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Douglas Beeler was on “Jeopardy!” on Saturday. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Martinsville native Douglas Beeler considers himself a winner by having appeared on a game show, despite coming in third place.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience ... to be on national TV,” Beeler said of being a contestant on a “Jeopardy!” episode that aired Saturday night.

Beeler, 26, works in marketing for Norfolk Southern Corp. and lives in Roanoke. He returned to Martinsville this weekend to watch his appearance, which was taped in early December, with family members.

His love for trivia began while growing up. His parents, Page and Ben Beeler, often asked him trivia questions for fun while they ate dinner, he recalled.

Although he watches “Jeopardy!” whenever he can, it was his mom who encouraged him to try and become a contestant on the show.

“He was always so quick to answer” questions at the dinner table, Page Beeler said. “He knows a lot” about many things.

Beeler took an online test required of prospective contestants, and he later was called to come to an audition and mock taping in Washington, D.C. His performance there impressed the show’s producers, and he was invited to Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, Calif., to be on the show.

“It was fun,” he said, but also “it was surreal.”

He never tried to prepare for the show by, for instance, studying articles in encyclopedias like some contestants have reported doing.

“In the entire world of knowledge,” he said, “where do you start?”

Five “Jeopardy!” episodes are taped in one day, and contestants sit in the audience and watch episodes being taped until it is time for them to appear, according to Beeler.

Watching those tapings helped him overcome his jitters until it was time for him to go on-stage.

“Nothing can prepare you to be at the podium when the lights come on (in the studio) and you hear your name” announced, Beeler said.

After going on stage, “my heart was beating through my chest,” he recalled. He began to calm down around the first commercial break, he said.

During the show, contestants respond to as many as 60 clues on various trivia topics. Each answer must be phrased in the form of a question.

Beeler estimated that he knew the answers to at least half the questions.

Laughing, he said he got to answer “more than five.”

Actually, he answered six, and he was right on all of the ones he answered, including one about Fort Lee being in Virginia.

“The buzzer was really tricky,” he recalled.

When contestants know the answers, it comes down to who can buzz in first, Beeler said. To buzz in, they must wait until a light comes on after host Alex Trebek finishes reading the clue.

With up to three contestants trying to answer at the same time, using the buzzer involves being patient while waiting for the light, then being fast, he said, adding that “a half-second can make all the difference.”

Beeler accumulated $4,600 but lost it all in the final round when he did not know the answer — “Reds” — to a clue concerning Oscar-nominated movies.

He was able to get to know other contestants who took part in tapings on the day he was there.

“Everyone was very friendly,” Beeler said. “They’re just as excited (as he was) to be on the show. There’s no sense of competition.”

Trebek also was friendly, he said.

But “you really don’t have a lot of interaction with him” until the end of the taping when he chats with contestants for a few minutes before returning to his dressing room, Beeler said.

He mentioned that during commercial breaks, Trebek answered questions posed by the audience and seemed eager to do so.

Beeler said he received $1,000 for his third-place finish. Only winners get to keep all of the money that racks up on their scoreboards, he said.

According to the “Jeopardy!” website, it is announced on the show when online tests will be given. Beeler said he recommends anyone take a test and try to appear on the program.

“No harm, no foul,” he said. “It was a great experience.”


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