"Jeopardy! has lost the spirit that made it an American institution," says Tom Nichols. "I am not the first to notice that the show, like other formerly amateur pursuits in America, has become professionalized and mostly closed to the casual player. It is no longer a show that celebrates the smarts of the average citizen; it is now a showcase for people who prep and practice, who enter the studio determined not to shine for a day or even a week but to beat the game itself. This, combined with the abolition back in 2003 of the long-standing rule that you must retire after five wins, has created long streaks where a few players over time crush the daylights out of the sacrificial lambs who have no real chance of beating the reigning champ without either a dash of luck or an unforced error." Nichols points out that returning champions with winning streaks have a huge advantage, having become comfortable on camera and mastering the clicker. "Watch the veterans play after they’ve won a few games. They have cracked the code, which, as paradoxical as it seems, includes completely ignoring the host," says Nichols. "The losers—again, you can watch this happen—are very focused on looking at the host, but the winners are looking at the board. They’re reading ahead, forming an answer, and waiting for the light to go on. In my best moments on the show, it was me and the board, that little light, the buzzer, and nothing else. If you’ve done all this even two or three times, new players are at an instant disadvantage. No one wants to play against a returning champ." Nichols adds: "Jeopardy! used to be a spirited, and limited, competition among ordinary Americans. Now we watch because we want to see James or Matt or Amy squash a passel of newbies every week, hapless victims for whom victory is mathematically out of reach within 20 minutes. This doesn’t reflect well on our culture. Bring in more people and make it about watching your friends and neighbors again."
TOPICS: Amy Schneider, Jeopardy!, James Holzhauer, Jonathan Fisher, Matt Amodio, Game Shows