TV Nation instructor Bob Boden makes game show history

Boden gifted a ticket to the Alex Trebek pilot taping of “Jeopardy!” to legend contestant Ken Jennings, who kept it in his pocket while taping his first episode as the guest host.

Bob Boden’s obsession with game shows started at the age of six, when his mother took him to a taping of the game show “Password.”

“I remember that day saying to my mom, ‘This is what I want to do,'” says Boden.

Bob Boden

Boden, who teaches the TV Nation television development class for the Syracuse University Los Angeles (SULA) semester program, stayed faithful to his inner six-year-old. After high school, he went to Los Angeles to attend the University of California, Los Angeles and started working his way up in the game show business.

“We didn’t have VCRs and we didn’t have social media then, but I spent every waking moment studying my passion and my craft,” says Boden, who started out printing and flipping cue cards. One day he asked Lucille Ball a question at a show taping; a few minutes later, a man approached Boden and offered him a job holding cue cards.

“As I say, and I didn’t make this up, luck is the intersection of preparation and opportunity,” says Boden.

Decades later, Boden has producer credits on 39 game and reality shows, including “The Chase,” “Funny You Should Ask” and “Greed,” on which he shared an executive producer credit slate with Dick Clark ’51—meaning Boden’s name was on the same screen as Clark’s.

Bob Boden shared a credit slate with Dick Clark on the game show “Greed.”

“I was told that I was the first person that Dick allowed to share an executive producer card with. It could be urban legend, but I’m going to believe it because it serves me to believe it,” says Boden. “That was his gift to me. He was an amazing, amazing man, a great mentor, kind, generous. He helped me realize my dreams.”

Being so deeply involved in game shows for so long means Boden got to witness game show history being made from time to time: from being a contestant on a rehearsal for the “Jeopardy!” pilot to a recent backyard hang out with legendary “Jeopardy!” players Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter and James Holzhauer.

Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter, James Holzhauer and Bob Boden.
From left, Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter, James Holzhauer, Bob Boden.

“When the guys were about to leave, I offered them a fine parting gift, which is standard game show lingo. I gave all of them a ticket to the pilot for ‘Jeopardy!’ with Alex Trebek,” says Boden. On the day Jennings hosted his first show, he tweeted about the ticket, saying it was his good luck charm.

Tweet from Ken Jennings with a picture of the ticket Bob Boden gave him: "A friend gave me this piece of quiz show history: an audience ticket to Alex's very first Jeopardy! pilot from 1983. ("ALEX TREBEK! DOOR PRIZES!") I kept it in my pocket while guest-hosting Jeopardy! this week, as a good luck charm."
A tweet from Ken Jennings featuring the ‘Jeopardy!’ ticket given to him by Bob Boden.

“I was so pleased that I could help him get through that day and make him a success,” Boden says. “I think he’s a tremendous host of the show.”

When asked to imagine how technology might change the game show landscape, Boden is secure in their legacy. “Many of the shows that are finding success today are re-imagined versions of shows that have been around, in some cases, for 70 years. They they keep coming back. They’re durable. They speak to every generation. They bring families together. They change people’s lives in a positive way.”

“I think game shows embody the American dream,” says Boden. “I think especially in the times we’re in, they provide escapism, wish fulfillment, a break from the world. Game shows make people happy, and we could all use some happy these days.”