When The Conners sent Laurie Metcalf's Jackie over to Jeopardy! to display her innate smarts on the beloved game show opposite guest host Aaron Rodgers, things didn't go as well as one might have expected. Not only did she botch her way right out of the Final Jeopardy! round, but she also shamed herself on national TV, to the prophetical delight of her mother. The story behind The Conners' big Jeopardy! moment is a bit more touching and sentimental than Jackie's unfortunate experience, though just as heartbreaking in some ways.
When CinemaBlend spoke with The Conners' co-creators and executive producers Bruce Helford and Dave Caplan ahead of the big Season 3 finale, I was shocked to learn that the creative team's original goal was actually to get Alex Trebek himself on the sitcom prior to the inspirational game show legend's death in November 2020. Here's how Helford put it:
We had approached Jeopardy a long time ago and it was just kind of a secret thing going along, but during the pandemic, it was really touch and go; of course, because of Alex's health, it was touch and go. It was originally planned to be with Alex on the show. We had written it, Alex had signed off and said, 'Great, let's do it.' And then unfortunately, his health took a turn for the worse.
I don't think I'm overstating things to say it would have been a singular slice of TV history to see Alex Trebek delivering his iconic "No" after all of Jackie's wrong answers. It would have been even more wowzers to see Trebek chilling on the iconic living room couch, since I feel like I've never seen that guy sit down, but that probably wouldn't have been possible anyway, due to COVID restrictions. Sadly, it wasn't meant to be, with Trebek succumbing to pancreatic cancer at some point not so long after the agreement was made.
Once it became clear how Jeopardy! would continue in Alex Trebek's absence, Bruce Helford said the Conners team reached back out to see if they could make the connection happen for Laurie Metcalf to visit the set.
When that happened, we talked to people at Jeopardy!, and we said, 'Well, do you think there's any way we can still do this? We'd still love to have her on the show. We've kinda built it up in our show.' And they said, 'Yes, but give us time, because it's a really difficult time.' And then when Aaron Rodgers decided to do it, they thought, 'You know what? This is a good time to do it.' So we said that's great, because we knew built in was the Packers-Bears thing. So it's like a lot of gifts coming in unexpectedly.
While it might have been a fine enough time had one of Jeopardy!'s other early guest hosts appeared on The Conners, such as game show GOAT Ken Jennings or journalist Katie Couric, the fact that Aaron Rodgers spent his entire NFL career so far with the Green Bay Packers added an extra bit of creative energy to having him on the cameo. As a Packers fan myself, I hated that he had to see Laurie Metcalf's Jackie in such a frazzled state, though I would have been 100% into seeing him dunk on Bev.
Of course, as special as it is to bring Jackie Harris to Jeopardy!, it was a wholly different kind of special for Bruce Helford to visit the hallowed halls of the game show's studio. In his words:
Being on the stage of Jeopardy, we were limited with who could go over because their protocols are like our protocols during the pandemic; very, very stringent. But I did get to go over and be on the Jeopardy stage. And that is like being in the Church of Television. It's such an iconic place, and it's bigger than you expect, and it's really, really impressive. That was a moment I won't forget, and I've been in the business a long time. And Laurie just was wonderful, Aaron did a great job, and it was just really, really fun.
If anybody on The Conners needs to be on a game show, it's the constantly stressed-out Darlene, and she needs to win a trip to Hawaii to make up for the one that she had to forfeit, despite it being a kind, posthumous gift from Danielle Harris' Molly. Perhaps Bruce Helford can get something going with Pat Sajak and the Wheel of Fortune execs for Season 4.
There's just one proposal-filled episode left of The Conners, so be sure to tune into the Season 3 finale on ABC on Wednesday, May 19, at 9:00 pm. ET. And while waiting for the already renewed Season 4 to arrive, take note of all the awesome new and returning shows heading to the 2021 Summer TV schedule.