Saturday, September 30, 2006

High Holy Day Jeopardy!

I received this in an's appropriate for this time of year...for Jewish Jeopardy! fans:


Friday, September 29, 2006

Don't make me laugh

This is what we received in the mail. But this is not our fate.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Remember Jeopardy?

It's been a while since we've actually summarized an episode of Jeopardy - the blog's namesake! So, without further ado - it's all about last night's Jeopardy (and then some. .. )
Or maybe more appropriately and minus some.

Let me be truthful and just tell you we watched not one, not two but three Jeopardy's last night from the week and the week prior. We wouldn't have gotten into last week except we turned on Monday's show to see two - yes two! champions. We didn't even get to the start of the game - I mean, this is unprecedented now isn't it? Or is it?
We turned off the game and put on the prior game. And we watched with eager eyes. And we watched Nick and Sarah go into Final Jeopardy with $15,200 each. And they both got Final right and so they both ended up with $30,400. Quite a payday for the Jeopardy money giver outers.
And then, as previously discussed, both ended up on the show the next day. Wow.
Sarah was a three day champ with $63,599 and Nick, a one day champ with (say it with me now) $30,400. And I am not proud to say, I have no idea who won that game. I know. For shame. For shame.

But last night's show (the third in the trilogy) included a clue that told us the Pink Floyd album title based on a George Orwell novel. Did you get it?
What is Animals was the correct response. Also on this episode was a 50 year old who was brought to Bora Bora to scuba dive as a gift from his wife. And on one of his scuba diving expeditions he got bitten by a grouper. The Jeopardy-ish kicker? He ate grouper for dinner that night. Why I oughta!!

And lastly in my rather un-diligent notes regarding last night's watching patterns, Double Jeopardy had a category titled Weddings. Which made me think of the most recent post (see below) Aw.
And wouldn't you know it - the first clue was this. (seriously)
"When this is done at Jewish Weddings, Uncle Mort might reply, "That's the last time he puts his foot down"
Why I oughta!!

The correct response being, "What is break the glass" (though the contestant said . . wine glass and I might beg to differ, IF I knew my Jewish tradition origins a bit better)

So that is in remembrance of last night's Jeopardys and later this weekend we will post an ever so exciting update of the upcoming taping of Celebrity Jeopardy at Radio City Music Hall. As Jeremy so eloquently put earlier today - Jess, this is the ideal Jeopardy for you - Celebrities (which you love - well, who doesn't) and Jeopardy! (well, who doesn't?!?!)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The happiest day of our lives...

Ahh...if only we had real pictures of us with him! Jess, any joy with the pictures?

Monday, September 25, 2006

No Jeopardy but...

great trivia on the plane! On our Saturday evening flight, British Airways did trivia proud with some its flight entertainment trivia game. Their trivia game consisted of the categories, Science and Technology, Sports, Entertainment, History, Lifestyles and Geography. Not very creative but a wide range of subjects and the questions were challenging at times.

Some random questions but not as random as the toucan (not Sam) that kept score with a caption bubble that said, "Fantastic" or "Perfect" when you answered a question correctly.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A 'Time' To Make Friends

I have a funny feeling that Time magazine might be stalking us. Opening up this week's edition in New York this morning - yes, I'm over here! etc. etc. - I couldn't help but notice that their culture section bore a similar train of thought to ours (and when I write ours, I mean this collective blog. And when I write train, I guess for this week only, I could also mean the L and R lines). Your appetizer: the TV review commented on Studio 60 and 30 Rock. They liked both and, cheap gags aside (the journo mentions that it's helpful that both shows tell you how long they are in their titles), the general consensus seemed to be that Studio 60 was as good as everyone knew it would be and 30 Rock surpassed the perceived wisdom that, like, a female comic wouldn't be able to do "funny". Sure. Er, Time magazine, I think that's Sarah Silverman holding on line 1...

But onto the main course: the book review was, naturellement, about Ken Jennings. Yes, he of this very parish (I know you're reading this. Next time - make sure your photo on the back cover is as charming as you were. Still, we're very much loving your work). And guess what? Time gave Ken the official thumbs up by admitting that one could have never guessed that trivia would be so interesting and fun. Furthermore, Ken's writing style was praised with certain chapters singled out in particular, such as the town that holds an annual trivia weekend. And whilst this week's Time won't be enough for me to take (out) "I'll have a yearly subscription for $100, please Alex", I'll admit that I was ever so slightly surprised that they covered him. Wherever will the man crop up next?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Now what?

When you've written over 65 blog posts somewhat dedicated to one subject and created one quasi-mascot for said collection of these blog posts and then on one otherwise ordinary, rainy Thursday night you meet this quasi-mascot, purchase his book, get his autograph, hear him crack jokes and hear him read from the book, then maybe you will be able to relate to the evening I just had. Until then, this brief summary will just have to do.

My excitement a few weeks ago distracted me and when I awoke today I was not really thinking it through. What do I mean? Well, first off - I forgot my camera!
I also forgot my Jeopardy hat. (Not that I really think I would have brought it though I did think that if I wanted to take this as far as I could I would have worn the hat and/or have asked Ken to sign it)
Then don't get me started on one other idea I had as we waiting upstairs at the Union Square Barnes and Noble before HE arrived.
During Ken's run on Jeopardy, I was definitely the one in my family who had the most info on Ken Jennings. I read everything I could about the guy. Mind you, this wasn't that much. Maybe one article on before he lost (when everyone started to take notice - hey! this guy is breaking records) and then a few articles after he lost. So, naturally, when my birthday rolled around, fellow bloggers (though this was way before AALNJ) gifted me with the Can you Beat Ken board game. It's true. I've got it. So, you might think the best part of the game are the questions. You are wrong.

The best part is there is a play piece that is a photo of Ken! It's about four inches high and two inches wide. (I will take a photo sometime in the next few days and post it). So as we are sitting waiting for him to show his face we think how great if I had thought to bring that piece to have him sign! Let's forget about the fact that I would have been quickly escorted out of a Barnes and Noble but still . . . it would have been pretty awesome!

So, Glen, Liza and I sat in the fifth row and we'd estimate there were about 120 people there. Not bad for a game show celebrity huh? Jeremy couldn't join in the Jeopardyfulness as he had to work.

I saw Ellen Ripstein and John (another crossword champ) from the movie Wordplay.
Ken came out told some stories including how his trivia interest started (when he was 4!) and sprinkled in some excerpts from the book. He spoke of trivia and how it really isn't so trivial but as a 'starry eyed trivia idealist' he thinks trivia actually brings all people closer together. Learning about different cultures and different types of people could probably help the world and make it a better place. Aw.

He opened it up for questioning. A few pretty good questions came up but the all time best was the woman who asked if he had ever seen Cash Cab on the Discovery Channel and what he thought of it! Heh. I was definitely in my element. (What that means, I don't really know but it seems to fit just right)

Then in a civilized and very organized manner whoever wanted to get their book signed did just that. Liza and I approached and I said to him that we write a blog that he had visited. He shook his head and said "Oh yeah - I think I just checked it out and it was like, 'Oh I am going to see Ken in a few days' and now here you are! It's all coming together. Freaky.
Isn't it weird how the Internet can predict the future?"

That guy!

Then Glen took a photo of the three of us (Me, Liza, and Ken) with my cell phone. We'll see if the computer genius that we know and love by his birth name - Jeremy - can help me load it up to the site.

I really loved it tonight.
I started to read the book on the train ride home and I am sure I will finish it within the next few days. It's fun. It's interesting. It's trivi-abulous!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Jennings in HD

He's on!
And I can't do this.
Want to watch it. Live blogging is for persons far more talented than I. But I will tell you this. It's good! And funny. And will get some sort of update later in the week.
But before I go, did I mention that all the AALNJ peeps are in the same city again! This will most likely make for a Jeopardy-iffic week starting with a possible Ken Jennings live sighting tomorrow night. Hopefully it will be more successful than the live blogging of tonight.

Live Blogging

The Colbert Report is on and this very site will be live blogging the not so live show.
Stay tuned. . . .
Oh - PS Ken Jennings will be on to talk about his new book.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Special Delivery

I was at work when I saw the "Discuss" post and just when you thought the day was quite a day, I came home from work and this was in the mail!

Jeopardy schwag! It must be my lucky day, no?
Then we watched the final of the Tournament of Champions - Michael Falk took it away in an exciting game that included the categories, Before, During and After; Supporting Emmy Winners; and the ever popular, Civil War Generals.

On Monday the new season starts . . . Ken's book comes out on Tuesday. . . and well, it is going to be a great week. Let's just leave it at that.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Cash Cab or some form of...

I was forwarded the following about and open casting call in London...

"The Discovery Channel Seeks American Expats for New Game Show – Zena Martin
Celador Productions the creators of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” is making a new game show for The Discovery Channel, and the producers are looking for Americans who live in the UK, possess good general knowledge and who will be in the UK during the entire month of October."

For the sake of the blog and my rep as a contributor, I felt I had to go down there and check it out. I mean, how many entries can I post about dodgy quiz shows in the UK. The casting call was in The American Church In London (random) on Tottenham Court Road-- I filled out forms and answered some pretty easy questions: a combination of multiple choice questions with picture choices and some fill in answers ex: What is the Japanese currency?. The producer there was from NYC but had been living in London for about a year. Then, a polaroid was taken and I had to say a few things on video like hobbies, where I'm from, etc. There were about two other people in there with me. I think I was the 87th sign up and the producer's goal was 200 sign ups. The show would be aired in the US and contestants can win up to $5000.

I don't think I'll necessarily be picked but I thought I'd share my trivia experience of the day.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Last night's newspaper article...

The quiz shows continue here in the UK and journalists take notice. I've pasted the lengthy article:

Money for nothing

Interactive quiz channels are a lucrative new source of income for broadcasters. But James Silver asks if they are playing a dangerous game with vulnerable viewers?

Monday September 4, 2006
The Guardian

It is "Crazy Wednesday" on The Mint, ITV1's newly recommissioned overnight quiz show. One of the presenters, Beverley French, grins maniacally at the camera. "Look at the size of the prize ... £21,000!" Cue random canned cheering. "Just pick up the phone!" shouts French. A phone rings. "Hello, who's that?" A slightly befuddled voice replies: "Emma from South Wales."

Emma - and her estimated half a million fellow-viewers - have been challenged to come up with a well-known word or phrase which begins with the word "time". "Is it time-less?" French's smile droops. "It's not, I'm afraid." Instead, she plugs the premium-rate phone number for the umpteenth time. "It's triple money, seriously guys. If you've got an answer you need to call me right now. It's a mere 75p a call."

A terrifying-sounding Maggie from Manchester strikes out with "time-bomb", before Joan from Bolton scoops £3,000 by saying "time-off". French goes bananas. "You've just won three grand! Are you excited?" Joan sounds barely a notch above depressed. The camera then switches to the star of the show, a former Big Brother contestant, Brian Dowling, who has a curious orange tan. "£21,000 tax-free sterling pounds!" he reminds his public, while wrapping himself coquettishly around a bannister. "We're here till 4 o'clock this morning! Today is Crazy Wednesday! Tomorrow is Big Money Thursday!"

The truth is that every day is Big Money day for ITV Play, the arm of ITV responsible for The Mint, Quizmania and similar quiz shows. Since the channel launched in April on Freeview and Sky and, crucially, overnight on ITV1, it has proved a cash cow for the ailing broadcaster, with profits of £9m on revenues of £27m.

Babbling presenters

"ITV has a very successful track record in interactive mass-market shows, whether it's X Factor, Pop Idol or I'm A Celebrity, and we've embraced that and brought it to this genre," explains ITV Play's controller William van Rest. "We've given away £6m in prize money to 10,000 winners so far. [With The Mint] we're trying to raise the bar and commission the next generation of participation shows. What we're absolutely not doing is lowest-common-denominator TV."

And ITV is not alone among the major broadcasters in running a quiz channel. In his MacTaggart lecture at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television festival, Van Rest's outgoing boss Charles Allen drew attention to the fact that Channel 4 has also moved into interactive gaming. "C4 has owned and operated a gaming channel on the quiet for several years," he said. "When was the decision taken that the UK wanted or needed a nationalised gaming channel?"

Launched in August 2005, Quiz Call is owned by Ostrich Media, a subsidiary company of C4's commercial arm, 4Ventures, although it is not part of the C4 brand. The company has yet to release its first-year results, but its apparent success provides further evidence that such channels are extremely lucrative. "As part of its public service review last year, Ofcom recognised that C4's current business model, where we get most of our revenues from advertising, was under pressure," explains a C4 spokeswoman. "They charged 4Ventures to actively go and look at ways of generating commercial revenues. Off the back of that, 4Ventures set up Ostrich Media. It's not branded C4 as Quiz Call is a completely separate channel, targeting a very different audience to the main channel."

Now attracting a combined daily audience of about a million, quiz show formats are now booming in the UK. In the multichannel age, with an uncertain advertising climate, such programming provides a very useful alternative revenue stream for the big channels, says David Brook, chief executive of Optimistic Entertainment plc, which produces both participation and entertainment formats. "Most of the money at ITV, C4 and Channel Five is spent competing for ratings in peaktime. Participation programming is coming into its own elsewhere in the schedule because it's a different revenue model.

"The thing about it, as opposed to regular advertiser-funded TV, is that it doesn't matter about the total number of people watching, it's the number of active viewers who are taking part."

The elements of quiz TV programming are simple and cheap: babbling (mostly) unknown presenters, studio sets that would shame a nursery school art class, questions which, by and large, would not trouble even the most feeble-minded (one channel on Wednesday night featured a poster of The Flintstones and asked callers to name the film for a cash prize) and - most importantly - a relentlessly advertised premium-rate phone number, costing 60-75p per call.

Compulsive gamblers

I watched two hours of output (mostly on ITV1 and C4's Quiz Call), and the guidelines laid down by Ofcom - which specify that "competitions should be conducted fairly, prizes should be described accurately and rules should be clear and appropriately made known" - were observed. But if it is a "prize competition", open to all for the price of a phonecall, how easy is it to participate?

Not very easy at all, as it turns out. I placed a dozen calls at a cost of £9 to a variety of quiz channels - including four each to The Mint and Quiz Call. I never got further than a recorded message, which in the case of the former, said: "Welcome to The Mint where every call costs just 75p from a BT landline. Let's see if we can put you through to one of our studio phone lines. [A collective groan is heard.] Sorry, you didn't get through this time. But don't forget, you can now enter our weekly prize draw to win £1,000. All you need to do is call [an 0901 number] and answer a simple question about an ITV show. All calls to this number cost £1 from a BT landline. Please note you have been charged for this call."

Clear enough. However, critics of this type of programming claim that by offering an additional free way of entering the competitions via their websites - which is typically advertised on a ticker at the bottom of the screen, as well as intermittently by the hosts - broadcasters are taking advantage of a legal loophole which allows them to operate their quizzes as "prize competitions", when in fact they should be reclassified as lotteries and subject to laws governing gambling.

Earlier this year, the Treasury said that it was considering tightening the rules that apply to quiz shows, in part to protect compulsive gamblers. Experts say approximately 5% of gamblers exhibit signs of addiction and there is little doubt that, with the lure of big cash prizes and easy access via the telephone, such shows can appeal to them. This is illustrated by a posting a fortnight ago on the gambling charity GamCare's forum: "One night I went on a quiz TV show and, when it was 50p a go, made over 90 calls and got thru once and got it wrong [sic]!"

ITV Play's Van Rest acknowledges the risks to compulsive gamblers but emphasises he is doing everything possible to tackle them. "We insert messages into the telephone system so that if viewers make 20 phone calls, at the start of the call a voice warns that their number has made 20 calls - it's like a headmaster's voice over the tannoy and it repeats at 40, 60, 80 and 100 calls. Our customer services team ring people when we think there's an irregular call pattern. In the end, we're not looking for binge players. We're looking for the mass market who play a little on a regular basis."

TV quizzes involving the use of premium-rate phone lines are overseen by three watchdogs: Icstis, the premium rate services regulator, Ofcom and, since the 2005 Gambling Act, the Gambling Commission. A spokeswoman for Icstis denied reports last week that they were investigating quiz TV services. "We have had a very low level of complaints - about 80 so far this year about quiz television in general," she said. "Just to put it in context, for subscription services we had about 6,700." What did she make of my dozen failed attempts to get on air? "It is a game. You are taking part in a competition, so there's no guarantee you are going to get through."

The Gambling Commission has recently issued a consultation document that will seek to clarify the law around prize competitions and draws - including TV quiz shows. It is thought this will lead to the toughening up of regulations. "The law is unclear on the distinction between lotteries, prize competitions and free draws," Tom Kavanagh, the commission's deputy chief executive, said. "This results in some organisers running what may well be unregulated and unlicensed lotteries."

Crystal ball

A spokeswoman for Ofcom denied that they were specifically investigating this sector, adding that, although they have received in excess of 500 complaints about quiz programmes broadcast so far this year (which include complaints referred to Icstis), complaints appear to have tailed off since extra guidance was published in April. However, it is understood that the watchdog will be launching a consultation of its own later this year to ensure participation TV - including quiz shows - complies with the broadcasting code.

Meanwhile, it's hour two at The Mint and Brian is now caressing a crystal ball for no discernible reason. "It's Malcolm from the Wirral," says a gruff voice. "What's your answer, please?" asks Brian, somehow managing to sound like he cares. "Time-lord," guesses Malcolm, wrongly as it turns out. Another caller. "It's Jenny from Barnsley. Is it time-capsule?" Brian groans. "Oh Jenny," he says, "it'd better be." I know how he feels. On this occasion Jenny is unlucky, but it doesn't matter. There are plenty more where she came from.