now time to ask the questions that we ask everyone. 16) Besides Jeopardy and Millionaire, What is your favorite Game Show of All Time?
Eddie: Pyramid. The '80's version with Dick Clark was the best, but Donny Osmond did a decent job with the recent revival. I was deeply sadden that it only got a chance to run two years. A close second would be Block Busters, the original Bill Cullen version that pitted a solo player against a family pair. I'm hoping against hope somebody brings that back someday. My mom and I would totally kick butt on it!
Gordon: 17) What is your favorite host of all time?
Eddie: Bill Cullen, definitely. He could handle any format -- word games, panel shows, quizzers, you name it -- and make it work. Dick Clark and Tom Kennedy rank high on my list as well, and Barker is just immortal, but nobody did it better than Cullen.
Joe: 18) Which current show would you want to host? Which past show would you want to host?
Eddie: Well, I wouldn't want to take Alex's or Meredith's job. They're both excellent. I'd love to host a show with a Ben Stein-type format where I could challenge the contestants in some fashion. Otherwise, I'd love to take my own crack at hosting Pyramid. I think I could make it work.
19) If you had the opportunity to be a contestant on any game show, past or present (besides the ones you were on), which one would it be and why?
Eddie: Well, I mentioned Block Busters earlier, of course. In addition, I'd have done well on any of those Barry-Enright quizzers of the '80's -- Joker's Wild, Tic-Tac-Dough, etc. I think Bullseye would have been my chosen one -- great set, great sounds, and a format I think I could have dominated.
Chico: 20) Anything else you'd like to get off your chest?
Eddie: Yeah, VH1 needs to give "Name That Video" another chance. They didn't give it time to develop. Just my $0.02.
Chico: Continued success, Eddie. Thanks for sitting in with us.
Gordon: Eddie will continue to chat with us as we do some pushing or flushing. Ryan, get the plunger.
Ryan: Yes siree!!
Chico: Happy toilet time on WLTI2K4 when we come back!
Joe: Break out the Dran-o! But don't drink any!

(Brought to you by the Mello Yello mug... keeping the staff awake for the past week)

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