Jeopardy! crew clues in Juneau

Show's on-air personalities scout area for material to be shown on upcoming episodes

Posted: Monday, June 30, 2003

Sitting in the waiting room at Temsco Helicopters Sunday afternoon, Jeopardy! Clue Crew personality Jimmy McGuire remembered an answer from an episode of the game show that aired last year.

• The answer: These are the two United States capitols that end with the letter u.

• The correct question: What are Honolulu and Juneau?

"I've used that question a lot this year," McGuire said. "And here I am in Juneau, and I was also in Honolulu."

McGuire and Sarah Whitcomb, two of the four Clue Crew hosts on Jeopardy!, visited Juneau Saturday and Sunday with a crew of six. They filmed eight-second visual clues - about Juneau, Alaska history, Native culture, ecology and wildlife - that will be featured on the show this fall and next year.

Jeopardy! is famous for its text clues - answers that require contestants to come up with the correct question. The show added visual clues in 2002 for its 19th season. About one to four air during each episode.

McGuire and Whitcomb taped in Anchorage on Thursday and Friday and will continue to Sitka today. The four Clue Crew hosts, selected from a nationwide search through almost 5,000 candidates, have visited about 50 cities in the United States and Europe.

"We have an important challenge: in eight seconds we want to be interesting and informative," McGuire said. "The last thing we want to do is be a distraction. It's a good, quick game. It hasn't changed much in 20 years."

"If we're going to get the clue crew involved, we want something that requires interaction," Whitcomb said. "Something that can be illustrated or brought to life by one of us being on location. If we want to demonstrate the colors or the growth of a glacier, we need to be out there on a glacier and show how beautiful it is."

The Juneau video clues may show up in an Alaska category or as individual questions in a related topic. The producers of the show wouldn't reveal the exact locations where they filmed. They keep the show's questions classified to prevent future contestants from gaining an unfair advantage.

They were willing to say that the crew visited a big game preserve in Anchorage, took a helicopter over Juneau for aerial shots of Mendenhall Glacier, logged a few clues downtown and planned to film on a salmon boat in Sitka.

"We try to be incognito," McGuire said. "Our equipment is very small, and we work with digital cameras. We want to protect the integrity of the game."

Jeopardy! is produced at Sony Picture Studios in Culver City, Calif., next door to Wheel of Fortune. The show has a staff of 14 writers and researchers who work in a closed-off area with its own library. Most of the writers have worked on the show for an average of 12 years. The show has won 24 Daytime Emmys since 1984.

"A good clue is interesting, and it's visually pleasing," said Brett Schneider, a Jeopardy! field producer. "We have a lot of different experiences than some of our contestants. What might seem obvious to us, might seem difficult for them."

"When people don't get our questions right, we're disappointed," McGuire said. "We want to make a question that if you really think about you'll get. When a contestant gets one of our questions right, it's like hitting a home run."

Korry Keeker can be reached at

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