A Jeopardy champion is dissing the show!
Is it possible to just win too much? According to former Jeopardy! champion Tom Nichols, you absolutely can, and he thinks for this reason among others, it may be finally time for the classic game show to close up shop. Nichols argues competition on Jeopardy! just isn’t fair anymore.
Tom Nichols, a 5-time consecutive champ who appeared on Jeopardy! in 1994, told Boston Public Radio that, more than anything, a very specific rule needs to be brought back to the game show. Until 2003, after a Jeopardy! contestant won five games in a row, they were retired. The epic win streaks of people like Amy Schneider, Matt Amodio, and Ken Jennings wouldn’t have been possible with such a rule, and Nichols says the more recent champs have an unfair advantage. Speaking from experience, Nichols explained, “After about two or three wins, I think you’ve got such an advantage. You’ve been using the buzzer, which is much more important than people realize. You’re a lot more comfortable in the studio, you understand the rhythm of the game.” Newer competitors, says Nichols, don’t have a chance — not because the returning champ is smarter, but because they’ve “mastered the mechanics” of Jeopardy!
Nichols says this is all contrary to the spirit of Jeopardy! “The whole charm of the show was to celebrate ordinary Americans showing what they knew,” the former champ argues. “It was not supposed to be 38 games of Hulk Smash.”
The former champ says doing away with the 5-win rule is turning Jeopardy! champion into a professional title. “But the ratings are up, and people want to treat it like a sport and professionalize it. You might as well move the show to Vegas.” He points to James Holzhauer — who won close to $2.5 million during his 32-episode winning streak in 2019 — who Nichols calls, “a Vegas odds guy who practiced and developed algorithms” to beat the game. He also points out that when Holzhauer’s streak was finally ended it was by Emma Boettcher, a woman who had literally written her graduate thesis on Jeopardy!
The former champ also went beyond the question of Jeopardy!‘s 5-win rule, and took a swipe at the two current co-hosts — Mayim Bialik and former champ Ken Jennings. “Maybe it’s time to retire the game,” Nichols said, “especially as they’re having trouble finding hosts who aren’t annoying.”
Nichols’ words come at a time when just about all of Jeopardy!‘s winners are enjoying streaks — albeit some longer than others. Amy Schneider is on her 36th week of wins in a streak that has blasted viewership through the proverbial roof. She kicked off her series by defeating 5-time champ Andrew He, who in turn had defeated another 5-week winner — Tyler Rhode. Two winners earlier was the 11-win champ Jonathan Fisher, who had unseated the contestant who kicked off 2022, Matt Amodio whose winning streak hit 38.
All of those streaks have been accompanied by record-breaking ratings, with Jeopardy! recently being named the #1 non-sports show on television. So if the hosts are as annoying as Nichols thinks, it sure isn’t hurting the bottom line. The former champ probably shouldn’t hold his breath too long waiting for things to go back to the way they were.