Jeopardy EP Addresses 'Horrible Error' And Tries To Explain How Episode Immediately Spoiled Contestants' Scores

Mayim Bialik on Jeopardy!
(Image credit: Jeopardy!)

Jeopardy! is a long-running and well-respected institution in the world of game shows, and big mistakes aren’t exactly the norm — even if Ken Jennings had to defend himself against a couple of perceived gaffes in recent weeks. However, one “horrible error” was made, executive producer Michael Davies admitted, when the results from Part 1 of the Jeopardy! High School Reunion Tournament finals were shown at the beginning of the episode. The EP discussed what happened, including the protocols put in place to prevent it from happening again and what circumstances might have played into the issue.

The High School Reunion Tournament welcomed back former teenage contestants, with Jackson Jones, Justin Bolsen and Maya Wright advancing to the finals for a shot at $100,000. However, as host Mayim Bialik introduced the first portion of a two-day total-point affair in the opening minutes of the episode, the camera cut to the players, with what turned out to be their final scores displayed on their podiums. Executive producer Michael Davies issued an impassioned apology on the Inside Jeopardy! (opens in new tab) podcast for the mistake, saying: 

Right off the bat, apologies to the entire audience, we totally blew it at the top of the show. We made a horrible error, where we revealed the final scores at the end in the opening cutaway shot during Mayim’s monologue. It’s a series of errors that it’s somehow remarkable that they all happened.

Michael Davies explained that they had wanted Mayim Bialik to reshoot her introduction, which sometimes happens because of a factual error or performance issue. While neither he nor producer Sarah Foss could remember the reason for the pickup, the EP said he’s sure that was the right call; however protocol was not followed in the steps that followed. He continued: 

Of course, it should be standard procedure — and it is supposed to be standard procedure — that we take the scores on the podiums back to the original level, but it didn’t happen. This was then not caught in [post-production], and it was not caught in the final [quality control]. There are so many elements that should check this. We have now put in place a new series of protocols that will prevent this from happening again.

All in all, with the episode in question being the first day of a two-day final, things definitely could have been worse. Knowing the winnings at the end of Day 1 didn’t spoil the overall winner — in fact, it was Justin Bolsen who claimed the $100,000 prize, after finishing the first half of the final in second place.

However, that gave Michael Davies no sense of relief, and he described what the senior management and post-production teams put themselves through in the aftermath of spoiling their own episode as “self-flagellation." And while he didn’t use it as an excuse, Davies offered one possible reason for how such a mistake could have occurred, explaining:

I think one thing I’d also say is that every part of the Jeopardy process — and this is a good thing for Jeopardy!, as we grow, as we do Masters, as we take on these tournaments, as we’ve done Celebrity this year, as we’re doing all these new versions — there is some pressure on this production. We’re making more episodes, people are working more hours and so that does lead to mistakes. But still no excuse for this, this was too basic, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

If Michael Davies is right, and introducing several new spinoffs and tournaments to Jeopardy!, including the High School Reunion Tournament, the upcoming Jeopardy! Masters, the recently wrapped Celebrity Jeopardy!, is going to cause fatigue amongst his crew and therefore a drop in quality, it’s better to learn this lesson now. Hopefully the EP is working on a solution to ensure his staff doesn’t suffer burnout. 

With the end of the most recent tournament, Ken Jennings has taken over hosting duties again, and he’ll remain in charge until April 28, before Mayim Bialik finishes out the remaining episodes of Jeopardy! Season 39. Check your local listings to see when to catch the game show in syndication, and see what other premieres are headed your way with our 2023 TV schedule

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.