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Mayim Bialik Reveals Little-Known Fact About How Jeopardy's Correction Process Actually Works

Mayim Bialik smiling on Jeopardy stage
(Image credit: Jeopardy)

Every so often during an episode of Jeopardy!, the host will interrupt the flow of the game with an update (usually following a commercial break) to say that the judges conferred over an answer and chose either to give money to a contestant for an answer that was previously ruled as wrong, or to take money away from someone whose guess was errantly declared correct. After the announcement is made and the money is adjusted, play resumes in a normal fashion. It's always looked so simple, right? It’s trickier than it looks, though, according to current co-host Mayim Bialik, who recently divulged some interesting details regarding what happens behind the scenes of Jeopardy! when corrections are made.

When Alex Trebek was the host of the classic quiz show, fans weren't privy to a whole lot of information about the game show's inner workings. Since his death in late 2020, however, a number of different celebrities (including Jeopardy!'s GOAT Ken Jennings) have taken on guest-hosting duties, and fans have regularly enjoyed more peeks behind the curtain. Mayim Bialik has spoken about everything from reshooting questions if she makes a mistake to the feedback she gets on her wardrobe. When she appeared on the podcast Steve-O’s Wild Ride, she talked to the Jackass veteran about the process involved when Jeopardy!'s judges go into correctio-mode, and it sounds far more time-consuming than one would ever guess just from watching. She said:

We sometimes shut down for close to an hour over one decision So, you don’t see that. You just see the like, ‘Oh, they rule on this,’ but any episode where we correct someone’s score, like, ‘The judges have ruled that mahogany is also an acceptable tree that begins with an M,’ or whatever it is, that usually means we’ve shut down for like an hour.

It sounds like even just a single questionable response could turn an already long day of filming into something far less manageable, especially considering they shoot a week’s worth of episodes per day. I can also see that being frustrating for the contestants who are trying to develop a rhythm and remain focused on the answers. Of course, there is a need for the show's team to get things right, since viewers are oh so quick to jump on social media whenever the facts don't add up. To that end, Mayim Bialik said there is a lawyer on set all day to make sure everything is on the up and up. 

After all, one change in dollar amount can affect the whole game, and the Call Me Kat actress explained how the judges try to anticipate different answers the contestants might provide:

So, for certain things, they’ll already list other acceptable answers, for things where a couple answers are acceptable, or they’ll make a note, if like, ‘Oh, if they say this, they need to be more specific,’ right? So, I’m like learning those things. But sometimes, they’ll come up with something and I’m just like, ‘I don’t know.’ And so, yeah, I have a light that turns green if it’s a go and it turns red if it’s not.

Yikes! I have a newfound respect for Alex Trebek and the other hosts who make these kinds of moments look so easy and effortless. The adjustment period certainly hasn’t been seamless for Jeopardy! after Trebek's death, even outside of the hosting decisions, as a couple of episodes that aired in March suffered from technical glitches that caused the Jeopardy! winner to be revealed before the game had been played out. In one instance, Final Jeopardy! was aired where Double Jeopardy! should have been, which was possibly just an editing error; and in the other instance, the players’ final scores were shown in the middle of Double Jeopardy!, suggesting that part of the episode was reshot. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have taken the judges any time at all to declare those moments incorrect.

Fans may know more now about what goes on behind the scenes at Jeopardy!, but what we don’t know is who’s going to be standing behind the lectern after Season 38 ends this summer. Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings are sharing duties until then, and fans are curious to see which of them, if either, will be chosen as the permanent host going forward. Check your local listings to see when to watch Jeopardy! in your area, and be sure to check out our 2022 TV Schedule to see what premieres are coming up.

Heidi Venable
Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.