For the millions of viewers of “Jeopardy!” — and the many more trivia fans throughout the United States — being a contestant on the long-running TV gameshow would be exciting to say the least.
For UNO’s Ramón Guerra, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of English, and regular viewer of Jeopardy, participating in the first-ever Professor’s Tournament on Jeopardy was a dream come true.
The tournament will continue through to Friday, Dec. 17. Guerra’s episode aired on Dec. 9 at 6 P.M. Central Time on local NBC affiliate stations.
Before becoming a contestant on the show, Guerra went through the application process five times over the last 15 years, never getting beyond the first round of testing: an online general knowledge test, which Guerra took on his phone.
“They never tell you how well you do on the test, which has always been kind of frustrating. They just tell you if you can go on to the next round of testing,” Guerra said. “I took the test like I had a number of times in the past and I must have done okay. I felt like I did pretty well.”
A month after completing the first test, he was invited to a Zoom call where he competed against other applicants in a mock Jeopardy game and talked to some Jeopardy producers. Then came a third round of interviews with the show’s producers.
Calls accepting applicants onto the show can take up to 18 months to process after the final round of interviews. However, it only took around a week for Guerra to be accepted on the show.
“I don’t even remember the call, I was just so happy once I heard the word congratulations,” Guerra said. “I told my wife and kids right away. We were blown away. We were like what’s going to happen, what’s going to happen.”
Guerra was flown out to the Jeopardy studio in California a month after he was accepted on the show. Of the five days he was there, one day was dedicated to filming promotions; another to filming b-roll, reaction shots, local promos, and rehearsal; then two more days of filming shows where five shows were filmed per day.
“With the tournament, it was all randomized as to which three were going to be on the first show,” Guerra said. “They had this all figured out and so we had a long day of actual game play and actual recording.”
Guerra can’t share how the tournament turns out, but Friday, Dec. 10, marks the end of the quarterfinals before contestants move on to the semifinals and finals. Additionally, the top four non-winning contestant finishers can advance to the semifinals.
Despite the long days, Guerra had the time to appreciate everything that went into the production of Jeopardy, and enjoyed the experience.
“You get to see how this show that you’ve watched thousands of times us made, what it looks like, all of the behind-the-scenes stuff like the edits and reshoots,” Guerra said. “After the show is filmed, they still have to record you saying something or reacting differently. Seeing how the nuts and bolts of all that goes together is fascinating.”