"Jeopardy!" Is Returning Next Month, But Get Ready for Major Changes
Executive producer Michael Davies finally shared what fans can expect to see in September.
With the ongoing Writers Guild of American (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strikes stalling production in Hollywood, we've all been left wondering about the fate of our favorite shows—and Jeopardy! is no exception. The long-running game show employs WGA writers to draft questions, so while they're on the picket line, no new clues are being produced. But despite speculation that the series would have to pause indefinitely as a result, Jeopardy! is officially returning next month—and producers just revealed that it'll be accompanied by major changes. Read on to find out what you can expect to see come September.
The Tournament of Champions was already on pause.
Before any of the strikes were in motion, Jeopardy! was anticipated to kick off with a different format next month. As executive producer Michael Davies explained during a March episode of the Inside Jeopardy! podcast, Season 40 was set to begin with the Season 39 postseason.
The first tournament would have been the Second Chance tournament, which gives players who didn't win their first game another shot, with the Champions Wildcard up next, leading into the 2023 Tournament of Champions (ToC).
However, last month, Sony Pictures Television confirmed that the postseason, including the ToC, would be delayed indefinitely due to the strikes.
"Jeopardy! never had any intention of producing a Tournament of Champions for season 39 until the strike is resolved," the spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter. "Further, no contestants from season 39 have been contacted regarding their availability for any postseason tournaments, including the TOC. The Jeopardy! postseason represents the pinnacle of our competition, and it should feature our strongest players playing our toughest original material."
But while the show is pressing pause on the tournaments, the spokesperson confirmed that new, syndicated episodes would be airing in September, with production using recycled questions. Now, Davies has shared more details on what that will look like.
They're not just recycling questions.
During the Aug. 7 episode of Inside Jeopardy!, Davies addressed the situation, noting that the game show is in a "holding pattern."
"Obviously, the entire staff is committed to producing the best episodes we possibly can, but I understand that the best episodes that are possible are episodes that feature our writers writing original material, and the very best contestants, as we've always put on the air, playing that original material," he said, noting that writers are needed to draft questions for Season 39's strongest competitors.
But as for the "new" episodes, Davies revealed that production will not only use recycled material, but will also feature recycled contestants.
"I believe, principally, that it would not be fair to have new contestants making their first appearance on the Alex Trebek stage, doing it with non-original material or, as we'll talk about, a combination of non-original material and material that was written pre-strike," Davies said. "And so we decided that really we needed to invite back and give a second chance in general to players who probably thought that their chance to come back and play on the Alex Trebek stage had gone forever."
He continued, "So we're gonna open the season with a Second Chance tournament for players from Season 37 who lost their initial game, and winners from that will advance to a Season 37 and Season 38 Champions Wild Card."
According to Davies, the material in question includes WGA material from before the strike "which is still in the database," as well as material "that is being deployed from multiple, multiple seasons of the show."
Contestants may return, but will the hosts?
Jeopardy! producer Sarah Foss added that this new structure gives additional former contestants the opportunity to "come back and provide some great games for those of you that are looking forward to the launch of the season." (Season 38 players already competed in their Second Chance tournament, which debuted in Season 39.)
The remaining elephant in the room, however, is the question of who's going to host these new episodes. Mayim Bialik is unlikely to return before the strike is resolved, as she already bowed out of the final week of filming to stand in solidarity with the writers. Ken Jennings filled in, but he's since received heavy criticism about crossing the picket line. Both are also SAG-AFTRA members.
Davies and Foss didn't share plans for the host, and Davies conceded that he has "no idea on timing" for when the show will return to normalcy. However, he said the Season 39 postseason will begin filming once the strike ends.
As for Celebrity Jeopardy!—which is a separate show—that will proceed with original material drafted under the WGA contact before the strike began May. Foss noted that they have already started "booking exciting talent."
There's a positive change for competitors.
These aren't the only changes for the upcoming season, as Jeopardy! is also upping the prize money by $1,000 for second and third-place finishers. According to Davies, third-place finishers now receive $2,000, and second-place finishers will receive $3,000.
"This is something that we've been working on ever since I really took the reins of the show," he said. "It's something that obviously is discussed widely within our social communities and with the community of our contestants. We understand that post-COVID, travel costs have increased. We understand how complicated sort of funding a trip to Jeopardy! is for, you know, many contestants within our community."