'Jeopardy!' Says Tournament of Champions Postseason Has Been Pushed Back Amid Writers Strike

The game show provided an update after several champions said they will not cross the picket lines if the strike continues.

Jeopardy!, the long-running trivia-based game show, may be in real jeopardy this coming season. Several champions who were expected to participate in the annual Tournament of Champions have announced that they will not cross the picket line if the 2023 Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike continues into the fall. 

And now, it seems that production on the postseason has been delayed amid the ongoing strike, ET has learned. Sony Pictures TV, which produces the series, said it "never had any intention" to film Tournament of Champions for season 39, which would have taped in late August and September, until the strike has been resolved.

Additionally, Jeopardy! is planning to use material from prior seasons -- "featuring the best of our WGA written material" -- when it starts taping episodes for its 40th installment. The series will move forward with "produce original episodes" before revisiting the annual competition. 

Among the returning champions who have pledged solidarity with the striking writers, which includes those who work on Jeopardy!, are Ben Chan, Cris Pannullo, Hannah Wilson, Ray Lalonde and Troy Meyer. 

In fact, it was Lalonde -- winner of 13 games and member of IATSE, a union representing film, TV and theater crew workers -- who first revealed that the game show was "making contingency plans to start filming the next season of the show with old and/or recycled material if the WGA strike remains unresolved." 

In a Reddit post, he wrote, "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."

By going public with his plans to abstain from filming, Lalonde hopes he can "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," adding that "a few small voices may not change any minds but we can try."

Soon after Lalonde posted his plan to Reddit, the four other champions responded in support, with Meyer, who has won six games, stating, "I stand with Ray!" 

"As I have already told Ray personally, though like all of us I am a huge Jeopardy fan and it was a dream to appear on the show, I fully agree with his stance and will not participate in any games comprised of recycled clues while the WGA strike is in effect," wrote Pannullo, who has previously won 21 games. 

Chan, a nine-time winner, took to Reddit to thank Lalonde for speaking out. "Ray, thank you for taking this stand. If you are out, I am out," he shared, while Wilson, an eight-time winner, said she also planned to sit out. "I’ll stand with you, Ray! A TOC with all recycled clues doesn’t sound like much fun to play in, anyway." 

Since May, Hollywood's writers, including those who script the clues for Jeopardy!, have been on strike after failing to come to terms on a new contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). Some of the major issues involve higher wagers, increased residuals from streaming services and regulation surrounding the use of AI. 

At the time, the final episodes of season 39 were still being filmed, with Mayim Bialik reportedly declining to fulfill her hosting duties in support of the writers, prompting Ken Jennings to fill in. 

Meanwhile, Jeopardy! writers Michele Loud and Billy Wisse spoke to Variety about the strike. "Our words are on the screen every night. There is no Jeopardy! without writers. Without us it’s just an empty blue screen," Loud said while Wisse added that they were fighting to be "fairly compensated for the labor you give." 

Jeopardy! is reportedly set to return with season 40 on Sept. 11 while a primetime version of the game show, Celebrity Jeopardy!, has also been set for the fall on ABC.

When it specifically comes to the Tournament of Champions, which is part of the postseason competition, and the ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, a spokesperson for the show addressed those concerns in a statement shared with ET.

"Jeopardy! never had any intention of producing a Tournament of Champions for season 39 until the strike is resolved," the statement reads. "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."

"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 continues. "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."

The statement concludes by saying, "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."

This story was updated to reflect the news regarding the status of season 39's Tournament of Champions and the statement provided by Sony Pictures TV.