With three sons, Kate and Mark Appler, of Mount Airy, have attended their fair share of events that have left them feeling proud of their children.
But when her son, Hunter Appler, appeared as a contestant on Jeopardy!, Kate Appler wasn’t sure how to classify the experience.
“We are thrilled for him,” she said. “It’s just a funny thing for your child to be getting notoriety for. It’s not typical. It’s one thing if it’s an award or something. For appearing on a game show is really a different feel.”
The episode in which Hunter Appler competes on the televised quiz show will air Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. on CBS and on subsequent daily episodes if he wins.
Kate Appler said those present for the filming know the outcome but have been sworn to secrecy.
Hunter Appler was born in Mount Airy and is a 2002 graduate of Mount Airy High School, where he was on the school’s quiz bowl team.
He now lives in Augusta, Georgia, and commutes to work in Charlotte.
As an adult, his affinity for quiz bowls found an outlet in pub trivia.
“He does like that kind of thing,” Kate Appler said, noting that her son and his wife are also avid Jeopardy! viewers.
After countless couch competitions, his wife suggested he apply to be on the show.
In September 2014, Hunter Appler took an online test at jeopardy.com. According to the website, those tests are available to the public only once a year.
He was invited to compete in a regional competition in May 2015, where he took an additional test and competed in a simulated Jeopardy! show.
It wasn’t until February of this year he heard from the show’s producers, who invited him to compete in an episode that would be filmed March 21.
“Some people say it will take longer,” Kate Appler said.
After studying for the three weeks available before the filming, brushing up on geography, Shakespeare and flags of the world, Hunter Appler flew to Los Angeles with his wife, mother, father, two brothers and an aunt in tow.
The family watched from the live studio audience.
Kate Appler said that besides the excitement of watching her son compete, the behind-the-scenes view of a television show was worth the trip.
A week’s worth of episodes are filmed before a live studio audience in one day, requiring contestants to bring a change of clothes for each.
The intro is filmed live for each episode, complete with the iconic Jeopardy! theme song and lead in by the 91-year-old announcer who has been introducing Jeopardy! and its host, Alex Trebek, for 35 years.
“Alex Trebek is very engaging with the audience,” Kate Appler said. “Every time you see a commercial he spent that break time talking to the audience. Some people think he’s arrogant. I was not struck by that.”
Though she noted that while Trebek does not talk to contestants a lot, he gave a tie to a middle school teacher in the audience who had requested the souvenir.
Kate Appler said their crew’s interaction with the host did not go as well.
“The Appler family thought they would ask Alex Trebek a question,” she said.
As Trebek had revealed to the audience he was a big sports fan, college basketball in partiular, and the filming coincided with the NCAA college basketball tournament, “being good Carolinians, my son (in the audience) asked what is his favorite team. He was hesitant for a moment, then said ‘I’ve always been fond of Duke,’ at which the the whole Appler family gave a negative response,” she said, but the light heartedness was seemingly lost on the host.
“Alex proceeded to reprimand us, saying, that’s what is the problem in the United States, not being able to listen to other people’s opinions,” Kate Appler said. “We felt very chastised.”
Trebek then asked where he went to school. The answer shed some light on the family’s response: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the arch-rival of Duke University.
Hearing that, Trebek relented some.
“He said that’s all right I guess,’” Kate Appler recalled, noting that it had become obvious that Duke/Carolina rivalry is much more intense regionally than in a national venue.
“We’re not obnoxious fans,” she said.
Despite the misunderstanding, “It was great fun,” Kate Appler said, adding that they sat near a sound man who had worked on Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune as well as the Oscars and Grammy Awards shows and had a chance to chat him up and “rub noses with people doing the kind of work that is so foreign to you.”
The experience seemed to be a positive one for her son, Kate Appler said.
“He loved it, he said it was great,” she said. And regardless of the outcome, “We were happy he went through the effort and took the chance to pursue it.”
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.