The recent passing of “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek inspired me to watch the 2019 documentary Game Changers, about the phenomenon of TV game shows, the hosts, the contestants, and the controversies. Viewers are immediately drawn in as Trebek recites a whimsical poem about all the things he could be when he grows up.
“My parents always said:
Alex, get a good education and you can be anything you want to be.
A miner, a designer, or a Vegas headliner.
A teacher, a preacher, or a deep sea researcher.
An actor, a factor, or a farmer in a tractor.
A banker, a flanker, or captain of an ocean tanker.
No one prepared me for game show host. It wasn’t one of the options in the high school career guide.”
From there, Trebek opens the door to the behind-the-scenes world of game shows. The documentary takes viewers through:
• the history of game shows making the transition from radio to television
• the 1950s game show scandals and how that changed the rules and regulations of the contests
• trends in daytime and prime time game shows
• and the more recent phenomenon of shows like “Deal or No Deal” and “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”
Trebek is featured not only as a subject of the documentary, he also lends himself as the interviewer to other game show hosts such as Drew Carey, Howie Mandel and Regis Philbin. In turn, the hosts talk about how they got their gigs and their thoughts on their unusual jobs. Like his game show host persona, Trebek strikes the perfect balance of not taking himself too seriously in interviews while also protecting the integrity of the hosts.
At times a bit slow, there are enough anecdotes mixed in to make up for it. Pat Sajak’s first impression of Vanna White was that she was “too nervous” for the “Wheel of Fortune” job. The “Jeopardy” think-music will definitely get stuck in your head as Merv Griffin’s son explains how quickly it was written.
Plenty of nostalgia is woven throughout the documentary. Contestants reminisce about watching game shows with grandparents or while home sick from school. This documentary will motivate you to pick up the remote and play along with a TV game show again, perhaps “Jeopardy” as the final Trebek episodes run their course in the coming weeks.