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Review: Sports Jeopardy!

Review: Sports Jeopardy!

Dan Patrick’s ready for the majors, but Sports Jeopardy! is still in Spring Training.

Sony-owned Crackle made an interesting move over the summer: air a once-a-week sports-themed version of America’s most beloved trivia game. Sony’s tried things like this with success (Rock and Roll Jeopardy!) and failure (Jep!). But never have they produced a game show for online consumption. They secured Dan Patrick, one of the elder statesmen of sports broadcasting, to take the helm as host, and Harry Friedman is still executive producing.

Let’s start by saying that at the core of this show, it’s still Jeopardy!. People are questioning answers, wagering, Daily Double-ing and writing down answers in 30 seconds at the end. The format is solid—if it wasn’t solid, it wouldn’t have aired for 2,000 consecutive years in syndication. Deviate too far from the core (like Jep! or even Super Jeopardy!‘s four-player contests) and game show fanatics start to complain.

Then again, game show fanatics will complain about anything.

Producing game shows for online viewing has a very specific set of challenges: funding, attention spans, advertising, content… the list goes on and on. Sports Jeopardy! made some changes to the classic Jeopardy! format, seeming in an attempt to adapt to an online format. The categories are truncated from 5 clues to four. The game is played for points and not dollars. The winning player banks an even $5,000 and the players with the three-highest point totals go on to play for $50,000.

SJeop1017_1861 One of the main changes to the game is the amount of material used. In Classic Recipe™ Jeopardy!, a game goes through, at most, 61 clues: 30 in the Jeopardy! round, 30 in the Double Jeopardy! round, and one Final Jeopardy! clue. In Sports Jeopardy!, they go through 49 clues: 24, 24 and 1. I rationalized this change as “Oh, writing 61 clues about sports seems a bit overkill. No one’s going to watch a half-hour of this.” Alex rationalized it as “Oh, they’re going to make the game shorter because it’s online.” Both of these rationalizations would have made sense if the game was actually shorter.

The time they saved with 12 less clues is negated by the arduous amount of time they spend on the contestants. There’s one aspect of this contestant focus that I like: the “post-game interview,” where Patrick and announcer Kelly Miyahara (of the Clue Crew) sit with the contestants in a cramped pub booth and dissect their gameplay decisions. I’ve been in those post-game talk to the host things and they’re actually fun when you’re listening to contestants who have just played a game talk about what they just went through. That part, I like.

What I don’t like is the super-long contestant interviews in the middle of the show. Just… look how long ONE contestant interview lasts. I don’t think many people complained that you don’t learn enough about Jeopardy! contestants, so I don’t see why this was necessary:

That’s WAY too long. It’s easy enough that since this is an online show, you can just fast-forward through it, but I shouldn’t have to.

The other thing that was jarring about the whole presentation was the amount of advertising that showed up in-game. The promo videos didn’t show the giant “Download the Mobile App” advertisement underneath the scoreboard, nor did it show the obviously-placed-in-post Buffalo Wild Wings advertisements on the podium (which I’m not actually complaining about—that shows they know their audience. And I had B-Dubs for dinner yesterday. Same page, Crackle). How many ads can you spot in a 20-second snippet?

WHY IS THE DAILY DOUBLE SPONSORED!? AND WHY DID NO ONE MENTION IT?! I’m all for having elements of this show sponsored. It’s an online broadcast. Its budget needs to be supplemented with in-stream sponsors. But to just sloppily tack on a B-Dubz logo right before a Daily Double clue (the only time it happened during the episode) seems like a missed opportunity to sponsor the Daily Doubles from the get go.

Dan Patrick is, not surprisingly, a very good Jeopardy! host. His first showing shows a respect toward the Jeopardy! cadence that we’ve come to expect after 72,000 years of Jeopardy!. His clue reading is top notch, his pacing is very Trebek-like, and his ad-libbing, while leaning too much on some verbal crutches (“Anyone?”), is going to get better with practice. If, like I suspect, this is one long training camp for Patrick to take on Jeopardy!‘s podium, they couldn’t have picked anyone better.

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There are some changes they made to the show that I actually do like. Having Kelly Miyahara as an on-screen announcer is an excellent change of pace and gives the show a very Rock and Roll Jeopardy! vibe. The introduction to the show is less streamlined and slightly out of order (theme-host-contestants) to what we’re used to (theme-contestants-host), but it works for the show. Having Upper Deck sponsor baseball card-like player introductions is a nice touch, as well. The set is fantastic and evokes a great sports bar vibe. I also like that the three highest point totals come back to play a championship game. With no returning champions, this means that you have to go big or go home—a perfect mentality for a sports-themed competition.

Although Dan Patrick shines, and although the game is still solid and challenging, the shortened pacing of the game–and the questionable decision to fill that time with awkward interviews instead of shortening the game altogether—really takes the wind out of the proceedings. I would hope that since there are 51 more episodes and each episode takes a week to upload, that some of these questionable decisions get fixed. Smoother advertising and shorter in-game interviews (but keep the post-game show!) would elevate Sports Jeopardy! to a template of online game shows that other content creators should follow.

OH AND AS A BONUS: HERE’S THE FINAL JEOPARDY MARCHING BAND REMIX!

Did you enjoy Sports Jeopardy!'s first episode?

  • It wasn't bad. (50%, 80 Votes)
  • I thought it was great! (29%, 46 Votes)
  • It could have been much better. (16%, 26 Votes)
  • This was terrible! (5%, 8 Votes)

Total Voters: 160

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Review Overview

Game
7
Show
5
Game Show
6
60%

Minor Leagues

Dan Patrick shines as host but questionable presentation and directing choices slow down the pacing of the show. Sports Jeopardy! either needs to be shorter, time-wise, or longer, gameplay-wise.
  • Devin de Gruyl

    Meh. All this does is make me realize how much I miss ESPN’s 2-Minute Drill. I want to see that given another chance, not least because it’s about as close to Mastermind as US TV is ever going to get.

  • Wayne_Stevens

    Those dollar amounts ending in 50 are just awkward. Seeing this I figure the cut in questions was to leave ad room on the bottom row.

    Dan is fine for this, but someone else should be the replacement for Alex.

  • Andrew L.

    Adblock enabled = no in-show adverts. The only one visible was the Upper Deck ads in the intro.

    It’s okay, but the contestant interviews were SO DAMN LONG. Shave those down and then the show moves more quickly.

    /”Huiz” on the jersey was a nice touch.

  • pacdude

    False. Those remove the interstitial commercials. They do not remove advertisements that appear baked into the video, like the ad for Buffalo Wild Wings. You can clearly see them in the videos above, running on Chrome with AdBlock on.

  • pacdude

    Also, these advertisements may be only for viewers in the United States, and if you’re outside the US, you wouldn’t be getting these ads. Possibility.

  • Jim Williams

    I’m happy with the product. Kelly took a quick course in stereotypical public address announcing, it seems, and it doesn’t jive completely with me (especially when later in the show she’s more in her element giving a fact related to one of the show’s answers. Trust me though, it’s a minor nitpick.

    This is ABSOLUTELY a tryout for DP to potentially replace Trebek. He’s got the basic mechanics down. They probably expanded the interview segment not just because of there being only 4 clues per category but also to play to Patrick’s strengths as an interviewer. He had fun with the first contestant, so I really didn’t mind it the length in time.

    It’s a good show that has plenty of potential. I’m actually a little surprised that NBCSN didn’t pick it up to be honest.

  • Nicholas Todor

    Kelly is being VERY over-the-top as the announcer.

  • pacdude

    I don’t think NBCSN was ever given the option to pick it up. From start to finish, this has stayed in Sony’s hands.

  • pacdude

    I don’t think NBCSN was ever given the option to pick it up. From start to finish, this has stayed in Sony’s hands.

  • pacdude

    I don’t think NBCSN was ever given the option to pick it up. From start to finish, this has stayed in Sony’s hands.

  • Josh Woo

    I’m not a sports person by any stretch of the imagination–I think I answered maybe 5 clues correctly and who knows how many more incorrectly–but that being said, it’s not a bad half-hour or so. Dan seemed a little awkward at the top of the show, but once he started reading the questions, I liked his pacing. Not bad for a first showing, and he’ll only get better with time.

    As for Kelly…she should stick to being a Clue Crew member.

  • The Starkman

    Agree about wanting 2 minute drill back.
    I’m glad someone agreed with me on the truncating of questions per category…the word I was hearing was this was to let dan be dan which makes me wonder given some of the obvious nods to his radio show (and bringing most of his Radio show sponsors over)…but those contestant interviews are like groucho level long. Dan is not groucho (No one was groucho, he was handed a game show and instead invented the talk show LOL) it’s one thing to do this and still wrap in 15-20 mins. But then you have the postgame interviews during the credits (which are painfully like the box score, his lackey’s stupid ass show that no one wants to watch and even Directv wants to hide by moving its time slot) the set I don’t have a problem with, it is a little too close to his radio show’s studio but he’s actually got a cool set in Milford.

    I agree in cadence and format, he’s still the perfect understudy for Trebek should Alex hang em up. But the pacing of this show is just awful…but easy to fix..yes 5 questions means something here.

  • chi_guy89

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the option became available if this version gets more popular down the line. Even if it’s just reruns.

  • TheOriginalDonald

    Unless Sony has the production move to NY or Stamford CT, I still say Jeff Probst is still the understudy.

  • James Buie

    I have no gripe with the ads. Have you ever watched a network game show from the 50s or early 60s? Those games are considered classics and every camera angle had an advertisement.

  • pacdude

    I should clarify: I don’t mind the ads; I just wish they were integrated better in the presentation.

  • Brandon Taylor

    You gotta love how they mixed the “Think!” music for Final Jeopardy! Sounds like it came from the Ohio State marching band.

  • Trevorton Thompson

    It would more than likely go to NBCSN if Sony decides to take the show to TV. NBCSN simulcasts the DirecTV-produced Dan Patrick Show, and Patrick is one of the hosts of NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

    But Fox Sports 1 would be a wild card to pick it up.

  • Ben Tritle

    I was disappointed that the writing isn’t up to the standard of the original, particularly the FJ clue that finished with ” — I need 2″. The simple Jeopardy fix to that would be to state it as “2 of the 3…” .

  • “Game show fanatics will complain about anything.”
    Couldn’t have said it better myself. But staying on subject, I haven’t missed an episode yet, and I don’t think I ever will (I hope).

  • Brett Alan

    I haven’t watched this yet–I definitely will–but I agree with you about 2-Minute Drill. There was a very nice run of sports trivia shows around that time, and 2MD was clearly the best of the bunch.

  • Kevin L. Montgomery

    I watched the first episode…and deeply regretted it. Dan Patrick is a decent sportscaster, but flat out sucks as a game show host. J! is supposed to be a fast paced game, but gameplay here is slowed down due to the excessively long interviews with contestants. The placement of ads is annoying, and so is the “post-game” segment. I predict SJ to fail after only one season.