James Holzhauer Criticizes "Jeopardy!" Changes and Weaker Questions Amid Fan Backlash
The former champ said there's been a lot of turnover behind the scenes.
When it comes to Jeopardy! legends, few can compare with James Holzhauer. He claims all top 10 spots for single-game winnings and is second only to fellow legend (and current co-host) Ken Jennings in terms of highest winnings for regular-season play. With that in mind, it's safe to say that Holzhauer knows a lot about how the game is played—and he's not afraid to speak his mind. During a recent interview with TV Insider, Holzhauer spoke out about some weaker questions, and the behind-the-scenes changes that may be hurting the show. Read on to find out more of what he had to say about Jeopardy!, and what he would change as a seasoned player.
READ THIS NEXT: Jeopardy! Producer Explains "Painful to Watch" Episode Amid Backlash.
Holzhauer said the questions could be "a little sharper."
TV Insider sat down with Holzhauer to discuss the ins and outs of his Jeopardy! career, including his good-natured rivalry with Jennings. Having competed so many times, the outlet also asked Holzhauer if there's anything he would change about the game, which is where he shared his opinion on what goes on behind the scenes.
"There has been a lot of turnover backstage, I will say," Holzhauer shared. "The whole production team has turned over, so you kind of see some of the things were lost when they changed hands there."
The champ continued by saying that Jeopardy! is "still a great show, but it could use a little tweaking here and there." Specifically, he said, "Some of the question writing could be a little sharper than it has been."
A recent episode had almost two dozen triple stumpers.
Holzhauer's comments coincide with criticism from fans about clues and gameplay, including a particularly troublesome episode that one fan said was "painful to watch."
During the June 7 episode, returning champion Suresh Krishnan was competing against Kristine Rembach and Collette Lee, but the typically fast-paced game was defined by an overwhelming number of unanswered clues. There were a whopping 23 "triple stumpers" during the episode, with fans on Reddit writing that the game board "was a steep step-up in difficulty" from previous games.
"This has to be in the running for worst game ever, right?" a Redditor wrote. "I mean—16 triple stumpers in [Double Jeopardy!], out of 28 questions (two questions were left unplayed). Plus only 33 correct answers across the two rounds, and two incorrect [Daily Doubles]. Wow."
Production responded to the messy game.
Jeopardy! producer Sarah Foss addressed the controversial game on the June 12 episode of the Inside Jeopardy! podcast.
"One thing not so great about this game—and actually Kristine and Collette joked about it in the post-game chat—they were really hoping that they wouldn't go viral for leaving so much money on the board," Foss said. "This has to be a record … and it's something we never like to see."
Co-host and former champion Buzzy Cohen attributed the slip-ups to timing, but conceded that it's still a "tough stat" for players.
"Maybe … it's the last game before lunch, maybe everyone's a little sleepy or something, a little hungry," Cohen said.
Foss and Cohen didn't touch on the wording or difficulty of the questions, but last week, fans again spoke out against certain clues. This time, they weren't just difficult—they were downright confusing.
Another episode caused a fuss last week.
Viewers took issue with the "Let's Make a Movie Crossover!" category from the June 19 episode, Decider reported. In a clip of the episode, contestants are visibly perplexed by some of the clues, one of which reads, "You stay classy, Kali! A 2004 San Diego news anchorman '&' a 1984 Indiana Jones title structure."
It was another triple stumpers, as none of the contestants buzzed in. Host Mayim Bialik revealed that the answer was "Ron Burgundy and The Temple of Doom."
Another clue read, "An Alan Rickman Die Hard villain 'wants those detonators' from a title Great Dane of 2002." Contestant Mary Kate Gliedt hesitantly buzzed in with "Hans Gruber Beethoven," but was ruled incorrect.
When no one else buzzed in, Bialik confirmed the correct response was "Hans Gruber and Scooby Doo." Amid awkward chuckles, returning champ Ben Goldstein even shook his head and said "no," before moving on.
On Twitter, fans complained about the odd clues. "That movie category was horrendous. Not even a mashup or a 'pun'. Just two random things. Awful," a viewer wrote on June 19.
Another quipped, "I am not getting the crossover category—just combining two movie elements into a nonsensical phrase?"
Yet another viewer added, "I hate those categories even when they are well executed, but this time it was just two nonsequiturs you need to come up with; category name was irrelevant."