Jeopardy! Players Turn Down Rare Opportunity, With Good Reason

Jeopardy!’s 40th season is scheduled to begin on September 11. And this time around the popular trivia show is inviting past players from previous seasons to play one more time, a rare opportunity that most contestants never dreamed would happen. But to play again these contestants are being asked to cross the picket line of the ongoing writer’s strike, leading some to decline the chance to return.

Currently, hundreds of thousands of writers are on strike as the Writers Guild of America fights the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television for a better contract that will protect members from AI replacement, guarantee writer rooms remain staffed, and provide better residuals for streaming shows, among other demands. And Sony Pictures, the company behind Jeopardy!, employs WGA writers to help write all the trivia clues for each episode. But while writers are striking, the show plans to utilize unused, already-written clues and recycled ones from past seasons of the long-running trivia show. But while the show might go on, not everyone invited back for season 40 is willing to cross the picket line to make more Jeopardy!

In a new report from Polygon, former Jeopardy! contestants who were offered a chance to return for the show’s upcoming season told the outlet that they were facing a nightmarish choice: return to play again, something that rarely happens, or support the strike and its writers by saying no and not crossing the picket line.

A WGA spokesperson told Polygon that the show is run by a “struck company” and that “anyone participating in a Jeopardy! production would be crossing a picket line comprised of Jeopardy! writers who wrote the clues.”

Former players aren’t willing to cross the picket line

One season 37 player explained that she was initially excited to return and play again without all the “COVID regulations” but decided against returning until the strike is resolved, telling Polygon she was “angry” at the show and the people in charge for doing this.

“Calling with vague invitations on Thursday and then announcing publicly on Monday what the plan was before telling the invitees,” she said. “Waiting to tape season 39 [Tournament of Champions] and any possible season 39 Second Chance or Wild Card tournaments until the strike is resolved…but somehow it’s okay to invite season 37/38 players?”

A season 38 player offered a chance to return also declined, explaining that while he knows that technically crossing the line isn’t scabbing in this case—he’s not replacing striking writers or staff—he still couldn’t bring himself to do it, saying that he would be “walking through a passionate group of human beings fighting for their livelihoods” in order to appear on a TV game show.

“It’s honestly souring my opinion of Jeopardy! for putting us in this position,” explained one season 38 player offered a chance to return. “[We are] having to choose between supporting the strike and going back on the show that many of us have loved our whole lives.”

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