Bridgeport’s renown in ‘Jeopardy!’

April 17, 2019

Add another one to the long list of Bridgeport’s slights.

The fair Park City, maligned in the past by cultural touchstones highbrow (Jonathan Franzen) and low (Family Guy) took another hit last month on “Jeopardy!,” which you of course should know is the greatest game show in history (don’t @ me).

A little before halfway through the March 19 episode’s first round, three-day champion Lindsey Shultz selected the the $1,000 clue in the “U.S. Cities” category.

Legendary human Alex Trebek, who needs all our thoughts and prayers, delivered the clue: “P.T. Barnum was once the mayor of this most populous Connecticut city.”

Challenger Megan McAllen, a D.C. lawyer, quickly rang in.

“What is Hartford?”

Oh boy.

The next guess came from Bren Inman, a store manager from Pullayup, Washington.

“What is New Haven?”


After those two wrong guesses, Shultz, who would win more than $100,000 during a four-day reign as champ, didn’t hazard an answer in the form of a question — giving the clue rare triple stumper status.

Trebek’s delivery of the correct answer — OF COURSE “What is Bridgeport?” — took on an almost chiding tone.

I watched the exchange Tuesday morning as I was catching up on my DVR’s stock of dozens of automatically recorded episodes of the show.

Not so much surprised as disappointed, I recorded a grainy video clip with my iPhone and Tweeted it, accompanied by the “weary face” emoji.

Unlike the vast, vast majority of my Tweets, this one actually found some resonance.

Even my boss’ boss, Hearst VP of News & Digital Matt DeRienzo, gave it an RT.

And this morning no less an eminence than Connecticut Public Radio’s John Dankosky quoted it with a succinct but dead-on synopsis : “This is the modern Connecticut story in a nutshell.”

A quick search of the venerable J! Archive website reveals that clues mentioning the city or its most famous resident haven’t always resulted in wrong guesses and blank stares from contestants.

In an episode last February, for example, the $1,000 clue in the “Dumb Criminals” category inquired: “Ditching the usual walk-in method, a robber from Bridgeport in this state called ahead to a bank to have $100,000 waiting.”

OK, not really the sort of clue that will help the city’s long-term rep — but Colorado accountant Marty Cunningham at least knew what state BPT is in.

And in a January 1993 episode, a $300 clue in “Museums” said “Exhibits on Tom Thumb & Jenny Lind are highlights of a Bridgeport, Conn. museum devoted to this man.”

Air Force Lieutenant Darryl Scott — who would set a record that day with a winning total of $1 — knew the correct response was P.T. Barnum, to whom a popular quote “Nobody ever lost a dollar by underestimating the taste of the American public” is attributed.

A cynical view, perhaps, but one that with every passing hour becomes more difficult to dispute.

One thing that isn’t: two people allegedly smart enough to challenge for the crown one of the longest running game shows in television history each lost $1,000 last month underestimating their own knowledge of the good old Land of Steady Habits.

We all, of course, would have known better.