film / tv / politics / social media / lists / web / celeb / pajiba love / misc / about / cbr
film / tv / politics / web / celeb


An Afternoon Comment Diversion: "Sweeps Week" for $200, Alex

By Tater Barley Banks | Comment Diversions | February 14, 2011 |

By Tater Barley Banks | Comment Diversions | February 14, 2011 |

Toward the end of the comments for Cindy Davis’ marvelous “Only One” diversion of a couple weeks ago, somebody finally mentioned “Jeopardy!”

Which I thought was a perfectly reasonable choice, and not just because I, your noble Spud, was once on the show myself (more than once, actually). More about that in a minute, but first, there’s this gimmick “Jeopardy!” (and parent Sony, no doubt) has concocted and really, really wants you to watch starting today. Most of you probably know that a few years ago a man named Ken Jennings won 74 consecutive games and somewhere over $2 million, generating for the show the kind of attention I no doubt would have if I hadn’t, y’know, lost my fifth game. (Actually, the rules were changed in the interim; contestants used to be limited to five straight wins and then forced to “retire” undefeated, so five was the best I could have done.)

What you might not know is that Jennings isn’t the show’s all-time money champion. A fellow named Brad Rutter beat Jennings (and, via an NCAA basketball bracket kind of tournament) pretty much everyone else who was ever really really good at the game, and has somewhere over $3.2 million in winnings (according to Wiki, his exact total is the subject of some dispute).

Before he played “Jeopardy!” Rutter worked at a record store in Lancaster, Pa. He was about as employed and employable as many of you smart slackers.

Anyway, Jennings and Rutter have a chance to add to their winnings this week by playing a three-game tournament against an IBM computer named Watson that has been programmed to understand the English language with all its puns and allusions.

So it must be February sweeps, and I wasn’t even sure they had Sweeps Week anymore. We bat the movie box office tallies about here but we seem not much to notice the kind of gimmicky storylines and “A very special”s and guest appearances that usually get plugged into Sweeps Weeks to goose the ratings. I was a Nielsen family back in dinosaur days, when you got an actual little diary to write in along with a couple dollars’ pay to keep track of what you watched and listened to for a week. Anyone here ever been part of a ratings survey?

But sweeps isn’t what I’m here about. I’m here to tell you that being on “Jeopardy!” was the coolest 24 hours of my life, at least while vertical, and that I was the champion exactly 10 years ago today. I won four games and $18,500 (the clue values have since been doubled) and finished second in the fifth game, and I know what you’re probably thinking: Five games in 24 hours? How does that compute, Watson? Well, the show does (or at least did) two days of taping for two days every two weeks or so, which means, yes, that 1) they tape 10 shows in two days, and B) Alex Trebek works two days out of every two weeks, with something like six weeks off for vacation. Tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.

Truth be told, I wasn’t a great player, maybe not even a very good one, but I was lucky enough to be matched against contestants that weren’t much better or worse than I was (at least for the categories in the games we played). That was probably as crucial to my success as anything else. Turns out, I was a champion in the same season Brad Rutter first appeared, and I was a win shy of appearing in a Tournament of Champions that he pretty much shredded (I’ve met the two guys he wiped out in his first-round game, two very solid five-time champs who got demolished), so a few weeks one way or the other and I would have been Ruttered, as they call it, and gone home with a case of Rice-a-Roni or something.

But enough about me (unless somebody in the comments wants to hear more). This is your diversion:

What’s the coolest 24 hours of your life?

Gnomeo and Juliet Review: Not Stepping O'er the Bounds of Modesty | David Slade to Direct Ben Kingsley and Noomi Rapace in The Last Voyage of the Demeter

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.