The best game show in the history of television is Jeopardy! and it is very obvious why. Every week, three contestants answer trivia questions out loud on TV, and in tandem, viewers try to answer trivia questions out loud in their living rooms. This is the best thing television can do — instigate light sporting events in American homes and give intellectualism a 30-minute spot to shine after the nightly news.
Out of curiosity, and to make sure our favorite game show isn’t letting itself go, The Verge submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for FCC complaints filed against Jeopardy! Because the law only requires the FCC to store complaints for three years, the documents we received are all from 2013 to the present. Jeopardy!, being a nearly perfect TV show, had only seven complaints filed against it in this time.
Perhaps my favorite complaint about Jeopardy! is what you would expect from all Jeopardy! complaints. A dispute about a trivia question.
From a viewer in Ruskin, Florida:
"In a $1,000 answer in regular Jeopardy, the answer was about the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Financial Aid). The question was ‘What is required to apply to college?’ which was accepted as correct. This is incorrect. The FAFSA is only required to apply for financial aid."
A conspiracy theory
You can read about the game show this complaint refers to, The $64,000 Question, on a Wikipedia page called "1950s quiz show scandals." In the 1950s, the FCC discovered that many popular quiz shows were rigging the game in their contestants’ favor. It was actually a pretty big hit to the worldwide rep of trivia shows, as they had just won a major legal battle over whether or not playing trivia for money constituted gambling.
Today, is there a conspiracy amongst all trivia game shows to make sure that no one brainiac wins too much money? One viewer from Jacksonville, Florida, argues mayyyybe?:
"During the past several years some contestants have been on the show continuously for a period of time and won large sums of money. Obviously interest in the show increases. Then all of a sudden the contestant who has won the large sum of money gives no answer or an incorrect answer and the winning comes to an abrupt end. This gives the impression that the producers of the show have a limit on the length of time a contestant can be on the show or the amount of money they can win. Kind of reminds me of the old $64,000 game show.
My question is has the FCC had any inquires concerning Jeopardy! and looked into the matter, and if so what were the findings?"
One viewer from Sarasota, Florida points out that Jeopardy! has merely adopted the "guise" of being a game show in order to further a pro-universal health care agenda. A bold claim! Almost as bold as their claim that they read the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, which is nearly 20,000 pages long.
This viewer also claims that Jeopardy! airs on CBS.
"Tonight, the CBS / Jeopardy! improperly used its entertainment platform and unfairly used PUBLIC airtime to promote and propagandize the federal government ACA / Obamacare program. Under the guise of being a gameshow, CBS / Jeopardy! violated apolitical TV standard to pimp ACA / Obamacare with slanted questions, misleading answers in the "HEALTHCARE" category. If I wanted to watch ACA / Obamacare TV COMMERCIALS, I would OR JUST CHANGE THE CHANNEL. I read the entire ACA / Obamacare legislation, I OBJECT to Alex Trebek / CBS using the Jeopardy! gameshow to invade our home with even more ACA / Obamacare propaganda."
For reference, the questions and answers that this complaint refers to, from the episode of Jeopardy! that aired on June 26th, 2013:
- $800 – Under Obamacare, most people under 65 with incomes under 133 percent of the poverty level are eligible for this program. (What is Medicaid?)
- $1,200 – Medicare’s prescription-drug benefit has a gap in coverage where expenditures come out of your pocket, called by this edible name. (What is a donut hole?)
- $1,600 – An advanced practice registered one of these professionals has a master’s degree and provides direct patient care. (What is a nurse?)
- $2,000 – It’s the "MH" in 1996’s MHPA, a law that mandates insurance for it at the same level as other health coverage. (What is mental health?)
From a viewer in Raleigh, North Carolina:
"During tonight’s airing of Jeopardy!, the profane exclamation of "God Damn" was audible from one of the contestants. It occurred during the start of Double Jeopardy after the clue about a movie where Steve McQueen drives a Mustang. The answer to the question was "Bullitt," and right before the answer is given by the contestant, another can be heard saying the phrase "God Damn" at a low, but audible level. This is a pre-recorded primetime show watched by thousands. Such a phrase to be left in the airing copy is inexcusable."
Bad closed captioning
The two most serious complaints pointed to the fact that ABC, one of the nation’s largest and oldest broadcast networks, still can’t figure out how to provide decent closed captioning. Similar issues were raised when The Verge filed a FOIA request for complaints about the Rio Olympics on NBC.
From a viewer in Warwick, Rhode Island:
"Captioning from something Alex Trebex said still remained on the screen covering the question Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was asking, twice. There was no captioning a Cardi’s furniture commercial as there has never been captioning in any of their commercials. [And] even in the ‘captioning provided by’ spot, none of the companies that supposedly provided sponsoring for captioning even captioned their particular ads in that spot. This has actually happened in every Jeopardy! program I have watched and there are no captions, by the way, in any of the WPRI Channel 12 News promos, nor are there any captions in the weather briefings during the commercials on Jeopardy! ever since I started watching the show with captioning."
From ostensibly the same viewer in Warwick, Rhode Island:
"I don’t pay much attention to the commercials although almost none of them are captioned even the Channel 12 weather reports and news promo, they are never captioned. [As] if people who are hearing disabled and deaf don’t matter in Rhode Island, or would have no interested in the news or the weather or whatever other reason Channel 12 always refuses to place captioning in their commercials directly involving their news coverage and weather reports...
...Since I’ve been complaining about poor captioning on the part of Verizon, either to Verizon, itself or to you, since last summer to no avail, I’m really finding that all of you are like brick walls, except that no brick wall has ever lied to the public about desiring to help them. But, if someone worth his or her salt is reading this, I will, (sigh) again, tell you in the form of a hint about what needs to be done so that corporations like Verizon will never ever again ignore the needs of my fellow 60,000,000 and growing hearing disabled American citizens by refusing to caption their programming and phones accurately, if at all. Simply take the simple hint that follows and you will make that change. Just as agencies in the US government won’t change unless their power is threatened significantly, businesses in the capitalist world won’t change unless their profits are threatened significantly."
MY CAPS LOCK APPEARS TO BE BROKEN
From a viewer in North Hollywood, California:
"KABC Channel 7 TV Los Angeles was airing Daytime Jeopardy! today. Alex Trebek announced what the Final Jeopardy answer was... but then that Final Jeopardy segment wasn’t aired on that TV station. At 3:54 PM local time, the station elected to go to a silly newscast about a fire. HOW STUPID IS THAT. HOW RIDICULOUS IS THAT. IT’S DISGRACEFUL TO SHOW A JEOPARDY! TV SHOW AND NOT SHOW THE SHOW’S LAST IMPORTANT SEGMENT. THAT TV STATION IS A DISGRACE TO COMMUNICATIONS. THANK YOU."
To be perfectly honest, I find all of these complaints to be reasonable. While I don’t think questions referring to trivia about the American health care system constitutes "propaganda" I do think the fact that the Jeopardy! writers chose to refer to the Affordable Care Act by the derogatory name made up by conservative pundits rather odd. I do not see why major broadcast networks can’t figure out closed captioning! Most of all, I can’t believe KABC Channel 7 TV Los Angeles didn’t air Final Jeopardy.
What are you, KABC Channel 7? A disgrace to communications?