Friday, March 13, 2015

'Jeopardy' day is an exciting one -- from Alex Trebek to Johnny Gilbert

The set of "Jeopardy" is familiar to fans of the acclaimed daytime TV show. It was a fun day for Cookie, Keller and others.
Actor Art Flemming was
recruited to be the original
host of "Jeopardy" in 1964.


Ken Jennings and Art Flemming photos from archives 

A DAY at Sony Studios and the "Jeopardy" set is a day I've dreamed about for a long time.
I'd met Alex Trebek years ago at a fundraiser in Los Angeles, but I'd not spent time on the set.
So, carpe diem.  This was the year.  "This IS Jeopardy."
We waited outside the studio beneath a larger than life Alex Trebek.
I've been a "Jeopardy" fan since the show debuted in 1964.  I was just starting high school and I'd sit with my grandmother Olive, who loved language, gameshows, and those with quick wits and minds.
"Oh,I love Art Flemming," Gran used to say. "He's so handsome."  And so he was, the popular actor who became first "Jeopardy" host and stayed with it until 1975. The show took a hiatus, was briefly revived, then shelved in 1978.
PRESENT HOST, Trebek, was a reporter in his native Canada in 1984 -- covering everything from horse races to politics -- when creator Merv Griffin asked him to come on board. That was 20 years after Gran and I first blurted out answers and hummed that catchy tune.
Fun travel tips, cruising, hotels, nature pieces, at whereiscookie
RESEARCHING the history, I thought of this "Jeopardy" test: 
Answer: "He was a popular actor when asked to host the original show of 'Jeopardy' on TV."
Question: "Who was Art Flemming?"
But why was 'Jeopardy' so successful?
Think of the 1950s, if you go that far back. There was growing frustration from the public at quiz shows scandals.
Ken Jennings with Alex Trebek:  Jennings earned over
a million dollars on the popular show.
Producers were being accused of providing answers to contestants and rigging the results. "Jeopardy" stepped in, attempting to provide a departure from traditional quiz shows by asking contestants to give their answers in the form of a question. The unique show caught on, and enjoyed a successful daytime run from 1964 to 1975.
 FLEMMING AND the original show were on NBC. After the second, short run of the show was cancelled in 1978, the notion was shelved for nearly six years.  When it came returned, Flemming was replaced by Trebek.
Cookie waited patiently with others.
The daily syndicated version we all know has always featured Trebek as host and the seemingly ageless Johnny Gilbert as announcer. It was
Alex Trebek in early "Jeopardy" days.
delightful to watch  the show open with Gilbert's familiar "This is Jeopardy." During a recent day of tapings, Gilbert had one arm a sling, result of rotator cuff surgery, then a car-pedestrian accident that resulted in a "redo" of the initial surgery. "What did Alex do to your arm?" one audience member joked. Gilbert ad libbed a jaunty answer: "He was reaching for my wine glass." 
Johnny Gilbert works the house during
several breaks in "Jeopardy" filming.
JOHNNY GILBERT -- well up in his 80s --  is a story in himself, a legendary game show host with more than 60 years in show biz. He still loves his work, and mingled with the audience while we waited for action to resume.  We also watched make-up artists touch up the contestants and Alex cross the stage to help a contestant who was having trouble with his signaling device. Since several shows are taped during a day, we observed costume changes -- on both Alex and the winners who advanced to more games.
Cookie takes a spin on the set.
And we enjoyed watching a panel of judges and consultants checking answers. Twice during our visit, Alex adjusted a contestant's score.  Alex also made a slight faux pas in reading one of the "question/answers" and that was retaped during a break, something that would have been impossible with live TV.
GRAM WOULD be thrilled to know that with over 6,000 episodes aired, the daily "Jeopardy" has won a record 31 daytime Emmy awards and is the only daytime game show to be honored with the prestigious Peabody Award.  In 2013, the program was ranked No. 45 on  TV Guide's list of the 60 greatest shows in American television history. Jeopardy! has also gained a worldwide following and has been the subject of hilarious sketches on "Saturday Night Live."
Angela Lansbury plays
Madam Arcati in Noel
Coward's "Blithe Spirit,"
recently in Los Angeles.
The daily syndicated series' 32nd season will premier in September.

NEXT UP:    Actress Angela Lansbury has had a remarkable career -- from movies to stage and TV.  This reporter's recent viewing of "Blithe Spirit" in Los Angeles proved the actress still has what it takes. Join us for a look back at 60 years in show biz with one of the greats.  Remember to explore, live and learn, and check us out for features on the arts -- movies, TV, plays, museums and books. Visit us weekends at

1 comment:

  1. What a fun piece on my favorite daytime show and one of the classiest TV programs ever! Made me go to the website in search of "Jeopardy" watching info. Lively, lovely reporting and reminiscing. THANK YOU from Anaheim -- easy driving to Sony!