Unfortunately, I don’t see how that’s going to happen, at least in the same form the production has had for more than three decades. California, where the show is recorded, is one of the states still experiencing far too many cases of COVID-19. There’s no way the virus will up and disappear by September, which means the visitors who make up the audience probably won’t even be allowed on the lot.
On top of that, Trebek is going to turn 80 next week, and Johnny Gilbert (the announcer and audience warmup guy for “Jeopardy!”) just turned 92, so they’re both in the most vulnerable demographic. Both of them should probably never even leave their houses, let alone risk their lives to work around a bunch of strangers who may or may not be wearing masks every day. Talk about Double Jeopardy!
Moreover, while Americans have proven they’ll do almost anything to get on television, are contestants really going to get on planes, fly to Los Angeles, and stay in some nearby hotel (at their own expense) to be on a game show during a pandemic? If they do, will the producers put up plexiglass dividers between the players, or have them play six feet away from each other in a wide shot, rather than clustered together? Would Alex do his interviews with them from his podium on the other side of the stage, instead of up-close-and-personal at their buzzer positions?
I’m sure all of this is being discussed at length by new executive producer Mike Richards and the show’s production team, with pressure from its syndicator, Sony Pictures Television. “Jeopardy!” is still on the air, running classic episodes, some with new intros Alex says he’s recording at home, but are sponsors paying as much for those reruns as they do for new shows? Are there even any sponsors left? How long can the “Jeopardy!” gold mine last without new games?
Truth be told, while Johnny Gilbert is a TV legend, he’s replaceable — no one watches “Jeopardy!” because of his intros. At some point, Alex will step aside, too, and there have, no doubt, been many conversations about who will replace him. As much as he loves his job and says he wants to keep going, the virus may force him to change his mind sooner than he likes about retirement.
The question for “Jeopardy!” is the same as for every television game show, drama, sitcom, and reality show that’s been locked down for the last four months: “What is uncertainty?”
Previously on Harris Online…