On the Jeopardy! Set With the Writers
If the task of writing more than 20,000 clues for a full season of Jeopardy! seems daunting, observe what the writers accomplish on a day of taping the show. Five shows are taped on each of the 46 production days for every season, and the Jeopardy! writers share the crucial responsibility of making sure each game runs seamlessly, and that all materials have been written, researched, vetted, and prepared appropriately. It all begins at the top of the morning around 7 a.m.
For Head Writer Billy Wisse, each tape day starts with a call from the Compliance and Practice Department. Commonly referred to as C&P, they are an independent group which monitors all aspects of the game from material selection to judgment calls. From the pool of games Billy and the writing team have prepared for each day of taping, 5 are selected in a blind drawing and assigned an order of play.
Once Billy has noted the day’s games, Writer Jim Rhine delivers a packet containing a disc and hard copies of the scripts to the game board technicians awaiting at the Jeopardy! stage.
Alex Trebek’s copy of the scripts are delivered early so he can begin reviewing each clue to be read that day.
Meanwhile, Editorial Supervisor Michele Loud and Writer Matt Caruso assemble the day’s games for review at the morning production meeting where Alex, the core team of producers, writers and an independent observer from C&P attend to review and update the games as needed. Any changes get implemented back to the database, and games are reprinted and proofed one more time before the master script is generated.
Finalized scripts are delivered to Alex’s backstage dressing room.
As the taping begins, writers, researchers and producers all take their seats at the Judges’ Table, ready to take notes, keep score and make sure the games run without a hitch.
While shows are being taped on stage, Billy has immediate access to the rest of the team via the “ring down” phone: a direct line to the writers’ room to research acceptable alternate responses, should any questions arise.
A second phone to the writers’ room sits at Writer John Duarte’s desk at stage left, which is also equipped with a computer for quick, on-site research.
If there’s ever a technical or scoring issue, the Judges’ Table will activate color-coded lights on Alex’s lectern so that he knows when a time-out may be needed to research a call.
Sitting next to the computerized scoring system, Michele double checks all scoring throughout the games to ensure they have been entered and reflected correctly on the contestant podiums.
Here at the Judges’ Table, Alex confers with Executive Producer Harry Friedman and Supervising Producer Rocky Schmidt on the acceptability of a response while C&P monitors the conversation. It is their job to make sure all judgments are consistent and well-reasoned, and that all contestants receive equal treatment.
By the end of every tape day, the writers have proofed the games at least three times before they are finalized for game play, tested the intellectual limits of some very bright contestants, and produced 5 of the 230 shows presented each season. They can rest in the satisfaction of having facilitated another day of fair game play, and it all begins again on the next day of taping.