Jeopardy! with Ken Jennings

Note: A break from the movie reviews to write about one of my favorite shows of all time.

I’ll admit that it was kind of weird.

After 30+ years of Alex Trebek at the helm, it was strange seeing someone else behind the podium on Jeopardy! Monday night.

I’ve had a relationship with Jeopardy! for nearly as long as Trebek hosted. When he announced his pancreatic cancer diagnosis in March 2019, I wrote this piece about my relationship with the show, and how it was a show that I used to watch with my dad. The fact that Trebek and my dad had the same cancer was a shitty cherry on the sundae, and made the news hit a little harder.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Trebek, though it wasn’t for a lack of effort. I’ve taken nearly every possible Jeopardy! online test over the past few years, trying to get to the next step, never feeling like I never get more than half the questions right. I famously (to me) missed a question about Hamilton, though it was before I became super obsessed with the musical. And I still hold out hope that I can make it on the show someday, though I’ll admit my watching of the show has fallen off recently just because of the looming sadness about the eventual departure of Alex Trebek.

I watched the last week of Alex’s shows with some trepidation. I knew the final episode on Friday would be the last time he would host, and it was a bit strange that, due to the show holding back the episodes, that his final episode was wishing us a Merry Christmas on January 8th. But it was also somehow very fitting.

The week started with a message from Alex asking us to be nice to each other and pitch in in the fight against coronavirus. The five episode countdown to the end, where Alex seemed strong and very on his game, was hard to watch, especially with the end already known. The montage at the end of Friday’s episode was much needed, and reminded me why I used to watch every day, often with my dad but also with others in my life.

Ken Jennings was announced as the first of a series of guest hosts after Alex had passed away, and I was a fan from his record-setting run on the show and the things he has done since. Of all the people to take the reins, even if it’s temporarily, it’s appropriate that the only person to appear on Jeopardy! more than Alex (and Johnny Gilbert) got the first run behind the podium.

I assumed that Jennings’ presence on the show with the new season as a producer of some sort was to place him in the position to potentially take over for the man. Jennings seems to understand that his place behind the lectern is a big deal, and he opened his first episode with a great tribute to the man he was replacing:

And I have to say, as host he did pretty well. Just the right amount of banter with the contestants, solid interviews at the first break, and an overall good job at navigating the board with the contestants.

I admit that it’s hard to separate the show from Alex Trebek. The only other person to stand/sit behind the podium during his run was Pat Sajak in a one-episode April Fools’ Day episode some time ago. I even view the Will Farrell parodies on Saturday Night Live as being something different; Farrell was not really doing an “true” impression of Trebek, but instead using the format of the show to lampoon how poorly celebrities often did on the show.

So, like a lot of fans of Jeopardy!, I will miss Alex Trebek. Maybe I won’t watch every single episode as it airs, but I’ll watch enough, checking back in to see the various guest hosts until a permanent replacement is named. I still think that the role will ultimately go to Ken Jennings, but there could be someone else that surprises in the role as well. They will never replace Alex, at least for a couple of decades, but as Jennings said in his opening monologue, Alex loved the show and would want it to continue, so I think we should all try to enjoy it when we can.

Until next time…

13 Reasons Why – A Review

Note: This post contains mild spoilers from the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” as well as some talk of suicide and sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.

“13 Reasons Why” is the latest Original Series from Netflix. Based on the novel of the same name, the series begins after the “unexpected” suicide of high school junior Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) and follows Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) after he receives a box of 13 tapes anonymously. The tapes outline the “13 reasons why” Hannah committed suicide, with Hannah narrating 13 distinct events, perpetrated by classmates and others, over the previous year that led to her taking her own life.

The subject person of each tape has listened to the series and passed them on to the next person, mainly because of unspoken consequences enforced by Tony (Christian Navarro), a friend of Hannah’s with promises to keep. Whereas the previous recipients of the tapes had simply listened and passed them on, Clay takes a special interest in the tapes in an effort to eliminate some of his own feelings of loss over the death of Hannah, but also in an attempt to hold the others accountable for their actions. This doesn’t make him very popular with the other folks on the tapes, who pressure him to just get through them and get to the end and put it all behind him. This culminates in a conclusion that is just, yet open-ended enough to potentially lead to future seasons of the show. The true fallout is just beginning to be felt by the end of the 13th episode, and many loose strings are left untied.  Continue reading “13 Reasons Why – A Review”

A Disappointing End to a Decent Show

NOTE: If you plan on watching the How I Met Your Mother finale and haven’t done so yet, you might not want to read this as it is about my feelings about the ending of the show. You’ve been warned.

I suppose when a television show is on the air for nine seasons, people have a certain reaction to it, regardless of how “critically acclaimed” a show actually is. We saw this last week after How I Met Your Mother, a staple on CBS’ Monday night lineup since September 2005, ended its run, and we meet the mother. Technically, we met the mother with in the final scene of the previous season, but Ted Mosby and the mother, Tracy McConnell, have kids, get married (in that order), and in a “twist” ending that most people probably saw coming, Ted’s children realize the story is not really about how he met their mother, but instead a device to ask his now teenage children if it was okay to start dating “Aunt Robin,” because, as viewers found out two minutes prior, the poor mother died of “sad hospital scene disease.”

Before I expand on five of the issues that I had with the way the show ended, I would like to point out that HIMYM is not a show I watched from the beginning, nor is it one that I consider to be a great show. Of the shows currently on television that I watch, it is just outside the top ten. Had I not had hours upon hours of time to kill in Iraq in 2010, with ready access to all the previous seasons, I probably wouldn’t have ever watched the show. It’s not a terrible show either, but it is procedural and on a network that doesn’t view its audience as knowing what should be funny.* Continue reading “A Disappointing End to a Decent Show”

The End of an Era

There used to be a time where television was more important to me. Before the advent of DVRs and watching shows on the internet, I used to manually set a VCR to record about 10+ hours of “primetime” television a week while I toiled away at work, and then I would spend another 10+ hours watching everything before doing it all again ad nauseum.

It’s not the same as it once was. There are still plenty of great shows that I try to watch when they are TV the first time around, but for the most part, a lot of my “television” watching is done of time delay, watching the episodes or show when I have a few hours to kill at the end of the day or over a long weekend. Thanks to technology, this is possible, and it actually makes things a bit better. Continue reading “The End of an Era”