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October 9, 2013

Center Line grad finds himself in ‘Jeopardy’

By Maria Allard
C & G Staff Writer

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Jason Idalski, right, who graduated from Center Line High School in 2001, appeared on “Jeopardy” Oct. 8 and returns as the champion Oct. 9. The show, hosted by Alex Trebek, left, airs on Channel 4 at 7:30 p.m.

Answer: He appeared on a popular game show in early October.

Question: Who is Jason Idalski?

“Jeopardy” fans who tuned into their favorite game show with host Alex Trebek Oct. 8-10 saw the 2001 Center Line High School graduate play the game, and play the game well. So well that he won the trivia match to become the champion two nights in a row.

Making it all the way to “Jeopardy” was a goal for Idalski, who has always had an interest in trivia. He first got hooked on game shows at age 3.

“My mom told me I had a babysitter that would watch game shows,” Idalski, 30, said, adding the jingles and flashing lights caught his attention at a young age.

The Ann Arbor resident decided to take the online test to be a “Jeopardy” contestant. Idalski said the test is given every January, and he has tried a few times.

“This year happened to be the first year I passed. I really wanted to be on it.”

“Jeopardy” is a quiz show in which three contestants per show are presented with different clues from various categories in the form of answers. The players answer in question form.

An audition process goes along with the test. Idalski attended tryouts among other hopefuls at the Westin Book Cadillac hotel in Detroit July 14. While auditioning, “Jeopardy” representatives also got a gauge for Idalski’s personality. He got to know others trying out for the show, as well.

“I hope they all make it on. It was a very fun environment. I felt very good when I left the audition,” said the avid “Jeopardy” fan, but “I anticipated a long wait and maybe not even getting called at all.”

The web producer aced it because, one month later, he was on a plane to California to participate on the quiz show.

“I got a call Aug. 1 and taped the show Aug. 28,” said Idalski, who was in Quiz Bowl while at CLHS.

The show is taped at Sony Studios in Culver City, Calif. Before filming, Idalski and other contenders played a practice round to get a feel for the game. That included working the buzzer.

“It can be kind of tricky,” he said.

The contestants didn’t meet Trebek until taping began. That’s done in an effort to keep the game fair.

“They make sure Alex doesn’t have any contact with the contestants,” Idalski said.

The veteran game show host takes a few minutes with each contestant after the first commercial. That’s when it really hit Idalski that he was on television.

“I came away really impressed with Alex. He was the same guy on camera and off camera,” Idalski said. “I still can’t believe I was actually there.”

Idalski said that on commercial breaks, Trebek took questions from the audience. Whether or not he will grow a mustache again remained a popular topic. Idalski said the set pretty much looks like it does on television.

“There’s a new set this season,” he said. “The space between the podiums and board where clues are was bigger than I thought.”

During his first game, Idalski came away the “champion” with a total of $25,599. He already garnered $20,800 going in the final “Jeopardy” question focusing on presidential election history. He returned Oct. 9 and 10 to play against new challengers.

Before the show aired, Idalski had to keep how he performed a secret. His parents, Donald and Barb Idalski, knew how their son did because they were part of the studio audience during taping, as was an aunt and uncle who reside about an hour away from where the show is taped.

“It was quite an experience,” said Barb Idalski, a second-grade teacher at Roose Elementary Schools in Center Line Public Schools. “We had a good time.”

Barb Idalski said the studio audience had to be extremely quiet, and a week’s worth of shows was taped in one day.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Maria Allard at allard@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1045.