The reason why I didn't post here Friday was because I was in Raleigh, N.C. to audition for "Jeopardy," America's favorite game show.
I'm now 3-for-3 in successfully completing the audition process, but 0-for-2 in actually getting picked. Maybe the third time will be the charm.
I come from a long background of knowing lots of seemingly useless facts on a lot of subjects. I was co-captain of my high school quiz bowl team (state champs my senior year, thanks very much) and I was a member of the University of Georgia's college bowl team. One of my teammates was Pete McBrayer, the older brother of "30 Rock's" Jack McBrayer. Small world.
Anyway, so what goes on in the audition process and how does one get on the show? Glad you asked, because here it is, all your questions answered.
Back in the old days, the first time I was picked to audition, was in Atlanta in 2000 or 2001 -- so long ago, I can't remember. But anyway, back then, you sent in a postcard or an e-mail, and if you were selected, you went to the closest city to take a 50-question test (you had to get at least 35 right; I assume that's still the case). Of the 50 people who took the test with me, only eight of us actually passed. We then played a mock round and told the contest coordinators our backgrounds, and they put us in a pool with other people who had passed the test. (Only two people from our group of eight actually got picked for the show).
The second time I took the test was in L.A. in Dec. 2002 -- the same day I interviewed for an ABC/Disney Screenwriting Fellowship. Of the 30 or so who tested, only nine or 10 of us passed. Again, I was one of them, and again, I didn't make it onto the show (I'm not sure if anyone from that group did.) BTW, I also didn't score the fellowship, which made it a real banner day for The TV Guy.
"Jeopardy" streamlined the process around 2005, I believe, and made would-be contestants take an online 50-question test. A small portion of those who passed (you aren't told your scores) are then selected to be invited to one of about eight regional cities to audition. That's what last Friday was for me.
This time, there were 16 of us, and I figured everyone would pass the second 50-question test (though I assume the reason that it's given is to make sure the people who took the online test were the same who showed up).
Knowing my failure to make it onto the show previously, my father gave me some advice when we found out about the tryout a couple of months ago.
"Don't be yourself," Dad said. "Try to be someone interesting."
I decided to stay at the hotel where the audition was being held rather than try to fight traffic to get their for the 9 a.m. start time -- good call on my mom's part to suggest it. I armed myself with a can of Red Bull (thanks Kerry) to make my mind sharp (or rather less dimwitted than usual).
This time around, they warmed us up with a few questions before taking the written test. At one point, I raised my hand and answered wrong, but only because the judge wouldn't accept my answer of "Carl Faberge," saying the famed Russian jeweler's full first name was Peter Carl Faberge. (I've heard him referred to just as "Carl;" this is why you stick to last names if possible, kids).
Anyway, they gave us the written test. I know I missed two or three, but out of 50, that ain't bad. Everyone else passed, so we played a few mock rounds so the coordinators could get a feel of how we might be on TV.
They also interviewed us, asking us about our backgrounds, our interests and how we might spend our winnings should we be so fortunate. I felt pretty confident in my answers and felt I acquitted myself pretty well.
So, that was the proverbial it. The whole thing took about two hours and we now are in the hopper for the next 18 months where we might get the call. Of the 2,000 candidates they get each year, about 400 make it onto the show, so you can do the math.
The show films a week's worth of episodes every Tuesday and Wednesday, so there's not much of a disruption to your regular life should you make the grade (unless you have a Ken Jennings-style run).
Speaking of Ken Jennings (who had the show's all-time win streak and won the most money of any regular contestant outside of special tournaments), here's a neat tidbit I didn't think about until the coordinators said something. No other candidate named "Ken" was selected during Jennings' run for the obvious reason of when Alex Trebek indicates who rang in first to answer the question, if two people have the same first name, confusion abounds.
Needless to say, I'm arranging for "accidents" to happen to anyone named "Phillip" or "Phil" who might be in the candidate pool. (Just kidding, folks).
Think you have what it takes to try out for the show? Well, you can take a practice test on the show's Web site. These are the same questions that have appeared on previous online tests that are given every January. Be warned: To simulate the online test honestly, you only have 10 seconds for each question, and once you write down an answer, you cannot change it.
So, have at it: http://jeopardy.com/beacontestant/contestantsearches/practicetest/
R.I.P. RUE MCLANAHAN AND JOHN WOODEN: The death of the "Golden Girl" leaves only the marvelous Betty White left of that quartet.
Wooden, perhaps the greatest coach in any sport ever, also died over the weekend at 99.
MONDAY'S BEST BETS: ABC continues with its romance-based Monday nights, with two hours of "The Bachelorette," followed by "True Beauty."
More interesting options for the night can be found on Fox, which brings back new episodes of "Lie To Me" at 8 p.m. and the new summer series "The Good Guys" at 9 p.m., from Matt Nix, the creator of "Burn Notice." The pilot for "Guys" was a lot of fun.
NBC offers the intriguing "Persons Unknown" at 10 p.m., about seven strangers who are abducted and deposited in a ghost town for reasons unknown. I'm very interested in this one, since it was created by Chris McQuarrie, my favorite screenwriter and writer of "The Usual Suspects."
On cable, "Nurse Jackie" and "The United States of Tara" wrap up their second seasons beginning at 10 p.m. on Showtime. Meanwhile, TNT has a new "Saving Grace" at 10 p.m.