Tom Nichols, a five-time champion of the game show, recently told Boston Public Radio that he thinks the solution is to limit these endless streaks of success, which would involve retooling some of the player rules.
Before 2003, Jeopardy contestants were allowed to win only five consecutive games before they were forced to "retire." When that rule was lifted, smarties like Ken Jennings — who in 2004 became the highest consecutive winner in Jeopardy history — began to hold the champion spot for weeks on end.
Eric McCandless via Getty Images; Jeopardy Productions Recent 'Jeopardy' champs James Holzhauer and Amy Schneider
"After about two or three wins, I think you've got such an advantage. You've been using the buzzer, — which is much more important than people realize; you're a lot more comfortable in the studio; you understand the rhythm of the game," said Nichols. "Newer people just walking in there don't really have much of a chance, and that's purely because the returning champions have mastered the mechanics of the game."
"If you've done that for eight, nine, 10 games, there's a reason they used to retire you," he continued. "But the ratings are up, and people want to treat it like a sport and professionalize it. You might as well move the show to Vegas."
Nichols sees this change to Jeopardy as its downfall, pointing out, "The whole charm of the show was to celebrate ordinary Americans showing what they knew. It was not supposed to be 38 games of Hulk Smash."
Since contestant Amy Schneider began winning games last year, viewership of the game show has soared. Schneider is only the fourth contestant — and the first woman — to hit the $1 million mark, after Jennings, James Holzhauer in 2019, and Matt Amodio in 2021.
If the show isn't going to tweak its rules in a "post-[Alex] Trebek" world, maybe it should consider going away altogether, the former Jeopardy champ proposed in a recent piece for The Atlantic.
"Maybe it's time to retire the game — especially as they're having trouble finding hosts who aren't annoying," Nichols wrote. "I've seen a few games recently in which some of the contestants simply had no chance even on a more level playing field. I want everyone on Jeopardy to have a good run, not just wave to Mom and Dad and then get creamed."
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