The Jeopardy Controversy People Should Be Concerned With
Conclusion: Not the One I thought I’d Start With
I mentioned earlier in this article Super Jeopardy, the shows first big tournament. It aired on consecutive weeks in the summer of 1990. Like almost all tournaments, it was experimental in nature. There were nine quarterfinal matches, each of which contained four former champions. Score was kept in points, not dollars — and it wasn’t quite like any version before or since. The Jeopardy round had point values from 200 to 1000; the Double Jeopardy round had values from 500 to 2500. The matches were aired in a different style than future tournaments; rather than wait until all the quarterfinals were finished before moving on to the semifinal round, there would be three quarterfinals, then a semi-final, all leading up to a winner take all game for a quarter of a million dollars.
Thirty five champions from the previous six years appeared on Super Jeopardy. (There was a special one, which I’ll get to in a bit. )And while many of them were five game winners, Tournament of Champions winners and Teen and College Champions, none of them ended up winning.
Bruce Seymour won almost $55,000 in four games in 1988. He was eliminated in the quarterfinals of that year’s Tournament of Champions. Two years, he was asked back to Super Jeopardy. He edged out a win in his quarterfinal match; more impressively won his semi-final and utterly demolished his opponents in the final to win the grand prize.
I suspect that most of the people reading this article don’t know Bruce’s name or may not even be aware of Super Jeopardy’s existence. That’s because Jeopardy ever since then, has gone out of its away to pretend this first major tournament never happened.
Bruce has not been invited back for Super Tournament since then. He didn’t meet the qualifications of the Ultimate Tournament of Champions I listed earlier, but just as they ignored Elise Beraru for a bye, they did the same for Bruce. He was not invited back for either of the two tournaments I mentioned, even though he was more qualified by far than some of the other participants in either. But they’ve also subtly erased the entire tournament from other aspects.
Many of the players in Super Jeopardy have appeared in at least one of the Tournaments I have listed above. Their experiences in that tournament don’t seem to come up in any of the interviews that were given prior to that. And there’s been a very subtle erasure of Bruce’s accomplishment. Introducing Robin Carroll in the Ultimate Tournament of Champions, Alex said she was the show’s all time money winner, prior to the Million Dollar Masters. Now Robin had won a lot of money, over $200,000… but that is still less than Bruce did after Super Jeopardy.
So why has Bruce Seymour been erased from Jeopardy history? Well, that’s a strong word. If you go on YouTube and type in the words Super Jeopardy, you can find quite a few matches from that tournament. So I guess the question is: why are they pretending it didn’t happen? I don’t have a ready answer for that. I know that there might have been plans for another Super Tournament the following year -Alex seemed to imply as much in his closing comments — but, for whatever reason, they never followed up. Was there some kind of corruption behind Bruce’s wins? I’ve looked at the archives of the game on j.archive.com and there doesn’t appear to be any evidence, but of course that’s just a listing of the clues, not a visual.
It just seems odd…to edit your past like that, especially considering that Jeopardy is a show that celebrates the distant past more than any other game show. Hell, there’s proof of that on Super Jeopardy. I mentioned that there were 35 former champions from the previous six years. Player 36, however, was Burns Cameron, who was the all time money winner in Jeopardy’s original incarnation in the 1960s and ’70s. (His winnings: $11,110.) Indeed, he actually was one of Bruce’s opponents in the first match he won. You could argue that Bruce has actually a greater link to Jeopardy’s origins than any player in the series history. Which actually makes it even odder that he, and the tournament he won, don’t seem to be part of the series chronology anymore.
I imagine those of you who have stuck with me through this are wondering: Do I have a point? And I’m not sure I have a convincing one.
Except, maybe, this. Everything I have made an argument as a problem with Jeopardy has nothing to do with Alex Trebek. Whatever his role was when it came to the series, he had nothing to do with picking the contestants and very little to do with asking who came back to future tournaments. Those decisions must ultimately rest with the people behind the scenes of Jeopardy. And Mike Richards is still one of those people. There was a huge outpouring of elation over the fact that Richards will not be hosting the series. What everybody seems to have forgotten is that he’ll still be producing it.
As I have stated time and again, I watch Jeopardy for the contestants and the champions far more than whoever finally gets the job. And if there is some kind of problem with how the contestants are being chosen for the show (which to be perfectly clear, there is no evidence of at all and may be a figment of my imagination), then the people who were protesting Richards’ taking Alex’s job have been pointing their anger in the wrong direction. People may have questioned Richards’ qualifications as being the face of Jeopardy and that’s fine. But what goes on behind the scenes is ultimately more important to the series continued success than any tweets or comments by him.