Saturday, July 24, 2004

I'll take "Freaks Named Ken" for 500, Alex

I must admit that I have been following the adventures of Ken Jennings, the guy from Salt Lake City who has been dominating Jeopardy! for over a month now. I read a news item recently that said that Jennings has been seen in and around his home lately, so his streak had to be ending; turns out that the show's season ended, and for six weeks there is no production of new episodes while reruns of tournament highlights are run. (Also probably so that the producers could line up some more investors or funding for when Ken returns to play.)

For those who might have missed last night's "season finale", Ken finally stopped toying with Alex Trebek with regard to the "Single Day Winnings" record, which had been $52,000. Three times before, Ken had been in position to break the record, and purposely tied it; but then last night, he actually went into "Final Jeopardy!" with $51,400, and with his correct answer ("Two of the four Shakespeare plays in which ghosts appear onstage") and his big wager ($23,600), Ken smashed the old record and took $75,000 in a single day. Then, Jennings was shot from behind by an unknown assailant. Rumor has it that the next new episode will reveal "Who Shot Ken".

(OK, that last thing didn't happen. But Ken did take the record. The four correct responses are Macbeth, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, and Richard III, by the way. I was also able to answer correctly from the safety of my living room armchair; yay, me!)

Anyway, for the numerically-minded out there, here are Ken Jennings's stats as of right now. I'm not certain, but I think Ken has just about every game show record wrapped up except for "consecutive daily appearances on a show in which you can come back the next day if you win today" (there's got to be a shorter way to say that, but it's early and I haven't had coffee yet), currently held by Thom McKee, who ruled the roost on Tic Tac Dough! for 43 straight days back in 1980 or 1981.

I suspect that Ken's streak can only end in a way previously imagined by Gary Larsen in a Far Side installment years ago, in which God appears on a quiz show. God has a total of something like $50,000, while the other guy is standing there with a big zero on his scoreboard, hands on his hips, looking annoyed, and the announcer says something like, "That's right! The answer is 'Wisconsin'! That's another thousand for God, and uh-oh, it looks like our defending champion, Norm, hasn't even rung in yet." Such a scenario would be doubly funny because Ken is a Mormon.

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