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5 Jeopardy! Questions That Stumped (Fictional) Geniuses

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Arthur Chu captured national attention for becoming an 11-time Jeopardy! champion in March 2014 and is now shamelessly extending his presence in the national spotlight by all available means.

Silly as it might be, winning on Jeopardy! has become a shorthand in our cultural lexicon for proving oneself as an intelligent and knowledgeable citizen.

I am now, for instance, allowed to claim that I am smarter than anyone else in the world besides Ken Jennings, David Madden and maybe Brad Rutter because I’ve won more Jeopardy! episodes than they have. I take immense pleasure in this. Other people in my life take immense pleasure in pointing out Jeopardy! questions they knew the answer to that I didn’t, like the fact that Julia Louis-Dreyfus won an Emmy last year or anything about sports.

Thus, in Hollywood, pitting a stuck-up brainy hero—a much-loved character type—against that nightmare scenario, a Jeopardy! answer whose question just won’t come to mind, is a favorite way to take a nerd down a peg.

Here’s a list of five fictional characters and the Jeopardy! clues that stumped them, and why studying some of those clues might be a good idea if you ever get on Jeopardy! in real life.

1. Cliff Clavin, “Archibald Leach, Bernard Schwartz and Lucille LaSueur” (Cheers, “What Is… Cliff Clavin?”)

The most famous fictional contestant to flub Jeopardy! is Cliff Clavin, Cheers’ resident know-it-all. In 1990, Cliff threw away his commanding lead with an all-in wager on the category “Movies” and ended up losing it all with his question of “Who are three people who have never been in my kitchen?” (The expected question was “What were the birth names of Cary Grant, Tony Curtis and Joan Crawford?”)

This one is required knowledge for Jeopardy! aficionados, and has even been immortalized by Jeopardy! strategists as “Clavin’s Rule." The lesser shame of not betting enough money on a clue you do know the correct response to is greatly outweighed by the shame of betting too much money on a clue that ends up costing you the game.

2. Dorothy Zbornak, “American hero buried in Grant’s Tomb” (The Golden Girls, “Questions and Answers”)

Dorothy Zbornak of The Golden Girls was another famous know-it-all with big Jeopardy! dreams, which she got a chance to realize in the 1992 episode “Questions and Answers."

Dorothy’s quest to get on Jeopardy!, alienating her friends and family in the process—a quixotic, nay, Melvillean obsession with which I am personally familiar—eventually leads to her having a paranoid fantasy in a dream sequence where she’s put up against lovable-dimwit characters Rose and Charley Dietz (Rose’s male lothario counterpart from Golden Girls spinoff Empty Nest).

Despite her obvious intellectual superiority to the unbearably simpering fools who pervade her daily existence—another problem I am personally familiar with—Dorothy is nonetheless cheated of victory at the last minute when in response to the old saw about “Grant’s tomb” Dorothy gives the obvious, correct answer of “Ulysses S. Grant” but is ruled wrong and Rose’s answer of “Cary Grant” is ruled right.

Merv Griffin himself bursts onto the set and says that if he wants to say that Cary Grant is buried in Grant’s tomb no one can stop him, validating once and for all every unpopular smart kid’s deep-seated belief that the world is run by a conspiracy of popular dumb people formed to deliberately frustrate and infuriate us.

Meanwhile in "real life" we find out that Dorothy’s audition for Jeopardy! has in fact been rejected because despite her intelligence she’s just too unlikable to be on national TV.

This episode sticks out in my mind because apparently a lot of people remembered it when people started saying I was too unlikable to be on Jeopardy!.

This offends me because I will never in a million years be as awesomely, acerbically, lovably unlikable as Dorothy Zbornak. Also because once my mom told me I was named after Bea Arthur and I was brought to tears by the revelation that she was just kidding.

3. The Brain, “This classic TV character was known for saying ‘Bang! Zoom! Right in the kisser!” (Animaniacs, “Win Big”)

This is from the first-ever Pinky and the Brain cartoon aired on TV, and if you, like me, watched it when it first ran on the WB on Season 1, Episode 2 of Animaniacs on September 14, 1993, go ahead and give yourself a cookie. 

Our introduction to the title pair in the segment “Win Big” establishes several key elements of a Pinky and the Brain cartoon from the get-go, including the unlikely and convoluted world-takeover plot (Brain needs to acquire exactly $99,000 to purchase a “superconductive magnetic infindibulator,” which will function by amplifying the Earth’s magnetic field to such a degree that everyone with metal coins in their pocket will be stuck to the ground), Pinky’s habit of interrupting said world-takeover plot with irrelevant pop culture quotes, and Brain’s hilariously mis-proportioned and massive “human suit.”

Of course the most important element of the Pinky and the Brain cartoons established by this short is the creators’ deep love for the Golden Age of TV and cinema (culminating in the most inside-baseball of all possible cartoon shorts, “Yes, Always.")

The $99,000 figure alludes to an episode of The Honeymooners called “The $99,000 Answer," where Ralph Kramden once again fails to achieve his dream as a result of his own hubris and impatience and the crappy way he treats his best friend.

Despite Ed going gamely along with Ralph’s demands that he help him practice for a music-themed trivia game by playing endless reams of sheet music on the piano, Ralph can’t help losing his patience over Ed’s repeated, compulsive playing of the first bars of “Swanee River” before being able to play any other songs. Of course, Ralph gets his comeuppance when “Swanee River” ends up being the very first composition he’s asked about on the show.

“Win Big” stands up perfectly on its own for an audience that probably hadn't heard of The Honeymooners, while still being a note-for-note homage to the Honeymooners episode—and pointing its young audience to its source material by having the TV quote that Pinky incessantly repeats while Brain is trying to study be Ralph Kramden’s own “Bang! Zoom! Right in the kisser!”

4. Julie Smith, unknown question about animals (“Little Expressionless Animals,” Girl With the Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace)

This is the most literary reference on this list—not from TV but from a short story written by David Foster Wallace, originally published in The Paris Review.

Sadly we don’t learn anything about the question that eventually stumps the protagonist of that story, but we can assume it has to do with animals, which are her Achilles’ heel the way sports are mine or the word “Achilles” is for Julian Batts on Wheel of Fortune.

All Jeopardy! geeks should read this story posthaste. It’s about a Jeopardy! contestant who wins game after game after game, who becomes a cultural icon because, as the fictional version of Merv Griffin puts it, “This girl not only kicks facts in the ass. This girl informs trivia with import. She makes it human, something with the power to emote, evoke, cathart. She gives the game the simultaneous transparency and mystery all of us in the industry have groped for, for decades. A sort of union of contestantorial head, heart, gut, buzzer-finger. She is, or can become, the game show incarnate. She is mystery.”

In other words when David Foster Wallace wrote this story in 1988 he basically predicted the Ken Jennings phenomenon… if Ken Jennings were a hauntingly beautiful lesbian with a mysterious past. (If only.)

5. Adam West, “This was the first spacecraft to land on the surface of Mars.” (Family Guy, “I Take Thee Quagmire”)

OK, Adam West isn't technically fictional. But on Family Guy, he nobly sacrifices his hopes of winning money on Jeopardy! in order to rid our world of an interdimensional prankster. Read more Superman comics if you don’t get it.

This is notable for being one of the few pop culture references other than “What Is… Cliff Clavin?” and the SNL Celebrity Jeopardy! sketches with Darrell Hammond as Sean Connery to actually be referenced on Jeopardy! (It didn’t go over so well.) And yes, Alex has also heard more than enough people say “Suck It, Trebek” by now and I’m guessing if you try it on the show they’ll just edit it out.

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The 5 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now
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Nicolas Cage stars in Knowing (2009).
Vince Valitutti/Summit Entertainment

If you’re in the mood for some speculative fiction and your pile of Arthur C. Clarke books has been exhausted, you could do worse than to tune in to Netflix. The streaming service is constantly acquiring new films in the sci-fi and fantasy genres that should satisfy most fans of alternative futures. Here are five of the best sci-fi movies on Netflix right now.

1. THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951)

If any film stands as a proper influence on The Twilight Zone and its use of science-fiction and fantasy to mask political and civil issues, it’s The Day the Earth Stood Still, a Cold War-era parable about an alien named Klaatu who arrives on Earth carrying a warning about warfare. Naturally, all humans want to do is shoot him.

2. METROPOLIS (1927)

Inspiring everything from Star Wars to Lady Gaga, Fritz Lang’s silent epic about a revolt among the oppressed people who help power an upper-class city remains just as visually impressive today as it did nearly 100 years ago.

3. TROLL HUNTER (2010)

A Norwegian fairy tale with bite, Troll Hunter follows college-aged filmmakers who convince a bear trapper to take them along on his exploits. But the trapper fails to disclose one crucial detail: He hunts towering, aggressive trolls.

4. KNOWING (2009)

The histrionics of Nicolas Cage: You either like them or you don’t. Knowing is Cage at half-caf: While he enjoys a few meltdown scenes, he’s largely reserved here as an astrophysics professor who stumbles onto information that could herald the end of the world.

5. THE HOST (2006)

A slow-burn monster movie from South Korea, The Host has plenty of tense scenes coupled with a message about environmental action: The river-dwelling beast who stalks a waterfront town is the product of chemical dumping.  

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11 Delicious Facts About Good Burger
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It takes just 14 words—“Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger, can I take your order?”—to make a ‘90s kid swoon with nostalgia. Good Burger, the beloved Nickelodeon comedy about a couple of daft teens who try to save their fast food joint from corporate greed, was born out of a Kenan Thompson/Kel Mitchell sketch on All That in the mid-'90s. A year later, due to its popularity, it found itself being turned into its own live-action movie, with Brian Robbins at the helm. Today—20 years after its original release—it’s a silly cult hit that’s indelibly a part of Generation Y. Revisit the classic with these facts about Good Burger.

1. KEL MITCHELL AUDITIONED FOR ALL THAT WITH HIS CHARACTER FROM GOOD BURGER.

In an interview with The A.V. Club, Kel Mitchell explained how he came up with Ed. “I did a ‘dude’ voice, and that’s where Ed [from Good Burger] was kind of born,” he said. “I did that there at the audition. They were just cracking up.”

2. ED’S FIRST APPEARANCE WAS IN THE JOSH SERVER SKETCH, “DREAM REMOTE.”

Essentially, Good Burger was born out of a random character decision made during one little sketch. “It was where [Josh] could have a remote control that could control his entire life,” Mitchell told The A.V. Club. “So, he could fast-forward through his sister nagging, he could make pizza come really quickly. I was the pizza guy. I came to the door, and the pizza guy didn’t really have a voice, so I was like, ‘Mleh, here’s your pizza! That was the first time we saw Ed, and so they created Good Burger.”

3. ED’S LOOK WAS INSPIRED BY MILLI VANILLI.

When prepping for Ed’s debut on All That, Kel Mitchell spotted what would become the character’s signature look. “I remember I went to the hair room, and I saw these braids. It was like these early Brandy ’90s Milli Vanilli braids. I put those on, and it came to life,” he told The A.V. Club.

4. THOUSANDS OF POUNDS OF MEAT STUNK UP THE SET.

Nickelodeon

For a movie all about burgers, you better believe the production had a ton of them sitting around on set. "At one point, there was over 1750 pounds of meat on the set," Kenan Thompson told The Morning Call. "Some of it was old meat. It was so nasty. Some of the burgers would stay out there for a long time. I felt sorry for the extras who had to eat them with cold, clammy fries. But on screen, those burgers look good."

5. ELMER’S GLUE WAS USED TO KEEP THE FOOD LOOKING FRESH.

In order to keep the food looking good on screen, the production resorted to old, albeit inedible, tricks. "It was so gross, because when I scoop out ice cream in the movie, it was really vegetable shortening with food coloring,” Mitchell told The Morning Call. “When I poured milk on cereal, we used Elmer's Glue so the flakes wouldn't get soggy."

6. KENAN AND KEL CONTRIBUTED TO THE GOOD BURGER SOUNDTRACK.

Good Burger was their baby, so of course Kenan and Kel took the reins on more than just the creation of the characters, according to a 1997 interview with The Morning Call. Specifically, Kel partnered up with Less Than Jake on the hit song, “We’re All Dudes.” Because of this, the soundtrack actually charted at 101 on the Billboard 200.

7. GOOD BURGER WAS LINDA CARDELLINI’S FEATURE FILM DEBUT.

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In an interview with The A.V. Club, the Freaks and Geeks star reminisced about her breakout role in the Nickelodeon movie. “That’s my sister’s favorite role that I’ve ever played! It was so much fun. It was my first film, and it was a fantastic part,” Cardellini said. “I got to play crazy! Nobody knew who I was, and I got the part from the table read.”

8. WRITER DAN SCHNEIDER INTENDED TO GIVE UP ACTING WHEN HE WROTE GOOD BURGER, BUT HE PLAYED MR. BAILY IN THE FILM.

On creating Good Burger, writer/producer/actor Dan Schneider explained to The A.V. Club: “I’ve always wanted to write, and after I was doing All That and Kenan & Kel, I got the opportunity to do another TV show—I was still going on auditions. I realized that if I took that show, I was going to have to give up All That and Kenan & Kel. I really didn’t want to do [that] ... I passed on the acting role, and that was really the turning point, I guess, in 1996, when I was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to put my acting career on the back burner, and I’m going to be a writer-producer.’ Then I wrote the movie Good Burger.” However, if you watch the movie, you’ll notice Schneider starring as Mr. Baily.

9. THE ORIGINAL TRAILER FEATURED A SCENE THAT DIDN’T MAKE THE MOVIE.

For reasons that remain a mystery, a scene where a Good Burger customer orders “a good shake” from Ed (Mitchell), only to receive an actual bodily shaking from the Good Burger employee, didn’t make the final cut. It did, however, feature for a few seconds in the theatrical trailer.

10. KENAN AND KEL REUNITED FOR A GOOD BURGER SKETCH ON THE TONIGHT SHOW.

In 2015, Kenan and Kel reunited for a Good Burger sketch with Jimmy Fallon. This time, however, Fallon played Ed’s co-worker, while Kenan came in as a construction worker as a surprise. "We've been wanting to get back together," Mitchell told E! News. "It was just about the right project ... it felt like home."

11. THE FIRST LINE IN THE FILM IS THE SAME AS THE LAST LINE.

Appropriately, the line is, “Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger, can I take your order?”—just watch the movie.

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