Happy Sunday, and I hope everyone has had an excellent summer week. I definitely have some things to say this week in my Weekly Thoughts column—I can hardly believe that it’s only been six days since the show’s Season 40 plans were announced. (It certainly felt like a lot more!)
Why These Contestants?
One question I’ve seen over the past week or so, at least since Monday’s announcement about the show’s plans for early Season 40, is, “Why are recycled clues okay for these returning players but not new ones?” Honestly, I believe the difference lies in the amount of preparation time afforded the players before this appearance. It appears the players invited to return under these circumstances have only been given about three weeks’ notice. It’s quite likely that prospective new contestants in the contestant pool would have been studying for months and very easily could have intentionally focused on the eras that the show was most likely to take repeat material from, making it very easy to have recently studied material that they may face in their shows. (It’s a strategy that I began floating on this site a few months ago). However, it is significantly less likely that a player, given only three weeks to prepare for an appearance on the show, would be able to study the vast materials required to get a significant “return on investment.” Thus, I would say it’s quite likely that “surprise these contestants so that they can’t put in significant study time” was definitely a consideration when scheduling the start of Season 40 amidst the WGA strike.
I May Be Covering The Games, But I’m Certainly Not Obligated To Cheer For Anyone
While my current plan is still to provide my usual coverage of the show during the WGA strike—and that plan will continue until and unless the WGA asks media outlets to stop coverage—it remains a fact that the WGA considers Jeopardy to be a “struck production” and that these contestants will be crossing a physical picket line to appear on the show. (And, yes, the WGA is planning on physically picketing Jeopardy on the August 15 resumption of production.) And that’s why I’m dreading the opening weeks of Season 40. The players from Seasons 37 & 38 that I most enjoyed watching are the players who are least likely to want to cross a picket line to return, and the players that I least enjoyed watching are the ones who are going to have the least amount of compunction about crossing (and some may even be openly thumbing their nose about union solidarity.) In fact, as this season header says, I am certainly not obligated to cheer for anyone who has crossed the picket line to appear in these games, and I may even find myself cheering against these players in a Tournament of Champions situation, hoping that they run into players who will take zero mercy on them in a ToC situation.
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The New UK Version Has Wrapped Taping Series 1, And I’m Concerned
For fans following the new UK version of the show, hosted by Stephen Fry, ITV’s 20-episode order has concluded taping. According to my sources, the episodes are set to begin airing in mid-to-late October. For those needing a refresher, the UK version definitely has some changes from the US version: the shows will be 60 minutes long and contain two Jeopardy! Rounds, one Double Jeopardy! Round, and then a Final Jeopardy!, and the dollar values will be £25–£50–£75–£100–£150 in the opening round.
Those are certainly going to be disappointing developments for British fans of the American version of the show, many of whom were certainly hoping for the American pace of 61 questions in about 20 minutes (the American version of the show runs for about 20 minutes if commercials are removed, and has for most of the past 30 years). Three rounds over an hour’s broadcast works great for celebrity incarnations of the show, as it allows the celebrities to vamp and be themselves without actually cutting into the content. Still, it would not surprise me if the British show felt long and drawn out.
Honestly, that’s a major reason why I think that the American game show institutions (like Jeopardy) and the British game show institutions (like Mastermind and Countdown) have never really been able to gain a footing on the other side of the Atlantic: whoever is in charge of the “game” when the show gets transported feels that they need to make unnecessary changes to somehow make the game palatable to the other country’s audience. Interestingly, the show that brought game shows back into the American consciousness in the late 1990s, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, made no changes to the format between the 1990s UK and US versions—and we all know how that turned out. (In conclusion: A good game is a good game and will be universally enjoyed if you leave well enough alone—and I fear that ITV should have left well enough alone and just given UK audiences a 30-minute game, just like the American game, even if dollar values started at £50 in the Jeopardy! Round)
The encore presentation of the Tournament of Champions begins on Monday—I hope everyone enjoys it again the second time!
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