Have you watched Jeopardy! in recent seasons and thought to yourself, “Wow, this show really isn’t what it used to be”? If so, you’re not alone. Plenty of longtime Jeopardy! viewers have expressed their disappointment online through longwinded comments on Facebook, Reddit, and trivia forum websites. Many people believe that the quality of the show has declined in the past couple of decades, and even more so in the past few seasons.
The show’s viewership remains high—9.2 million viewers per night on average so far this season—and yet complaints that Jeopardy! feels stale are coming in left and right. Maybe you’ve been watching with family or friends and they’ve left the room halfway through an episode due to boredom. It’s sad to say, but as much as we love Jeopardy!, we understand (and occasionally agree with) this sentiment. Sure, everyone’s a critic these days, but why do so many people believe in the decline of Jeopardy!’s golden age and in an increase of humdrum episodes?
It’s not so much that Jeopardy! nowadays is inherently boring, but it can be more repetitive than it was in earlier seasons. For example, contestants stay on the show for extremely long winning streaks, and the same categories that have been featured since the 1980s and ’90s start to get overused. This can translate into boredom for the viewers, whether they’re watching at home or in the studio.
In addition, some believe that the show is haughtier and more uptight than it used to be. In other words, its contestants have more acclaim when they enter the competition. Gone are the days of Jeopardy! contestants with everyday jobs—as opposed to each one being a relatively average Joe or Jane, they’re almost always experienced and readied academics.
Jeopardy! is a less fun show to watch when you know someone is going to be good at the game—you want that feeling of sitting on the edge of your seat while you’re waiting to see if a contestant will be up to the task and answer correctly. It’s going to be a more exciting program when you’re unsure of if the competitors will really know their stuff, and some of the magic gets taken away when they always do without fail.
Below, we give our in-depth analysis as to why Jeopardy! episodes these days tend to be more boring than they used to be. If you’ve been fed up with Jeopardy! recently and want to validate your feelings, read on to commiserate with all of us at Trivia Bliss.
There Are More Repeat Contestants
One major reason why some viewers believe Jeopardy! is more boring than it used to be is that contestants simply keep on winning. When a contestant wins a game, they get to continue accumulating their earnings in the following episode. This isn’t a really new concept—the show has operated this way since its inception, with one caveat.
Up until 2003, there was a limit on the number of days a contestant could play for. One could compete for five days before they were forced to retire from the show. Though this cut their running success short, they’d be guaranteed a spot in the annual Tournament of Champions, which seems like a pretty sweet consolation prize, if you ask us.
However, after 2003, this limit was revoked, meaning all bets were off in terms of winning streaks. A single particularly savvy player could conceivably continue on the show forever if their luck was good and they didn’t tire of the competition.
And an awful lot of contestants have benefitted from this lack of constraint. Most notably, Ken Jennings won 74 games of Jeopardy! in a row in 2004, just a year after the new winning streak policy was established. Jennings was a Jeopardy! favorite and has since gone on to host the show, but you expect to see a host on screen night after night—the same can’t be said for the same exact contestant. Though Jeopardy! viewers love Jennings, it’s understandable that they could easily tire of watching him ace trivia questions during his months-long winner’s reign.
Of all the newer seasons of Jeopardy!, the current one—number 38, to be exact—has been the greatest offender in terms of allowing repeat winners. It started out with Matt Amodio continuing his winning streak from the previous season. He lasted on the show for a grand total of 38 wins and 39 games, which, for a short time, made him the longest-running Jeopardy! contestant other than Ken Jennings.
But soon, Amodio’s streak was bested by none other than Amy Schneider. From November 2021 to January 2022, she played 41 games and won 40 of them before she was sent home. Amy’s streak was notable because she was the first woman to win so many games, as well as the first transgender person to gain a high level of Jeopardy! fame.
Then, towards the season’s end, 23-year-old Mattea Roach won 23 games in a row—talk about serendipity! The Canadian young adult was a favorite of many, and she drew in younger viewers to the show.
In addition to the three massive winning streaks this season, there were several shorter ones—Jonathan Fisher played 12 games, Andrew He and Tyler Rhode both played six, Margaret Shelton and Maureen O’Neill played five. With all these repeat winners showing up on the TV screen night after night, it’s no wonder that some Jeopardy! fans are getting bored. Every episode can start feeling the same if you get to know a contestant’s rhythm. Unless the winner is your favorite competitor, the boredom may set in.
Now, while these long winning streaks might translate to more boredom for some viewers, it certainly didn’t for all of them. In fact, these repeat winners gain a lot of fans throughout their runs, and many members of the audience return again and again to support their favorite. And we completely understand why—after all, it’s very impressive to watch a single individual show off so much knowledge!
Contestants Are More Prepared To Compete
As Jeopardy!’s legacy has become more and more cemented in the American zeitgeist, its contestants have become more and more prepared for their appearances. Interviews with past contestants as well as tips highlighted in trivia and Jeopardy-themed books and articles have made it easier for newer competitors to learn the tricks of the trade.
And former contestants are more willing to lay out the Jeopardy! preparation groundwork for future competitors. Winners and losers alike flock to blogs and online news outlets to write about their experiences playing Jeopardy!, including tips, tricks, and mistakes to avoid making. Not only that—there are plenty of Jeopardy! guidebooks in print. Notably, former competitors Chuck Forrest and Bob Harris have books that explicitly outline the inner workings of the show. Ken Jennings himself has written numerous trivia books, including his Trivia Almanac and Brainiac, which both serve as targeted guides to competing on the show.
Additionally (and we hesitate to make this generalization, but…), the contestants on Jeopardy! these days seem more academic than they used to be. Though the competitors’ pool has always been full of smart cookies, the show used to often bring on more blue-collar folks. Nowadays, you’d be hard-pressed to find an episode in which none of the contestants are professors or lawyers.
Obviously, you can be highly intelligent and deeply educated while working in a job of any supposed societal or economic status, but it seems like Jeopardy! is pushing a higher proportion of folks in so-called elite jobs through to the competition. This can leave a lot of “normal” people at home feeling more distanced from the game, which might lead to losing interest in it.
Categories And Questions Keep Repeating
Though there are plenty of new fun trivia facts to quiz contestants on, the show’s writers often fall back upon the same old categories. Favorites like Before and After, Potpourri, and 4-Letter Words appear again and again, and anagrams and ancient warfare categories pop up almost every season without fail. Even in different categories, old questions from previous seasons will be reused, either paraphrased or verbatim.
Sometimes, it can be fun to bring back a category that’s an old favorite—an SNL or lyric-based category is almost always sure to get the audience buzzing—but bring it back too often, and it gets a little boring. Additionally, reusing categories and questions means contestants that have studied up well (so, basically, all of them) are super prepared to answer them and won’t be likely miss them. As we mentioned above, it’s fun to watch people win, but not so much when it seems like a piece of cake from the start. We watch Jeopardy! to see the contestants overcome the competition’s challenges, not to easily ace every question and category.
We Miss Alex Trebek
We’ve yet to mention the biggest change that’s transpired on the set of Jeopardy! in the past couple of years: longtime, beloved host Alex Trebek passed away in late 2020. His death sent a world of TV fans into mourning and left everybody wondering who his successor would be.
And, to be honest, we’re still out here wondering who the next permanent host of Jeopardy! will be. If you’ve been watching Jeopardy! since Alex’s passing, you know there’s been some tumult at the host stand. If you aren’t up to speed, no worries—we’re here to recap it for you.
After Alex’s passing in November of 2020, he still had quite a few episodes that had yet to air. His final episode didn’t appear on television until January of 2021. For the rest of the duration of Jeopardy!’s 37th season, guest hosts took over at the podium to fill the gaping hole Trebek had left.
Famous television hosts and well-known personalities like Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts and Star Trek and Reading Rainbow’s LeVar Burton hosted a few episodes of season 37 each. Joe Buck, Anderson Cooper, Katie Couric, and Savannah Guthrie also had brief hosting stints. And there were plenty more as the season went on—it seemed that every couple of weeks there was a new, acclaimed host at the stand. However, this guest-hosting format didn’t stick, and thus, the show began its search for a new, permanent host.
At first, Mike Richards, the established Jeopardy! executive producer, was appointed as host. However, after only a single day of filming, he quit his position after sexist, racist, and generally hurtful comments of his resurfaced. Some of these comments had been made in person on the sets of various TV game shows, including The Price Is Right, for which Richards used to work. Needless to say, Richards was under fire, leaving his hosting job and eventually losing his production job, too. Once again, Jeopardy! was out of luck and out of a host.
After this debacle, the show announced that Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings would divide hosting duties throughout season 38. Bialik came to fame through the sitcoms Blossom and The Big Bang Theory, but she’s not just an actress—she also possesses a doctorate degree in neuroscience from UCLA, making her a great fit for this brainy game show. She’d already hosted a few times as a guest during season 37 and audiences enjoyed her performance. However, since then, there have been an awful lot of complaints about Bialik’s instatement as host—many of them misogynistic—to the point that viewers are questioning whether or not she’ll stay on permanently.
Ken Jennings, who we’ve mentioned before, was another great choice for host. His expertise as Jeopardy!’s winningest player makes him an excellent leader for the show—he’s got the rhythm of the competition down pat and knows just what the contestants are going through during every episode. There’s still no word as to who will host next season, and the current season is about to wrap up. Only time will tell as to who the permanent host will be. Without Alex’s signature wit, humor, and kindness, it’s understandable that the show might fall a little flat.
We hope you enjoyed our critique of modern-day Jeopardy!. It’s hard to watch a favorite show morph and change into something different as the years go by. However, just because certain aspects of Jeopardy! might incite more boredom than they used to, it doesn’t mean that it’s not a thoughtful and witty television program. On the contrary, it’s still a national favorite with millions of viewers each and every night, even in reruns. Plus, you can always go back into the archives and relive some of the funniest moments (or some of the worst, if that’s more of what interests you!). And if it’s no longer for you, there are always other options available!
Have any questions or comments about the recent changes on Jeopardy!? Drop them down below!