If longtime Jeopardy host Alex Trebek seems disappointed any time a contestant misses a seemingly simple clue, it's because he is. Or at the very least, coming off as stern and perhaps a little smug is part of his television persona.
As The Ringer once put it, "Trebek has two settings: mildly, politely impressed and Disappointed Dad." Now, in a recent interview with Vulture, Trebek has addressed the perception that he not-so-secretly judges contestants with an air of paternal reproach. As it turns out, he knows exactly what he's doing. "I know that 'You've disappointed daddy' is a tone I'm striking," he said. "It's also, "How can you not get this? This is not rocket science."
The example cited by Vulture is an episode from earlier this year in which none of the contestants could correctly answer a question about football. Trebek said he "had fun with it" by poking fun at their cluelessness. "I looked at the players and said, 'If you guys ring in and get this one, I will die,'" he said. "The gaps in people's knowledge never cease to amaze me. And on occasion, all three players have the same gap. But football? America's game?"
Also among Trebek's pet peeves: When contestants wager too little on daily doubles, and when they jump around within categories. The questions, he says, are designed to flow from top to bottom. "If you jump to the bottom of the category you may get a clue that would be easier to understand if you'd begun at the top of the category and saw how the clues worked," he says. "I like there to be order on the show, but as the impartial host I accept disorder."
Even though Trebek sometimes expresses disappointment in Jeopardy contestants, he admits that he doesn't know everything—which may come as a shock to some.
"People think because I'm the host of a fairly serious, intelligence-based quiz show that I must know all the answers," he said. "I do—because they're written on a sheet of paper in front of me. And audiences are always surprised when they discover that I like to fix things around the house, that I'm not a nerdy person who spends all his time researching information that might come in handy on Jeopardy. But I don't mind surprising people in that way."