“Jeopardy!’s” Tournament of Champions has a bigger problem on its hands than trivia this year.
Starting with a Reddit post made on Friday by 13-time “Jeopardy!” winner Ray Lalonde, several prominent contestants have pledged not to return to the series to compete in the Tournament of Champions in solidarity with the Writers Guild of America, as the series employs WGA members.
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Lalonde, an IATSE member who works in scenic design, wrote that that there were “credible reports that the producers are making contingency plans to start filming the next season of the show with old and/or recycled material if the WGA strike remains unresolved.” Lalonde then went on to praise “Jeopardy!” writers for their work and their current efforts to secure a new deal with the studios, before making a promise to support them. “As a supporter of the trade union movement, a union member’s son and a proud union member myself I have informed the show’s producers that if the strike remains unresolved I will not cross a picket line to play in the tournament of champions,” he said.
“My hope in saying this publicly now is to perhaps influence some future decision to proceed without the writers and to encourage any others in the community who feel the same way to speak out as well,” he said at the end of his post. “A few small voices may not change any minds but we can try.”
A “Jeopardy!” spokesperson shared a statement Tuesday evening, affirming that the series had no plans to produce a Tournament of Champions until the strike is resolved. The spokesperson also stated that no contestants had been contacted regarding availability for a postseason tournament. However, the show plans to continue producing episodes in the fall, using material written by WGA writers before the strike began.
“‘Jeopardy!’ has a long history with and tremendous respect for the WGA and our writers. We have always been careful to honor our WGA agreements and we would never air game material not created by WGA writers,” the statement reads. “However, just as we did, led by Alex Trebek, during the 2007-2008 strike, we will deliver first-run episodes again this fall to more than 200 affiliate stations nationwide. Our current plan is to go into a holding pattern of sorts, pushing back the S39 postseason to first produce original episodes featuring the best of our WGA written material.”
At least part of Lalonde’s hopes were answered, as some of his fellow “Jeopardy!” contestants joined him in expressing their support of the WGA and promising not to cross picket lines. “Ray, thank you for taking this stand. If you are out, I am out,” wrote Ben Chan in the Reddit thread, while Hannah Wilson said, “I’ll stand with you, Ray! A TOC with all recycled clues doesn’t sound like much fun to play in, anyway.”
“The writers make the clues; the clues make the show. The clues in the Tournament of Champions have typically been some of the best of the best clues the show has had to offer,” added Luigi de Guzman. “Ray: Thank you for being so thoughtful and honest. I wasn’t sure whether of if I should say anything. I am grateful that you were brave enough to stand first.”
Troy Meyer, Suresh Krishnan and Cris Pannullo also seconded Lalonde’s sentiments on Reddit, and Dan Wohl made a proposition for a tournament of their own: “If the strike does end up torpedoing the postseason (including the Champions Wild Card which I was ecstatic to qualify for but will certainly never cross the picket line for), maybe we can organize some kind of alternative online trivia contest/event with as many Season 39 champs as possible and somehow make it a fundraiser for the WGA.”
Another player who was meant to appear in the Tournament of Champions is Ike Barinholtz, the actor and writer who recently won “Celebrity Jeopardy!,” though his involvement in both unions prevents his participation.
This article has been updated with a statement by a “Jeopardy!” spokesperson.
(Pictured above: Ike Barinholtz)
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