SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 29, 2010

Danvers woman reigns (briefly) on 'Jeopardy!'

By Ethan Forman

DANVERS — Anna Tschetter of Danvers will never forget the famous line in Chapter 2 of Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula" or who saw Perth, Australia's lights in 1962.

Tschetter got both those final answers wrong as a contestant on the TV quiz show "Jeopardy!" during appearances on Tuesday and Wednesday night. Despite her wrong responses, Tschetter will forever be a "Jeopardy!" champion after winning on Tuesday.

"It was so much fun, it was amazing," said Tschetter, 23. (Her name is pronounced like "Cheddar.")

The 2008 Gordon College graduate and legal assistant for Attorney Amy Connors of Topsfield even got to shake hands and pose for a picture with the show's legendary host, Alex Trebek.

Contestants on "Jeopardy!" must phrase their responses as a question, and on "Final Jeopardy!" Tuesday, the question in the category "19th-Century Literature" eluded Tschetter.

She blanked on the clue: "My eyes were not to be deceived. I was indeed awake and among the Carpathians." (The correct response is: "What is 'Dracula?'") Tschetter never read the novel because she does not like scary books, she said.

"I was really bummed because they came to me first, and I got it wrong," she said.

It was Tschetter's savvy betting — she'll say she also blanked on the math — that led to her becoming a "Jeopardy!" champ and winning $3,400.

"I got the 'Final Jeopardy!' question wrong, but we all did," Tschetter said. During the regular round, she had amassed $9,200 in winnings, just $100 shy of the first-place contestant.

However, both contestants she was playing against bet too much of their winnings. She bet $5,800, while the other two were left with less than $1,000 in the bank.

"I was pretty shocked," Tschetter said. "It took a bit for it to register."

The win allowed Tschetter to come back as champion and appear on the show Wednesday night, but she came in third on "Final Jeopardy!" with a category called "The 1960s."

She failed to get the correct response, "Who is John Glenn?" to the clue that asked for whom did the people of Perth turn their lights on in 1962. Glenn was on his historic flight to become the first American to orbit the Earth when he spotted the lights of Perth.

Again, no one got the answer, but her third-place finish won her $1,000, a two-day total of $4,400.

While it appears to the viewer the show is taped on different nights, Tschetter said the shows are taped back-to-back. She only had 15 minutes to change, go through makeup and play the second game.

After she lost, she was so exhausted from the flight to Los Angeles, the time change and the experience of hanging around the set the day before, she went back to the hotel and "crashed." Later, she and her mother went out and celebrated.

Tschetter, a former English literature and music student at Gordon College, qualified for the show after she took an online test last January. Producers called her for an interview in Boston in April.

"It was a surprise, you are usually not guaranteed to get an interview," she said. She was told that appearing on "Jeopardy!" is not only about having smarts.

"It's not just about knowing how smart you are," she said. "It's a game show. It's fun."

Eventually, after another interview, test and picture, she was called in November by a producer to tape the show in the first week of December. Her employer did not hesitate when she asked for time off.

"It was so surreal. It's in L.A., in a movie studio," she said. "They are filming movies around there." She even got a glimpse of actor Tim Robbins. The "Jeopardy!" studio, she found, was smaller than it appears on TV.

After taping the games, she was sworn to secrecy about the results, though that did not prevent her from telling people she was going to be on the show.

"A lot of people have written on my Facebook wall, 'We saw you,'" Tschetter said. That includes people she has not seen since high school.

While she watched the show on Tuesday, Tschetter missed her appearance on Wednesday as she started graduate school at Simmons College in Boston studying — what else would you expect from a "Jeopardy!" champ — library and information science.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673 or by e-mail at eforman@salemnews.com.