Jeopardy Bosses Clarify Cash Bonus Rule Plans After Fans' Loud Complaints

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(Image credit: CBS)

Michael Davies’ enthusiasm for the game of Jeopardy! has been undeniable since he took over executive producing duties from the ousted Mike Richards. He’s already expanded the “sport,” as he calls it, with the primetime spinoff Celebrity Jeopardy! and the new Second Chance Tournament, and he’s not shy about vocalizing his thoughts on other possible changes to the classic quiz game that could be made. However, one of his musings caused so many loud complaints that producer Sarah Foss had to clarify the rules going forward regarding a contestant sweeping a category.

Michael Davies pondered in previous Inside Jeopardy! podcasts about the possibility of rewarding players who correctly answer every question in a single category in a row. The reward wouldn’t be something that affected their earnings in the game, he said, but rather a cash bonus. The idea drew a quick backlash from fans on social media, and even former champ Buzzy Cohen — who often co-hosts the podcast alongside the EP — was wary of the idea. But fear not! On the October 17 episode of Inside Jeopardy! (opens in new tab), Sarah Foss assured listeners that no rule changes will be taking place right now. She said: 

We’re not doing anything different with it at this point. There’s no bonus right now; nobody get upset.

She also took time to clarify how exactly sweeping a category will be handled in future episodes, saying that a player won’t be acknowledged for correctly answering all five clues in a given category, unless those five responses come in a row. Sarah Foss explained: 

We finally decided we’re not going to call out the running of a category unless it happens … within five clues. Because even Ken was like, ‘It’s too far after,’ if it’s like 10 clues ago that he started doing the category. So you will see that in future episodes, you might say to yourself, ‘Hey they got all five clues in that category,’ but unless they did them [five in a row], that’s when we’re going to give those applause and acknowledge that running of category.

This explanation seems to make perfect sense, with the fast-paced nature of the game. Especially if contestants are jumping around the board in search of a Daily Double, it can be difficult for all involved to remember how successful players are in specific categories. If someone answers all five clues correctly in a row, that’s obviously easier to notice, and therefore, those will be the instances when there will be a slight pause in the game action — as has been done for years — for audience applause and acknowledgment from the host.

Michael Davies has implemented some changes to Jeopardy! since taking the reins, including asking Mayim Bialik to change her greeting at the beginning of the show and adding a “Triple Jeopardy!” round to the hourlong Celebrity Jeopardy! episodes on ABC. However, his idea on the podcast episode “What Is Celebrity Jeopardy!?” of cash bonuses for sweeping a category were met with disdain with many on Reddit. Buzzy Cohen voiced his own apprehension, saying it would likely affect contestants’ strategies.

The former champion and the vocal fans seem to have gotten their way for now, but I trust that Michael Davies will continue to keep his eye on ways to keep Jeopardy! fresh for years to come. Check your local listings to see when to catch the daytime episodes. Celebrity Jeopardy! airs at 8 p.m. ET Sundays on ABC. 

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.