Saturday, 2 October 2010

Things That Really Irk Me: Jeopardy!

It's been a while since I've featured anything from my list of things that drive me nuts (you may note that this category has been renamed, in the interests of family-friendliness), and so it is high time to continue the series.

Today's topic: Jeopardy!  Before we go further, I must admit that I've never actually watched a full episode of this, but since it's the format that I loathe, rather than the implementation,  I believe that my concerns remain valid nonetheless.

For those not familiar with the format of the show, it is basically a question-and-answers game with a twist; namely that it's an answers-and-questions game.  In other words, the contestant is given the answer, and have to state the question.

Now, in some hands, this is comic gold: Mock the Week, for instance, do an excellent round based on the same principle.  A sample from last week:
The answer is: 7 years
Suggested questions:
How old is the world, according to Sarah Palin?
How long does it take the idiot in front of you to use the self-checkout?
How many years good luck would you get if you broke Jeremy Clarkson's face?

Excellent stuff, I'm sure you'll agree.

But in actual Jeopardy, the answer is more like*:
"The Father of Our Country; he didn't really chop down a cherry tree"
and the question is "Who is George Washington?"

The thing is, if someone said 'Who is George Washington?', you would never answer 'The Father of Our Country; he didn't really chop down a cherry tree', unless you were a pompous twit.  You would say 'He was the first President of America', or 'He was a well-known American', or 'I don't know', depending on your level of knowledge.  Of course, if you were further pressed, with the question 'Did he chop down a cherry tree?', you might reply 'no', or 'yes', or 'I can't say', but the point is that you wouldn't dispense that information simply in response to the question 'Who is George Washington?'.

It is also no more challenging to do it this way round than the other way round.  It's not as if the presenter says 'The Father of Our Country; he didn't really chop down a cherry tree' and then the contestant has to perform a feat of mental gymnastics to turn 'George Washington' into 'Who is George Washington?'.  They might as well make them answer the question while hopping, or looking at the ceiling, or wearing red shoes, for all the difference it makes.

If they want to jazz up the traditional 'question-answer' format, they need to think wider.  For instance, dispense the various parts of the clue one at a time, and for every part that gets dispensed, release a wild boar into the studio, so the quicker the answer, the less chance of a gory death.  Or make them answer while eating marshmallows.  Or while whistling the theme tune to Jonny Briggs.

Or anything, really, that actually makes a measurable difference to how easy it is to answer the question.

* I stole this from Wikipedia, by the way

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