Tim Anderson spends most of his days as an instructor of Modern Languages at Kishwaukee College. But for a couple of days last January and February, he was in California living out a dream: he was a contestant on Jeopardy! The first episode he taped last winter aired on June 7. Because he did well, he returned to film episodes that aired on June 10. And on June 11. And on June 12. Anderson took home a final total of $58,001 but the real pay off had nothing to do with cash winnings. “I just decided that no matter what happened, I would go and have fun and get everything out of the experience that I possibly could,” he explained. “I met some incredibly nice people and got to play the game that I have loved my entire life. Winning was icing on the cake.”
Jeopardy! is a classic among TV game shows and hinges not so much on chance or skill, but on knowledge. Contestants choose among categories and are shown an answer to which they must respond with the appropriate “question” by buzzing in before the other contestants. Tim said, “It is by far the most intellectually challenging game show, and I have always found it to be challenging and exciting to play along at home.”
Being selected to be a contestant is a fairly rigorous process: aspiring players must take a timed, 50-question test online, and anyone who scores above 70% is eligible to be invited to an in-person audition. Tim’s audition was held in May 2012 in Chicago and included another timed test and a game simulation.
At the actual studio last winter, Tim explained that five episodes are taped on each “tape date”– three in the morning and two in the afternoon. Prior to actual taping in front of the studio audience, contestants have a run-through to allow them to acclimate to the studio and playing with the hand-held signal devices they will use to buzz in to answer. “The signaling devices can be tricky to master. I had a terrible time in practice, but figured it out by the end of my practice time,” Tim recalled. “The devices aren’t activated until Alex (Trebek, the show’s host) finishes reading the clue. Anyone who rings in early gets locked out and has to wait for the signaling device to reset.”