This Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m., the voice of game show announcer Johnny Gilbert will again be heard through televisions in DeSoto County and the Mid-South saying, “This is Jeopardy!”
That will be followed by Gilbert introducing the three contestants for the show, but this time he will be stating that one of the players is “from Olive Branch, Mississippi.”
Colby Taylor, a visiting assistant professor of behavioral scenes at Christian Brothers University who lives in Olive Branch and said he enjoys trivia, traveled to the show’s studio in Culver City, Calif. last September to challenge two other contestants in the program that tests general knowledge and trivia with a twist.
Contestants are given answers in categories that they must respond to in the form of a question. They go through three rounds, Jeopardy, Double Jeopardy and then Final Jeopardy.
Players earn the dollar value assigned to the answer and are docked that amount if they can’t answer or answer incorrectly.
Host Alex Trebek, during each program, reminds players their answer “must be in the form of a question.”
At the end of the show, the player accumulating the most money gets to keep the money and return for another show. The other two players receive consolation prizes.
Taylor said the process to be part of Jeopardy! for him started about a year ago with an online test he took.
“About 80,000-100,000 people each year take the test,” Taylor said. “It was in April that I received an email saying I was one of about 2,000 who passed the test who were chosen and was asked if I wouldn’t mind flying to Washington, D.C. for an in-person audition.”
Taylor said the audition in Washington had him going through another test and a “mock game” to test his responses.
“They said, ‘we’ll call you if you make it, but don’t get your hopes up,’” Taylor said. “I had kind of forgotten about it, but the last week in August, I got a phone call asking if I wouldn’t mind flying to Los Angeles to tape for the show. I got chosen.”
So, on three weeks notice, Taylor, his wife Lauren, his mother and a cousin, boarded a plane to fly to California for the show.
Due to contractual agreements required to be part of the program, Taylor said he couldn’t divulge how he did on the show.
In meeting Trebek and Gilbert, the mainstays of the show, Taylor said they were “pretty much as I imagined them to be.”
“Alex is very gentlemanly with a dry sense of humor,” Taylor said. “He made me feel very comfortable.”
Trebek enters each program with some background information on each player acquired ahead of time by the show’s producers that he uses in the back-and-forth chatter done with each player.
“Back in April, they had me fill out five or six interesting facts about myself that they could ask,” Taylor said. “That was part of the interview in the audition and they kept that same sheet as talking points in the taping.”
There might have been some butterflies prior to the start of the show, but Taylor said once it started, the nervousness was gone, adding he was glad that he experienced what Jeopardy! was all about.
“It was kind of a dream come true,” he said. “I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into, since I’m not the most extroverted person.”
But he encourages anyone looking at being a contestant on a television game show to give it a try,
Now in syndication, the show Jeopardy! has been part of a television viewer’s daily routine since it was originated by the late Merv Griffin and first aired in 1964 on NBC with Art Fleming as host.
The original series ended in 1975 and had incarnations in syndication until 1984, when the current version started with Trebek as host and Gilbert as its announcer. The tandem has remained ever since and has become one of the most popular television game shows ever, along with another Griffin creation, “Wheel of Fortune.”
The program with Taylor’s appearance will be aired on WREG-TV, Channel 3, Tuesday, Jan. 10 at 3:30 p.m.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.