Season 39 of JEOPARDY!

season 39Season 39 of the game show JEOPARDY has begun. Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik were named permanent co-hosts, replacing the late Alex Trebek. Ken started the season on September 12, with Mayim stepping in starting in January. Mayim is also hosting Celebrity JEOPARDY, which begins on September 25 on ABC-TV. The co-hosts share all.

ITEM: “Some JEOPARDY fans are already upset with Ken. Fans online began to call him out for making an allegedly unfair ruling in favor of reigning winner, Luigi de Guzman, who scored his fourth consecutive victory on Wednesday, September 14.

“The incident in question occurred when de Guzman was answering a clue about a 19th-century British painter, prompting his first response, ‘Who is Constant?’

“‘Say it again,'” Jennings replied.

“‘Sorry, who is Constable,'” de Guzman then stated, with his correct answer being accepted.”

“It is unclear if Jennings allowed him to correct his answer or if he simply did not hear de Guzman.” Though I believe it was the former, this created a huge swing in the game. It was a $1000 clue as the last clue in the first round, which meant Luigi ended with $4,200, Winston Li had $1,800, and Harriet Wagner had $2,000.

Talk about Double JEOPARDY!

“But Jennings, 48, stirred up controversy later in the show when… Wagner provided an answer about a science fiction author, stating, ‘Who is Angela LeGuin—sorry, Ursula LeGuin,’ although her answer was not accepted.

“‘Harriet, you remembered that her name was Ursula, but I’m afraid I’d already began ruling against you when you corrected yourself,’ Jennings said,” about the “rule that allows contestants to change their answers ‘as long as neither the host nor the judges have made a ruling,’ per their website.”

This was even more significant in the game. It was a $2,000 clue, the final clue in Double JEOPARDY. Not only was Harriet’s clue deemed wrong, but Luigi rang in with the correct response. This assured a lock game for the returning champion, $17,800 to $8,600 for each of his opponents.

“But fans on Twitter couldn’t help but notice the double standard in the two rulings, with many pointing out that Wagner corrected herself even faster than de Guzman, calling the JEOPARDY rule unfair for not providing a certain amount of time for contestants to correct themselves rather than depending on when the host begins to rule.” Some fans even suggested that Jennings was a misogynist.

I believe that the ruling against Harriet Wagner was correct. But the judges should have overridden Jennings and also ruled against Luigi de Guzman, whose initial response was clearly incorrect and might not have changed if not prompted by the host. Reportedly, per Reddit, a viewer in the audience said judges did intervene during the commercial break on both rulings but did not change either one.


The JEOPARDY Tournament of Champions, which starts on October 31, is hosted by Jennings, and has format changes. There are byes to the semi-finals for Amy Schneider (40 games won), Matt Amodio (38 games won), and Mattea Roach (23 games won). “These three players will proceed automatically to the semi-final round, meaning they do not have to play in the quarter-final rounds. [Executive producer Michael] Davies explained that this is to make the contest fairer, as Schneider, Amodio, and Roach are so far ahead of the curve’ that they felt it would be unfair to place them in a lower bracket.” Meh. Here are the players.

The 2022 Tournament of Champions will feature six quarter-final games, with the winner of each game advancing to the semi-final round. The nine semi-finalists will then each play their three games to determine the three winners that will face off in the final round. However, the final match will also work a little differently than it did last year.

“This year’s final match will adopt the rules of the 2019 Greatest of All Time tournament” [Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter, James Holzhauer]. “The three finalists will play until someone wins three matches. This means the 2022 Tournament of Champions final could take as few as three days or stretch for the full seven days, depending on how the competition shakes out.”

My rooting interest includes Ryan Long, the rideshare driver who got through his first week without his prescription glasses and ended up winning 16 games, most of those NOT getting a bye.

The stars

ITEM: ‘Celebrity Jeopardy!’ Reveals a Brand-New Triple ‘Jeopardy’ Round. “Triple JEOPARDY JEOPARDY contains six new categories with five clues per category. And hidden on the game board are three Daily Doubles.”

It may be okay; I’ll have to see. But it has the potential to change the nature of the game. When NBC brought back PASSWORD this summer, with host Keke Palmer, it was exceedingly amped up. Also, there was too much executive producer Jimmy Fallon, who played every game against a different celebrity opponent. But the game’s play is very similar to the late Allen Ludden days.

Likewise with the $100,000 Pyramid, which has been on for six summers on ABC, hosted by Michael Strahan. The clues may be a bit more risque. Still, the structure is the same as when the late Dick Clark hosted back in the 1970s when the top prize was $10,000.

Alum of sorts

ITEM: I taped the genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are for an extra hour this summer. The subsequent program was The Weakest Link, a game show hosted by Jane Lynch. The best contestant was a woman named Kelly. She noted that she had worked for JEOPARDY and learned some things.

It was Kelly Miyahara, a member of the Clue Crew from 2005 to 2019. She was also the announcer for the spin-off show Sports Jeopardy! She got voted off, not because she was bad at the game but because she was correctly perceived as the greatest threat.

ITEM: Pat Sajak, 75, who recently posed with MTG, suggests he’ll be retiring sooner than later. If so, I think the person to replace him short-term is letter-turner Vanna White, 65,  who filled in for him when he was ill a couple of years ago. Technologically, do they still need a letter-turner?

I’ve long suggested that my wife should play the game because she’s better than I at Boggle, Wordle, and other word games.

About the game show JEOPARDY!


I’ve had several questions from various people about the game show JEOPARDY!, on which I appeared in 1998.

When will you be on again?

Never. Unless you make it to the Tournament of Champions, you’re done when you lose in the Alex Trebek era, which started in 1984. This means, technically if you had played in the Art Fleming era, you could theoretically participate again. Fleming last hosted in 1979, so someone 21 then would now only be 64. But most would be far older.

Frankly, I wouldn’t want to be on again. The social media buzz about contestants’ sexual orientation, gender identity, income, personality quirks, et al. is irritating.

And the hosts seem to focus a lot on the statistics, especially the players who win a number of games and become dubbed “super champions.” “Chris won answered 34 questions, getting 31 correctly.” It’s like hearing too many baseball stats: “Smith batted .412 against lefties in day games.” You can find the numbers on the website.

Speaking of the hosts, a lot of social media chatter about Mayim Bialek’s apparel and Ken Jenings’ alleged haughtiness. Ken Levine complained about this here. Some of it I think is correct, such as accepting incomplete answers, such as 90210 for Beverly Hills 90210.

Regardless, I look forward to the selection of a permanent host. Or hosts, probably, since there is going to be an hour-long Celebrity JEOPARDY once a week on ABC.

It’s a young person’s game

Trebek was fond of saying that he knew about 70% of the answers. However, a younger player would always beat him, he declared, because his response rate would be slower. Watching the show daily, I know this to be true. It might be a clue about a movie I’ve seen, but I can’t retrieve the title in the allotted time.

So I’m excited when I actually get a response correctly and quickly that NO ONE gets right, or even rings in. From one game:

IT’S A “SYN” “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is one way of explaining it. What is synergy? (I blame Weird Al for knowing this.)

BODIES OF WATER The Conchos River, the longest in the state of Chihuahua, is a tributary of this one. What is the Rio Grande?

NOBEL PEACE PRIZE WINNERS: 1961: this Swedish Secretary-General of the U.N., posthumously. Who was Dag Hammarskjöld? (Some answers I get BECAUSE I’m older than the players.)

9-, 10-, and 11-LETTER WORDS: From German and Yiddish, it’s the act of offering unsolicited advice to someone who’s playing a game. What is kibitzing? (BTW, I HATE kibitzing.)

The ToC

I’m on record opposing the loss of the limit of five days as champion. In particular, someone who dominates a game is boring for me to watch. It’s like seeing a 45-14 football game.

That said, this fall’s Tournament of Champions is going to be really interesting. That’s because a lot of these players have already faced each other.

Jonathan Fisher (11 wins) beat Matt Amodio (38)
Eric Ahasic (6) beat Ryan Long (17)
Megan Wachspress (6) beat Eric Ahasic
Zach Newkirk (6) beat Brian Chang (7)
Amy Schneider (40) beat Andrew He (5)

When they’re seeded, I’m sure the JEOPARDY producers will make sure these pairs do not meet in the first round.

Check Ken Levine’s interview with Suzanne Stone who spent 38 years working at JEOPARDY here and here.

Betty White would have been 100

six Emmys

Betty White

On New Year’s Eve, my daughter yelled down the stairs to me. “Betty White died.” Major bummer. Betty White would have been 100 tomorrow. If you read what I wrote when she turned 90, you know I’ve thought she’d been very cool for a long time.

From the Boston Globe: “White began her television career as $50-a-week sidekick to a local Los Angeles TV personality [Al Jarvis] in 1949… ‘I did that show 5½ hours a day, six days a week, for 4½ years… Jarvis was replaced by actor Eddie Albert, and when he went to Europe for the film ‘Roman Holiday,’ she headed the show.”

She starred and more remarkably produced the sitcom Life with Elizabeth in 1952, based on a sketch she had done with Jarvis.

From All That’s Interesting: “It was a minor coup when Betty White got her own [variety] show in 1954 with full creative control. Not one to waste an opportunity, White immediately set about hiring [black tap dancer Arthur Duncan to perform]  on her show…

“But even in California, Duncan’s regular presence on the show drew criticism. And it only escalated after NBC rolled out the show nationally, with Southern viewers threatening to boycott the network if White didn’t remove Duncan from the lineup. Although NBC eventually canceled White’s show,” Duncan became a star on The Lawrence Welk Show from 1964 to 1982.

She met her great love, Allen Ludden, in 1961 when she was a contestant on Password, the game show he hosted. she turned down his proposals for a year, in part because of her two, brief failed marriages. They were married from 1963 until he died from stomach cancer in 1981.

Always game

Betty was a GREAT game show contestant. She was a regular panelist on Match Game, Tattletales, To Tell the Truth, The Hollywood Squares, and The $25,000 Pyramid. No wonder she had been dubbed “the first lady of game shows.” As recently as 2008, she was a stellar contestant on an iteration of Password. She snagged a Daytime Emmy for hosting the game show Just Men! in 1983, the first woman to do so.

She had over 300 credits as herself, from hosting holiday parades to appearing on talk shows. As host of Saturday Night Live in 2010, she won her most recent Emmy.

Betty has also won Emmys for Mary Tyler Moore Show twice, Golden Girls, and for a guest appearance on The John Larroquette Show (1993). She has over 100 acting credits, from soap operas to My Name Is Earl.

People magazine has a piece about her secrets for long life. CNN has array of photos throughout her career. There’s still scheduled a special movie event called “Betty White: 100 Years Young — A Birthday Celebration” on the date, January 17. It was to cover her lengthy career and her animal advocacy.


Of course, after she died, there were tons of tribute pieces. Here are some I found particularly interesting.

Hollywood Reporter: She was as important as she was beloved

Parade: Quotes. You REALLY should read the first one, at least

Variety: Funniest Moments, including feuding With Ryan Reynolds

Mark Evanier: “Actors… we’re all like feral cats.”

Ken Jennings: interim JEOPARDY! host

following Trebek

Ken JenningsIt’s time to start answering those Ask Roger Anything questions. You may still pose queries to me. My friend Mary asked:
How long will Ken Jennings last as the ‘interim’ host on Jeopardy?

You put “interim” in quotes, I see. I have no reason to disbelieve SONY regarding the announcement. “The show announced [November 23] that it will resume production on Monday, Nov. 30. Though a long-term replacement host will not be named at this time, Jeopardy! will return to the studio with a series of interim guest hosts from within the Jeopardy! family, starting with Ken Jennings.”

“Within the Jeopardy family?” That would suggest a former champion or a member of the Crew Clue, or maybe whoever the warm-up host is. Or perhaps someone from ABC? The Jennings episodes will start on January 11. The Trebek episodes were supposed to end on Christmas Day, but the show offered up a couple of weeks of reruns so that Alex episodes wouldn’t be preempted by Christmas Day basketball or New Years’ football.

You may have noticed that Jennings, James Holzhauer, and Brad Rutter will appear on a U.S. adaptation of The Chase. It has been “a British show where contestants face off against trivia masters.” It’s scheduled to air for nine weeks starting in early January.

Name of the game

The upcoming show is part of ABC’s efforts to move deeper into that genre. “Nearly 15 million viewers tuned in to the network for each episode of the ‘Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time” tournament, putting it on a level with the 2019 NBA finals and the 2019 World Series.”

ABC has gone to the game show format heavily for the past several summers, with shows such as To Tell the Truth, Celebrity Family Feud, Press Your Luck, and Match Game. Who Wants To Be a Millionaire is currently airing.

Game shows are cheap, compared with scripted shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, and it’s simpler to follow COVID social distancing protocols. Grey’s, BTW, showed only six episodes so far this season and won’t be back until March 4.

But to your question, I have to think they’d need to give Ken Jennings a minimum of four weeks. After all, the show tapes a whole week’s episodes in one day. Even Jennings, who’s been made a consulting producer, and has been at a player podium about 100 times, will be nervous. It’ll be difficult for anyone to be The One Who Follows Alex Trebek.

When Kathie Lee Gifford left Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, they had an extensive audition period. Ditto Kelly Ripa auditioning Regis’ replacement on the morning show. Still, I imagine the producers would want a permanent host by the time the new season begins.

Minced Oaths

Somewhat off-topic, I loved the category MINCED OATHS category on the JEOPARDY! episode of the show that aired on December 17.

$400: There were 6 British kings named this, but saying “By” him actually meant “By God”.

$800: This “sticky” oath, a variant of “damnation”, goes back to 1790 and may be derived from “eternal”.

$1200: This, also the surname of a prolific 19th c. British author, was sometimes substituted for “devil” in oaths.

$1600: Instead of referencing the almighty’s son, this rhyming phrase with the same initial letters was used.

$2000: On St. Patrick’s Day, you might hear someone exclaim “Faith and” this word meaning “by God”.

I think I enjoyed it because, while I knew all of the terms, I’d never thought about the derivations. Well, except for the $1600 clue. Some folks in my past thought even this substitution was inappropriate because it was still supposedly taking the Lord’s name in vain.

Of course, these were also people who thought saying, “Oh, sugar” was vulgar because it was presumably a substitute for defecation.

Anyway, the answers: George; tarnation; dickens; jeepers creepers; and Begorra, which no one got correct.

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