Jeopardy! Has Drastically Improved my Quarantine

I have just been feeling wiped for the past few weeks. My energy levels hit the floor along with my motivation. Writing my Venture Bros blog was like pulling teeth and I loved that show. I’ve been in one of those anxiety/mental health holes that a lot of people have been feeling this year (pandemic, election tomorrow!!!!, rightful civil unrest). I want to preface those feelings a bit; I’m in the very fortunate position of still having income and am in perfectly good health. My girlfriend Emily and I have the ability to work remotely (you can also get her blogs and schedule a coaching session via her website) so we can fully lean in to the quarantine. All in all a very privileged position and I swear that me commenting on my mental health is going somewhere.

What’s accompanied the absolute bottoming out and uptick in anxiety is a general lack of malaise about everything. I’m keeping plenty busy but I just can’t seem to make the hobbies click like they used to. That means that writing for this blog has also been next to impossible. It’s not that I haven’t been enjoying playing things, watching things, or listening to things it’s just I can’t seem to find a way to type and talk about them. I’ve been pushing my way through Hades which is absolutely a great game. Problem is I just don’t have any interesting things to say about it. “It plays great and the characters are good” is about all I can pull up for something that will be on my top games of the year. There’s a lot to love there but I can’t find anything interesting from my personal playthrough to write about. I will probably have more to say about “Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory” which also says alot about my tastes.

I’ve been watching a few anime recently, all which I’m finding mostly enjoyable. My main motivator for watching is keeping up to date with the “Great Gundam Project” podcast that I jumped into this year when they watched “Gundam Wing.” They’ve just started the “08th MS Team,” a series I’ve heard discussed in very reverent tones. So far, I’m finding it pretty mediocre (only two episodes in though). It has very cool mecha action in the jungle but everything outside of it doesn’t have much interest. It’s clearly aping the Vietnam War and a “war is hell” message but it’s not very deep yet. Between this show and the podcast’s back up show, Gunbuster, I was broadsided by two underage nudity scenes. My recent dive back into anime has been pleasant and I’ve largely missed some of the horniness that comes up in these shows. It was only time that it eventually caught up with me and I knew what I’d get going back to the genre. I can only blame myself. That shouldn’t be an indicator of the quality of Gunbuster though which is really great. I think it has the chance to be vastly better than Anno’s later work “Neon Genesis Evangelion.” Maybe one day my brain will be able to form cogent thoughts about this weird show that seems like a mashup of Top Gun and Starship Troopers (even though it predates the latter). I’ve also watched about 13 episodes of the original Mobile Suit Gundam (I was inspired by the podcast) and it just absolutely rules. Again if the brain starts turning the gears again there’s definitely lots to write about.

Jeopardy! Greatest Tournament

Instead of finding anything long form to write about those interests, I would much rather talk about my new obsession: Jeopardy!. First some background; Emily and I like to try and watch shows together with our evenings. We’d hit a rut and didn’t have the energy to try watching anything new. We stuck to rewatching Bob’s Burgers and Gilmore Girls, our eternal fallbacks. We don’t have cable sticking mainly to streaming services, some of which we pay for and some of which we trade logins for. Emily started idly digging through Netflix and found that they had whole collections of old Jeopardy! reruns. I have fond memories of Jeopardy! but my family wasn’t consistent watchers. Emily and I decided why the hell not; seemed like a perfect distraction for 20 minutes. It might be the best decision we’ve made all quarantine.

Jeopardy! Contestants

There’s something so special about the way Jeopardy! handles its place in the game show pantheon. If game shows were a sport, Jeopardy! would be golf. It’s not flashy, it’s not in your face, and is much more subdued. It’s a competition, but there’s no loud studio noises or over the top reactions from contestants. These people came to answer trivia dammit and only in the form of a question. It makes it much less grating and really strips down to what makes game shows fun to its essence. There’s still the drama and the contestant storylines just Alex Trebek isn’t shouting it at you. There are underdog wins, unstoppable champions, and light rivalries formed in between lightning fast rounds of questions. We’ve formed bonds with contestants and had our hearts broken over tough losses. Jeopardy! is subdued but only to give you the actual meat you want out of a game show.

The trivia questions allow for a lot of couch participation. The cleverly titled categories range from tv, to geography, and sports. Most of the time, we’re participating as questions come up. Why of course we knew that was King Tut. What is Cheers Alex? There’s a different sort of media interaction that we don’t get from watching scripted shows. Instead of sitting back, absorbing a show and analyzing it, we’re trying to dig up random facts from the back of our brains. I’m less inclined to sit on my phone because I want to make sure I don’t miss a question. It’s played a weird trick to my tired brain; making it active without making me feel taxed. It helps that the contestants know way more than I do so I get to receive dopamine by proxy. O right, that was Mesopotamia I knew that. Meanwhile you are being guided along very quickly by Trebek’s quiet authority. And he’s not afraid to throw a lot of shade.

You know Alex Trebek. He’s an icon just for being the host of Jeopardy!, but also for his effortless guidance of the game. He only interjects when he needs to or when to needle a contestant for missing a question. He’ll quickly add updates into the game, like when someone moves back into a positive score. These are very sly cues to the audience of the story of the game and the narrative for individual players. Commentary clues like “back on the board” or “you’re on a roll” come out so fast that you barely register them. He also stops people from carrying on to long; keep it short and concise is the name of the game. He commands the show without it ever seeming unfair or his ruling ever coming off to mean. His presence is above the game and his interactions with the players reinforce this. Does he actually enjoy this man’s story about the renaissance faire or is he silently judging them? Probably both but it’s hard to tell.

All in all Jeopardy! has been a weirdly soothing tradition for the past week. I’m excited when we cue it up after I’m finished for the day. My tired brain craves the pleasant excitement of the board and the thrill of Double Jeopardy! being unearthed. It’s strange to have an old cable game show be the thing we’re binging but it’s fit right in.

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