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After Jeopardy Reveals Big Changes For Next Tournament Of Champions, One EP Explained How They Justified The Decision

Ken Jennings smiling and hosting Jeopardy
(Image credit: Jeopardy)

Despite all of the hosting hubbub that played out both on and off of Jeopardy!’s iconic stage in 2021 and 2022, with Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik now officially the permanent successors to Alex Trebek, the show itself has largely remained the same across that span. But that won’t exactly be the case for the upcoming Season 39, with executive producer Michael Davies aiming to bring more sports-esque stakes to the game show moving forward. Beyond new tournaments being added, and the upcoming primetime offering Celebrity Jeopardy!, the daytime TV staple will be shaking things up in a couple of big ways for its seasonal Tournament of Champions, and apparently those decisions weren’t easy ones to make.

After introducing the left-field twist earlier this year that the next Tournament of Champions will welcome two “second chance” champs who didn’t make the initial cut, Davies & Co. revealed that the next tourney will also mimic sports playoffs by giving the season’s three highest-earning winners — the newest Top 10 entrants Matt Amodio, Amy Schneider and Mattea Roach — a straight shot to the semifinal rounds without having to compete in the first batch of games. As well, the next ToC will change up the finals’ Two-Day Total format of yesteryear by making it a First-To-Three-Wins process, which should make things far more unpredictable for both viewers and players.

Michael Davies, who was brought into the Jeopardy! fold in the aftermath of former head honcho Michael Richards trying to take over the show amidst resurfaced scandals, has started giving fans a more in-depth look behind the scenes of the show through the burgeoning Inside Jeopardy! Podcast, and it’s on the latest episode where he, former champ Buzzy Cohen, and producer Sarah Foss talked out the impending changes. It might seem like Amodio, Schneider and Roach are getting an unfair advantage, but according to Davies, they earned it, saying:

None of these decisions were made lightly, but we looked at Mattea and Matt and Amy, we had to draw a distinction between them and the rest of our players.

Past ToC host Buzzy Cohen followed that up with further arguments for why they deserve such a unique distinction going into the next Tournament of Champions, and explains why not competing in the quarterfinals could be more of a disadvantage than Jeopardy! fans might expect. In his words: 

And you’re not talking about the three top seeds that are two or three games ahead of everyone. They have played historical runs of the game of Jeopardy! And as much as that seeding might seem like an advantage, and in some ways is, it also might be a disadvantage in that the other players they’re gonna be up against in the semifinals are gonna have a little bit of practice with the buzzer.

Cohen is definitely speaking truths there, given how important all things buzzer-related are for Jeopardy! hopefuls. To that end, Michael Davies said the producers may find a way to aid in that process as well, and in a manner that would be a slice of game show history unto itself. According to Davies:

Yeah, I would say the pushback I got from my team about seeding them was never about the advantage. It was about the disadvantage of they would then go into that second round, or the semifinals, without having played a game. And actually I think one of the things we’ve been talking about is how do we give them a practice game that feels somewhat real? A practice game, by the way, that may break the Internet were we ever to put it out there.

Considering how excellent Matt Amodio, Amy Schneider and Mattea Roach were during their lengthy win streaks, that hypothetical practice game would be like the minor league version of the GOAT tournament between Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter. It seems like the kind of thing Holzhauer would put some big bets on, too.

As wild as 2019 was for Jeopardy!, with both Holzhauer and Jason Zuffranieri crushing the competition and reaching the Top 10 of all time, the past year delivered a hugely popular trio of champs whose combined wins total more than $3.5 million. So while I can understand some people questioning why anyone is getting special treatment now without it being a thing before, this is arguably the best group of contestants to test the waters for how it’ll work. Now we just have to wait until it starts up on Halloween.

Jeopardy! Season 39 will debut in syndication on Monday, September 12, so check your local listings to see when it’s playing in your area. Celebrity Jeopardy! is one of many primetime shows hitting the 2022 TV premiere schedule, so be sure to stay updated!

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.