How ‘Jeopardy!’ will look different this coming season due to WGA strike
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The upcoming season of “Jeopardy!” is going to look a bit different.
The show, which relies extensively on a team of writers who are members of WGA, which is currently on strike, is subject to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers contract the guild and SAG-AFTRA union are debating.
Under union rules, any material completed prior to the strike can still be used on new productions, and “Jeopardy!” says it does have some original clues done from pre-strike days, though not enough to make it through a meaningful number of shows before running dry.
It will therefore proceed with taping new episodes using a mix of that new material along with clues from past seasons. Like with material written prior to the strike, these clues wouldn’t be subject to the disputed AMPTP contract.
A bigger twist is that the show is going to start off its new season with contestants who have already appeared.
Billed as another installment of its “second chance” tournament, the show is inviting contestants who lost on their first appearance. The show is going back to contestants who appeared on Season 37 for these games and will eventually pit them against Season 38 second chance contestants (In October 2022, “Jeopardy!” aired a second chance tournament featuring contestants who did not win their Season 38 games; these games used original clues).
The show plans to add $1,000 to winnings for second and third-place winners, in part to help offset increased travel costs.
Beyond these second-chance games, it’s not clear how the show will proceed if the WGA strike continues (technically the show could likely resume production if the WGA strike ends even if the SAG-AFTRA one continues).
Ken Jennings is set to host shows starting in September 2023. Jennings is not a SAG-AFTRA member and therefore not barred from working during the strike.
Mayim Bialik, who the show also has under contract as a host, is a SAG-AFTRA member and already sat out games in solidarity with the WGA prior to the actors’ union strike starting. Now that both unions are on strike, it’s not clear what will happen, though it is probably likely she will not appear.
“Jeopardy!” still plans on producing a new round of “Celebrity Jeopardy!” episodes to air in primetime for ABC. The show already finished writing all of the material for those games prior to the strike so it will be able to move forward with production. It is not clear if Bialik, who served as host for the past versions of these specials, will host.
Another change for the show is more behind-the-scenes: The show is increasing the maximum amount of time between passing its contestant test to when a person can be called to appear from 18 months to 24 months.
Even if the strike ends up being resolved sooner rather than later it could be a while before completely new material hits the air. “Jeopardy!” typically tapes five episodes per day twice a week, meaning it can get two weeks’ worth of the syndicated version done in just days.
This quickly starts to add up if the show continues to produce new episodes each week. Because the shows only air once daily, the show can quickly get to the point where it is taping weeks or months ahead of what viewers are seeing on TV at any one time.
The writing process on “Jeopardy!” is also known to be multifaceted, which means it could take the show at least several weeks to get enough material to move ahead with production of all new games once the writers come back. Clues have to be written, fact-checked and edited. The team also has to assemble categories and clues into games that work well together (such as avoiding having the same or similar clues twice).
The show also has to have enough clues prepared so that its compliance team can determine which games are played in which order by drawing from a pool of games. This, along with drawing from a pool of available contestants, is a safeguard to help prevent a contestant who somehow had prior knowledge of material to end up playing a specific game their had knowledge of (this would be extremely unlikely and has never been known to have occurred, but the show still uses this, along with multiple other strategies, to ensure the games are fair).
If the strike were to resolve with a significant number of episodes using the blend of new and recycled material already produced, the show could, in theory, opt to never air those episodes and, assuming production schedules allow for it, replace them with all-new episodes.
This could be done if producers felt the new episodes would attract more viewers than the recycled ones, though they would also have to weigh those factors against the production costs the show already incurred to tape and finish post-production on the completed shows, so it’s probably unlikely to happen.
Instead, it’s perhaps most likely that once the WGA strike is resolved, “Jeopardy!” would restart the process of preparing new material and then transition to airing all-new episodes with new contestants whenever it makes the most sense to do so. A lot of this could depend on when during the calendar year the strike is resolved and, because of that, viewers could start seeing new episodes in just weeks or it could be as long as multiple months.