The Jeopardy Phenom

My favorite game show was “Kideo Village.” The junior version of “Video Village,” it aired on Saturday morning, along with “Crusader Rabbit” and “Andy Devine”…PLUNK YOUR MAGIC TWANGER, FROGGY! Boy did I hate that show. And there were no other choices. I’d sit in front of the TV with the can of Charles Chips and wait for the hour to go by so I could watch something else.

We were addicted to television. It was the internet of yore. New. Remember when there was COLOR? Maybe not. Maybe you don’t even remember when computer monitors went from black and white to color, never mind flat screens. Steve Jobs stuck with black and white, it’s one of the many reasons he got kicked out of his own company, but he thought the screen was sharper and it cost less.

We knew every show. There were three networks and in the New York market, three independents. The independents aired stuff like Claude Kirshner’s circus show and Soupy Sales and Zacherle, but at 7:30 PM, prime time began, and we all tuned in.

And there were some game shows at night, but most aired in the afternoon.

Let’s see, “Password.” We used to play the home version in the car, my father always refused to play and then blurted out the answer.

“To Tell The Truth.”

“The Price Is Right.”

“Queen For A Day.”

And Monty Hall’s “Let’s Make A Deal.”

That’s right, we not only knew the shows, but the hosts. Bud Collyer. Bill Cullen.

And Art Fleming.

“Jeopardy” was different, it wasn’t about laughs, like the idiotic “Family Feud,” it was about knowledge. But it ran its course and was taken off the air and when it came back after its encore, it had a new host, Alex Trebek, and everybody forgot about Art Fleming. That’s the weird thing about getting older, youngsters don’t get the references and they don’t care, furthermore you realize fame is evanescent. You can’t leave your hotel room and then you’re seen in the grocery store and no one even comes up to say hi.

Now I went to college in a TV-free zone. It cured my addiction. I didn’t have a TV until seventeen years after I left home. Of course we’d go to other people’s houses to watch “Saturday Night Live,” when it was still pushing the envelope and it made cultural history, but I missed so many of the sitcoms and to be honest, I don’t feel like I missed anything, especially in this era of overwhelming product.

That’s modern society, we’re all in our niches.

“Laugh-In” came on on Monday night, and then Tuesday you were all telling the same jokes in school and everybody got ’em, because everybody watched.

Our nation was united. Even Richard Nixon implored the cast to sock it to him.

But now the networks are dying and we feel so alone. We can watch or listen to whatever we want, but it’s unfulfilling, because we’re a party of one. Last night I read “Relix,” you might not even know what that is, but it contained a huge cross-section of bands I’d never heard of. But they’re part of that scene. I don’t even know where to start. No one is telling me what’s important, what’s worth not only my attention, but my time. I’ve got the world at my fingertips but I can’t speak the same language to anybody. I was with friends who work for a classic metal band and I read them the Mediabase Active Rock chart and they didn’t know six of the Top Ten. Anybody who tells you they know what’s going on is lying.

But we know about Trump.

And Tiger.

And now James Holzhauer.

Hell, I wanted Tiger to win, because I love dominance, the same way I enjoy Holzhauer succeeding, but all this fawning bugs me. Tiger’s an automaton, he plays golf, that’s all, he won’t even admit he’s black, he doesn’t stand for anything but himself and his sponsors. So now we’re saying he embodies American values? Oh, come on, this is a manufactured story. Furthermore, today sports stars are seen as narrow identities, able to do only one thing well, except for the players in the NBA, they have views and they express them, that’s what happens when you set people free. America is all about keeping people under control, to their and society’s detriment. It’s best when you let your freak flag fly, evidence your personality.

And to tell you the truth, I never watch “Jeopardy.” I was stunned tonight that the values of the clues have doubled. Hell, I remember when the top value was a hundred bucks instead of two thousand. And video clues?

But I had to see James Holzhauer in action.

And he’s not warm and fuzzy, kind of cold in fact. But the fact that he keeps winning and keeps betting…word on the street is he’s broken the game.

He wagers absurd amounts on the Daily Double. He starts with the expensive clues, he jumps around the board, and we’re riveted. How come in nearly sixty years no one else has done this?

It’s kind of like the Beatles. You can remember before and after. Kind of like the internet. One day there was emptiness, vapidity, and the next day the whole world changed. People off the radar screen turned it upside down. Not the celebrities in the media, but unheralded people. It’s about taking a risk and doing it differently, we’re attracted to that.

And we’re attracted to anything that brings the country together, that gives us the ability to connect with others. We can talk about James Holzhauer and others can express amazement, dig a bit deeper into his technique, whereas with seemingly every other subject, we can’t find alignment.

These moments are the backbones of society. And they always come from left field.

For decades it’s been about being rich. Or the rags to riches story. Alex asked James if he could take care of his parents with his winnings. James said they were already comfortable. Everybody else is poor-mouthing, this guy is owning his middle class status.

And a million bucks really isn’t that much in today’s market. But compared to everybody else? He’s trumped Ken Jennings’s winnings per game. And Jennings is not crying the game is fixed, changed, that he still deserves the title, he’s amazed and supportive. What a class act.

Now the weird thing is “Jeopardy” is pre-taped. People know what happens to Holzhauer. Imagine if it was in real time, then it’d truly be must-see TV.

But still, it’s pretty riveting. A guy making it on his intelligence. Not a drone at the bank, but a sports bettor.

And his parents weren’t criminals paying to get James into USC or Stanford, rather he went to the University of Illinois, that was enough.

And I’m sure James can’t do everything. Maybe he can’t throw a ball, or do quantum mechanics, or maybe even cook, but he’s really good at trivia. He seems to know something about this world. Which is a far cry from the influencers who are selling style rather than substance.

This is an American story, this is what America is about, not the rah-rah crap, but the rugged individual who triumphs employing his own strategy. It’s not about the team or the coach, it’s like Bob Dylan writing “Blowin’ In The Wind”…HOW DID HE DO THAT?

It inspires you to get off the couch and try to put a dent in the universe yourself.

It gives you hope.

And that’s what we need in America today.

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