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Author Topic: Jeopardy! - Then & Now  (Read 1512 times)

JasonA1

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Jeopardy! - Then & Now
« on: July 28, 2020, 04:36:52 PM »
With episodes from the '80s fresh on the mind thanks to the Jeopardy! Vault event, I'm curious what the group ultimately thinks about two topics:

1) Did the old rules for buzzing in during the clue have their place? (or benefit?)

2) A common response from average viewers on social media was that '80s Jeopardy! was "so fast!" Do you think that's the case? Why?

re: #1, for myself, I think whatever benefit those rules had got chucked out the window once only the winner kept their cash. Checking a 1974 episode on YouTube, the players seemed to buzz-in at a point they could speed-read enough of the answer to want to ring in. On the 1984 episodes we were treated to, they were buzzing in right at the reveal. When a player is so good that they get the first 3 clues correct in this fashion, the others are encouraged to try the same on the 4th and 5th rows of the board in order to catch-up. And as I've said before, the writing was so scattershot at that point (and unknown to contestants on day 1) that there was no reasonable expectation of what you were getting buzzing in that fast. So a lot of people lost money on material they otherwise wouldn't have tried.

Harry Eisenberg's book estimates season 1 of Jeopardy! was almost 50% runaways - games in which first place could not be caught in Final. The season 2 changes got that figure down to 20%.

I also think, going back to the '60s, the rule wasn't terribly well thought out to begin with. On seemingly every other show, the minute you buzz-in, the host stops reading the question. But on Jeopardy!, for some reason, their answers were displayed on cards in their entirety. And I think season 2 of Trebek's show might be the first major example of a game where players had to wait for the end of the question to buzz-in. So I doubt that was even a notion anyone considered back in the Fleming days.

re: #2, I think it was simply Alex speaking faster, but I'm open to any theories other people have. We know they edited out at least 2 minutes worth of prize plugs and credits. But we also know from our own experience they clear the board far more often now than they did then. For instance, the Chuck Forrest episode alone had 6 clues left unselected, whereas a random week I pulled from the last month of the 2019-20 season had 1 clue unrevealed total. And if anything, the clues probably average more words now, so it's not a writing issue*.

* = within the past few years, it did seem for a spell they were deliberately including at least one category of the short call-and-response variety to mitigate the shorter runtime (i.e. WORLD CAPITALS and the clue is OTTAWA to get "What is Canada?"). But that seems to have tapered off.


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SuperMatch93

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Re: Jeopardy! - Then & Now
« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2020, 05:11:29 PM »
Years ago when I first saw the premiere at the Museum of Broadcast Communications here in Chicago, and having not known about the old rules for buzzing in, it was distracting for me as a viewer and made it more difficult to play along, so on that basis I would say it was a good idea to change them. They were signaling so quick that at first I thought the buzz-in sound effect was for revealing the clue.

As for the speed of the game, I agree that it was mainly due to how quickly Alex was reading the clues.

But we also know from our own experience they clear the board far more often now than they did then.

It seemed to me that a big contributor to not clearing the board early on was having the audience applaud or groan after every response. Once that stopped, things appeared to move a lot smoother.
-William

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Bryce L.

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Re: Jeopardy! - Then & Now
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2020, 05:14:27 PM »
But we also know from our own experience they clear the board far more often now than they did then.
I forget the source (either the Eisenberg book, or the Trebek/Barsocchini one, one of those two), but I'd read that they supposedly never cleared the board once in the entirety of Season 1.

Kevin Prather

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Re: Jeopardy! - Then & Now
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2020, 05:20:02 PM »
Was Alex really reading the clues faster, or does it just feel like it because a younger Alex had more pep in his cadence in the 80s?

BrandonFG

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Re: Jeopardy! - Then & Now
« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2020, 06:01:43 PM »
Was Alex really reading the clues faster, or does it just feel like it because a younger Alex had more pep in his cadence in the 80s?
That's what I chalked it up to...watch Pitfall or Battlestars and notice how energetic he was there. It was a while before he developed the fatherly professor role. Between 1984 and about 2000, he became a bit stuffy, then more relaxed.

I'm not a fan of the season one buzz-in policy. Like William, I find it distracting, and doesn't really present much of a strategy, although it does play to the "Jeopardy" that Art and Alex mentioned in the rules. It did work better in Art's era when you had to at least skim through the clue.

That said, having played with a J! simulator, I must admit getting the proper buzzer rhythm can get pretty frustrating.
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rebelwrest

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Re: Jeopardy! - Then & Now
« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2020, 12:13:33 AM »
Years ago when I first saw the premiere at the Museum of Broadcast Communications here in Chicago, and having not known about the old rules for buzzing in, it was distracting for me as a viewer and made it more difficult to play along, so on that basis I would say it was a good idea to change them. They were signaling so quick that at first I thought the buzz-in sound effect was for revealing the clue.

They ended up removing the buzz in sound during the first season.  Here's an episode from March of 1985 now with the more familiar Daily Double sound effect:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KrulyUD4VQ
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calliaume

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Re: Jeopardy! - Then & Now
« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2020, 12:30:51 PM »
re: #1, for myself, I think whatever benefit those rules had got chucked out the window once only the winner kept their cash. Checking a 1974 episode on YouTube, the players seemed to buzz-in at a point they could speed-read enough of the answer to want to ring in. On the 1984 episodes we were treated to, they were buzzing in right at the reveal.
There were a few episodes by the end of the 1964-75 Fleming run where they were buzzing in at the reveal as well--I guess the logic was that if you knew enough about the category, you could think through the answer while Art was reading the question. On a personal note, I remember this because a few months later, I was in a Krypto (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krypto_(game)) championship--7th grade vs. 8th grade--and we did the exact same thing.

But honestly, that didn't make for a very good game for either Jeopardy or Krypto.

TLEberle

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Re: Jeopardy! - Then & Now
« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2020, 12:33:08 AM »
To part one that Curt alluded to--every time a contestant moves his or her thumb it's an implicit bet that he or she will be able to come up with the correct question. It's just that sometimes the bet is effectively blind. Really when it's the top of the board I can understand it. (It's less frustrating than watching at home when my Dad would shout the questions while the clue was still on-screen and rarely in the form of a question. Harrumph.)

As to whether it was a benefit--I think that the best thing Jeopardy did in that interlude to make the show watchable at home is to move the buzzer race to one against the Go Lights. Watching these shows as a near-40-year-old rather than of single digits it is much more gratifying to be able to come up with the correct questions, but also knowing that I don't have to win the buzzer race because most of the time I can read faster than Alex can speak.
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PYLdude

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Re: Jeopardy! - Then & Now
« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2020, 03:16:57 AM »
(It's less frustrating than watching at home when my Dad would shout the questions while the clue was still on-screen and rarely in the form of a question. Harrumph.)

You’d hate watching with me then. Not so much for the former instance but the latter. (Never really did answer in question form unless I had to, either playing the board game or trying out.)
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Neumms

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Re: Jeopardy! - Then & Now
« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2020, 06:37:25 PM »
1. I've felt the rule change made reflexes weigh too heavily over knowledge. You're reacting to the light on the board rather than the light bulb in your brain. But seeing the statistic on first-season runaways, yeah, the change worked out.

2. I'm one of those who liked that they didn't clear the board. Another way they've sped up: starting Double Jeopardy sooner after the commercial.

One more note: They shouldn't have scrapped the original think music. That was charmingly retro, a really cool choice when they modernized so much else. The redone version was dated the moment they introduced it, as is the syrupy rather than dramatic theme.

Kevin Prather

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Re: Jeopardy! - Then & Now
« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2020, 07:05:37 PM »
One more note: They shouldn't have scrapped the original think music. That was charmingly retro, a really cool choice when they modernized so much else. The redone version was dated the moment they introduced it, as is the syrupy rather than dramatic theme.

On the subject of the think music, after seeing a few Flaming episodes, I appreciate now how brilliant it was to transform that into the show's theme song. To that end, they couldn't have trimmed the intro down soon enough. It's a real shame to sometimes not hear any of the main theme before Alex walks out.

Neumms

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Re: Jeopardy! - Then & Now
« Reply #11 on: August 02, 2020, 04:24:53 PM »
I appreciate now how brilliant it was to transform that into the show's theme song.

Me, too. I also loved how the audience murmured then suddenly hushed.