Maureen Skehan grew up watching “Jeopardy!” every night after dinner, dreaming that someday she’d be a contestant.
After several attempts — she’s taken the online qualifying quiz at least five times — and various rounds of Zoom auditions, Skehan finally got the call from a producer in July. Could she be in Culver City, California, the following month to film the show?
The 37-year-old Patterson Park resident and research associate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health flew out to California — contestants must pay their own way to participate in the quiz show. Her appearance comes as the decades-running show faces an existential crisis over its future.
Though Skehan, whose trivia strengths are literature, pop culture, TV and anything Taylor Swift-related, ultimately lost, the experience was a memorable one.
“It was a wild time to be on Jeopardy!,” Skehan said. Her episode aired Wednesday at 7 p.m. on WBFF.The Massachusetts native lost to returning champion Matt Amodio, who has won 21 games.
Longtime host Alex Trebek died late last year. Skehan said that she dreamed of going on the show as a child and was saddened to miss the chance to meet him. “That’s part of the dream,” she said. Trebek, she said, “was Jeopardy for so long.”
Producer Mike Richards was named permanent host months later; he resigned after offensive comments made on his podcast resurfaced. “At the time we were filming a lot of the drama around Mike [Richards] was starting to come out,” Skehan said. After reading a few articles on the revelations, she decided to try to tune everything out until after the episode had filmed. “This is going to stress me out,” she said.
Skehan says her episode is among the last to be filmed with Richards as host.
Jeopardy! films five episodes per day, typically in front of a live audience. During the pandemic, there’s no studio audience; instead, contestants of other episodes sit and watch during tapings. Sizing up the competition helped build the pressure.
“Seeing how good [Amodio] was like, ‘Oh boy,’” she said. But it also provided time to strike up friendships. She’s now in a group chat with the other contestants whose episodes filmed that day.