What is … an idea whose time has arrived? A dream come true for folks who take pride in their ability to run a category like Guitar Heroes, “VH1’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Jeopardy” has all of its parent’s energy, sharp production values and mix of slightly offbeat contestants. What it lacks — tough questions and a likable host — is only a few tweaks away.
All of “Jeopardy!’s” trademarks are in place — the scrawled names in front of the players, video clues, audio daily doubles and a demand for exact answers in the form of a question. Big rule change is that the winner goes home with five grand rather than the dollar amount accumulated.
Categories and the clues favor music of the ’80s and ’90s, along with “classic rock.” In the first two episodes, contestants were stumped by clues that required knowledge of Philadelphia soul, Broadway and 1950s radio, yet nearly every question was answered correctly. (It also helped to know what Third Eye Blind looks like).
With its narrow focus, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Jeopardy” angles for a player’s ability to respond quickly rather than draw upon a vast bank of trivia. This approach limits the banter host Jeff Probst (“Access Hollywood,” “Soundfx”) can toss around with the contestants, and the writers haven’t given him facts to delve into after a correct answer is given. He cuts off incorrect answers abruptly and uses none of Alex Trebek’s apologetic tone; when he congratulates a contestant, they’ve just succeeded in answering some of the easiest questions of the night.
While this is an enormous advance over the “My Generation” gameshow, how this will play in weekend primetime is questionable. The name will certainly attract viewers, and the show’s brisk pace — with plenty of music and video included — will hold ’em. But the likely viewer, a bit older than this is skewing, is more apt to be able to name all of the Rolling Stones’ guitarists than Oasis’ first single — a little bit of rock’s earlier days could go a long way in building a following.