The Day of the Show!
7:00am comes awfully early when you’re too excited to stand it! Cathy let me shower and get ready and then we went down for breakfast. I had to bring three changes of clothing (tops), just in case I win and have to do another episode, and I had to “do” my own hair but I was not allowed to put on make-up. I noticed a few other very nervous people at the restaurant with garment bags or hair done but no make-up.
Around 7:30am, we all congregated by the lobby doors. I thought it was a LOT of people and was a little worried, but I realized there were really only 13 of us – the rest were “visitors,” like Cathy.
A shuttle arrived to pick up us contestants and we all kind of sighed with relief and excitement… we were ON OUR WAY! As it turned out, the returning champion was on the shuttle with us. He had won his episode three weeks before and had to go home for the Christmas holidays and NOT tell anyone how he had done! I don’t think I could have done that. I talked to him (Travis) a bit later on and found out that he was also from Washington, DC. In fact, we figured out that we were in the same in-person try-out group. Not just that we both tried out in DC, we were in the same small group of 30 people! Weird…
Anyway – we got to the studio and were ushered through the lot into the Jeopardy studio “green room.” I was one of the first in, so they put me into the second make-up chair (Travis was first because he is returning champion). As I said, they didn’t want us to do our own make-up because they use special HD make-up. The funniest part for me was that they said they had to “warm” me up a bit so I wouldn’t be such a contrast to Alex. I joked that it would have looked like a photo-negative, so no problem! I thought the make-up was very nice – effective, but very subtle. It took a lot of effort to not wipe off the lip gloss though, I tell ya!
Once my make-up was done, I joined the raucous group in the other room, where the handlers were guiding us to the paperwork, helping us figure out our “Hometown Howdy”, explaining what was going to happen and generally, herding us into shape. Basically, they made sure we did everything we needed to do ahead of time *and* helped us calm down and not be too nervous. Even better was when they led us out to the actual studio where we got a “how-to” on the podia and “signaling device” (aka “clicker”), and then took turns actually playing the game while the stage manager got everything figured out. Behind each podium was a riser that was raised for short people, etc. I stood on mine (in my flats) and they raised it. And raised it. And raised it again! At that point, I felt a little rocky and my hands could barely hit the podium, so I said, “Um, guys?” Much laughter and they lowered it a bit so that the podium hit about waist high – like it did for everyone else.
That part was really fun, by the way. We were actually playing the game! And for points! Of course, the points didn’t matter, but it was really cool to realize that I *could* answer some of these questions! Answers. Whatever.
During this time, we also filmed our “Hometown Howdy” bits. We had two: a short one with just the name and location, and another one with a bit of personality. Mine were “Hi, I’m Deborah Smith from Washington, DC and my friends call me the Queen of Useless Knowledge. Watch me show how useful it is on Jeopardy.” Blah blah blah, something like that. It was a little nerve-wracking! Basically, these are the ads that are sometimes shown on the local station when someone local is on Jeopardy. I don’t think they are on the DC station too much because there ALWAYS seems to be someone from the DC area on the show! In fact, out of the 13 people in my contestant group, there were four of us (~30%) from the DC area: me and Travis from DC, a guy from Silver Spring, MD and another guy from Arlington, VA. The videos are available on the Jeopardy website during the broadcast week, but I think they are no longer available after a few weeks.*
After they figured out all the technical specs, the handlers took us back to the green room because the audience was about to come in. We had a last chance to get something to eat or drink, use the bathroom, meditate or whatever. Throughout the morning, I had gotten along with pretty much everyone, but there were two guys with whom I just clicked, Larry & John. As they were about to lead us out, the handlers asked us if any of us needed anything else before we left. Larry asked if we could get a shot of Jack Daniels, and John and I quickly seconded his request – but no, dang it. No alcohol allowed. Ah well.
By the way, they made a point of reminding us – several times – about how special we were already. I think they know that approximately two thirds of us are going home as losers, so it’s important to remind us that we have already won more than most people! They said that about 100,000 people did the online test in January. Of those, about 10,000 are called in for in-person auditions, and about 3,000 are put into the pool of possible contestants for 18 months. Each year, they have about 400 spots on the show, so they said “You ARE the one percent!” To which, every single one of us contestants said, “NO, we’re the 0.4%!!!” (Nerds…)
They led us back into the studio and realized that it was full. We stood in a group off stage at first and they picked the first two contestants who would be playing against Travis, and Larry was picked! Yay! After they led them off, they led us to our seats where we could watch the games being filmed.
All of our “guests” were sitting in the same section as us, but across the aisle from where we would be sitting (the general audience were separated from the guests by a wall). We had been told (a lot) that we shouldn’t look at them, don’t wave, etc. etc. etc… Yeah, right! Cathy and I smiled at each other and I climbed up to the third row, where it ended up being just me and John. We watched as Larry *killed* the competition, and of course we played along! It was very exciting to be in the audience, even though I wasn’t actually playing the game. They had told us (a lot) that we shouldn’t even whisper while we were in the audience, because they had microphones on the audience and could tell. So John and I were spelling out the answers on our legs and trying not to giggle. (OK, *I* was trying not to giggle!)
Larry won the game and was led off to the green room again, while we waited in the seats. After the episode was done filming, they pulled two more names out of the hat, and those contestants went back to the green room to get their make-up re-done and to clear their stomachs of butterflies. (I think we stayed in the studio during that part, but I’m not positive.)
Larry ended up winning BOTH the Monday and Tuesday games and was the returning champion for Wednesday. They pulled two more names out of the hat and called “Deborah” and “John”! We looked at each other in surprise and went down to find out which podium we would get (I got the middle one). We went back to the green room for re-touches and then came out and got settled at the podium again. Once again, I had to write my name twice because I did it too small the first time. They raised the riser, and Alex came over and shook hands and then…
Dee dee Dee dee dee Dee deeee Dee dee Dee dee DEE dedeededeedee... “TODAY ON JEOPARDY!”