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Why Mayim Bialik May Be Off "Jeopardy!" Indefinitely

Ken Jennings will be behind the podium for the foreseeable future—and fans aren't happy about it.

Hollywood is mostly at a standstill right now, with both the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the actors' union SAG-AFTRA on strike as they seek a fair deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents major studios. The strikes have far-reaching effects on the industry, from writers and actors who already struggle to make ends meet being out of work to most productions being on hiatus indefinitely. Though it's not one of the shows that's on hold, Jeopardy! is still impacted by the strike, as fans will see when they watch the upcoming 40th season.

In July 2022, Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings were named as co-hosts of the long-running show and it was explained that they would split the duties of hosting the syndicated show, tournaments, and special events between them. That plan has changed in light of the WGA strike. Read on to find out why you probably won't be seeing Bialik on the show anytime soon and why some fans are angry at Jennings.

RELATED: The 10 Most Beloved Jeopardy! Contestants of All Time.

Bialik temporarily stepped down in light of the strike.

Mayim Bialik hosting "Jeopardy!" in June 2021
Jeopardy! / YouTube

The WGA strike began in early May. Not long after, Bialik stopped filming new episodes of Jeopardy! in solidarity with the writers, as reported by Deadline. At that point, there was only one week left of filming for Season 39 and Jennings took over as host for the remaining episodes. Jennings received backlash for continuing to work on the show, with some people calling him a "scab"—a word for someone who crosses a union picket line. Jeopardy! employs WGA writers to write the clues used to quiz contestants.

Jennings defended himself on social media.

Ken Jennings hosting "Jeopardy! Masters" in May 2023
Jeopardy! / YouTube

Ahead of the start of filming for the 40th season, Jennings made clear that he would continue hosting the show as the strike continues. A social media user tweeted at the Jeopardy! champion, "You're a disgrace if you're trying to cross picket lines. Alex [Trebek] would NEVER do anything of the sort. He would turn over his grave seeing you act like that."

On Aug. 13, Jennings replied with a screenshot of a statement a Jeopardy! spokesperson released about the show and the strike. "Jeopardy! has a long history with and tremendous respect for the WGA and our writers," it begins. Jennings highlighted a section that reads, "However, just as we did, led by Alex Trebek during the 2007-2008 strike." The statement continues, "We will deliver first-run episodes again this fall to more than 200 affiliate stations nationwide."

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Jennings reportedly avoided writers picketing outside the studio.

Ken Jennings at the ABC Winter TCA Party in 2020
DFree / Shutterstock

Season 40 of Jeopardy! began filming on Tuesday, Aug. 15. That same day, Jeopardy! writers and former players picketed outside of the show's studio, as confirmed by the WGA. The Writers Guild of America West posted photos of members on strike and tweeted, "Writers and past contestants showed up at 6am this morning to picket @Jeopardy which began filming today with recycled questions."

The U.S. Sun reported that Jennings apparently entered the studio through an entrance that didn't require him to go past the protestors. An anonymous WGA member told the publication, "It sounded like most of the writers were there. We didn't get a chance to turn away Ken Jennings because no one saw him drive up. So he either heard there was a picket line and didn't leave home, or he went another route into the production."

Furthermore, The U.S. Sun reported that a Reddit user who claimed that they were in the studio saw Jennings hosting the taping. After noting that the filming wasn't canceled, the user responded to someone who asked if the 49-year-old was there. "Yes he was," they wrote. "And at the end of the taping, Ken told everyone his son Dylan was in the audience!"

Best Life has reached out to Sony for comment on Jeopardy!'s current host and the report about Jennings avoiding protestors.

RELATED: Jeopardy! Producer Explains "Painful to Watch" Episode Amid Backlash.

Season 40 will utilize recycled questions and returning contestants.

Mayim Bialik hosting "Jeopardy!" in February 2023
Jeopardy! / YouTube

In addition to Jennings currently being the show's only host, some other changes have been made amid the strike. Executive producer Michael Davies explained on an episode of the official Jeopardy! podcast Inside Jeopardy! that no new contestants will be on the show during the strike.

"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. Because of this, Season 40 will open with a Second Chance tournament, which will see former contestants return. That said, some former contestants have already claimed to have turned down invitations to return in solidarity with the unions.

As Davies mentioned, the other big departure from normal gameplay is that the show will be using a combination of clues that were written prior to the strike and recycled clues from past episodes. That the show is working around the strike rather than going on hiatus has viewers upset and announcing that they will boycott.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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