Over the next week, a pair of Colorado residents will add another surreal moment to a year that’s already been stuffed with them: watching themselves on national TV during a global pandemic.
“This is not the day and age to have any kind of gathering for it,” said Boulder resident Joe Harrison, who will appear on “The Price Is Right” on Monday, April 13. “But I’m still very excited.”
“I hope people tune into the tournament and find a little time to just smile and enjoy themselves,” said Parker resident Natalie Hathcote, who is competing for the $100,000 grand prize in the “Jeopardy! College Championship” on Friday, April 10. “That sounds cheesy, but these are uncertain times.”
Hathcote, 21, and Harrison, 54, are a study in contrasts, given that the former ended up on “Jeopardy!” almost by accident, where as Harrison is a lifelong, hardcore “Price Is Right” fan who fulfilled his dream of being called up to the podium at CBS Studio Center in Los Angeles.
We asked each of them the same questions via phone and compiled their answers before their respective episodes debut. Hathcote’s “Jeopardy!” airs at 6 p.m. on Friday on KDVR-Channel 31 while Harrison’s “Price Is Right” airs at 10 a.m. Monday on KCNC-Channel 4.
(And, naturally, these are spoiler-free interviews.) Their responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Q: What’s your first memory of watching your respective game shows?
Hathcote: I have been watching “Jeopardy!” since I was a little kid. I come from one of those households where, every night at 6 o’clock, it’s “Jeopardy!” and then “Wheel of Fortune.” My family is the type that yells out the answers to both shows. But it didn’t really start to become a goal until I got to college (Hathcote is a junior at Virginia’s Liberty University) and fell into doing Quiz Bowl.
Harrison: Probably when I was in second grade in 1976. I was doing a school report on Jimmy Carter’s election and I remember seeing “The Price Is Right” and (former host) Bob Barker and just thinking that it was the best thing ever. That and “The Flintstones.”
Q: What was it like applying for, and then actually getting onto, the show?
Hathcote: I tried out for it on a whim and found out it was really fun. Plus, where in the real world am I going to transfer these Quiz Bowl skills? “Jeopardy!” and “Jeopardy!” alone. So I took the regular (online) test last spring and then the college test as well. Both times I was just trying to do better than my friends. I got an email to come audition in L.A. in November. … At every step in this I just kind of just showed up because it sounded like a cool thing to do. I got the call that I had made it in late January, and two weeks later I flew out to do the taping. I had actually forgotten about it.
Harrison: I love “The Price Is Right” so much. I tape every episode and watch it with my 12-year-old son. Total geek. I had a trip booked to L.A. at the end of January, so I got tickets (online). … I waited for hours with other audience members and did group chats of 20 people with the producers. When I finally got into my seat I could barely contain myself. And all of sudden the show just starts and Drew Carey walks out. It was pure magic.
Q: Did you have any special methods or tricks in preparing for the show?
Hathcote: I have Quiz Bowl friends who take their studying very seriously with flashcards and everything. I just kind of freestyle and memorize through straight-up practice, and I hold onto information I’m interested in. I’m a huge fan of the classic Wikipedia bunny trail. That’s my technique: Doing lots of trivia. I’m a giant nerd and just like learning new things.
Harrison: I will say that there’s a fair amount of memorization and life experience involved. Right after college I worked at Colony Market in Boulder as a stocker. We had those price guns where we’d individually shoot out stickers on every item. But I think people who do well on “The Price Is Right” study the show, and I’ve got to say, I am probably the biggest “Price Is Right” fan on the planet.
Q: Why do you think they chose you, in particular?
Harrison: I knew I was being watched and evaluated every step of the way, so I tried to stand out by being this glowing light of fun — my best self. I had also drunk a dirty chai with three shots of espresso that morning, so I had that coursing through my blood. It was the third taping of the day, the 3:30 (p.m.) one, and everybody was getting psyched up waiting on these long benches. When we went in, I was more than ready.
Q: What surprised you about the experience?
Hathcote: It was intimating, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. When I finally got on stage, after sitting in the green room for hours with the other contestants, it didn’t quite sink in that it was happening. My dad said I made a hilarious face when Alex Trebek came out, like, ‘The man from my TV is here!’ And he was shorter than I anticipated! I just assume everyone on TV is a base height of 6-foot-10.
Harrison: I was blown away by how small (the set) was. It looks massive on TV, but it’s not.
Q: What did you take away from the experience (that you’re legally allowed to tell us)?
Hathcote: (Laughs) I was really afraid of the Sony people. (Editor’s note: Sony owns “The Price Is Right”.) I was paranoid about disappearing mysteriously. So I’ll say this: It was a really surreal experience. But it will be interesting to watch it because a month ago I wasn’t thinking about any of this coronavirus stuff and our lives were chugging along as normal. A lot of people I’ve talked to don’t realize how far in advance we taped this (in February) so they shouldn’t be upset that I’m on TV. But the COVID-19 social-distancing stuff has been somewhat of a blessing because it’s given me and my fellow contestants the opportunity to become a lot tighter by meeting up in Zoom.
Harrison: I can’t comment on whether or not I got up on stage until after the show airs, but I can tell you the whole experience was magical. (Host) Drew Carey is all heart, and it seems like the dream job of everyone who works on the show. It was the thrill of a lifetime for me.
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