Thursday, May 10, 2012

Silents for teens

I was watching Jeopardy! again yesterday evening. They're in the middle of their annual Teen Tournament, which I don't normally watch, but I tuned in just at the start of the "Double Jeopardy" round, and saw that one of the categories was "The Silent Movie Era". Naturally, I was curious as to what sort of silent-movie related things the Jeopardy! writers would expect the teens of today to know. I presumed the clues would be slightly easier than normal. First, the writers always seem to have some teen-related material for the Teen Tournament, which isn't much of a surprise. The general material is, I think, somewhat easier than normal, probably because teens just don't have the life experience that adults do, so there are a lot of areas where they're not going to know as much as adult contestants. Jeopardy! also seems to test breadth of knoledge a lot more than depth, and I don't expect the average adult contestant to have the sort of knowledge about old film that those of us who blog about the subject do, something I wrote about last November.

It shouldn't have been a surprise, but the three teens avoided the silent movie category like the plague. I don't think I can really blame them; I suppose being 17 and seeing a category on silent cinema would be like seeing a category on opera, something even a lot of adults would shy away from. So they saved the category for last and only got through three of the clues before time ran out on the round. Somewhat more surprisingly is that the writers (or prodcuers) put one of the Daily Doubles in the category. Anyhow, the clues weren't particularly difficult, and to be honest, two of them weren't even particularly about contestants' knowledge of silent movies. The easy clue at the top was about the group of people profiled in Nanook of the North, while the Daily Double in the middle box asked for the director of The Lodger, making the clue just a bit easier by including the fact that he also directed movies like Psycho.. (For the record, I'd have to go back and look up who directed the Laird Cregar version of The Lodger, but not the silent version.) The other clue, in the $1600 box, asked for the person who directed and starred in The Gold Rush. To their credit, one of the teens did know this.

I was also left wondering what the most difficult clue all the way at the bottom of the category would be. Show a picture of Harold Lloyd hanging from a clock and asking what film it's from? Something about Buster Keaton? I know the Jeopardy! writers have asked about The General before, or at least the real-life train that inspired the Buster Keaton movie. It's stumped the adult contestants multiple times, but I should probably point out that I wouldn't have known about the Civil War train either if I hadn't seen the Buster Keaton movie.

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