There's a cheeky Jeopardy winner on a nine-day streak and his name is Austin Rogers. He begins each show pantomiming through his portion of contestant introductions, instead of staring blankly ahead for a traditional video mugshot. For Friday's intro, he solved an air Rubik's cube, just to give you an idea.
He does voices, makes faces and hand gestures throughout the show. He piles on sarcasm, and genuinely gets under host Alex Trebek's skin. He's also betting high and winning big. It's a weird mix for longtime fans, and they remain divided about him.
Imagine Richard Hendricks-level hardware wrapped in an Erlich Bachman shell and you have a glimpse of Austin. He can blow his entire lead in Double Jeopardy and shrug it off. He can clearly state "I didn't know that one" out loud. Whatevs. He'll just work the board and find another way to win. There's no shame in that. But OG Jeopardy viewers want there to be. They want him to be nervous and serious and sweating it out.
Friday night there was a question no one buzzed in on, and Trebek said to the three contestants, "You're gonna hate yourselves for this one -- What is room temperature?" Austin cuts him off mid-dramatic pause, and goes to the next clue. At least three times in that episode, Trebek wondered aloud how long Rogers would be around. Maybe that's scripted, but Alex seems to really want Austin gone.
Austin doesn't fit the mold. But the mold is over 50 years old.
Jeopardy has to deal with the fact it was created back when it was easier to brain-shame. The show now has an audience whose self-loathing comes from a very different place. We don't hate ourselves over a single incorrect response. We learn from it and move on. Jeopardy remains a dunce cap in a Scenes from a Hat world. If the show can't embrace its Austins, it will find itself on the rooftop at Hooli, wealthy and irrelevant, waiting until its contracts expire.