The annual Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions is being pushed back.
After several big winners from the 2022-23 season say they won’t take part in the tournament while the writers strike is ongoing, producer Sony Pictures TV said late Tuesday that it “never had any intention” to tape the tournament until after the strike is resolved.
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Jeopardy! employs Writers Guild of America members, and the syndicated game show is planning to rely on material from prior seasons (39 years’ worth) as it begins taping shows for the 2023-24 season, the show noted in its statement Tuesday. The Tournament of Champions usually tapes in late August and September but will be moved until after the strike.
Ray Lalonde, a TV set builder and painter from Toronto who won $386,400 over 13 games last season, told The Washington Post that he emailed the show’s producers on July 21 to say he wouldn’t take part in the tournament while the strike is ongoing. He also wrote about declining his Tournament of Champions invitation in the Jeopardy! Reddit forum: “I am and will always be grateful for the experience I had on the show and the opportunity to participate in the TOC is beyond a dream come true for me. That being said, I believe that the show’s writers are a vital part of the show and they are justified in taking their job action to secure a fair contract for themselves and their fellow WGA members. 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.”
A number of other big winners from last season — Chris Pannullo, Hannah Wilson, Ben Chan, Troy Meyer, Ben Goldstein, Luigi de Guzman and Suresh Krishnan — replied to Lalonde’s post or posted elsewhere on social media saying they would join him in declining to take part. Celebrity Jeopardy! winner Ike Barinholtz was also slated to be in the Tournament of Champions but as a WGA member will not take part in a struck production. Pannullo, Lalonde, Chan and Wilson had the four highest total winnings on Jeopardy! in 2022-23.
“Jeopardy! never had any intention of producing a Tournament of Champions for season 39 until the strike is resolved,” a spokesperson for the show said in a statement. “Further, no contestants from season 39 have been contacted regarding their availability for any postseason tournaments, including the TOC. The Jeopardy! postseason represents the pinnacle of our competition, and it should feature our strongest players playing our toughest original material.”
The statement continues, “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. 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 season 39 postseason to first produce original episodes featuring the best of our WGA written material.
“Everyone at Jeopardy! hopes that the guilds and the AMPTP can reach a fair resolution quickly. Celebrity Jeopardy! will return on ABC this fall with original material written by WGA writers before the strike. Jeopardy! and Celebrity Jeopardy! are covered under the SAG-AFTRA Network Code, which remains in effect.”
July 25, 8:30 p.m. Updated with news of the Tournament of Champions being pushed back and statement from Sony.
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