Why Old People Watch “Jeopardy”

Well, I finally figured it out.… as I found myself flipping channels from the PBS NewsHour, which I have watched for decades, to Jeopardy.

It’s always been a joke, hasn’t it? Your grandparents sitting in front of the TV, in a rocker or perched on the edge of a sofa, peering intently at the screen, trying to figure out the answer before the young whippersnapper blurts it out. “Oh, well,” we younger folk would say, “they’re happy, just watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune,” implying that in those golden years, at such an irrelevant age, they might as well check out of the real world. But it was hard to accept, hard not to be critical. This person we knew to be vibrant and energetic, engaged in the world was satisfied just sitting in front of Jeopardy? Where was that outrage at the newest mass shooting, the latest tragedy in Ukraine, or the unstoppable melting glacier? What a shame, we would say to ourselves. They just don’t care anymore.

Jeopardy board — it’s a fun and educational game show, even if it’s an escape

Actually, I now—in my golden years — realize that’s not true. I care immensely. I’m just worn out. My work involves trying to help people who are in conflict find a solution by working together. Many are under great stress, carrying trauma of all kinds, perhaps suffering ill health, severe economic impacts, maybe even facing the loss of a centuries old culture. Their worlds are threatened and I want desperately to help them find the best possible outcome. I carry their pain, their fear, their exhaustion with me, and it’s cumulative. Over the decades I have had dozens and dozens of cases, with hundreds and hundreds of people struggling in dire situations. Many of them I can still see and hear vividly. They taught me how to listen, to respect, to value, to show compassion. Whether community members or government lawyers or environmental activists they gave me powerful stories that stay with me. I treasure all those experiences and stories, but they come with a price. I cannot tolerate knowing everything that is out there in the news for me to know. It’s just too much.

And so, I settle down dutifully to watch PBS NewsHour, remote in hand. My finger is poised to hit the button that will take me away to the land of Jeopardy. It used to be I could handle most of the nightly news. Occasionally a story about suffering children or animals would send me to the kitchen to putter for a few minutes until the danger had passed. I would return and sit through a report from Ukraine, an interview with an expert talking about skyrocketing teen suicides, or a clip of a tirade by a January 6 patriot. But in recent months, as I have aged and the world has deteriorated, I am much more button-happy. Almost anything sends me over the edge and I make an instant escape to Jeopardy. When there’s a commercial break, I return to the NewsHour, where I try again to be informed and aware.

Maybe I will get lucky and it will be a segment on a retreat center for Native American artists, where they can spend time in nature, in the studio, with each other, creating powerful works. Or maybe it will be a report from a public school in New York City where I see smiling, confident, eager kids in the hands of a remarkable teacher, doing something utterly amazing – learning how to take charge of their lives in positive, productive, fun ways. Then I will let my finger relax for a few minutes.

There is good news out there and I’m grateful for it. I bless those working for good. I mustn’t forget there is this alternate universe to the one that dominates the news stream, a universe where good people have the energy and drive to make change and improve lives.

And I have a bit of advice for them: Imagine you have two containers – pots, baskets, boxes, cans, whatever you choose – inside of you. One is filling with stress, from work, from life, from the news. The other should be filling with an equal amount of release, relaxation, fun, comfort, whatever will help you counter the stress. Check the levels every day and try to even them out. If you have more joy than stress, don’t do a thing!

Excuse me, I need to go take the bread out of the oven. The smell is divine. This is what I put in my basket for today. And if you’re thinking what a noble, nourishing thing to do, think again. Before that wonderful aroma, there was the kneading part, a rhythmic, pleasing exercise….but sometimes my basket needs a bit of fury and outrage to even things out, and then I knead the hell out of that dough!

pounding that dough!

16 thoughts on “Why Old People Watch “Jeopardy””

  1. Lucy, this is terrific! I am going to start making bread again—and watching jeopardy, which I never have. I don’t watch the evening news either—just listen to NPR, which is just as bad. 😎

    1. …yes, there’s always radio. But with your vivid, creative mind the images you conjure up are probably as bad or worse than the real thing. You could watch Jeopardy and listen to Willy Nelson. That would be my choice.

  2. Lucy, I agree with you 100%!
    I just watched a series on Netflix call LIVE TO LEAD. I highly recomend it to all. It is inspiring and reassuring and it filled my joy bucket.
    If you or anyone else needs a permission slip to watch funny dog videos or Jeopardy, I am more than willing to do so!
    Much love my dear freind.

    1. Thank you, oh, generous friend! A lifetime of permission slips — I love it. And if you get tired of the dog videos, there are pretty good cat videos!

  3. Loved reading this and seeing your personality shine through. You’re such a joy! It’s definitely a challenge keeping life in some form of harmony and balance with everything that surrounds us these days. I think Jeopardy can be work some days as the squirrels in my head race to find answers. I remember sitting in the living room with John’s parents watching Lawrence Welk after a nice meal together. I get it now. Stay well and stay you! Keep making us smile! Xo

    1. Hi Lucy — I love your Lawrence Welk memory. It’s so insightful to think back on that younger you and how you saw the older ones… the ones that are now us. I’m so glad we’re in touch. I treasure your family news and photos and rejoice in your beautiful family, and their very, very special matriarch!

  4. As an inveterate and passionate Jeopardy watcher, I can only wonder how it took you so long to appreciate Jeopardy. If I had to choose, I would pick Jeopardy over the News Hour every day (especially now that Judy Woodruff is gone–but I record Jeopardy so it can cleanse my palate after the News Hour. As soon as Amna says “That’s the News Hour,” Em and I say “Thank God for Jeopardy” and switch to it. (A great virtue of recording Jeopardy is that you can fast forward through all those ads for drugs and insurance.)

    1. You’re right, of course. It’s a great show in its own right. I could have targeted Wheel of Fortune, which we also watch, but I didn’t quite have the nerve to let it all hang out… and now I’ve done it, oh well. I’m not proud, obviously! I love your recording routine — you suffer through the abominable meal and then get dessert!
      Love to you both.

  5. The thing I have to remind myself of is that The News is built on bad news. The day-to-day, everything-is-working elements of life are not “news.” I have noticed that more news stories now focus on the positive — a reassuring trend. But even with that reassurance, I still need to escape. Jeopardy is a steadfast escape for me, too!

    1. Thanks, Kay — this is incredibly helpful — and true, when I think about it. There are a lot of great things happening, locally and globally, and much of the day-to-day stuff functions really well… including my TV set! Good to hear from you.

  6. We are fortunate to still have an active daily newspaper in San Diego, which along with national and international news, has plenty of local and community-based stories that provide “good news.” I avoid TV news religiously, and while I, like many people, am easily drawn in on my phone and computer by the clickbait news that somehow manages to sensationalize at the same time it trivializes issues, I try hard to resist going down those rabbit holes of outrage and despair for too long. I take your advice to heart and try to balance my consumption of news that brings me down with news that restores my faith in the basic goodness of people. I am definitely happier for it. Thanks for the reminder.

    1. Great to hear from you, Lewis, and so glad you have a good newspaper in San Diego. We do, too, in Santa Fe, and that’s a blessing. I appreciate your calm and reasonable take on all this — balancing the downer news with the restoring faith news. Many thanks.

  7. I love it Lucy, thank you for this. I do sometimes, on a whim, step away from my computer to make bread or pastries, or do a load of laundry, or run around the yard pulling a string for the cats to chase after. Those 15-20 minute breaks (or one-hour, depending!) clear my head, fill me with simple joy, and allow me to dive back in again.

    1. Great to hear from you, Virginie… and about the pastries, I’ve sampled yours so I suggest that be your go-to activity for filling up that basket of fun! With entertaining the cats a close second!

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