Andy’s Weekly Thoughts: May 29–June 4, 2023

What Is This?

This is Week #2 of me posting editorial thoughts on various happenings that have taken place in the world of Jeopardy! over the past week. It seems as though last week’s editorial was generally received well—I’m more than happy to continue!

Congratulations to J! Archive!

Earlier this week, J! Archive crossed over the 8,000 episode mark in terms of “episodes entered”. While maybe about 40 of them right now are partial games or placeholders, that is still an incredible accomplishment, having cataloged over 90% of all of the games ever on the show.

How I Think The Start of Season 40 Will Work

A note with this section: This all assumes that Jeopardy! is able to start production as planned for Season 40 and that there aren’t any WGA strike-related delays.

Michael Davies has said that he expects Season 40 to start with Second Chance, then Champion’s Wild Card, then the Tournament of Champions. In order for things to line up with this season’s schedule, that would mean that the Tournament of Champions final would start at the start of Week 10 (Monday, November 13), with 3 players (while this seems academic, it’s important to state this as my starting point). From there, you work backward—there are going to be 45 episodes that would need to be filled in some fashion; again, if the schedule is similar to last season, the Tuesday of Week 9 (November 7) is liable for preemptions, so that might be some sort of non-elimination exhibition match. Still, that means you have 44 (or 45) episodes where 2 players get eliminated, leaving you with 3 players on November 13. Thus, I would expect to see the total number of players between the Tournament of Champions, Champion’s Wild Card, and Second Chance to be either 89 or 91. I would also expect to see players enter the “pyramid” at different points along the way, with the Second Chance winners playing against 1-time champions with lower winnings, with those winners then playing against players around the 2-time champion level, then playing against players around the 3-time champion level. Basically, as long as you start with your 89 or 91 players and eliminate 2 every episode, you’re going to have a workable format. I’m already looking forward to it!

Why I Think Mayim’s Pauses Are Happening

I’d like to preface this by saying that I think Mayim Bialik has excellent potential, and I provide this next section in as constructive a fashion as I think I can.

Unfortunately, Mayim Bialik’s work as Jeopardy! host is still the topic of social media conversation and tabloid clickbait. I also don’t think that Mayim will be leaving the show any time soon. I think it’s very important for Jeopardy!‘s place in society that Mayim is one of the faces of the show, and those who don’t like that can find something else to do with their time when Jeopardy! airs.

One thing that I’ve noticed, as someone who has spent nearly two decades moderating for high school and collegiate quiz competitions at this point: I don’t think Mayim is anticipating the flow of the game. Here’s what I mean by this: the question and answer (or, in Jeopardy! parlance, clue and response) are a pair. They go together. When reading the clue, Mayim should have the correct response to that clue in her head ready for the contestant to match it with. (It’s the same concept of a poker dealer in a casino, anticipating the hand and looking for specific cards at showdown that will make the best hands with the community cards on the table.) If Mayim improves at anticipating the flow of the game, I think that her pausing before accepting responses will improve significantly, and the viewers will be happier with her as a whole.

On Statistical Analysis

On Inside Jeopardy! recently, while talking about Jeopardy! Masters, Michael Davies has said that he really likes the “number of correct responses” as a good statistical metric. And I agree—to a degree. One thing that could have come up in the closing stages of the last semifinal of Masters to a degree—and it’s something I realized as I was watching—with about 10 lower-valued clues left, it was obvious that the last spot in the finals was going to come down to the “number of correct responses” tiebreaker. Because incorrect responses don’t count towards the tiebreaker, this gives both Andrew (and to a lesser extent, Mattea) a perverse incentive to signal on every single clue and potentially take outlandish guesses in the possibility that they might be correct and get a crucial clue towards the tiebreaker. As someone who has recently spent a lot of time archiving Season 1 games, where players routinely got stuck having to make outlandish guesses because of the buzzer rules (namely, the idea that you could ring in immediately upon the reveal of the clue, meaning you often had to “buzz first, think later” or risk not getting in at all), this does not make for particularly entertaining television. One thing that I have done with my own prediction model: while correct responses feature incredibly prominently—it features net correct responses. As on the real show, each incorrect response takes away from a correct response. I find this more matches the scoring metric on the show and is, overall, a slightly better metric than what is essentially gross correct responses. Of course, I do understand correct responses are a more intuitive metric for the home viewer to understand, but I would suggest that in situations that don’t require a concept to be intuitive for the average viewer, that net correct responses are used instead.

In Conclusion

I hope everyone has an excellent week, and that everyone enjoys the next five episodes of Jeopardy!

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6 Comments on "Andy’s Weekly Thoughts: May 29–June 4, 2023"

  1. Michael Johnston | June 5, 2023 at 11:04 am |

    Regarding the tiebreakers, I had mentioned a week or two ago my idea to make the semi-finals a total point affair, which should practically eliminate the need for tiebreakers. Do you think it would be unwieldy for the “four players/four games” format?

  2. Andy, how far in advance of the taping of a particular show is the host given the As and Qs? Minutes? Hours? More? Completely on the fly? Just curious, if you know. Thanks.

    • Would be a matter of hours; Alex would have been given the clues the morning of a taping, and I can’t see that procedure having been changed.

      • Lynn Di Vito | June 6, 2023 at 2:51 pm |

        When I was there in March, during an audience Q&A Mayim said the material is delivered to her house the night before taping.

  3. Maybe Ken just enjoys a considerably broader and deeper range of knowledge, is quicker on his feet, and is a quicker study. They have different styles.

  4. I made a similar comment recently to say that Alex noted how hard he worked to review each clue and prepare before each game, giving the illusion that he had all of the world’s knowledge. Ken achieves the same effect, possibly by actually knowing everything, though he also shows signs of preparation (such as the exhibition match where he was eager to say the punch line of the row and ruined a clue). Mayam’s performance breaks the illusion, so we’re forced to wonder whether she lacks knowledge or doesn’t take the role seriously. I think Andy raises an interesting third possibility that she just lacks rhythm, which is something Alex honed through years of game show hosting (including non-Jeopardy), and which Ken honed as a player and managed to translate into hosting. I assume Mayam has some sense of rhythm from acting, but them I’m back to thinking that it’s a matter of her under-preparing to play the part. I actually did stop watching her episodes while Masters were airing, since I do have other things to do with my time, and while its too bad to have missed Ben Chan’s run, if Mayam’s hosting has drawn Andy’s ire again, I made the right choice. I’ll watch this space to see if things change and give her another chance if and when that happens.

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