"Jeopardy!" Producer Apologizes for "Horrible" On-Air Mistake: "We Blew It"
Michael Davies said the team is working to make sure it never happens again.
Every night on Jeopardy!, contestants misstep and answer questions incorrectly—sometimes, even judges get mixed up and have to penalize or reward contestants after making the wrong ruling. But viewers generally don't anticipate the same level of unpredictability as they might find with live TV shows, as Jeopardy! episodes are pre-taped. Last week, however, fans were quick to point out a glaring on-air mistake during an episode of the Jeopardy! High School Reunion Tournament that many felt spoiled the whole game. Read on to find out what executive producer Michael Davies had to say about the "horrible" slip-up.
Contestants' scores were revealed at the very beginning of the episode.
The High School Reunion Tournament spanned three weeks, culminating with a two-day final face-off between Jackson Jones, Justin Bolsen, and Maya Wright, on March 8 and 9. On the first day of the last round, viewers were surprised to see all three contestants' final scores before they'd even answered any questions.
At the beginning of the episode, Mayim Bialik, who was behind the podium for the entire tournament, congratulated the players and reminded viewers that the winner of the competition would take home the $100,000 prize. But when the cameras panned to contestants, their final dollar amounts were clearly displayed. The scores revealed that Jones was in the lead with $24,000, Bolsen was in second with $13,570, and Wright was in third with $3,370.
Fans weren't happy to know the results of the game ahead of time.
Viewers were frustrated about the "poor editing glitch," which spoiled the first round of the final. Others were just confused, as they thought they'd skipped over an episode.
"I thought I missed a day and this was day two of a TWO DAY TOTAL POINT AFFAIR," one viewer tweeted, while another questioned how such a large error didn't get flagged in the editing process.
Thankfully, as it was only the first day of the final round, the flub didn't spoil the entire tournament. At the conclusion of the Thursday, March 9 episode, Bolsen was declared the winner, with a two-day total of $35,361—narrowly defeating Jones by just $363. Wright finished in third, with a total of $24,610.
Still, producers felt compelled to speak out about the mistake that had fans up in arms.
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Davies said Jeopardy! "made a horrible error."
During a March 13 episode of the Inside Jeopardy! podcast, Davies addressed the error, issuing a mea culpa on behalf of production.
"Right off the bat, apologies to the entire audience," Davies said. "We totally blew it at the top of the show. We made a horrible error, where we revealed the final scores at the end in the opening cutaway shot during Mayim's monologue."
The executive producer said the flub was due to a "series of errors," as opposed to just one slip-up. "It's somehow remarkable that they all happened," he said.
Producers said they needed to re-film the opening monologue.
Davies explained that the mix-up started due to production's decision to "pick up," or reshoot, Bialik's monologue. "[This was] probably the right decision, although neither Sarah [Foss] nor I can remember exactly what was wrong with the monologue, why we picked it up," he said.
According to Davies, there are a few different reasons production may do this with monologues.
"Sometimes there's a fact that's incorrect, sometimes there's just a performance issue, so we pick it up at the end of the show," he said, adding that there is also cutaway shot to contestants during the monologue.
"Of course, it should be standard procedure—and it is supposed to be standard procedure—that we take the scores in the podiums back to the original level, but it didn't happen," Davies noted.
The executive producer added that the error wasn't caught in post-production or during final quality control procedures, pointing out that there are "so many elements" that should have caught the mistake.
The team takes accountability for the error.
To prevent this from happening in the future, the producer confirmed that "a new series of protocols" were put in place, and the production team is moving forward.
"We live and learn, and we apologize for anyone whose experience of this program was ruined," Davies said. "We take these mistakes to heart so hard—the self-flagellation that happens across the senior management team and post-team and everybody involved. That's a good thing about Jeopardy!, we take mistakes really, really seriously."
Davies also stressed that production is trying to improve transparency about missteps when they do inevitably happen, addressing them publicly on social media and on the Inside Jeopardy! podcast.
He did share that the Jeopardy! team is making more episodes, with upcoming tournaments and spin-offs like Celebrity Jeopardy! and Jeopardy! Masters, which puts pressure on staff—who are already working more hours—and can lead to mistakes.
Still, he reiterated that there is "no excuse" for the error during the High School Reunion Tournament. "This was too basic, we're going to do everything we can to make sure this doesn't happen again," Davies said.