Television allows me to play the games I enjoy

That love of answering questions has always translated well for me when it comes to my television experiences. Television has been, almost from the beginning, a home for people who like to solve puzzles and answer questions.

Travel back some fifty years and the most successful show of the period was a half-hour show called “The $ 64,000 Question.” Unlike today’s big-ticket game shows that provide contestants with all kinds of help answering questions, that first successful game show put contestants in “soundproof booths” to isolate them from the chatter of the audience and the ability to hear a correct answer.

The first contestant to win the grand prize (and $ 64,000 was a grand prize) was a man named Charles Van Doren. He had to answer the questions asked by the host of the show, Hal March, which were extremely difficult and required extensive knowledge of the subject matter raised in the question. When Van Doren answered the final question to win the money, he became a national celebrity until, some time later, word leaked that the show’s producer had given him the answer in advance.

That revelation literally destroyed the format of question-and-answer shows for many years, certainly shows in which the jackpot was a significant amount of money. However, over time, the public forgot about the scandal and game shows (or knowledge) reappeared on the small screen.

It started slowly at first with the introduction of simple word games that required quick answers, but no special knowledge. There were other television games in which cash prizes were awarded to contestants who could solve a picture puzzle. And still other shows that rewarded contestants who didn’t possess any special knowledge of any subject, but were just lucky.

Regardless, I watched and enjoyed these shows, always hoping that a program that would challenge me and “test my knowledge” would one day appear on my television screen. And thanks to the special genius of the late Merv Griffin, that day came.

Now, for as long as I can remember, I have been a fan of Jeopardy. “I love sitting at home and answering the answers with the right question. And when I do, I often wonder how successful I would be if I had to do it on stage in front of a national television audience.

I don’t have that answer. But I know this: my need to answer questions (or answer the answers with questions) is satisfied five nights a week, every time host Alex Trebek and Jeopardy fill my TV screen.

Author: Frank Bilotta