Jeopardy’s 38th Season Wraps Up
Not With A Bang, But Just Another New Champion. Believe it or Not, That Should Be Business as Usual
Season 38 of Jeopardy did not end the same way the previous season did — with a super champion continuing a remarkable string. Indeed, in the six weeks since my latest article on Jeopardy, there have been no super-champions — Megan Wachspress’ six game streak was the last significant one for this season full of them.
This might come as something of an anticlimax in one of the most extraordinary seasons in Jeopardy history. However, more than all the remarkable streaks, this month and a half of very short runs of champions is as good a sign for the show as all of the amazing winners we’ve had. There have been so many remarkable champions succeeding remarkable champions that it would be easy to think this to be the norm rather than an aberration. As any long-time fan of Jeopardy knows, it is far more common for periods of weeks, if not months, to go by before one player manages to win as many as five games. If you are a true fan of the show, you have to be willing to accept the periods of one and two day champions as well as those who win five or six games in succession.
In a way, much of Season 38 has been one of the biggest outliers in the show’s long history. More than half of the season had a returning champion with a streak of at least five games (and there were also four four-game winners). This is a string practically unprecedented in Jeopardy history. Indeed, when the Tournament of Champions takes place next fall, it may be the first Tournament in the entire history of the show where every competitor has won at least five games (with the exceptions of the College Champion and Professors’ Tournament winner). It is far more common for a tournament to have quite a few four, if not even three game winners. I almost hope that whatever new fans Jeopardy has gained over the season (and considering the immense rise in ratings, there are some of them) come to accept that the streaks of Matt Amodio and Amy Schneider are the exception and not the norm.
Just as this has been the year of the extended winning streak, it truly has been the year of the woman. Amy Schneider and Mattea Roach both had remarkable winning streaks this year: Schneider’s win 40 wins and nearly 1.5 million dollars; Roach, 23 wins and over half a million. Compared to her, Megan Wachspress’ six games and just under $75,000 barely raised a blip for this season. With four women winning four games (who at this point are unlikely to be seen in the Tournament of Champions), 105 games this year were won by a female contestant, which is as close to gender parity as Jeopardy has managed to accomplish in its storied history.
The decision for Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik to continue splitting the duties of hosting in Season 39 is actually not as disappointing as some might say. In my opinion, both have done a superb job in their times in charge, both doing very well each time they had to deal with a super-champion. (I’m particularly impressed by Jennings’ at this, as I can’t imagine what it would be like to be on the other side of the lectern as players try to eradicate your record.) Both have their own quirks and charms — Bialik is slightly more humorous than Jennings’ in her quips than he is — and both do take the duties of hosting with the gravitas it deserves. Neither will ever be Alex Trebek, to be sure, but no one ever could. And perhaps this is the best strategy going forward — both have done such a fine job, it seems rather petty to give one the permanent position over the other.
Perhaps the best thing Season 38 has done is that with all of the concentration on the contestants, it managed to do what I hoped would happen at the beginning of the season — remove the controversy behind the scandals that involved Matt Richards’ becoming host, then being forced to resign permanently. For the first few weeks of the season, more people were talking about the scandals surrounding Jeopardy than what Matt Amodio was doing. By the end of 2021, the focus had shifted to the remarkable accomplishments of Amy Schneider. I’m not saying that by the time Ryan Long was in the middle of his streak, the average person was saying: “Who was Matt Richards?” But considering that almost of the coverage in 2022 was about the Jeopardy champions far more than all the hosting imbroglios, it’s hard to deny that Jeopardy is about the players and not the host. Throw in the fact that it won a Daytime Emmy and is now averaging nearly ten million viewers an episode, and it’s now clear that Jeopardy has survived the loss of Alex Trebek and the scandals that could have destroyed it.
There will, of course, still be more written about Jeopardy in the years to come, but I have a feeling that for the next few years we will be hearing more about the players and the upcoming tournaments. Anticipation for next year’s Tournament of Champions will be very high, and I already expect that long time fans are looking forward to 2023 when Jeopardy will no doubt begin the formalization of plans for the 40th Anniversary Tournament. (I’ve written about this before and will give some more suggestions during the upcoming weeks.) Jeopardy is in a better place that it was as last year, and almost certainly one that no one would have expected it could be when Alex Trebek passed away in November 2020. I think Alex hi would be proud not only to have the studio he played on being named for him, but that so many great players are still distinguishing themselves on it. That is the legacy he would have been proudest of. There’s no question about that.
Participants in the 2022 Tournament of Champions (for those of you keeping score) in order of appearance
Brian Chang, Chicago, Illinois: 7 Wins — $163.904 (January of 2021)
Zack Newkirk, Alexandria, VA: 6 wins spread over 2020/2021 (Return Delayed Because of COVID Restrictions) $124,871
Courtney Shah, Portland, OR: 7 wins — $118,558
Matt Amodio, New Haven, CT: 38 Wins (third all time): $1,518,601 (3rd all time)
Jonathan Fisher, Coral Gables, FL: 11 Wins — $246,100
Tyler Rhode, New York, NY: 5 Wins, $105,901
Andrew He, San Francisco, CA: 5 wins, $157,365
Amy Schneider, Oakland, CA: 40 wins (2nd all time), $1,382,800 (4th all time)
Sam Buttrey Winner of Professors Tournament, Monterey, CA: $100,000
Jaskaran Singh, Winner National College Championship: $250,000
Mattea Roach, Toronto, Ontario: 23 Wins (4th all time) $560,983 (5th all time)
Ryan Long, Philadelphia, PA: 16 Wins, $299,500
Eric Ahasic, Minneapolis, MN: 6 wins, $160,601
Megan Wachspress, Berkley, CA: 6 wins, $60,603
Currently holder of 15th Spot:
Jackie Kelly, Cary, NC: 4 wins, $115, 100