(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Series: Jeopardy!
Where You Can Stream It: Netflix and Hulu
The Pitch: “This long-running game show has survived for decades, brushing off imitators, smiling along with parodies, and rarely changing its perfect format even as the entertainment landscape around it has shifted in profound ways.” “What is Jeopardy!.”
Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: I have incredible memories of sitting on the floor of my grandparents’ living room, watching Jeopardy! with them after school. To say that this long-running game show has been in the background of my entire life is not an understatement – it was on the air years before I was born and I imagine it will exist, in some capacity, long after I’ve shuffled this mortal coil. And yet, Jeopardy! isn’t just a nostalgic rush. It isn’t just something that makes me feel warm and fuzzy about my late grandmother and those lazy afternoons. Jeopardy! has been around for so long because it’s the best damn game show of all time, a no-bullshit experience that sets out to do a handful of things better than anyone else and does so five days a week.
And while I watch DVR recordings of new Jeopardy! episodes every day after work, the fact that the show is currently offering select episodes on Netflix and Hulu is an extra treat and a wonderful way to see how the show has changed (or rather, not changed) over the decades.
If you’re looking for various Jeopardy! collections, sets of episodes built around a long-running champion player or a certain theme, Netflix is the place to go. The collections tend to get rotated out and replaced with new ones every few months, so act now. They’re an easy binge at 20 minutes a pop. For something a bit more extraordinary, you’ll need to head to Hulu to watch the Jeopardy!: The Greatest of All Time tournament, where the three winningest players in the show’s history face off in a fast-paced duel that boggles the mind. These guys aren’t just smart – they know how to play the game, manipulating the standard game show meta to command the board. It is exhilarating.
But while the tournament is probably the most flat-out exciting the show has ever been, the daily, comforting joy of Jeopardy! comes not from the master players raking in the millions, but from the ordinary folks given a chance to shine. Compare these contestants to most modern reality show participants – they’re on television not because they’re weirdos with a desire to find fame by existing in the lowest common denominator, they’re on television because they earned this opportunity with intelligence and get to battle it out with other people who take pride in understanding the world, its culture, and the sciences that power it. There’s a gentle, warm thrill to watching regular people being highlighted on television for knowing their state capitals and their Shakespeare characters.
And that’s it, really. Jeopardy! has no gimmicks beyond the contestants answering in the form of question. There is a grid of trivia questions. Whoever buzzes in first with a correct answer gets the cash. They move on. They can wager more if they find a Double Jeopardy box. It’s simple. It’s painless. It’s understood by anyone watching within seconds. It’s simply a celebration of the unapologetic pursuit of knowledge, a show that knows that being smart is something worth striving for. A show that knows that that facts are more important than ever. Especially in 2020.
Of course, the face of Jeopardy! is the great Alex Trebek, who is currently battling cancer. It’s tough to imagine the show without him, but it’s tougher to imagine Jeopardy! fading away after he departs his podium. With his mix of good-humor and straight-laced command, he created the platonic ideal for a game show host – you want to win because you want him to be proud of you, damn it. More television can learn from Jeopardy! and more television personalities can learn from Alex Trebek.
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