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Jeopardy!: An Inside Look at America's Favorite Quiz Show

Columbia/Tri-Star // Unrated // November 8, 2005
List Price: $19.94 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted October 24, 2005 | E-mail the Author
In 10 Words or Less
What is the best DVD for quiz show fans?

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Jeopardy, game shows
Likes: Alex Trebek
Dislikes: The super geeks

The Show
Does anyone not enjoy watching an episode of "Jeopardy!"? While its braininess certainly doesn't go well with the general level of intellect in this country, there are enough questions that the average viewer could answer to not alienate the majority of the audience. Tying it all together is host Alex Trebek, a genial man who plays the role of the inquisitor in just the right way. His sense of humor, a part of his personality that he's honed over the years, goes a long way toward making a show that could be too smart for its own good, into an American institution.

This DVD contains five episodes, chosen from a few different points along the show's timeline, though it is very heavy with recent episodes, with four featuring Jeopardy! cult hero Ken Jennings. But it all starts with the first Trebek episode, from 1984. Naturally, the clothes are dated, but it's interesting to see how the show has changed over the years. There are some definite differences in terms of the pace and the feel of the game, which have helped improve the game.

The 75th episode of Jenning's legendary run as champion is up next, which, in my opinion, is a bit too big a leap in time. Seeing something else along the way would be nice, like maybe a particularly entertaining episode of "Celebrity Jeopardy!" But instead, it's a Ken Jennings love-fest. The 75th was an easy choice, as the mythology was well established and the game actually meant something.

The final three episodes are the final round of the show's Ultimate Tournament of Champions, a best of the best competition, featuring Jennings, Brad Rutter and Jerome Vered. While it's interesting to see the biggest "Jeopardy!" game ever, with some of the hardest clues ever, there's nothing that really separates it from your average game in terms of how it is played. In that respect, unless you have some sort of emotional connection to one of the players, its essentially one more episode of "Jeopardy!", that's three times the length.

While I'll always welcome the chance to watch a new episode of "Jeopardy!", five of them is not enough to warrant a DVD purchase. Especially when four of them are so similar. There's enough variation within the show over the years to provide something different. But the disc provides Ken Jennings, Ken Jennings and more Ken Jennings. For even the most ardent Jeopardy! supporter, that's too much Ken Jennings.

A one-disc release, "Jeopardy!: An Inside Look at America's Favorite Quiz Show!" comes in a standard keepcase, with a few promotional inserts. The disc features a full-frame menu, designed like the "Jeopardy!" game board, with the menu choices taking the place of the category names. The options include a play-all button, episode selections, extras, previews, DVD-ROM content and Potpourri. The navigation moves you around the board, making for a fun DVD, with animated transitions that mimic the show's board reveals. There are no audio options or subtitles, but the episodes are closed captioned.

The Quality
The full-frame video on these episodes varies depending on the age of the episode, with the most recent one looking crystal clear. Even the oldest episode looks pretty good, with a bit more grain than the newer ones. Most of the episodes have excellent color, nice detail and a lack of dirt or damage to the video.

Presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, the track is straightforward stereo, matching the show's TV presentation, depending on the timeframe of the episode. The show doesn't exactly have a dynamic sound to it, but what is here is nice and clear.

The Extras
The extras are the real reason people want a disc like this, and they cover a pretty extensive amount of behind-the-scenes info, starting with three featurettes that run almost an hour in total. "21 Years of Questions and Answers" (which should probably have been Answers and Questions), spends 21 minutes looking at the show's history. A wide assortment of interviews with the crew and contestants, including series creator Merv Griffin, makes the piece informative for even the most intense fan of the show.

"Jeopardy! Behind the Answers" is almost 22 minutes long, and reveals about everything you could want to know about the production of the show, including the writers' research library and all the technical components of the set. So much goes into putting together an episode of this show, and fans will want to know everything about the effort.

The 20-minute "What Does it Take to Get a Clue?" focuses on the contestants. From how to get on the show, to how to win the game, the featurette reveals much about the life of the contestants, and puts the spotlight on some of the series' standout players, like Jennings, Frank Spangenberg and Eddie Timanus. Again, this material will be fascinating to fans of "Jeopardy!", as the production tells the story of the players quite well.

An edited episode of "Jeopardy!", which runs less than seven minutes, is provided in a multi-angle format that allows you to choose the camera you want to watch from. Fans will appreciate the chance to see the show in a different way, even if it's somewhat hard to navigate, as is the case with nearly every multi-angle feature.

The on-disc extras finish with Potpourri, two screens of text trivia about the show, and three TV previews. In a DVD-ROM drive, there's also access to a video of one of the Clue Crew, and an online game of "Jeopardy!" that's enjoyable.

The Bottom Line
To tell the truth, this is a rather odd DVD. The five episodes of "Jeopardy!" that make up the bulk of the DVD are very quick thanks to the lack of commercials and are not exactly fulfilling as they fly by. The three "Ultimate" episodes have their own storyline, but when it's all over, it barely feels like there was anything there. The DVD presentation is excellent, and the extras are very good, but once you watch this once, there's little chance you will ever watch it again, especially since you now know the answers. This may be one of those cases where the show just doesn't lend itself to the medium.

Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

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*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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