Most game-show fans, at one time or another, have muttered to themselves, “I could do that.”
For most people, these claims of game-show stardom seldom amount to much more than a passing comment made from the couch.
But, Pine View student Arjun Byju was recently able to take his trivia knowledge from the living room to the stage, when he was selected to be a contestant on “Jeopardy! Teen Tournament,” which airs starting Jan. 30.
A regular viewer, Byju says the game is, in fact, much more difficult in person.
“I compete against my brother all the time at home,” he says. “It’s a lot easier when I’m sitting on the couch. Something happens when you get on stage, and the studio lights are on you. When Alex Trebek looks at you and says, ‘Yes?’ you can’t think.”
Byju, along with 14 other students from around the country, was selected from a pool of approximately 15,000 applicants to compete on the teen-oriented version of the popular game show. After watching the show at home, Byju was inspired to apply as a contestant.
After a timed online quiz, a callback audition in New Orleans and several months of waiting, Byju learned he’d been accepted. Producers surprised him with the news in a mock interview, supposedly about his school’s speech and debate team.
“It was really surreal,” he said. “I had kind of forgotten about the auditions, so I was really caught off guard.”
Byju says he’s always been a good student, and he excels in history and geography. This, combined with his experience on Pine View’s academic Olympic team, helped prepare him for the show, but to be sure, he queued up reruns of old episodes and perused almanacs to brush up on topics he knew would come up, such as rivers and capitals.
Of his experience, Byju says he enjoyed meeting the other contestants, with whom he plans to keep in touch. The opportunity to be on stage, see behind the scenes of the show and, of course, meet Alex Trebek, is an experience he says he won’t soon forget.
After seeing what goes into producing a television show, the Pine View senior says the field is one he might consider as a career path. “Now that I’ve done it, I kind of like it,” he says. “Maybe it’s something to pursue. I’m willing to give it a try.”
“Jeopardy! Teen Tournament” isn’t Byju’s first appearance on the small screen. Last year, he appeared on MTV’s “Made,” during which he was made into a hip-hop dancer. “That was a really cool experience, too,” he says. “They were very different, though. ‘Made’ was very lighthearted and funny, and I was hamming it up the whole time. ‘Jeopardy!’ was a lot more intense, and I was much more focused.”