My JEOPARDY malaise

Cliff Clavin

Lately, I’ve been experiencing what I’m calling a JEOPARDY malaise. Even as people continue to bring up my experiences on the show 24.5 years ago – the last time was two weeks ago – the show is giving me less joy.

Some of it is reflected in this story. “Executive producer [Michael] Davies said that he was considering allowing contestants who had previously competed on the show to come back and compete again. And he wasn’t just talking about special competitions; he meant regular episodes. This would mean that hopefuls who have been trying for years to get on Jeopardy! could find their way blocked by a previous contestant getting a second chance.”

And it’s already happened to some extent. Before the last Tournament of Champions, the show had two weeks of a Second Chance Tournament. People had the misfortune of playing against some of the recent “super champions,” i.e., players who won ten or more games, got a chance to play again.  Two of them got to play in that ToC, where they were quickly eliminated.

More recently, there was the High School Reunion shows. Kids who played as high schoolers plus an eighth grader four years ago got to compete AGAIN. Who was clamoring for that? Not only did that minimize the opportunity for new hopefuls, but it also went on so long that I’d forgotten who the returning champion was.

As one of those schlubs who somehow made it on the program, I’m in favor of maximizing the opportunity for my fellow hopefuls to make it onto the Alex Trebek stage.


Now,  a  “‘Champions’ Wildcard’ Tournament will be instituted as part of this fall’s postseason play, between Second Chance… and the Tournament of Champions. Every single player who wins a game in Season 39 will be invited to the event (if they haven’t qualified for the Tournament of Champions)…  It is anticipated that the full postseason schedule is intended to take ten weeks.”

The JEOPARDY Fan editorialized: “While it is great… to see a lot of these players again, I can certainly sympathize with those fans who enjoy being able to watch 190–200 regular-play games per season….  Maybe it’s time for the show to move to 52 weeks a year of production if it wants a 10-week postseason every year. That way, both the fans who prefer regular play and the fans who prefer seeing favorites return both get what they want.”

OR have six weeks off, per usual, during which they rerun the Tournament of Champions and other events. I do NOT love this.


JEOPARDY fandom has rightly complained about inconsistent acceptance of answers. Worse, the show has accepted some wrong or at least dubious responses.

For instance, many fans, including me, heard Ewan Gregor as the response to this clue: The force of Lasse Hallström was strong to pull in this Scot to play a fisheries expert in “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” -it should have been Ewan McGregor, and that non-call may have affected the outcome of the game.

While hosts have some responsibility, the producer and the judging staff can “go to the film” and correct errors.

A more significant blunder for the viewers happened on the March 8 program when an editing error showed the final scores in a cutaway shot during host Mayim Bialik’s monologue. Jeopardy executives have profusely apologized.

Fan base

I try to avoid the jEOPARDY commentary on certain websites. These can be quite harsh in their assessments. Frankly, I’m bored with people watching the show at home pronouncing a Final Jeopardy “too easy,” or conversely, “impossible to figure out.” I’ve been stumped on the “simple” clues and nailed the “difficult” ones.

I’m SO happy there were no social media when I was on in 1998. One’s every mistake magnified forever. I feel particularly sorry for one recent contestant in the March 22 game.

With just five clues left, Karen landed on the last Daily Double. She had $21.8K; Melissa had $7.1K; and Zach had $6.4K. And the remaining clues, one $800 and four $400, totaled $2,400. A safe bet would have been between $5, the minimum, and $2,799. But she bet $10,000 and missed.

Karen’s score dropped from an assured victory. Going into Final Jeopardy, she had $11.4K, Melissa had $8.7K, and Zack had $7.2K, which made it anyone’s game. Karen missed the Final and ended up in third place, but Melissa got it right and returned as champion.

THEN Karen, who was compared to Cliff Clavin– she didn’t understand the reference –  felt required to explain her strategy. I wouldn’t have made that wager, but I’m not her.

“Ultimately, I did what I did,” she said, “and I had THE MOST FUN and at the end of the day… it’s a game, and it’s a show, and it’s a game show.” So be it. But she could have had more fun with $20,000 and another chance to compete.  Instead, she’ll show up on snarky YouTube videos like this one from 2017 forever.

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