"Jeopardy!" Clues Have Gotten "Simpler," Producer Says—Here's Why
The game is changing with the times, Michael Davies said during a recent interview.
Half the fun of watching Jeopardy! is playing along. From the comfort of your couch, you can test your quizzing knowledge, racing to come up with the answer before a contestant buzzes in. If you're a long-time fan, however, you may have noticed that you're getting more and more answers correct. You might want to attribute this to your growing wealth of knowledge—and that certainly could be part of it—but Jeopardy! executive producer Michael Davies says that clues appear simpler for a reason. Read on to find out why the show has pulled back on tougher trivia.
The producer explained that people have expanded knowledge these days.
Davies recently sat down with Vulture, where he reflected on Jeopardy! fandom, Alex Trebek's successors, as well as the game itself.
While discussing the clues on Jeopardy!, Davies said that the "player base has changed," noting that trivia and general knowledge is different today than it was in the past.
"In the 1990s, Jeopardy! was just another game show because everybody knew the same general knowledge. It was a test between three people," he explained. "At this point in 2023, there's so much more knowledge in the world. We have a much broader view of culture. It's so hard for anybody to know everything."
There's a reason that clues may appear easier to viewers.
Davies said that Jeopardy! has changed with the times, explaining that the clues cover a much larger spectrum of topics, as opposed to asking more in-depth questions about limited topics.
"Maybe a clue we would ask about John Steinbeck or F. Scott Fitzgerald might seem simpler than a clue about John Steinbeck or F. Scott Fitzgerald 25 years ago. But that was when everybody was reading Steinbeck and Fitzgerald. Now the reading list—the canon that people read in literature—is much broader," Davies said. "We have to push people against a better range."
In fact, Davies said that while viewers may believe production "eased up the material," the wider variety of questions indicates that they really haven't. "Jeopardy! is harder than ever," he concluded.
Elite competitors play a role, too.
The producer told Vulture that the changes are also driven by player quality. Although you have to be "really good" to even make it onto Jeopardy!, the elite players are on a whole different level.
With the removal of the capped five-win rule, which limited players to five games total, "super champions" have emerged, Davies noted. These higher-quality competitors have pushed the game to evolve.
Ending the rule "led to super-champions existing on the show who regular players couldn't really compete with. There was no competition for elite players to play against other elite players except the occasional Tournament of Champions or the Greatest of All Time tournament, which was a huge inspiration for everything I've done," Davies said.
The executive producer continued, "It's the changing nature of general knowledge, the changing nature of education, and the internet in terms of the quality of our players that's forcing this change."
He also said the quality of writing is getting stronger.
Davies also pointed out that there are more writers on the job, and while it's not an easy role, clues are "improving constantly." The producer added that Jeopardy! has more Writers Guild of America (WGA) writers now, too—although he didn't address the ongoing strike.
"I think the job has become harder because of our material. Our clues become famous. Every night, a bunch of our clues get laser-focused on social media. They get endlessly taken apart and discussed," Davies told Vulture. "We have 61 clues per half-hour. The quality of the writing has never been stronger. I see it improving constantly. Each clue has to test an audience and entertain in and of itself."
Overall, Davies said that production is "just trying to figure it all out" at the moment, noting that "Jeopardy! is the last place in America where people from all over the country, from all different backgrounds, agree about facts."