While it may have seemed like the late Alex Trebek was an omniscient being who knew the answers to every clue in Jeopardy!, and that new hosts Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik are similarly all-knowing, that’s just not the case. Those carefully curated clues, questions, and categories are created by the series’s writers. The ongoing WGA strike includes the game show’s writers, and they’ve been on the picket line since day one, telling Variety, “Without us it’s just an empty blue screen.”
Now Jeopardy! producers are scrambling to pull together the show’s 40th season, slated to premiere on September 11. According to TV Insider, executive producer Michael Davies has proposed continuing with the schedule as usual, pulling questions from past seasons of the series’s long history to shape the show. This comes after The Sun reported on past contestant Ray Lalonde’s recent Reddit post, in which he claimed “There are now credible reports that the producers are making contingency plans to start filming the next season of the show with old and/or recycled material if the WGA strike remains unresolved,” while showing his support for the striking writers. Elsewhere on Reddit, Jeopardy! fans weighed in on a poll regarding the potential change, with a majority of responses going toward the options “I'm against it, it's just a way to make money at the expense of the writers” and “I'd rather see reruns with Alex until the strike is settled.”
Even if the producers decide to continue with old questions for Season 40’s premiere, they may run into trouble finding contestants to answer them. Several former Jeopardy! champions have already said they will not cross the picket line to participate in the upcoming Tournament of Champions.
Lalonde made his position clear, writing on Reddit: “As a supporter of the trade union movement, a union member's son and a proud union member myself I have informed the show's producers that if the strike remains unresolved I will not cross a picket line to play in the tournament of champions.” Former champions Chris Pannullo, Ben Chan, Hannah Wilson, and Troy Meyer all voiced their support in the comments of the post, and Ike Barinholtz, the Celebrity Jeopardy! winner who was invited to join the Tournament of Champions, is currently on strike as a vocal member of SAG-AFTRA. The pickings for that particular tournament at least are starting to get slim.
Jeopardy! co-host Ken Jennings has already been criticized for stepping in for Mayim Bialik after his co-host chose to step back in solidarity with the striking writers in May. Oddly, Jennings vocalized support for the strike on his Twitter feed before it was announced that he would sub in for Bialik — he’s been silent on the issue since.
As of now, the alternative to reusing questions is simply re-running old episodes of Jeopardy! Either way, loyal viewers will likely have to wait for the AMPTP to give WGA writers a fair contract to test their mental mettle with fresh trivia again.
New episodes of Jeopardy air daily on ABC through July 31 (check local listings for time). Join the discussion about the show in our forums.
Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R.