Jonathan Franzen and Louis C.K. on "Jeopardy!": Sounds like an "SNL" sketch, but it's real and it's going to be fascinating

May's “Power Players Week” will also feature Melissa Harris-Perry, Al Franken, and "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner

Published March 30, 2016 8:13PM (EDT)

Louis C.K., Jonathan Franzen, Melissa Harris-Perry   (Reuters/Kevork Djansezian/AP/Mary Altaffer/Heidi Gutman/MSNBC)
Louis C.K., Jonathan Franzen, Melissa Harris-Perry (Reuters/Kevork Djansezian/AP/Mary Altaffer/Heidi Gutman/MSNBC)

Award-winning author and noted curmudgeon Jonathan Franzen will be taping on “Jeopardy!”’s Power Players’ Week this month, for broadcast mid-May, along with several other luminaries: comedian Louis C.K., Senator Al Franken, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, “Mad Men” creator and showrunner Matthew Weiner, and former MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry.

Power Players Week—a tournament last held in 2012—is a smarter, wonkier version of Celebrity “Jeopardy!”; instead of screen actors performing for their own charities, the game show is tapping the vast landscape of anchors, pundits, and “personalities” that shape political conversation in America, from an actual senator to the comedian and creator of “Louie.” It’s a weirdly eclectic list, but altogether kind of thrilling, too; “Jeopardy!”’s casting has managed to collect 15 people that feel interesting and relevant, even if they are not particularly known for, you know, their fast-paced trivia skills.

Almost more interesting than the celebrities themselves are what charities they’ve chosen to represent; C.K. is competing for the Fistula Foundation, Franzen for the American Bird Conservancy, and CBS’ Lara Logan, unsurprisingly, for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The announcement almost instantly makes Power Players Week appointment television, as the opportunity to see any number of TV journalists forced to answer questions, instead of the other way around, while flanked by either Louis C.K., Jonathan Franzen, or the former chair of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, is going to make for some crazy television. What will get they wrong? Who’s going to win Final Jeopardy? What if Jonathan Franzen doesn’t know everything?

The iconic game show has not yet revealed who will be playing whom; that information will presumably be released after the show’s April 9 taping at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Host Alex Trebek, a Canadian, will presumably continue to view the politics of his adopted country with lofty perplexity. As the episodes are not yet taped—and someone could presumably have a flameout or back out, still—the names are subject to change, but here is the list provided by “Jeopardy!”’s publicists:

Kate Bolduan, “At This Hour” (CNN), playing for Free Arts NYC
Louis C.K., Comedian, playing for Fistula Foundation
Jonathan Capehart, the Washington Post, playing for Sasha Bruce Youthwork
Anderson Cooper, "Anderson Cooper 360°" (CNN), playing for Spike’s K9 Fund
S.E. Cupp, conservative commentator, playing for Share Our Strength
Al Franken, U.S. Senator (D-Minn.), playing for the USO
Jonathan Franzen, best-selling author, “Purity,” playing for the American Bird Conservancy
David Gregory, Political Analyst (CNN), playing for Martha's Table
Melissa Harris-Perry, Professor and TV Host, playing for Girls for Gender Equity
Sunny Hostin, ABC News senior legal correspondent, playing for Bronx Children’s Museum
Lara Logan, “60 Minutes” (CBS), playing for Committee to Protect Journalists
Ana Navarro, Republican Strategist, playing for Operation Smile
Michael Steele, Politician & MSNBC Political Analyst
Chuck Todd, NBC News Political Director & Host, "Meet the Press,” playing for Samaritan Inns
Matthew Weiner, Television Creator, "Mad Men,” playing for Alexandria House

By Sonia Saraiya

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