‘Jeopardy!’ Fans Voice Strong Opinions on ‘Buzz-in Speed’ Factoring Into Show Success

by Leanne Stahulak

With two super champions succeeding in the same season, some “Jeopardy!” fans are wondering if the game setup really works.

Until 2003, “Jeopardy!” contestants couldn’t win more than 5 consecutive games. An executive producer abolished that rule, and the next year, Ken Jennings came along and won 74 games. Now, Matt Amodio and Amy Schneider are right behind him.

Both super champions (and previous “Jeopardy!” champs) attribute their success to a key component of the show: The buzzer. If a contestant doesn’t buzz in before the competition, then there’s no way for them to earn enough money to move forward. But the more games a contestant plays (Schneider and Amodio both played 38), the better their buzzer timing will be.

If you buzz in too early, then your ability to answer is delayed by a fraction of a second. This leaves ample room for the competition to swoop in. And if you buzz in too late, then obviously, the competition will once again swoop up the clue.

One “Jeopardy!” fan took to Reddit to talk about “removing buzz-in speed” as a “factor” of the game. They wrote an entire post detailing how the game show could do it differently, with more of an advantage to non-champions.

‘Jeopardy!’ Fans Chime in About ‘Buzz-In Speed’

The fan wrote, “It’s always bothered me that signaling speed is a skill that’s rewarded in Jeopardy. The win should go to whichever player knows the most. Experience with the buzz-in system is a huge advantage, and although Matt and Amy are getting good ratings, if super-champs become a regular occurrence, it will cease to become special and I fear ratings will plummet.”

They continued, “So here’s the rule change I propose: About halfway through the reading of the clue, the light turns on telling contestants they can ring in. A half-second after the clue is finished being read, the light turns off. At that point, if only one player has buzzed in, they get to respond. If more than one player has buzzed in, the player who least recently gave a correct response gets to respond. At the beginning of games, before anyone has given any correct responses, priority goes from left to right.”

This is an interesting setup, and it would definitely provide other contestants with more opportunities to respond. But one fan brought up how it would skew who could earn what amount of money for different clues. You could answer a $400 category and then be ineligible for the $2000, just because you answered most recently.

Or, as another fan put it, “That would be some other game. Not Jeopardy.”

“Jeopardy!” has really solidified itself among other trivia game shows. Changing something like the buzzer could turn it into a totally different concept.

Another person wrote, “I don’t mind that reflexes are also a skill being tested in the current setup. Jeopardy never held itself out as an egalitarian test of pure knowledge. It’s an entertainment product and it’s entertaining to watch a good player run a category with a combination of fast reflexes and smarts.”

What do you think about the buzz-in setup, “Jeopardy!” fans?