I used to love game shows. My favorites included Press Your Luck, which was a huge game of Simon infested with these assholes:
Then there was Family Feud (aka, Richard Dawson Sexual Assault Hour); Pyramid; Password; Win, Lose, or Draw; The Price is Right.
There is something very American about game shows. They appeal to our sense of justice and equality—anyone can play, anyone can win. It’s not about where you come from, what you look like, or your personality. At their best, these shows reward perseverance and focused concentration. Housewives become winners. Nerds become gods.
Jeopardy! is one of the most enduring shows of my lifetime. Probably because the questions are hard enough to be interesting, and Alex Trebek is strangely charismatic. What other show could have introduced us to the awesome supernerdery of Ken Jennings?
The show has become embedded in the American culture. We all know the Jeopardy! thinking music. We all know that you have to answer in the form of a question. We’ve all seen the spoofs, from SNL’s Celebrity Jeopardy with a spot-on Will Ferrell, to Weird Al Yankovic’s “I Lost on Jeopardy! (baby)”.
But my favorite satire of the show is in the 1999 movie She’s All That. In case you don’t watch 90s teen movies, this is a Cinderella story about a beautiful “ugly” girl who takes off her glasses and (spoiler alert!) almost becomes prom queen. Her dad, played by Kevin Pollak, gives hilariously wrong answers to Jeopardy! questions and totally steals the scene. You hear Trebek in the background, but don’t see the tv screen. Part of the fun is the way that movie dad (Pollak) answers every question with complete certainty:
Trebek: Thomas Welch invented this drink in 1869 as an alternative to wine.
Movie dad: What is non-alcoholic wine.
Trebek: The youngest of the Marx Bros., he retired from the act following 1933’s Duck Soup.
Movie dad: Who is Lame-o.
Trebek: This city’s French Quarter encompasses about 70 blocks.
Movie dad: What is Paris, France.
Trebek: Along with Presidents Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, his face appears on South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore.
Movie dad: Who is President Rushmore.
Trebek: This 1961 Elia Kazan film marked Warren Beatty’s screen debut.
Movie dad: What is Shampoo.
Trebek: In 1987, a copy of the Old Testament attributed to this printer sold for 5.3 million dollars.
Movie dad: Who is Hewlett-Packard.
Shit, that movie is hilarious. We should all go watch it right now. It’s on Netflix streaming.