Former "Jeopardy!" Champs Boycotting Tournament of Champions—Here's Why
The players are top seeds for the tournament, but they plan to stand in solidarity with the WGA.
Season 39 of Jeopardy! comes to an end this week, meaning devoted fans will be watching reruns while the show is on hiatus. Viewers eagerly await September, when Season 40 is set to kick off with the Tournament of Champions (ToC): the stiff competition that pits up to 21 players against each other—all of whom won at least five consecutive games the previous season. But in order for there to be a ToC, you need champions to participate—and the situation is getting complicated, as former Jeopardy! champs say they plan to boycott the competition. Read on to find out why these recent winners are opting out this year.
The WGA strike shows no sign of ending soon.
In May, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike, pressing pause on most television shows. Jeopardy! has its own team of writers responsible for those tricky trivia questions—and while all of the content for Season 39 was completed ahead of the WGA strike, the same cannot be said for Season 40. With the strike potentially continuing through the fall, fans are worried about the fate of the show in 2023.
Executive producer Michael Davies has been exploring options for the show should the strike press on, with one strategy being to reuse old questions to film new episodes. This approach, however, has the potential to anger fans who support the strike, TV Insider reported.
The ToC is the first on the docket to be filmed, but to stand in solidarity with writers, former champs confirmed they don't intend to cross the picket line.
One of the big winners from Season 39 was the first to speak out.
On Reddit, Jeopardy! champions are taking a stand—and calling for others to join them.
"I'd like to break my accustomed social media avoidance and reach out to the broad Jeopardy! community if I may," Season 39 Jeopardy! champ Ray Lalonde wrote on Reddit last week. "There are now credible reports that the producers are making contingency plans to start filming the next season of the show with old and/or recycled material if the WGA strike remains unresolved."
Lalonde, who won 13 straight games this season, said that he's a "lifelong devoted fan" of the game show" and noted that competing in the ToC "is beyond a dream come true." However, that doesn't change his stance on the strike.
"I believe that the show's writers are a vital part of the show and they are justified in taking their job action to secure a fair contract for themselves and their fellow WGA members," Lalonde continued. "As a supporter of the trade union movement, a union member's son and a proud union member myself I have informed the show's producers that if the strike remains unresolved I will not cross a picket line to play in the tournament of champions."
Four of the other top players from Season 39 pledged their support.
Lalonde mentioned that he took a public stand to "perhaps influence some future decision to proceed without the writers and to encourage any others in the community who feel the same way to speak out as well."
And speak out they did: Several other champs have since come forward to say they don't plan to compete.
"As I have already told Ray personally, though like all of us I am a huge Jeopardy fan and it was a dream to appear on the show, I fully agree with his stance and will not participate in any games comprised of recycled clues while the WGA strike is in effect," 21-day champ Cris Pannullo wrote in response on Reddit.
Another Redditor identified as eight-day champ Hannah Wilson wrote, "I'll stand with you, Ray! A TOC with all recycled clues doesn't sound like much fun to play in, anyway."
Ben Chan chimed in too, adding, "Ray, thank you for taking this stand. If you are out I am out," while Troy Meyer wrote, "I stand with Ray!"
RELATED: 8 Most Awkward On-Air Jeopardy! Moments.
Another former winner suggested an alternative championship.
But some former Jeopardy! winners are going even further when it comes to supporting the writers. Also on Reddit, last season's one-day champion Dan Wohl suggested the possibility of an alternative tournament as a fundraising opportunity.
"If the strike does end up torpedoing the postseason (including the Champions Wild Card which I was ecstatic to qualify for but will certainly never cross the picket line for), maybe we can organize some kind of alternative online trivia contest/event with as many S39 champs as possible and somehow make it a fundraiser for the WGA," he wrote.
In response, Reddit users were enthusiastic, with one replying, "This is a seriously great idea!"
It's unclear what the future of Jeopardy! is in 2023.
On Twitter, one user wrote that Lalonde, Pannullo, Wilson, Chan, and Meyer make up five of the top six seeds for the TOC competition, with Stephen Webb accounting for the remaining spot. According to the tweet, fans are still waiting on a statement from Webb, who won eight games earlier this year.
But beyond the competitors, there are also concerns about the hosts of Jeopardy! Both of the show's current co-hosts, Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik are members of the Screen Actors Guild—American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), which is now also on strike.
Bialik already opted not to host the final week of Season 39 to stand in solidarity with the WGA, with Jennings taking over to wrap up filming. It's unclear what will happen moving forward, but if the strike continues, TV Insider reports that viewers will likely be watching reruns instead of new episodes this fall.
Best Life reached out to Jeopardy! for comment, and will update the story upon hearing back.