This SNL Black Jeopardy skit with Tom Hanks is as good as everyone says it is. And it’s not just funny either…it’s the rare SNL skit that works brilliantly as cultural commentary. Kudos to the writers on this one.
When Thompson reads a second clue for that category — “They out here saying that every vote counts” — Doug answers again, and again correctly: “What is, come on, they already decided who wins even ‘fore it happens.’” With each correct answer, Doug gets cheers and applause from Thompson, the black contestants, and the black audience. They all seem to understand the world in similar ways. “I really appreciate you saying that,” says Thompson after Doug praises Tyler Perry’s Madea movies, leading to an awkward moment where Hanks’ character recoils in fear as Thompson tries to shake his hand, but then relaxes and accepts the gesture.
By this point, the message is clear. On this episode of “Black Jeopardy!”, the questions are rooted in feelings of disempowerment, suspicion of authority, and working-class identity-experiences that cut across racial lines. Thompson and the guests are black, but they can appreciate the things they share with Doug, and in turn, Doug grows more and more comfortable in their presence, such that he gets a “pass” from the group after he refers to them as “you people.”
The secret of Jeopardy, what defuses the reality-show aspect, is that we all universally wanted each other to win even though we knew that only one person took home the big money and would return to fight again.
Here’s Glenn’s Final Jeopardy from that night:
I wouldn’t have gotten that question in a millions years. Maybe in high school…
On Jeopardy today, a contestant named Ethan responded incorrectly to a $1000 clue with “What is kottke.org?”
The best part is how disgusted the viewer is…”Are you freaking kidding me? Oh jeeezz…” Ethan, if you’re out there and if there was actually such an item, I would totally send you a kottke.org tote bag for working in a reference to kottke.org on a show that has such a storied past on the site. What a lovely 13th birthday present. (thx, justin)
Deep Blue was able to play chess well because the game is perfectly logical, with fairly simple rules; it can be reduced easily to math, which computers handle superbly. But the rules of language are much trickier. At the time, the very best question-answering systems — some created by software firms, some by university researchers — could sort through news articles on their own and answer questions about the content, but they understood only questions stated in very simple language (“What is the capital of Russia?”); in government-run competitions, the top systems answered correctly only about 70 percent of the time, and many were far worse. “Jeopardy!” with its witty, punning questions, seemed beyond their capabilities. What’s more, winning on “Jeopardy!” requires finding an answer in a few seconds. The top question-answering machines often spent longer, even entire minutes, doing the same thing.
I’ve had Alex Trebek rap Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” — he had his mind on his money and his money on his mind that day. Did a category called “Death and Texas” just because I liked the title (and finding stuff about people dying and/or getting killed in Texas turned out to be remarkably easy). I’ve learned about Jean Sibelius, and word to the wise, if you see “blah blah blah this Finnish composer blah blah blah…”, Jean Sibelius might not be your worst guess. Well, at least if I wrote it. I’m just not that up on my Finnish composers.
This comes from a blog called Why We Write, a collection of essays by TV and film writers who are currently out of work due to the Writer’s Guild strike. My favorite part of the site is the placement of two spaces after a period instead of the HTML default of one. View the source to check out the crazy markup they use to accomplish that little bit of fussiness. (thx, mark)