The current version of Jeopardy, the beloved daytime game show hosted by Alex Trebek, has been a U.S. television staple since 1984. Amazingly, there have now been more than 8,000 episodes and the program is currently in its 36th season. It’s undeniable that the studio audience has always been an important part of the show; however, you may be surprised to hear about some of the strict rules by which its members have to abide.
20. You MUST confirm your tickets five to seven days before the taping, or they could be cancelled
According to the Ticketing Info section of the official Jeopardy website, audience members must confirm their seats “within five to seven days” of the show date. The instructions on how to do this are simple. You have to call a relevant phone number and leave your surname and first name, as well as the phone number from which you called when registering for tickets.
If you do not do this within the timeframe stated “your tickets will be subject to cancellation.” This simply highlights the fact that, even though it may seem like an irritating extra step to getting on the show, it could have serious consequences if you don’t follow the rules. It’s best to make the call and not risk missing out.
19. You are responsible for all travel, accommodation and living expenses while attending the taping in L.A.
Tickets for Jeopardy tapings are free and new tickets are released on the first day of every month. Given that the program is one of the most popular game shows in history, however, they are highly sought-after and therefore hard to obtain. If you are successful in reserving a space in the audience, you then need to start planning your trip to Los Angeles.
As the website states, “Tickets and parking in the Overland structure are free, but any other expenses incurred are the responsibility of the participant.” This means the show doesn’t pay any travel or accommodation expenses for its audience. So, if you want to go, everything will be coming out of your pocket.
18. You can either book for the morning taping or the afternoon taping
Jeopardy tapes five episodes in one day, so prospective audiences have two taping slots from which to choose. There is the morning slot, in which three shows are taped, and the afternoon slot, in which two are shot. While timings may vary, each taping block could last between three and four hours, once set-up and wait times are taken into account.
The official website lists the morning taping start time as 10:30 a.m. and says that, depending on how smoothly the production goes, the audience “will be released at 1:15 p.m.” Audiences for the afternoon slot will be in their seats for 2:15 p.m. and “should be released at 4 p.m.” So, if you’re in a hurry, the afternoon taping is the better option.
17. Arrive at least 45 minutes before the taping
The fact that the Jeopardy production team shoots five episodes in one day should tell you something. It needs to accomplish a lot in one day, and therefore must operate as a well-oiled machine. In order to do this, the production staff need to make sure everyone else is as efficient as they are, including the audience.
Each audience member is asked to arrive at the studio at least 45 minutes before the taping is due to start. They are encouraged to plan ahead and to make sure they get there early, as there is a lot to be done before they take their seats. There is even the chance that you may be denied entry if you arrive late.
16. You MUST bring a government-issued photo ID with you
With tickets to Jeopardy being free of charge, it obviously means they weren’t purchased in the normal way. Every prospective audience member has to apply with their personal details, and when they do so they are instructed that they “must bring a valid government-issued photo I.D.” with them to the studio. In the absence of a standard ticket, this is what will confirm entry.
According to the staff editor of the WikiHow Community Q & A section, “Usually the person who booked the tickets has to be present for the tickets to be valid.” If the ticket booker can’t attend, however, there may be a solution. If they call the service number provided with the tickets, they can usually transfer the tickets to someone who will be able to attend.
15. You will be given a number and wristband, which dictates where you are seated
Jeopardy is filmed at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California. When audiences arrive for the show, they are given a colored wristband that identifies they are there for that show, and not one of the many others that are filmed in the same studio. Each wristband is numbered, and the numbers determine the order of entry into the studio.
According to a TripAdvisor review posted in 2012, having a lower-numbered wristband is a good thing, as it leads to better seating in the studio. In fact, this review seemed to indicate that the person’s wristband number was low because they phoned ahead and arrived early, as requested. Sometimes following the rules pays off.
14. You have to go through a metal detector
This rule is very much a sad representation of everyday modern life in the United States. Metal detectors have long been fixtures in airports and courthouses, due to security concerns. But since 1991 they have also been present in many school districts across the country. This has proven controversial in some quarters.
The Jeopardy website states, “By entering the Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) lot you will also be required to undergo a metal detector screening.” This shows that the program’s producers take potential security threats on their premises very seriously. Even though the vast majority of fans who attend a Jeopardy taping will not be dangerous, security staff still have to be vigilant.
13. Your bags will be searched, and you will be under video surveillance
This rule is another security measure and is fairly standard practice at any event with large numbers of people attending. On top of passing through the metal detector, audiences will also be subject to “a bag check.” They are asked to “refrain from bringing extra personal belongings” and oversize bags and rucksacks are forbidden.
Obviously, the producers don’t want the audience bringing anything dangerous into the studio in their bags. But another interesting thing is that it says on the Jeopardy website, “By entering the SPE building, you hereby consent to video surveillance.” So, even if the security team misses something during searches, it may be picked up on C.C.T.V. (Closed-circuit television) cameras.
12. Smoking and weapons of any kind are also banned, and your vehicle may even be searched
Smoking has long been banned in most public places in California, so it’s unsurprising that it is banned inside Sony Pictures Studios premises. It is also unsurprising that “weapons of any kind are strictly prohibited.” It would seem like common sense to not bring a weapon with you, but as there are procedures put in place to combat this, perhaps it’s not as rare as one might like to think.
Another big rule that is highlighted on the official Jeopardy website concerns an extra security search. Unlike the ones mentioned previously, though, this search isn’t carried out upon the audience members themselves. If security staff deem it necessary, they will search your vehicle, and by “entering the SPE building,” you have tacitly consented to it.
11. You must stay quiet in the audience, unless you are told to cheer or get excited
Unlike some other shows with a live studio audience, in which noisy crowd participation is encouraged, the Jeopardy audience is expected to remain silent throughout the taping. It helps maintain the atmosphere of the show. But it is also a deterrent for someone in the audience loudly blurting out the answer to a clue, like they may do at home.
If an audience member did do something silly such as shout out an answer, they would be ejected from the studio and not allowed back. It might seem fun to play along as you would at home, or you might get caught up in the excitement of the day. But you don’t want to ruin the experience for yourself or for anyone else by not heeding this rule.
10. Strictly no children under the age of eight are allowed in the audience
Jeopardy has been an institution on US television for decades, with people of all ages regularly watching it. The majority of contestants on the show are adults, but there are also special episodes that star young contestants. “Kids Week”, “Back To School Week” and “Holiday Kids Week” all feature contestants between the ages of ten and 12.
However, there is a strict rule when it comes to young children being in the audience for Jeopardy. The website states that, “Children under the age of eight will not be admitted.” This is likely because it is much harder to keep children of such a young age quiet and placid for long periods of time, and Jeopardy taping blocks are long, quiet affairs.
9. The audience (and contestants) aren’t permitted to go to the studio cafeteria
Coming out to Sony Pictures Studios to be in the audience for Jeopardy is an exciting thing for fans. It will also take up a large chunk of time. Naturally, people will likely get hungry over the course of the day. However, according to the 2012 TripAdvisor review, “No commissary (studio cafeteria) visits are allowed for contestants, nor audience members.”
The official website does mention, “There are no public restaurants on the SPE lot, but a variety of options are available within walking distance.” On the one hand, it makes sense. This is a working television studio, not a tourist attraction. But it still does sound slightly harsh on the audience and contestants.
8. Food and beverages are not allowed in the studio
On top of being unable to visit the studio cafeteria, prospective audience members may be dismayed to find out that food and drink items are also “strictly prohibited” inside the studio. This rule is likely to have been put in place for a variety of reasons. Most of them are connected to how members of the audience look and sound on camera.
With no food available to the audience, it cuts down the potential for someone to spill something on their clothes, which would look bad on camera. Also, it means no one will be caught with their mouths open by the cameras. And there will be no rustling or crunching of wrappers picked up by the studio’s microphones.
7. Unauthorized use of cameras or recording devices is prohibited
In June 2019 a video that enraged the producers of Jeopardy began to circulate on social media. It spoiled the ending of contestant James Holzhauer’s unprecedented winning run on the show. But, worst of all, it opened the world’s eyes to the fact that the show wasn’t a must-see live event, like it had always been portrayed.
In order to combat eventualities like this, there is an audience rule that says Jeopardy “strictly prohibits the unauthorized use of cameras or any other recording devices – including cell phone cameras.” The Holzhauer leak could have proved devastating for the show, which was built on the idea that anything could happen. Thus, the only recording devices allowed “must be approved by or at the direction of the Audience Coordinators.”
6. Cell phones must be turned off during tapings, not simply put on silent
Piggybacking on the guidelines involving cameras, there is another rule, “Cell phones must be turned off during tapings.” Obviously, most phones these days have excellent cameras, so turning those off is a must for the producers. If an audience member is caught taking photographs or trying to film anything on their phone, they risk being escorted from the studio.
A Reddit post from 2019 told of a young audience member who did just this. The poster wrote, “He was caught by one of the production crew who told him not to record and to delete the footage from his phone.” However, he reportedly ignored their warning, with the poster believing he then texted the video to his friends. It seems like pure luck that he wasn’t thrown out by the staff.
5. You’ll get to ask Alex Trebek questions during breaks in filming
Canadian host Alex Trebek is a legend in the entertainment industry and has hosted Jeopardy since 1984. Amazingly, at the age of 79, he is still hosting the show and is currently contracted until 2022. During taping days, audience members may find themselves lucky enough to get to talk to Trebek during breaks in filming.
A glowing 2019 Reddit thread from a fan who attended a taping spoke of how “kind and funny and engaging and humble” Trebek was when interacting with the audience. The poster wrote that each audience member had time to get “multiple questions in to Alex.” In the end, it’s likely the audience is told to think of topics to talk about, considering the likelihood of him engaging with them.
4. You will be asked not to reveal anything about the game results before they’re aired on TV
Contestants on Jeopardy are required to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (N.D.A.s). This is intended to stop them revealing the results of the show before it airs on television. Basically, if they violate the agreement, they don’t get the money they’ve won. Former contestant Kathryn Keinholz even revealed she had to wait for 120 days after her episode aired before her winnings were paid.
But how does the show police the audience? They could be just as likely to talk about the results to friends and family, or on social media, as any contestant. Interestingly, they aren’t required to sign N.D.A.s. They are simply politely discouraged from talking about what they saw and, generally, abide by this out of respect for the traditions of the iconic show.
3. You will have scheduled bathroom breaks between episodes
As the shooting blocks of Jeopardy last between three and four hours, the audience can’t easily slip in and out of the studio to go to the bathroom. The producers don’t want empty seats, or to have any noise of someone leaving to be picked up by the cameras. Therefore, the audience are afforded bathroom breaks between each episode, according to a Reddit poster from 2016.
However, this would still entail periods of an hour or more where you aren’t able to use the restroom, which is in a separate building from the studio. Another Reddit poster’s father had gone through prostate surgery and needed to use the bathroom every hour. The uncertainty around this matter therefore presented the potential for problems and caused anxiety.
2. You won’t get to go backstage or onto the stage itself
Anyone that attends a convention, or a concert, or any other event, tends to have something that sits in the back of their mind. They may know it’s highly unlikely, or they wouldn’t even know how they’d react if it happened. But, the idea of going backstage to meet their heroes and get an inside look at the inner workings of the production is an exciting one.
However, according to the TripAdvisor reviewer, you’d be best not to get your hopes up. “Audience members don’t get to see backstage or get on the stage itself,” the poster wrote, “nor did I see anyone invited in [to] do so.” The whole experience of witnessing the show shoot in person will hopefully be exciting enough for the audience.
1. If your friend or family member is a contestant, you will be kept separate from them
According to Shannan Younger, a former Jeopardy contestant and contributor to website Better.net, “contestants are allowed to bring a few guests.” Younger brought her husband and teenage daughter with her. However, she revealed, “They had to travel to the studio separately and were given strict instructions to not communicate or even make eye contact with contestants.”
The previously-mentioned 2012 TripAdvisor review stated that the family members and friends of contestants were separated from the other audience members. This was accomplished with a “low-rise black divider” that meant they could be seen, but not heard, by the regular audience. This is simply another example of how cautious the Jeopardy production staff are.