Record-Breaking Jeopardy Champ Amy Schneider Recalls How She Was Originally Supposed To Be On The Show Before Alex Trebek Passed Away

Amy Schneider’s historic showing on Jeopardy! came at an interesting time for the longtime quiz show. Not only has the show seen an unusual number of extended runs in the past couple of years, it’s still trying to permanently replace legendary host Alex Trebek, who died in November 2020. Schneider, the only woman in Jeopardy! history to surpass the million-dollar mark and first out transgender contestant to qualify for the Tournament of Champions, was supposed to appear on the show long before she made her debut November 17, 2021 — in fact, she was first scheduled to be on when Trebek was still the host. 

When Jeopardy! contestants pass their last round of interviews, they go into an active pool, Amy Schneider recently recalled to EW, after her winning streak ended at 40 games. In the next 18 months, you either get the call to be on the show, or you start the application process all over again. Schneider got the call in 2020, and she recalled how COVID delays kept her out of the game until after Alex Trebek’s passing.

The first taping date that I was scheduled for was shortly before Alex Trebek passed away. I obviously didn't know that at the time, but I knew the time was limited, so I was pretty happy that it looked like I'd actually managed to get the chance to play with Alex. And then at the last minute, there was some kind of COVID thing that canceled taping. They rescheduled me, and then, before my next date to be there, Alex did pass away. And at that point, because they'd already rescheduled me a few times there, they just put me on hold until they felt like things were stable and settled down just so as to not have to keep rescheduling me.

What a strange kind of limbo Amy Schneider and all of the other potential Jeopardy! contestants must have felt at that time. Alex Trebek had been the show’s host for 37 years, and all of a sudden, not only did those in the pool not know if or when they’d make it on the show, but they didn’t know whether or not it would be Trebek reading them the clues. It must have been especially disappointing for those like Schneider, who were scheduled to be on before COVID wreaked havoc on normal life as we knew it.

In the aftermath of Alex Trebek’s death, Jeopardy! went through a number of guest hosts before settling on executive producer Mike Richards to fill the spot. However, Richards came under fire for offensive statements he’d made on a podcast, and he was removed as host and EP from both Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. At the time Amy Schneider threw her support behind LeVar Burton — as many of us did — to replace Trebek, but she said she liked both of the show’s current co-hosts, as former champion Ken Jennings and Call Me Kat star Mayim Bialik were tapped as the semi-permanent replacements.

That delay between when Amy Schneider was first scheduled to appear on Jeopardy! and when she actually did may have prevented her from meeting Alex Trebek, but it also might have helped her complete such a successful run on the show. Jeopardy! has seen extended runs in the past couple of years, not just from Schneider, but also from Matt Amodio — who won 38 games — and Jonathan Fisher, who won 11. As one Jeopardy! producer shot down the idea that the clues are getting easier, another theory for the cluster of streaks is that the current contestants had that extra time to study. 

Hopefully that cool $1.4 million in Amy Schneider’s bank account is enough to make up for any lingering disappointment she feels about not meeting the legend. The Jeopardy! National College Championship begins at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday, February 8, on ABC, which will be hosted by Mayim Bialik, and be sure to check out our 2022 TV Schedule to see what other premieres are coming soon.

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.