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January 31, 2014

Eastpointe woman competes on game show ‘Jeopardy!’

By Kevin Bunch
C & G Staff Writer

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Eastpointe woman competes on game show ‘Jeopardy!’
Sandie Baker, of Eastpointe, poses for a photo with “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek during the filming of an episode last December. The episode is scheduled to air on April 9.

EASTPOINTE — When the opportunity came up to be on a game show she has enjoyed for years, Sandie Baker decided to take a chance and try out.

Now, the Eastpointe resident will be appearing on an episode of the long-running quiz show “Jeopardy!,” scheduled to air April 9 on NBC. Baker said she has never been part of a trivia league, but she enjoys playing Trivial Pursuit with her friends.

“I think that’s where some of my friends got the idea I should try out for that show,” Baker said.

She also reads a wide variety of books on various topics and started playing along with the show at home — all things Baker said led to her taking a shot at being a contestant.

While she had watched the program for years, Baker said she started watching it much more regularly as the idea of getting on it started to germinate. She said the road to appearing on the program started about a year ago, with an online test.

“I did that last year, and they don’t tell you how you do. If you do well, they’ll let you know,” Baker said. “I got an email that they were having auditions in Detroit back in July, so I was invited down for that. What they do at the audition is they give you another test and put you through some mock games.”

The mock games help the show’s staff determine if the player would be a good fit for the program, as well as get some tidbits of background information that “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek can ask contestants about, Baker said.

“They don’t want someone who is going to freeze up,” she added.

Susie Eun, “Jeopardy!” publicist, said the online test consists of 50 questions and is designed to be difficult. The in-person audition consists of another 50 questions and an interview to get to know the player better.

“We are always looking for people the viewers will enjoy watching. And that can mean different things,” she wrote in an email. “When getting ready for a taping, we try to provide a good mix of contestants for those shows.”

Baker said she heard back from the show’s staff on Halloween, asking if she would be available in December to come out to California for the “Jeopardy!” filming in Santa Monica.

She decided to take some time to prepare in the interim, reading books from former, successful contestants like Ken Jennings to get some insight from their observations.

“There’s a guy named Bob Harris who had won back when you’d win five shows and then be done. He’s been on a couple tournaments since then, but it’s called ‘Prisoner of Trebekistan,’” Baker said. Alex Trebek is the host of “Jeopardy!”

“It’s interesting because (Harris) talked about not just himself, but what he observed as he was getting ready to be on there, and observations of other people who were on there. It helped a lot to get some insight.”

When it came time to head out to Santa Monica, Baker said her husband took some time off work. They left on a Tuesday, filmed the show on Wednesday and came back on Thursday.

Eun said “Jeopardy!” typically films five shows per day, and Baker said the show also seemed to be filming a “Battle of the Decades” tournament at the same time, so Harris was actually in the audience during her show’s filming.

“He was in the audience watching, and they introduced him to rest of the audience,” Baker said. “I was pointing to him with my husband saying, ‘That’s the guy!’ I got to meet him afterward and told him I read his book.”

Even though it was a short trip, she said they were able to do a bit of sightseeing. They went around Santa Monica Tuesday after flying in, Baker said, and had dinner with her husband’s cousin Wednesday after the taping.

While she cannot yet say how she did on the show, she said the experience overall was a positive one.

“It was great, and a lot of fun,” Baker said. “The people who work at the show are really nice people, and they do everything they can to make the experience good. Alex Trebek seemed like a really cool guy — he’s not hanging out with the contestants, but we got to talk to him for a bit and winded up talking about stuff that happened during the taping.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Kevin Bunch at kbunch@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.