Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Madison’s day in ‘Jeopardy!’

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Madison has made its mark again — this time through the popular game show “Jeopardy!”

The entire crew of “America’s Favorite Quiz Show” filmed their annual College Championship at the University of Wisconsin’s Kohl Center over the weekend, calling Madison the most hospitable city they have ever visited.


“We love Madison,” executive producer Harry Friedman said. “This is a great college town, and to also be the state capital gives it its own unique flavor.”

During Friday’s taping, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz echoed Gov. Jim Doyle’s proclamation Thursday, declaring it “Jeopardy! Day” in the city and adding he is proud of the warm reception Madison is receiving.

“Everybody I talk to from the crew to the producers to Alex himself, they’re all saying what a wonderful time they’re having,” Cieslewicz said.

In his proclamation, Cieslewicz asked Friedman if he could be a future celebrity contestant.

“I’ve been watching this show since I was a little kid,” Cieslewicz said. “I know I’m not going to get on as a contestant, so this is as close as I’m going to get.”

And after eating at L’Etoile and enjoying macaroni and cheese pizza at Ian’s, longtime host Alex Trebek felt right at home.

“I’m a local now,” he told the audience during Friday’s taping.

Trebek, who had never been to Madison before, said in an interview with The Badger Herald the Kohl Center and city as a whole served as a great venue for the championship.

“I like the city,” Trebek said. “It’s pleasantly situated between two lakes, and we don’t have many lakes in southern California to enjoy the way you guys do, and I can imagine it’s very beautiful, very appealing in the summer months. It’d be nice to come back here and spend some time.”

According to announcer Johnny Gilbert, who sported a bright red jacket and entertained the audience between tapings, about 4,000 people attended each of four separate taping sessions.

In addition to having recreations of Science Hall and Memorial Union serve as the show’s backdrop, UW senior Suchita Shah competed in front of a home audience for the chance to win $100,000.

Despite needing an extra stool to see over her podium, Shah, a Badger Herald columnist, said before the taping she felt a few jitters but was ready to compete.

“Give me a couple hours,” Shah said. “I don’t think it will quite hit me until Johnny says my name.”

A wishful Shah said of all the categories she would like to see pop up, neurobiology, her major, and Madison facts topped the list.

As for having the chance of winning enough money to pay for medical school and travel, Shah said she was not focused on the money.

“I think that’s the least of my worries right now,” she said. “I’m concentrating more on playing well and playing my best and having fun.”

Shah said she served as tour guide for the other contestants, who came from, among others schools, Marquette University, the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, Michigan State University and Harvard University.

“It’s so cool. It’s such an honor to represent my school when it’s being held right here in Madison,” Shah said.

Trebek said with the added rivalries between schools, Bucky Badger and UW cheerleaders running around and the marching band replacing the traditional theme music, he particularly enjoys taping the “Jeopardy! College Championship.”

“You guys have the world in the palm of your hands,” Trebek said. “You are in your late teens or early 20s. The world and all of its major experiences are ahead of you, and you’re eager to get there, do things and experience stuff. And that makes it more exciting for an old dude like me.”

Unlike the regular program, which is a continuing process with winners coming back the next day, the “College Championship” is set up so 15 contestants compete, narrowing the field to nine and then a two-episode final of three.

“I love the tournaments because there’s a definite beginning, middle and end,” Friedman said. “And I’m really bad at predicting who’s going to win these things. And that’s what makes it fun, when you see someone who might have been a dark horse maybe excel or come from behind.”

Because the show will not air nationwide until May 5 through16, members of the “Jeopardy!” staff asked the media not to divulge the results or questions from the show.

But during breaks in the show, Trebek showed his lighter, comedic side.

“Didn’t think you’d have this much fun, did you?” Trebek asked the audience. “You thought it’d just be a serious competition — no way.”

Trebek answered questions ranging from his favorite color to wildest college experience.

“I tend to fix sprinklers and drink a lot,” Trebek said of what he does when hosting duties are complete for the day.

In a city known for its alcohol consumption, one audience member invited Trebek out for a night on the town.

He respectfully declined.

“I have a function to go to, then I’ll probably go to my room and ponder my fate,” the former University of Ottawa philosophy major said.

But Trebek did admit to enjoying Will Ferrell’s portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live, and he offered a glimmer of hope to one audience member holding up a sign reading “Bring Back the ‘Stache.”

“The moustache is not gone forever,” Trebek said.

But the 67-year-old, who has hosted “Jeopardy!” for 24 years, said he will inevitably step down someday.

“I’ve often thought about stopping,” Trebek told the Herald. “But at the moment, I’m just having such a good time here at the College Championship that those thoughts are not at the front of my mind.”

Friedman said the show’s simplicity has been the source of its endurance.

“The ‘Jeopardy!’ format is so simple to understand,” Friedman said. “And even if you haven’t seen it before, you can turn it on and in a moment know how to play. And we really have never changed the basic format of the show.”

The “Jeopardy!” College Championship airs nationwide May 5 through 16, including locally at 4:30 p.m. weekdays on NBC 15.

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