Because sometimes the people in charge of keeping us informed are morons.
Celebrity Jeopardy has been a source of comedy since Will Ferrell first donned a fake mustache on SNL in the 1990s.
The idea of placing people whose main qualification is looking nice in front of a camera in a format designed to pit trivia nerds against each other is fundamentally silly. The skills that make you a good late-night talk show sidekick have nothing to do with having a wealth of trivial knowledge at your fingertips. Of course there are some exceptions. When one of the contestants is among the most prominent news anchors on television (tasked with curating current events for millions of people who trust him to have the requisite education and understanding to place those events in context), you have to assume he has a certain advantage over the likes of Andy Richter—whose job is just to make Conan O'Brien seem funny.
Well, maybe we've all underestimated how much brain power it takes to make Conan look good, because in September of 2009, when Andy Richter shared the Jeopardy stage with Wolf Blitzer—CNN's chief anchor and host of The Situation Room for the last fifteen years—Blitzer didn't just lose; he crashed and burned with a series of wrong answers sending him deep into negative figures.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer Jeopardy Fail -$4600 www.youtube.com
While some of Blitzer's answers were understandable slip-ups—"Julia Childs" instead of "Julia Child," and "a defendant" instead of "the defense"—others point to a deep confusion about topics from history to pasta to the way trivia works. When prompted with a clue about the birthplace of Jesus Christ—in the category "E" Three Times—Blitzer briefly looked perplexed (perhaps counting letters in his head) before offering, "What is, uh, Jerusalem." The correct answer—with all three "E"s intact—is of course Bethlehem. When shown a plate of tube-shaped pasta, Blitzer guessed it was fettuccine. And when the clue described a "word that refers to an economic crash & the fear-driven rush to sell," Blitzer didn't let the fact that "crash" was already in there—he guessed "a crash."
With actress Dana Delany holding her own and Andy Richter sweeping the board, Blitzer fell to a distant last place. By the end of Double Jeopardy Blitzer had amassed a deficit of $4,600 and would normally have been disqualified from participating in Final Jeopardy. But because Celebrity Jeopardy is played for charity, Blitzer's score was restored to $1,000 for the final question—a solution which Alex Trebek announced with audible pity.
While the future of Jeopardy—with Trebek approaching 80 and dealing with a serious health crisis—is uncertain, its legacy as one of the great Trivia shows will live on. And Celebrity Jeopardy will forever be remembered for destroying the hollow illusion of serious, educated professionalism that corporate news maintains. Strip him of glasses and his suit (and his way-too-awesome name) and Wolf Blitzer—one of the men responsible for informing the world—is revealed to be an ordinary moron.