When Will Jeopardy! Go Back to Normal?

Wild Card this, Second Chance that - when is Jeopardy! getting back to its usual schedule?

Jeopardy! board.
Photo: Sony Pictures Television

It’s been a chaotic few years for American quiz show institution Jeopardy!

Following the death of legendary longtime host Alex Trebek in 2020, Jeopardy! embarked on a sprawling search for a replacement with 16 guest hosts vying to fill Trebek’s enormous shoes. Ultimately Jeopardy! producer Mike Richards chose himself for the role. He was then quickly fired when audio resurfaced of him using offensive language on some podcasts.

GOAT Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings and The Big Bang Theory actress Mayim Bialik were then tapped as co-hosts. But in December of 2023, Bialik was also let go from the show, leaving Jennings as the sole remaining host and ultimate heir to Trebek’s throne. While some theorized that Bialik’s own history of controversial statements led to her firing, executive producer Michael Davies recently revealed during the Television Critics Association press tour that wasn’t the case.

“Over the past two and a half seasons, what we’ve heard from a lot of from television stations and other interested parties is that they wanted more consistency. They wanted a single host,” Davies told journalists, per Variety. And Jennings, with his built-in Jeopardy! history and improvement behind the lectern, was the ultimate choice.

Ad – content continues below

With Jennings in place as sole host, Jeopardy! has had the opportunity to achieve something it hasn’t enjoyed since the Trebek years: stability. Unfortunately, doing so hasn’t been so simple. For, as many fans, have observed, Jeopardy! has yet to air a “normal” episode since its 40th season premiered on Sept. 11, 2023. These fans include none other than Jeopardy! super champion James Holzhauer.

As Holzhauer alluded to, first-time contestants have been nonexistent on Jeopardy! this year. The traditional Jeopardy! format features three contestants competing in that day’s trivia match, with the winner taking home their prize money and then returning for the next day’s contest to face two newcomers. Winners continue to come back until knocked out by another contestant, with current host Jennings holding the record for consecutive appearances at 74. Thus far, no episode in Jeopardy! season 40 has followed that format. Instead, the show has brought back old contestants for the following tournaments and mini-tournaments (as compiled by the Jeopardy! History Wiki):

Sept. 11, 2023 – Sept. 29, 2023The Second Chance Tournament with season 37 contestants
Oct. 2, 2023 – Dec. 18, 2023The Champions Wild Card Tournament with seasons 37 and 38 contestants
Dec. 19, 2023 – Jan. 15, 2024The Second Chance Tournament with season 39 contestants
Jan. 16, 2024 – Feb. 22, 2024The Champions Wild Card Tournament with season 39 contestants
Feb. 23, 2024 – March 20, 2024The 2024 Tournament of Champions

The Tournament of Champions features the previous season’s big-time champs competing against one another and has been running, off-and-on, since 1964. The Second Chance Tournament began in 2022 gives another opportunity to Jeopardy! contestants who just missed out on winning. The Wild Card Tournament launched in 2023 and brings back contestants who have won at least one game but not the five games required to be eligible for the Tournament of Champions.

Notably, none of these tournaments are “normal” Jeopardy! There’s a very good reason for that and it’s probably the one you’re thinking of right now: the writers strike.

The WGA strike that lasted for much of 2023 meant that Jeopardy!‘s staff of trivia writers were unavailable to write new clues. And while the strike was resolved in Sept. 27, 2023, Jeopardy!‘s aggressive production schedule meant that it had to record many episodes prior to its writers’ return. Consequently (and controversially), Jeopardy! opted to re-use both questions and contestants from past seasons when filming much of season 40.

Speaking on an episode of the podcast Inside Jeopardy!, aforementioned EP Michael Davies said “I also believe principally that it would not be fair to have new contestants making their first appearance on the Alex Trebek stage doing it with non-original material or a combination of non-original material and material that was written pre-strike.”

Ad – content continues below

So the good news here is that we know why Jeopardy! hasn’t aired a normal episode in some time. The bad news is that we don’t exactly know when it will. There are some clues though. While the show has made no official announcement as to when traditional episodes will resume, it’s hard to imagine producers starting yet another new tournament after the Tournament of Champions concludes in late March.

Additionally, in an October episode of Inside Jeopardy!, producer Sarah Whitcomb Foss estimated that season 40 should feature “at least 16 weeks” of normal Jeopardy! action. Back-dating those 16 weeks from the show’s usual late July finale puts the arrival of normal Jeopardy! around early April.

Normal episodes of Jeopardy! are likely right around the corner. Whether the show will win back a sense of normalcy in the post-Trebek era, however, remains to be seen.