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May 10, 2015

The Final Wager’s Celebrity Jeopardy! preview

Celebrity Jeopardy!


For the first time in five years, The Powers That Be have seen fit to bless us with a week of recognizable people playing our favorite quiz show for charity.Celebrity Jeopardy schedule May 2015

How should Keith handle this week's shows?

    Skip the entire week! (12%, 15 Votes)

    Be ruthless! They could lose money for their charity! (61%, 75 Votes)

    Be nice! They're playing for charity! (26%, 32 Votes)

Total Voters: 122

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Now, I’ll admit: for the most part, I don’t like Celebrity Jeopardy!. Even with dumbed-down material, the contestants often struggle, reminding us (and also, unfortunately, the next generation) that basic knowledge is not a prerequisite for success in life.

The pace is lethargic, too, because the players are often busy joking around. With the number of funny, intriguing, and downright mysterious players we’ve had this season, I see no need to sacrifice content for professional yuks.

I do recognize, however, that Celebrity Jeopardy! is a necessary evil; it probably boosts ratings, which is why the producers are making it the sole event during May sweeps. As a result, both the College Championship and Teen Tournament appear unlikely to take place this season.

Andy Richter controls the Jeopardy! universe.

Yet every once in a while, there’s a bright spot. Chief among them was Andy Richter, who balanced out the black hole of intelligence named Wolf Blitzer to amass $39,000 heading into Final; he then nearly doubled his score to win $68,000, the third-highest total in the show’s history.

In that spirit, here’s a quick look at the competitors – and how I’d score them on the [Andy] Richter scale. (Whether the measurement is linear or logarithmic I’m going to keep secret.)

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Since the celebrity edition often gives shout-outs to the competitors, I’ve included some possible “vanity” categories.

Monday, May 11

Vince Gilligan

How I know him: he created Breaking Bad
How you might know him: he was Stephen Colbert’s hostage
Blind assessment: great attention to detail, great taste in music
Richter scale: 6.5


Debra Messing

How I know her: the latter half of Will & Grace
How you might know her: the same?
Blind assessment: could be a dark horse.
Richter scale: 4.0


Neil Flynn

How I know him: the janitor on Scrubs
How you might know him: Mike Heck in The Middle
Blind assessment: I’d love to be surprised
Richter scale: 4.0


Tuesday, May 12

Aaron Rodgers

How I know him: quarterback for the Green Bay Packers
How you might know him: State Farm spokesman
Blind assessment: he’s a lifelong J! fan, and is considered very smart
Richter scale: 7.0


Kevin O’Leary

How I know him: one of the sharks on Shark Tank
How you might know him: one of the sharks on Shark Tank
Blind assessment: financial smarts = trivia smarts? His conservative bent bodes poorly
Richter scale: 3.5


Mark Kelly

How I know him: commander of the last Endeavour mission
How you might know him: husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords
Blind assessment: astronauts are typically smart, but here’s hoping he doesn’t wager like Buzz Aldrin did
Richter scale: 5.5


Wednesday, May 13

Mo Rocca

How I know him: panelist on Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!
How you might know him: contributor on CBS This Morning
Blind assessment: he’d run a presidential category
Richter scale: 5.5


Wendi McLendon-Covey

How I know her: Deputy Johnson on Reno 911!
How you might know her: Rita in Bridesmaids
Blind assessment: tough to judge, but probably in it for the laughs
Richter scale: 4.0


John Berman

How I know him: N/A
How you might know him: co-host of CNN’s Early Start
Blind assessment: “CNN anchor” is bad news
Richter scale: 3.5


Thursday, May 14

Bellamy Young

How I know her: the First Lady on Scandal
How you might know her: probably the same
Blind assessment: graduated from Yale, so bonus points
Richter scale: 5.0


Josh Gad

How I know him: originated Elder Cunningham in The Book of Mormon
How you might know him: voiced Olaf in Frozen
Blind assessment: funny, but can he bring the trivia goods?
Richter scale: 4.5


Ginger Zee

How I know her: N/A
How you might know her: weather anchor on Good Morning America
Blind assessment: Russ Schumacher is a fellow Valpo alum
Richter scale: 4.0


Friday, May 15

Zachary Quinto

How I know him: Mr. Spock* in the Star Trek reboot
How you might know him: Sylar in Heroes
Blind assessment: maybe he’ll rain on Penn’s parade
Richter scale: 5.0


Cynthia Rowley

How I know her: N/A
How you might know her: fashion designer
Blind assessment: seems like she’s only about fashion
Richter scale: 3.5


Penn Jillette

How I know him: the talkative half of Penn & Teller
How you might know him: well, the same
Blind assessment: got tips from his friend Bob Harris
Richter scale: 7.5


* not Dr. Spock – this is what I get for writing a post at 4 a.m.

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  1. Great moments in Celebrity Jeopardy: When Andrew Shue–after bragging that he was a history major at Dartmouth–could not name a war that lasted a century.

  2. nvalley permalink

    I’m a little concerned by the fact that no woman on your list, including a Yale alum, received higher than a 5.0.

    At the same time Aaron Rodgers gets a 7.0 for detailing the process a QB goes through between the huddle and snap? While it’s undoubtedly an impressive feat, it’s not too far removed from the detailed analytical process for anyone whose job involves specific tasks that are slightly repetitive with different factors.

    I’m sure that there are underlying analytics I’m not seeing in your raw numbers here, and I certainly don’t follow Jeopardy as closely as you. But still, the average “Richter scale” rating for men is 5.25 and women is 4.1. That seems a little troublesome without more detail.

    • Interesting that it ended up that way – it was unintentional. There were actually no underlying analytics – just a gut instinct for each.

    • Uruguay permalink

      You may have thought it was discriminatory for Keith to judge the specific women on the show as poor Jeopardy players, but may I point out that it was you who was discriminating against athletes’ intelligence. Aaron showed his stripes tonight and , as a lifelong Jeopardy! fan and intelligent guy on AND off the field, he fared very well. Assuming his intelligence was limited to his job as quarterback, despite his eloquence and proof to the contrary, is not fair to him, just as it would have been unfair to assume all the women would do poorly if that were Keith’s intent.

  3. David permalink

    Ooo, thanks for reminding me of probably the worst wager ever on J! (Aldrin’s). You just *don’t* give up a lock. Ever.

    I’d give John Berman a little more latitude due to his performance ( on the CNN Quiz Show where he did very well.

    MISTER Spock! MISTER Spock! Doctor Spock was the seminal paediatrician!!!!!!! As a Trekkie, I demand this be changed NOW! :)

    Fashion designers on J! Well, I had no idea who she was before, and I wish I hadn’t found out now. Probably my least favourite Celebrity J! player was Isaac Mizrahi. He did not take the game seriously, and fluked into the quarterfinals of the MDCI. But those I could have forgiven those quite easily if it wasn’t for this: . No one who has appeared on Jeopardy!, even if it was an edition of Jeopardy! for people who have had total lobotomies, should not be saying that. Gah! Cynthia: Isaac ruined fashion designers on J! for me, although you’re up against serious opposition, both of which I am fans of and am rooting for, please restore your profession for me.

  4. Margaret Pruitt permalink

    It’s Mr. Spock, not Dr. Spock.

  5. Peter permalink

    No wonder why Ginger Zee’s doing this; at least half the meteorology classes at Valpo end up with some form of Jeopardy! during the semester. Anyway, time to tell the entire department about Thursday, because I’m sure everyone wants to see that.
    Another fun Valpo Jepoardy! thing is that Melizza Zygmunt’s husband is the physics department chair. He definitely led the charge to get her into the Battle of the Decades.

  6. Kelly permalink

    Actually the last round of Celebrity games was three years ago in May 2012 – it was called “Power Players” week though.

  7. Rafferty Barnes permalink

    Be ruthless, but tender.

  8. dhkendall permalink

    Keep in mind too you handled wagering for Kids Week and I have the same wagering expectations (and clue difficulty expectations) of Kids Week that I do of the celebs. I voted for “ruthless” though because who doesn’t like TMZ? 😉

  9. My vote would be for being neither crueler than usual nor nicer than usual, and treating them like regular contestants, with the same exasperation you would usually have for bad players/wagerers. I hope they all studied up on wagering $4000!

  10. Chuck C permalink

    So that’s what Vince Gilligan looks like …

  11. Aaron Fisher permalink

    What’s going on with the subscription form in the middle of this post? There’s no context to it, which immediately makes me worried it might be a malicious code inject.

  12. George permalink

    Wagering is a little different here because the charities are guaranteed a certain amount of money.

What do you think?