The Joys of Watching “Jeopardy!” in the Time of Coronavirus

Filmed three-months in advance, the classic television game show has become a friendly little time capsule.

Long-time Jeopardy! Host Alex Trebek poses with contestant Ariana Mikulski during an episode of Jeopardy!. April 5, 2019. (photo: Penn State)


The great COVID-19 outbreak of 2019/2020; that deadly plague, that scourge of nations and economies.

This particular viral blight on humanity originated- this time- in China. As usual this one jumped from animals to humans, following in the grand tradition of some of the most prolific killers of history; smallpox, Spanish flu, and bubonic.

500 million, 100 million, 50 million dead- respectively.

And that was just in Europe.

Other gristly counts must be added to that death toll, as millions of smallpox deaths in particular were added when Europeans made contact with the indigenous peoples of South, Central and North America.

Not having spent generations living in close proximity to pigs, cows, sheep and chickens- and dying from their diseases by the millions- people in the New World lacked immunity to these diseases.

COVID-19 probably originated in a so-called “wet market” in Wuhan, China. A “wet-market” because a wide variety of wild and domesticated animals are killed and butchered by vendors selling fresh meat; blood and other fluids flood the ground on which the market takes place.

It’s not pretty.

Worse, some meat sold cheaply in the U.S. might not be much better. In many ways, factory farms are just as dangerous to human health as the wet markets of Wuhan.

Experts have been warning about a viral crisis brewing for years in the live animal markets of China. Experts have also been warning about a growing resistance in human beings to currently known antibiotics.

All this is to say that COVID-19 is likely only our first public health crisis to merit this much attention in modern times.

It is not our last.

Depressing, isn’t it?

Our fears for the future are being amplified day after day. We’ve learned- to our collective horror- that even our wildest germaphobic hangups weren’t totally baseless.

And we’ve learned to perhaps pass on the post-apocalyptic, dystopian nightmare movies, at least for the moment.

In the name of keeping spirits up during these trying and uncertain times, people have sought solace in old ways- jigsaw puzzles and spouting off on the internet remain popular- and in new ways.

For instance: This morning, people from around the country held a Day-breaker dance party; an online house party with a D.J., a Julianna Hough-led fitness segment and a glimpse into the homes and lives of our fellow shelterers.

Some are finding a snarky sort-of comfort in celebrating the fact that COVID-19 has caused the Trump administration no end of trouble.

The bottom falling out of the economy has upended the campaign strategy Trump has been so assiduously building for three years; that of a strong economic performance being the reason to re-elect Trump.

Coronavirus, the New Yorker informs us all grimly, “is the World’s Only Superpower.

Trump’s America,” it concludes, “not so much.

The economy is collapsing,” adds the Atlantic: “So is Trump’s re-election campaign.

Break out the champagne?

And as if things weren’t stressful enough: Every company from which we might consider buying anything over the next three months is overly anxious to comfort aggrieved consumers.

Just what a pandemic needed; a million marketing departments spending billions of dollars on advertising campaigns aimed at convincing the buying public how much corporations care about them.

The news is about the coronavirus. The commercials between the news are about the coronavirus.

If you don’t like jigsaw puzzles, and you don’t dance either, consider brightening your weekdays next week at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time.

We can’t do much about the commercials- we never could- but ABC’s classic quiz-show “Jeopardy!” still has a studio audience for Pete’s sake!

Alex Trebek, the show’s long-running and beloved host who has been battling cancer of late, is still shaking hands with people who are not standing six-feet apart. Neither a rubber glove nor a face mask in sight.

It is like watching people smoke in restaurants and on airplanes in old movies.

Has it been that long or does it only seem like it?

Watching the easygoing banter on “Jeopardy!” and Alex Trebeck pretend to be interested in every contestant’s anecdotes, it is easy to forget what is going on- or not going on- outside.

“Jeopardy!” feels like settling into a warm-armchair, beside a roaring fire, while a howling thunderstorm rages outside and cold rain lashes against the window; so pleasant, you might almost forget there’s a storm at all.

If only for a moment.

“Jeopardy!” is filmed three months in advance. The people playing, the people watching in the audience, and Alex Trebek haven’t even heard the word “coronavirus” yet, let alone “COVID-19”.

Watching those innocent days of yore- real time, two months- gives one a hopeful and nostalgic feeling.

Not at all like the uneasy feeling you get when you see New York City’s once twin towers casually thrown into an old movie scene; still standing tall, vulnerable and absolutely unknowing.

If COVID-19, like the other tragedies in our nation’s past, has taught us anything it is that we never know what the future might hold; and we must treasure the little things in every moment.

Like “Jeopardy!”, may it return again in glory once these pre-recorded episodes run out.

Because too soon we will be hearing the sad, sober and inevitable announcement from Alex Trebek that the show will be discontinuing until COVID-19 has passed.

Until then, we’ll take anything we can get for $500 Alex; and make it a true daily double.

And please, take care of yourself out there Trebek.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store