Jeopardy FAQs

And the answer is... Game Mechanics

Q: Are the categories truly randomly selected? Some coincidences make it appear not.

A: The categories arent completely random per se, some of them are grouped together in a 'game'. But the games are randomnly selected each day and none have any correlation to who is playing that day.

Q: I thought a weeks worth of shows were done in one day. Is that the case?
A: We taped twice a week, 5 shows a day, 3 weeks a month, 9 months a year. Normally the shows you see on tv were taped about 2 months in advance. There are variances, times off for remote tapings, and breaks for holiday weeks and what not, so no there are not 54 weeks of shows and yes there are re-runs. But Jeopardy! is the "game show" with the most original programming each year.'

Q: Is this also true for tournaments and celebrity tournaments? Also when you get tickets to the taping is it just for 1 show or all 5 shows for that 1 day?
A: Depends on exactly what you mean. If youre asking if the tournaments are shot that far in advance, the answer is pretty much yes. There are some variances throughout the taping.. like shows taped early in the season have a quicker time getting to air, but as the season progresses, we would have shot several weeks worth of shows that havent aired yet which would cause the two month delay. The celeb tournaments first rounds can all be shot in the same day and then staggered to show one a month or so.
In regards to the tickets, there are two audiences a day, the first will watch 3 tapings, then there is a lunch break for the crew, and the second will watch the last two. Its usually not a sell out, so being nice and requesting to be in the second audience might be enough to get you in if you really wanted.

Q: When Trebek consults "judges," what's really happening (overturning answers, etc.)

A: The judges table has about 10 people sitting at it, including the producers, writers, researchers and a lawyer. If the contestant gives and answer that wasnt the correct response but could be technically correct, he would consult the judges, who then have to research the answer to see if its acceptable. Or if the contestant mis-pronounces his response and it needs to be reviewed in the booth. Sometimes this process takes a minute.. but its taken up to half an hour.

Random Interjection: Wheel of Fortune has a pretty length review process as well. I went to a taping and we had a 20 minute delay because the contestant said the incorrect answer and Sajak said it was right and repeated the CORRECT answer. They had to scrap the round, redo the playful banter, and basically pretend it never happened.

Random Interjection: I was an audience member of Million Dollar Password a couple years ago. William Shatner kept getting all his questions wrong and by the end of the round, his contestant partner (the two of them were playing against Aisha Tyler and another contestant) had won no money at all. They couldn't re-record that round, so they had to get a new contestant from their pool and re-schedule the first one. It almost happened again with that next one, too...

Q: What was said that took half an hour to review?
A: Well it wasnt just one clue thats taken that long. Sometimes the clue might have been worded obscurely and the answer given could have been correct but it wasnt anticipated, so they would search the internet, search the dictionary, make calls, check with the writers, consult with the producers. Sometimes if the pronunciation was questioned it would have to be reviewed endlessly in the booth, played in slow motion, changing the pitch, whatever they had to do to make a judgment. And the they arent allowed to ask the contestant what they said or to repeat their answer.

Q: Oh man, they have an instant replay machine? It's like a challenged play in football?
A: Yeah! Its almost like there are cameras that are recording everything that happens! ;)

Q: Man, they don't fuck around. They really had me fooled with the editing when the judges seem to give an automatic yes or no.
A: It really depends, sometimes the judges make an instant call and give a thumbs up or thumbs down.

Q: So they consider that the person can sue if their answer is right and the judges say they're wrong.
A: Actually I think the contestants may sign something agreeing not to sue or pursue any legal action. But a contestant has a right to challenge any answer that they deemed correct. And the consulting between the judges and producers will go on for as long as necessary to deem an answer correct of incorrect.

Q: Can the contestant argue their case or is the entire conversation between the judges?
A: Most of the conversation is between the judges, if the contestant does have some type of grievance, they are able to explain their side, but that usually doesnt come up.

Q: So they consider that the person can sue if their answer is right and the judges say they're wrong.
A: Standards and Practices. Every game show or show where a prize is involved has to have some type of legal council. Stems from that whole quiz show scandal.Random Interjection: I'd like to point out that there is a lawyer out there who is on retainer to go and watch Jeopardy, live, every night. Sweet job.

Q: How does a delay, like consulting a lawyer, affect the taping of the show? Does each round have a 'clock' that stops when they are doing their consulting?
A: Delays dont have much effect on the show. Each segment is timed to a specific amount, but with a little wiggle room. If the judges need to consult, the time is noted and stopped.

Q: I've never seen this happen. Do they go to commercial break, or do they edit it to make it seem like the judges instantly know if the answer is acceptable? Everytime I've seen him ask the judges, it seems so instant.
A: It varies, sometimes the rulings are instant, sometimes they need to stop taping and it takes anywhere from 1-30 minutes. Editing is done at that point.

Q: Wait. Does that mean contestants sometimes wait up to half an hour until the judges deliberate?
A: They have yes. But if it takes too long, they are normally escorted off stage to their seats.

Q: After watching this latest champion's winning streak I'm starting to think the show tries to setup long winning champions for failure by picking the categories, especially to tilt towards the other players strength. Especially after the Ken Jennings domination. Any truth to this or is it really just random luck?
A: This is completely random. We taped 5 shows a day, 2 days a week, the games were randomly selected every morning, and the order of those shows were randomly selected. Every one of the shows is then combed through to make sure there are no questions that are similar or that answer other questions in the other shows. They are very VERY strict on the security of the clues. The contestants are shielded from any interaction with anyone that would have access to the clues. It really all is just coincedence. Actually there were steps taken after the Jennings win streak to ensure better competition in the future.

Q: What sorts of steps have been taken to prevent Jeopardy from being Jennings'd in the future? Why does Jeopardy want to avoid this sort of thing at all? Was it bad for ratings? The most Jeopardy I have ever watched in my life was when Jennings was on his tear.

A: Cant really mention the steps, but all the contestants are better prepped for the competition. It was great for ratings. The best ratings Jeopardy! ever had. Not sure for their reasons, but i guess they wanted to ensure that everyone that played had a more even playing field.

Q:
(1) The little thumb buzzers -- Who the fuck designed them, and why haven't they been shot in the face?
(2) How do contestants sign their names on the screen? Is it a touch screen or a light pen?
(3) Ever have a contestant freak out back stage, on stage, or somewhere on set? What did they do?
(4) Who comes up with the questions?
A:
(1) The company that i worked for. Because that would make a mess.
(2) Its a light pen. And yes they can see what they write and they can change their signature if they dont like it.
(3)Never had a contestant freak out. Did have one that developed a case of the 'rhea. She had to leave and come back another day
(4The questions are developed by a team of writers. 12 of them i believe, but that changes based on the economy.

Q: Does the light pen stop working once the song is complete?

A: Yes, it is deactivated.

Random Interjection: I got to the second round of auditions for Teen Jeopardy so I thought I'd share a few of my experiences.
The first test is an online one. 50 questions, you have 15 seconds to answer each one. It starts at the exact same time for everyone and there are no retakes. Grab bag of questions, not continuous categories. Spelling doesn't count.
After that, they take everyone that passed the online test and randomly pick 300 people to come and audition at one of about five cities. I went to Philly. They DO NOT pick the top 300. Just a random 300 of anyone that scored over 80%, I believe.
At the in person auditions, there are three parts. First, another 50 question test. Very similar to the online one except written. Then, a mock game. They didn't record scores, just how well we spoke, stood, handled the buzzer etc. Then a personality interview. To my understanding, anyone that passed that test was reviewed for personality and public speaking abilities. Of any of the 300 that both passed and were good enough for tv, 15 were randomly chosen to be on the show.

Q: Do the daily double questions reflect the difficulty rating of the spot they were in? In other words, if I pick $1000 square and it is a daily double, is the question of the same difficulty as other $1000 questions?
A: The daily doubles should reflect the difficulty of the dollar amount they were in to an extent, but i have seen them go way easier or way more difficult than the dollar amount. The daily double questions are preselected and are not influenced at all by the contestant that chose them or the dollar amount they wagered.

Q: It makes sense at the beginning, as they want to make sure that they have enough money to wager if they get a daily double (which are generally in the lower clues) but there's really no reason after that.

A: Because the questions are harder and you dont always know what the category is about. You dont want to waste $1000 or $2000 on a clue you didnt know because you thought the category was about something else. Starting with the small amounts let you get a feel for the clues first.

Q: Are the daily doubles random? Because if they were, then their relation to the dollar amount couldn't be pre-determined.
A: The location of the daily doubles are set when the games are created.

Q: From what I have read here and elsewhere, Jeopardy! is perhaps TV's most scrupulously "clean" show in terms of integrity of the game and its "administrators." Would you agree?
A: Everything is regulated and monitored. It is nearly impossible to cheat or to know any of the questions beforehand. The set of games for that day are picked randomly, and the order is picked randomly by a S&P lawyer, they game that is played for that show is only made available to the judges right before the show starts.

Q: It always seems to me that the person who chose the question very frequently is the first buzzer to go off; is there some advantage in the buzzer timings to being the chooser?
A: There is absolutely no advantage to who chooses the question or what podium they are at.

Q: I always assumed whoever was "in control of the board" was able to buzz in slightly faster than the other contestants.

A: You know what they say about assuming!

Q: You make an ass out of Uma Thurman.
A: No, you make an ass out of u and MING. poor ming.. shes had such a hard life from being made an ass out of.

Q: Some contenstants are always mashing the hell out of those buttons. Usually the non-mashers seem to get in first. I've heard lots of "reasons" why. Since you're the button guy please explain:
1. When is the moment when you can officially "ring in?"
2. Should you keep mashing the button or just try to push it once before anybody else?
3. does pushing it over and over again "cancel" your previous button press or something?

A: Mashing is usually not the way to go.
1. After Alex is finished reading the last word of the answer, a judge presses a button that lights up a light bar signifying to the contestants that their buttons are now armed and they can ring in. Usually contestants just anticipate the light and dont actually wait for it.
2. Push it only once, mashing actually delays the time it takes for your thumb to re-push the button.
3. No, but pushing before the signal light actually puts a slight delay on your buzzer (penalty) before you can ring in again.

Q: I tried out for jeopardy a few years ago and they told us this while they were grading the test slash discussing the workings of the show.
A: Yeah the contestants are pretty well informed of all the workings of the show. We go through two complete "test" shows for the warmups so they are comfortable with the gameplay. And there is no penalty for mashing itself, unless they press the button before the ready light comes on.

Q: How often are the outcomes of each test and the real show completely different?
A: If you mean the rehearsal shows we do, all contestants are continually cycled through the show after a few correct answers, so there is no way to determine how they will do in the real game, other than just getting a general feel for the persons gameplay.

Q: I think the worst are the people who pull up on the buzzer before pressing it. They kind of jerk their arm trying to press the button really hard, and they always get beaten by the guy who just presses his thumb down. I kind of feel bad for them, but they really annoy me.

A: Ugh yeah i hate that to no end! Some people jerk the buzzer up to their chest every time or shake their hand like they have some severe nerve problems. annoying.

Q: What is the basis for Trebek disallowing some answers? The other day he said an answer was incorrect because the contestant pronounced the 'e' of Armenia as 'ay'. I found that grossly arbitrary and prejudicial. It was not overturned. Come to think of that, they may be calling it Armay-nia and not Armee-nia in and around the country itself. Redditors help me out here.
A: Yeah sometimes i didnt like they pronunciation calls they made. Barring a speech impediment or a regional dialect or accent, the contestants must pronounce the name exactly.

Q: Where do the dividers between the contestants during Final Jeopardy come form? Do they pop up from the podiums, or does the crew install them?
A: They are stored off stage. Someone from the crew goes and sets them in during the commercial break.

Q: If I make it onto Jeopardy at some point, what are some pointers I should know beforehand? Any inside advice you can give future redditor contestants?
A: It doesnt matter if you know more than Einstein, it only matters how good you are with the buzzers. Thats it.

Q: What bothers me is that they don't have time for that ONE LAST CLUE at the end of the rounds sometimes. Do they really not have time for just one last clue? Do they recycle that hidden question for a later time?
A: There is an alloted time for each segment that corresponds to commercial time with a little wiggle room for over/under. The show is sent out to markets all over the country with an exact amount of time that they are able to sell commercial spots. Take away from that time and someone loses money.

Q: Whenever a contestant selects a value that has the Daily Double hidden behind it, I always seem to know when Trebek is about to announce it. Is this all in my head or does Trebek hesitate when a contestant picks a Daily Double versus when he provides the answer?
A: Yeah, I've noticed it too. I forgot exactly the wording he uses but its normally exactly the same. You start to pick up on his mannerisms after a while.

Q:
1. Were you there for any celebrity tapings? If so, whom?
2. How big is the audience?
3. What habits of contestants annoyed you the most?
4. Did you ever have to deal with any stage parents during the teen shows? Thanks again!

A:
1. I was there for several celebrity tapings. Pretty much the ones for the past 3 seasons. Hard to name them.
2. The audience is roughly about 100 people, and there are 2 audiences a day. Tickets are free and are usually available.
3. Nothing really, besides their faces of course. The contestants either are secluded or set on side side of the audience viewing area. Not much interaction with them.
4. No, the parents have to sit in the audience and cant interact with the kids.

Q: Are contestants given some sort of primer to prepare them for the episode? There was a woman in my neighborhood growing up who was in line to be on the show but didn't make the final cut. Somehow she talked to someone, who talked to someone, who talked to someone, who talked to my grandmother who told me that there is a giant book of possible questions the contestants can look over. Is this true? Always wondered about that rumor.
A: Completely false. There is no book of possible questions they are given and they are not given any hints as to what the categories will be. Every clue that comes on the screen is the first time any of the contestants have seen it.

Q: Could you please explain this clip? I know you have said there is no cheating and everything is caught on tape, so I don't think he cheated, but I'm curious on what happened.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIj8F5C85rY
A: Wasn't there for that taping so i cant say for sure, but it looks like pretty much what you see. Its not impossible for one of the pens to malfunction during a taping (very rare though), so according to the rules the contestant can write down the answer on a piece of paper. If indeed it stopped working, the podium would be checked afterwards to verify it was non-operational at the time. There are glare protectors on the contestant screens so it is extremely hard to see what someone wrote unless you are looking at it straight on.

Q: Have you ever heard about an incidents of cheating? It's fast paced so I don't know how it could be even done... but for final jeopardy: sneak in a skin toned micro bluetooth ear piece and get the answer from someone who has time to look it up if unknown...
A: There is no possibility of cheating that i can come up with. And believe me there was a lot of down time to sit around and think of ways. Everything is regulated and monitored. Plus honestly, most everyone that works there took pride in the legitimacy of the show and wouldnt do anything to harm that. Plus who wants to lose a good paying gig if u got caught??

Q: Do they give contestants any clue to what the categories will be before they're on?
A: No. The contestants only know the categories when they are revealed.

Q: The show seems to be super fast paced. Is it roughly real time? Or is there lots of splicing? How long does a 30 minute show take to tape?

A: A 30 minute show if gone smoothly will take about 40-45 minutes. Its pretty well oiled. Not a lot of editing is necessary.

Q: Can I wager in coin amounts for Daily Doubles and Final Jeopardy? I've always wanted to go on Jeopardy, then wager like $9999.75
A: No change wagers, and a daily double has to be at least $5.

Q: Do contestants have any idea what so ever about the categories in advance? I know they aren't given the questions but does Jeopardy give them say a list of 100 potential categories then just use the 11 of them? or do they come in literally with no idea? Some of the categories and questions seem a little obscure and I'm surprised how many people are able to get them right. Granted I have my days where I can answer 40 questions correctly and my days where I can only get like 2.
A: The contestants have absolutely no idea what any of the categories will be for the show they are on. When the clues are revealed, thats when they know. Yes it is very suprising when these people know answers to the most obscure questions, but i can assure you its completely legit. What you see is what you get.

Q:.Are the contestants able to see a readout of their own and other contestants scores so they know what to wager (for a daily double, final jeopardy, etc.)?
Also you said that the judge panel occasionally stops taping to review the contestants questions but, what's the deal with points being rewarded much later to contestants (more questions are asked inbetween this time) after the judges deem their answers correct/incorrect?

A: Yes, there is basically a score board that hangs from the ceiling where the contestants are able to see their score as well as the other contestants.
If an answer wasnt determined to be correct or incorrect at the time it was given but shortly after, they will wait until a daily double is selected before they make the score change to ensure that the person wagering knows all the correct amounts before they wager.

Q: What do they do with the questions/categories that weren't used?
A: Save them for another time, there is a huge computer database with every clue that has ever been used and those that haven't.

Q: Why do some episodes run out of time before all of the questions are asked? Is the timer based on the edited length of the show, or how long the contestants really had to answer questions during taping? It irritates me when Trebek calls time with questions left on the board, and contestant #2 had just spent 3 good minutes regaling us with a stupid cat story.
A: I answered this earlier, but A lot of factors affect the time of the show. There are set time amounts for each segments that have to be followed in order to allow for an set amount of commercial spots. Sometimes the contestants ramble on too long, sometimes alex does. Also the amount of clues that no one rings in on affects the time because thats just dead air waiting to see if anyone knows the answer.

Q: How does it get decided what answers need to be say the full name vs just the last name? If you know why do they not ask for full names all the time?
A: If it is a completely obvious answer and there cannot be another reasonable answer to the clue, then a last name will suffice. For example if the question was about a president, and you answered clinton, thats obvious, but if you answered Adams, then we need a first name.

Q: How long are the contestants standing?

A: For the length of the taping. Usually about 45 minutes.

Q: Has an audience member ever hollered out the question to an answer?I imagine, after years of shouting at the television, some fan sometime forgot to keep mum.
A: Yes its happened and happens. The audience is briefed beforehand about doing that and are told they will be asked to leave if they do.

Q: So the audience member's ejected, and a backup question's asked?

A: Correct.

Q: What's the procedure if they do? Would that be cut out of the final edit, and how would that affect the scoring?
A: Well the few times i heard it, it luckily wasnt loud enough to be heard by the contestants, just the judges table which is right in front of the audience, so no action was taken. But if it was loud enough to be heard by a contestant, the show would be stopped, the question would be thrown out, replaced and replayed.

Q: While the contestants are writing their final jeopardy questions/wagers, is that jeopardy music playing in the studio where they can hear it, or is that added just for TV?
A: Its playing in the studio, so is that annoying music during the credits.

Q: How do they get the stories from the contestants for the interviews? I can't imagine wanting to divulge the information some contestants say knowing it would end up on national television.
A: Before the shows the contestants are asked about any interesting info they want to share during the interview, they give a couple items, then that is passed on to alex who picks which one might be the most interesting.

Q: Can I be a contestant not on the 'college' edition even if I'm in college?
A: Yes, as long as you are over 18 you can be a contestant on regular Jeopardy!

Q: Are the contestants able to see a readout of their own and other contestants scores so they know what to wager (for a daily double, final jeopardy, etc.)?
A: Yes, there is basically a score board that hangs from the ceiling where the contestants are able to see their score as well as the other contestants.

Q: You said that the judge panel occasionally stops taping to review the contestants questions but, what's the deal with points being rewarded much later to contestants (more questions are asked inbetween this time) after the judges deem their answers correct/incorrect?
A: If an answer wasnt determined to be correct or incorrect at the time it was given but shortly after, they will wait until a daily double is selected before they make the score change to ensure that the person wagering knows all the correct amounts before they wager.

Q: In the first segment, there is a commercial and question break in the middle of it. We had wondered amongst ourselves whether that is based on time or questions asked/answered.
A: The first break is taken after 15 clues are read or if time has ran out (rarely happens during the first segment, but it does occur). But the better answer is after 15 clues.

 
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