Fish and visitors stink after three days. But “Peril!” winners like Mattea Roach, in the new era of super-champion, can stay as many weeks as they want.
So, at least, say many fans.
Roach, a 19-day champion as of Friday, is part of a new generation of uber-winners who — some rejoice and others complain — are fundamentally changing the nature of the beloved quiz where competitors respond in the form of a question.
In recent months, Amy Schneider (40 games), Matt Amodio (38 games), James Holzhauer (32 games), and Jason Zuffranieri (19 games), among others, have shot “Jeopardy!” in a game of streaks.
Roach, a tutor from Toronto who has earned $460,184 to date on the show, ranks sixth in show earnings.
“However you slice it, we’ve had some amazing champions this season, and at just 23, Mattea plays in the stadium of any of them,” host Ken Jennings said on Thursday. .
The fact that Jennings, the greatest “Jeopardy!” The all-time champion (74 games) became the show’s de facto host after iconic host Alex Trebek died at the end of 2020, seems to land him. “Peril!” is now a giants game – and, once in a while, a giantslayer.
But – and this is the distinctive nature of “Jeopardy!” and its fans – for the most part they are very nice giants.
“Mattea is so wonderful,” said Nancy Chiller Janow of South Orange, a librarian who herself appeared on “Jeopardy!” in 1989.
“I love his enthusiasm and his eccentricity,” Janow said. “And her compassion for the other contestants. All she did was praise the people who opposed her. And they do the same for her. If the people she conquered feel that way, she must be OK. “
Janow happens to be in an interesting position to compare.
When she performed “Jeopardy!” 33 years ago, the “five-part rule” was in effect. Competitors were limited to one week of games – the number played in a single day of shooting. This ensured that the jackpot was never extreme. He also campaigned against stars like Mattea Roach.
“I was sure I was going to play for five nights,” said Janow, who stumbled on the first night’s Final Jeopardy: “The only Shakespeare play with an English locale in its title.”
“The Merry Women of Windsor”, of course. She was devastated, as a librarian, to remember this later. She wrote “Two Gentlemen from Verona”. “Maybe I was going to Verona, NJ,” she said.
There was, she notes, no cash prize for second or third place at the time. The finalists received gifts. “I have great sportswear for him and for her, and a lifetime supply of Lifesavers,” Janow said. “I gave them all to my PTA.”
One thing the competitors didn’t have to worry about in 1989: bullying the mega-champions.
That all changed in 2003, when the five-game rule was scrapped. The following year, 2004, Ken Jennings became the first and most fearsome “Jeopardy!” Monsters, earning over $2.5 million in its five months on air.
In the process, many viewers got hooked. The question of when, or if, Jennings would fall kept “Jeopardy!” fans glued to their screens and ratings boosted. But, say some fans, something may have been lost in the process.
“As a viewer, I find it less interesting when a player is so dominant,” said Elmwood Park’s Christine O’Donnell, who herself appeared on “Jeopardy!” in September 2018.
“I love the show’s competition,” O’Donnell said. “When it’s Final Jeopardy and they can’t be caught, it’s a little less interesting than when the other contestants are nearly tied.”
She, in fact, been caught on Final Jeopardy. The category was 20th century novels. The clue: “‘I Killed My Brother’ is told near the end of this 1952 book with a biblical title and plot echoing a biblical story.”
She replied “The grapes of wrath”. The correct answer was “east of Eden”.
The good author in any case: John Steinbeck.
“So I’m in LA, and I’m going to the Warner Bros. studio the next day, and you’re literally visiting the house where ‘East of Eden’ was filmed,” she said. “And then they showed you the poster. It was painful.”
Back to basics?
In light of the recent wave of super champions, some have demanded the return of the five-game rule.
They worry that the show is starting to be driven by big wins and big personalities, rather than just the egalitarian love of trivia that drew so many of them to “Jeopardy!” the first place.
They fear that ordinary viewers, watching these braniacs whose knowledge seems so superhuman, will no longer find “Jeopardy!” ambitious – something they might also be able to do. They worry about Moneyball types, number crunchers, now following “Jeopardy!” with a head full of statistics and handicaps.
But others like the stars: James Holzhauer with his playful arrogance, Amy Schneider with her tattoos and kindness, Mattea Roach with her endearing chatter.
“I think that makes it more accessible to the average person,” said Florida’s Genevieve Sheehan, who was on the show in October 2009.
A star contender, she says, is an additional title that lifts the “Jeopardy!” profile in culture. For her and many “Jeopardy!” fans, it’s always a win.
“‘Peril!’ In the past two years, social media has gotten a lot better, in terms of promoting his wins and sharing the contestants’ relatable moments and goofy moments,” Sheehan said. “They’ve gotten better at memification. They’ve shared more in-depth contestant stats.”
Let it be “Jeopardy!” is or isn’t a different game for viewers, it certainly is a different game for gamers.
Connecticut’s Terry Wolfisch Cole, who appeared on the show on January 6 of this year, had watched in dismay as Matt Amodio picked up victory after victory. When he was finally defeated on October 11 – a few weeks before his scheduled November 1 taping – she remembers breathing a sigh of relief. “I was kind of rooted against him,” she said. “When he lost, I screamed out loud and called my sister and said, ‘Oh my God, Matt lost!’ ”
What she didn’t take into account was that “Jeopardy!” shows are taped months before they air. When she arrived in California and entered the sound stage, she entered a jigsaw.
shock of his life
“When I walked into the room, America hadn’t yet met Amy Schneider, who had already won 23 games,” she said. “When they told us that, we thought they were joking.”
They were not.
“I had thought Matt was such an aberration,” she said. “I didn’t think for a minute that I would run into a super-champion. I thought by the time I showed up it would be back to ‘Jeopardy!’ “
Terry lost that match. But not without marking a personal triumph: she beat Amy at a key moment, in the “Missouri Compromise” category. “Amy got it wrong,” as Terry recounts on his website tellmeanotherstories.com.
“The question was about a former political party,” Cole said. “Amy replied ‘Whig.’ I got to buzz with ‘Federalist.’ If you watch the episode, you can see me smiling when it happens.”
Why this sudden wave of super-champions? There are a number of possible explanations, the least of which is pure coincidence.
But Cole notes that most recent champions have been young. And that can give them an advantage – if not in breadth of knowledge, then in speed on the all-important signaling device. Good reflexes, plus a youth spent playing video games, could make all the difference.
“A lot of super champions are, relatively speaking, young,” Cole said. “They’re no older than 50. They might be more comfortable with a pimple under their thumb than someone who’s 60.”
Jim Beckerman is an entertainment and culture reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to its insightful reports on how you spend your free time, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.