Over the past 24-plus hours since Alex Trebek’s death, the show and many news outlets have doubled down on reporting that Alex Trebek’s final episode is set to air on December 25. Christmas Day.
Here’s where I have to say: As someone who has been following Jeopardy!—and its airing trends—over the past number of years, this is a disaster waiting to happen, and it’s a disaster that can still be corrected.
All Mike Richards is doing with this decision is entering into a massive game of chicken with not one, but two major American sports leagues and two major American television networks. This is a game that he is absolutely not going to win. FOX affiliates nationwide are absolutely not going to pre-empt the Vikings-Saints game scheduled for 4:30 PM on Christmas Day, and ABC affiliates are absolutely not going to pre-empt their slate of NBA games that are very traditional on Christmas Day, especially considering that the NBA is choosing to begin its season on December 22 in order to ensure that its traditional Christmas Day games are played. Richards is going to pit viewers who want to watch Alex’s final episode—an episode which will undoubtedly see near-record ratings for the show—with local affiliates who are likely forced to run their network’s sports programming. This is a foreseen issue that is going to upset viewers and affiliates alike if it is not resolved.
Jeopardy! moving holiday episodes is not without precedent. In 2018, when Alex had his blood clots removed from his brain, Easter episodes got pushed back two weeks in order to fit a rescheduled 2018 College Championship. Moreover, as noble as “It’s what Alex would have wanted” is, sports is still king when it comes to American television; Alex Trebek’s wishes are not going to get Jeopardy! to air over Christmas sports traditions.
In closing, I would like to make a personal appeal to you, Mike Richards, on behalf of the entire Jeopardy! fandom: Run two weeks of reruns so that we do not have to deal with widescale pre-emptions on what is to be Alex Trebek’s final episode. Push Alex’s final episode back to January 8, 2021. Your fans, who want to experience all of Alex’s remaining shows, deserve better than to have Alex’s final show pre-empted.
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