Fans of the hit game show Jeopardy! might have seen a familiar face flicker across their screen during Tuesday night’s episode.
Dan Chafetz, an Essex Jct. resident, joined host Alex Trebek and two other contestants, answering trivia questions in pursuit of a cash prize.
Taped in August, the show aired just this week. Chafetz, a data specialist for the bank JP Morgan in South Burlington, said he finished in third place after missing the Final Jeopardy! question.
Chafetz is a longtime fan of the show and took an online Jeopardy! quiz early this summer. The 50-question test is open to the public and administered every few months.
The quiz featured similar categories, and questions were about as rigorous as the televised game, he said.
Jeopardy! scouts were impressed with Chafetz’s performance and soon invited him to New York City for a live audition. The mock exercise included buzzers, a second written test and verbal questions.
That setup, Chafetz said, helps producers weed out show-hopefuls who may have consulted a few outside sources during the preliminary online quiz. He left his audition feeling increasingly confident.
“I knew I did really well on the mock game,” Chafetz said. “After that, I didn’t know for sure, but [I thought] the odds of getting on definitely went up.”
Chafetz’s instincts were correct. By late August, he was on a plane to Culver City, Calif., ready to tape a real episode at Sony Studios.
Jeopardy!, now in it’s 33rd season, films on the same lot as other popular game shows, including Wheel of Fortune.
Chafetz prepped for his showing by studying old episodes. When a question stumped him, Chafetz said he gave himself an “introductory course” on the subject. He also spends his free time listening to podcasts and audiobooks and always keeps up on current events.
Unfortunately, Chafetz said his prep work wasn’t enough to net a win.
“I got a pretty tough ‘Daily Double,’ and I wagered pretty heavily on it,” he said, referring to a special question contestants’ sometimes face. “I was wrong. It was pretty hard.”
Chafetz said he continued on and answered several questions accurately. But in the last round, he drew a blank. George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984” was the answer to “Final Jeopardy!”
Chafetz said he is very familiar with the book – he even owns a T-shirt depicting the cover art. Under pressure, he couldn’t come up with the title.
“I was pretty disappointed,” he said, noting his knowledge of the literature made the loss even tougher to swallow.
Although he didn’t walk away with an abundance of cash winnings, Chafetz said the experience was surely one to remember. The super-fan was excited to see several behind-the-scenes moments and even got to watch the tapings of other episodes as an audience member.
Many aspects ran as he expected, Chafetz said. Others were a bit of a surprise, like the intense security enacted to prevent cheating. All contestants had to turn in their cell phones and other electronics before even entering the building, he said.
“There are a lot of things you don’t know going in,” he said.
Chafetz planned to watch his appearance first with coworkers Tuesday night before heading to his parents’ South Burlington home for a celebratory party.