After 60 consecutive sweeps periods as the second-highest-rated syndicated series, King World's Jeopardy is known for, well, having all the answers. So, typically, its producers have to think long and hard before jazzing things up. Borrowing from TV's current reality craze, though, seemed as good an idea as any.
This week, Jeopardy host Alex Trebek is asking viewers to send in video audition tapes of themselves to win one of four spots on the "Clue Crew," a team of roving show correspondents, considered part of the show's full-time staff, that will present Jeopardy clues around the world.
"This is Jeopardy meets Making the Band. It really is," says Executive Producer Harry Friedman of the Clue Crew's debut next fall. "This is a chance of a lifetime for somebody.
"He is looking for a nice cross section of viewers. "They are going to have to show us that they understand the show, displaying a natural curiosity that you have or don't have.
"Reality shows usually bring in a youthful crowd, and Friedman acknowledges that this format-freshening is a way to attract younger viewers. Although Jeopardy jumps over its syndicated rivals in total households, shows like Judge Judy or Entertainment Tonight often beat it in the key adult 18-49 demographic.
"Absolutely, we are going after younger viewers," he says. "But the beauty is that we can do all these things without changing the basic structure of the show."
Trebek is a fan of the Clue Crew. He sees it as a way to thank viewers for supporting him and the show for 17 years. "We get mail from a lot of people who suggest clues, saying they want to write for us," he says. "We already have a full-time writing staff, but now they can participate in another way by presenting clues for us on the air. We hope that some of our die-hard fans will move out to Southern California to work on the show that they've enjoyed for so many years."
King World chief Roger King also gave his okay to the Clue Crew, attributing Jeopardy's long-running success to such "well executed innovations."