Perhaps there are more important things to wring my hands over (and honestly, what sounds better than a good, old-fashioned hand-wringing?) than coming to the defense of "Jeopardy!" ubergeek Ken Jennings. There's Armageddon, Part 327 percolating in the Middle East, Dumbya has unveiled yet another security plan for Baghdad (coming next: Duck and Cover) and illegal immigrants are threatening civilization as we know it (or so I've been told). In short, there are real problems in the universe, but, with apologies to my more serious-minded Okie friends and colleagues -- Doc Hochenauer, Cassandra D, LiteraryTech, etc. -- I must come to the defense of a guy in Utah whom I really could care less about.
When AP runs the headline "Jeopardy's champ Ken Jennings blasts show," well, you just know you've got to read on.
According to breathless media accounts, the all-time "Jeopardy!" winner used his blog to skewer the smartypants game show.
"'Jeopardy!' ace Ken Jennings, who won $2.5 million during his 74-game winning streak, has a few unkind words to say about the show -- and dapper host Alex Trebek.
"'I know, I know, the old folks love him,' Jennings writes in a recent posting, titled 'Dear Jeopardy!' on his Web site.
"'Nobody knows he died in that fiery truck crash a few years back and was immediately replaced with the Trebektron 4000 (I see your engineers still can't get the mustache right, by the way).'
"Jennings also takes aim at the show's 'effete, left-coast' categories and 'same-old' format."
So why is this worth my valuable blogging time? Becausee even a cursory examination of Jennings' blog entry makes clear that the post is meant to be funny:
"Maybe when Art Fleming was alive, America just couldn't get enough clues about "Botany" and "Ballet" and "The Renaissance," but come on. Does every freaking category have to be some effete left-coast crap nobody's heard of, like "Opera," or, um, "U.S. History" or whatever? I mean, wake me up when you come up with something that middle America actually cares about. I think it would rule if, just one time, Alex had to read off a board like:
The Arby's 5-for-$5.95 Value Menu
Skanks from Reality TV Who Got Naked in Men's Magazines
... Why are there no physical challenges? ... It could be tasteful and restrained. Like, if you know the answer, you have to run from your podium to the gameboard, jump up to touch the clue in question, and give the answer. "What is an Arby-Q?" Then you run back to your podium to select again. Some of these contestants, frankly, could use the exercise. Oh, also, there are angry bees.
On Price Is Right, Bob Barker ends every show with a plug for his personal favorite cause. "Spay or neuter your pet!" or whatever. Something like this would humanize Trebek. I propose a new sign-off, along the lines of, "Can our returning champion do it again on tomorrow's show? Tune in and find out, everybody. Legalize cannabis. Good night."
Let me say upfront that Ken Jennings has always struck me as a smug, self-satisfied, slightly creepy Stepford dude, the kind of guy you'd watch like a hawk if you took your kids to a park and spotted him on a bench, his head buried in the Good Book. But that said, it seems fairly obvious that Jennings was being funny in his post, or at least trying to be (I actually think the post is rather clever) -- certainly not a "blast" at Trebek or the game show.
It reminds me of when gossip columnists tittered over Tom Cruise quipping in GQ that he would eat the placenta after the birth of his baby. Now, no one would posit that the Tom-Tom Cruise is anything less than a Freakazoid, but even in the context of the magazine interview, the actor was obviously goofing.
Are celebrities not allowed to have a sense of humor? Surely, the planet isn't so bereft of honest-to-goodness conflict that the media now has to gin up fake animosities.