What ‘Jeopardy!’ Can learn from the best British game show hosts

The US is no longer leading on the world stage in one important indicator.

We have lost game-show-host supremacy.

In “Jeopardy!,” the standard-bearer for American quiz shows, star power was vested in the contestants. And recent long-running champions Amy Schneider and Matt Amodio have lent the energy that has been in short supply. Endless bike race recently via “Jeopardy!” the guest ended in a failure and then a compromise left Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik, shouldering, parted. Both are capable (and one of the more adept picks made during the season-long talent show), but this viewer is, at least, a little confused by the associated tones. the show’s changing continuity and the drama of Mike Richards’ hopscotch between the dice and the shot. The top quiz shows in this country are often comforting and a little uncomfortable.

The time I used to watch “Jeopardy!” was filled with two shows from the United Kingdom that were perfectly predictable – the shows from which the producers of “Jeopardy! (These shows are available on YouTube, and I don’t know what I would do if anyone who kept uploading them decided to stop.)

My journey through TV game fare in the UK started with “Pointless”, a show about the first time I heard about it on social media. (It is said to be Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite item.) The object of the game is to find the least guessed answer in a set. It’s like a reverse “Family Feud”, where the object of the game is unique rather than universal. The show is hosted by Alexander Armstrong, who – like the late Alex Trebek, and unlike Jennings and Bialik – was first a broadcaster, then a puzzle enthusiast. As a comedian and recording artist, Armstrong has a warm, cheerful voice and an easy way to entice contestants. And his comfort with more puzzling puzzles is bolstered by his comfort in his own skin. He’s so good in front of the camera that it makes even hard-to-hear genres feel full of chance and alive, so good at being around people that he makes even the most obvious false speculations feel justified.

It’s worth noting that, trying to correct somewhat of my lack of understanding of the British-centered quiz, the shows across the pond are certainly more challenging than “Jeopardy!” This makes the presenter’s job especially difficult – keeping viewers engaged when they might otherwise be lost. Armstrong, a class clown who might not be expected to have a perfect grade point average, has a way of alleviating the inherent arrogance of a game presenter. Crucially, he conveys his expertise on conundrums to an on-camera character, Richard Osman, who adds perspective and context after answers are given; Armstrong reflects and amplifies the contestants’ eagerness or frustration. His “Nonsense,” in which contestants are encouraged to gently take big risks and are met with “Oh, bad luck!” When they don’t turn out, there’s human contact that can be found missing in “Jeopardy!”

From “Pointless”, I made the leap to “Only Connect”, which is a significantly more challenging program. (Its name refers to an aphorism from the work of novelist EM Forster should give you some idea.) It is organized by what I can only describe as a one-of-a-kind character. . Victoria Coren Mitchell, a British writer and professional poker player, has an identity with the show: She doesn’t write the questions, but like the best presenters, she defines character. its way and direction. “Only Connect” asks contestants to find commonalities or often unexpected connections between groups of things, and Coren Mitchell’s joy in explaining to contestants what they’ve missed doubles on. joy when the connection is displayed. When explaining the connections the contestants have missed, she has a way of taking the viewer with the ride, explaining it beat by beat with escalating drama in her voice and helping click solutions. right before she let go.

Coren Mitchell seems to truly love not only quizzes, but knowledge, of all types and every height of eyebrows: For example, when the correct answer is connected to a pop standard or commercial jingle, the Oxford alum will attempt to lead his contestants to the song. In recent episodes, she’s been experimenting with her presentation – wearing Lana Del Rey-ish heart-shaped sunglasses or painting her face with sparkles. Sometimes she seems to be running a game within the game, testing how much personal entertainment she can get from the spaces surrounding the questions and how much fun she can get when Share answers. Most notably, when contestants share an answer she didn’t expect, she’ll listen to them and ask them to explain why they believe so – and she may just award points. , which gives the series an air of joy and freedom.

There is a format difference between “Jeopardy!” and “Connect only”, which of course makes this impossible. And there is more at stake with the crown jewel of Sony Pictures Television than with a BBC Two series filmed, for some reason, in Cardiff. But I think there are lessons to be learned from “Pointless” and “Only Connect” for the makers of “Jeopardy!” — or, if not too hopeful, any producer working on a new game show that is a bit more brainy than “Wheel of Fortune.” What’s effective about these British game shows is a set of traits that aren’t necessarily exclusive to the British: First, both Armstrong and Coren Mitchell seem genuinely happy at their jobs. . The solemnity of the post-Trebek audition period demanded some kind of gravity from the potential contestants of “Jeopardy!”; I think enough time has passed that we can wish for a little more excitement in the combination.

And both Armstrong and Coren Mitchell came up with the puzzle – a puzzle that is, again, fundamentally harder than what appears in “Jeopardy!” – feel within reach. A simple puzzle enthusiast really can’t do this: For Jennings, a multi-talented but not a performer, the answers come easily and his interactions with candidates may feel uneven. Armstrong and Coren Mitchell dramatized the process of coming up with the correct answer, because they felt comfortable in front of the camera and felt comfortable, even in their apparent learning, thinking in ways that Contestants in the quiz show average do. They are the type of people we should be looking for organizations like “Jeopardy!”: The first broadcaster to bring the audience in. Like “Jeopardy!” cold and secluded, Armstrong and Coren Mitchell make their performances feel large and welcoming – even when far from an ocean.

https://variety.com/2022/tv/columns/jeopardy-host-ken-jennings-mayim-bialik-victoria-coren-mitchell-alexander-armstrong-1235166056/ What ‘Jeopardy!’ Can learn from the best British game show hosts

Olly Dawes

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