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Old 06-07-2019, 08:27 AM
F. U. Shakespeare is online now
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"Jeopardy!" format can't be rigged -- huh?


I want to state up front that I am not in any way questioning whether the outcomes of the game show "Jeopardy!" are in any way rigged or scripted.

But In the wake of "Jeopardy!" being in the news, I've read in more than one news article that one of the features Merv Griffin used to sell the show to producers back in the 1960s was 'clue/question' format of the game: as we all know, contestants are provided clues, and have to respond with the corresponding questions.

Back in the 1950s, scandals on several TV quiz shows dealt a severe blow to the credibility of such games. To goose ratings, producers had scripted who would win, and when, based on what would draw viewers. To pull this off, contestants were provided the answers to contest questions in advance.

Supposedly, Griffin touted the 'clue/question' format of "Jeopardy!" as a security/integrity measure.

How is this the case?

If you wanted to rig a show which had the old format, you would tell the contestant, "Jack Dempsey", and then ask them, on the air, "Who won the heavyweight boxing championship from Jess Willard in 1919?" They would answer "Jack Dempsey".

If you wanted to rig "Jeopardy!", you would tell the contestant, "Jack Dempsey", and then the clue would read, "He won the heavyweight boxing championship from Jess Willard in 1919." The contestant would respond, "Who is Jack Dempsey?"

The only difference I can see is that with the Jeopardy format, you could use different clues for the same question. E.g., having coached a contestant to reply "Jack Dempsey", you could also give the clue, "He lost the heavyweight boxing championship to Gene Tunney in 1926".

I think the features of "Jeopardy!" that make it hard to rig are the random order of the clues, the number of them, and the pace of play, all of which make it a lot harder to coach people on how to win.

But I think the main reason "Jeopardy!" can be trusted to be on the level is the transparency they practice in tryouts, and the caliber of contestants they draw.

I always thought the "clue/question" format was just a gimmick that cemented the show in people's minds. As a security measure, it's meaningless.

Thoughts?
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Old 06-07-2019, 09:02 AM
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Yes, it's purely a gimmick, and adds no security at all. I didn't realize there was any doubt about this point. When Griffin said that you couldn't cheat by giving the players the answers, that was what we call a "joke".
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Old 06-07-2019, 10:43 AM
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Since the answers are chosen by the person who gets the previous question correct, the show has no control over who can answer any given question.

Contestants would have to memorize the entire board, which is a total of 61 questions, more than quiz shows in the scandals. And even if they managed this, they could be derailed if another contestant beat them to the buzzer.

There were also quiz shows that tested knowledge, even after the scandals: GE College Bowl, for instance. The big difference is that the shows had smaller prizes than in the scandal. Jeopardy categories were 10-20-30-40-50 dollars, so the highest score you could make was $2700 (not counting Daily Doubles or Final Jeopardy), so not as much was at stake.

And that was the big issue: the large amount of the winnings. When they first tried to go back to a big money shows with $100 Grand, there were so many regulations and restrictions that, when the show was cancelled after three episodes, TV Guide wrote about the background with the comment that they should have shown that aspect; it was more interesting.
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Old 06-07-2019, 11:14 AM
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different show and a bit off topic, but did it not occur to the makers of the Newlywed Game that as the 25 point bonus question always gave a choice of three answers, the couple could easily arrange in advance to pick the first one, or the one with the fewest letters, etc? I know this question was usually a gimme, but not everyone got it correct every time, and 25 points was over a third of the max number.
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Old 06-07-2019, 11:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F. U. Shakespeare View Post
Supposedly, Griffin touted the 'clue/question' format of "Jeopardy!" as a security/integrity measure.
Cite? Everything I've read says that they came up with the question/answer switch because quiz shows had pretty much died out post-scandal, and they used the twist to raise interest in it again. Nothing about how it was supposed to prevent cheating.
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Old 06-07-2019, 01:31 PM
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In fact I read somewhere (sorry can't recall no cite), that Alex does not meet or talk with the contestants before the show to make sure there's no hint of cheating. If the design did that, there would be no need to sequester the contestants.
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Old 06-07-2019, 01:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OldGuy View Post
In fact I read somewhere (sorry can't recall no cite), that Alex does not meet or talk with the contestants before the show to make sure there's no hint of cheating.
I can confirm that in my experience, this is true. I have worked on Jeopardy! several times over the years and I have never seen Mr. Trebek interact with the contestants off-camera. In every instance I can remember, his dressing room was far away from the contestants, too.

Last edited by Snowboarder Bo; 06-07-2019 at 01:41 PM.
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Old 06-07-2019, 08:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
Since the answers are chosen by the person who gets the previous question correct, the show has no control over who can answer any given question.

Contestants would have to memorize the entire board, which is a total of 61 questions, more than quiz shows in the scandals. And even if they managed this, they could be derailed if another contestant beat them to the buzzer.
Or to put it another way, see paragraph 9 in the OP.

Quote:
Originally Posted by enalzi View Post
Cite? Everything I've read says that they came up with the question/answer switch because quiz shows had pretty much died out post-scandal, and they used the twist to raise interest in it again. Nothing about how it was supposed to prevent cheating.
I read it in an article at work that I can't find now. But Wikipedia seems to support your claim:

Quote:
In a 1964 Associated Press profile released shortly before the original Jeopardy! series premiered, Merv Griffin offered the following account of how he created the quiz show:

My wife Julann just came up with the idea one day when we were in a plane bringing us back to New York City from Duluth. I was mulling over game show ideas, when she noted that there had not been a successful 'question and answer' game on the air since the quiz show scandals. Why not do a switch, and give the answers to the contestant and let them come up with the question? She fired a couple of answers to me: "5,280"—and the question of course was 'How many feet in a mile?'. Another was '79 Wistful Vista'; that was Fibber and Mollie McGee's address. I loved the idea, went straight to NBC with the idea, and they bought it without even looking at a pilot show.[45][46]
Whoever wrote the article I read may have misunderstood this.
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