When Michael Davies stepped up as Jeopardy’s executive producer, he immediately made a seemingly insignificant change to the show’s opening announcements. But as he recently explained, there was a meaningful reason behind it.
Davies took over for Mike Richards in 2021, right in the middle of Richards’ podcast scandal and the gameshow’s hosting drama. Over the course of a year, Davies made several fixes to restore the decades-old series to its former glory. And his very first fix aimed to make the broadcast more “authentic.”
As the EP recalled during an installment of the Inside Jeopardy! podcast, the hosts of the show had a habit that annoyed him. When they walked on stage, they would “would look over toward Johnny Gilbert and say, ‘Thank you, Johnny,’ and then turn to the camera and deliver the open.”
Most fans may remember that looking at Johnny meant looking at the audience. But Johnny doesn’t sit in the audience for taping. In fact, he isn’t even in the studio.
As Davies and producer Sarah Foss explained, Johnny Gilbert records his contestant introduction for his home studio. Then before each episode airs, they’re edited into the footage. Foss agreed with Davies, acting like Johnny was in the crowd “wasn’t authentic.” And a changeup was necessary.
When Davies took over, Mayim Bialik was covering the hosting duties. And the first thing he asked her to change was how she greeted the famed announcer. He wanted her to speak directly to him, which meant she needed to look at the camera instead of the crowd.
“I think on a show about fact, it wasn’t right that we were looking over to an imaginary Johnny, and instead, we thank him — because we should thank him at the beginning of the episode — but we thank him right down the camera, right down the lens, because we know he watches every single episode. And so we thank him, but we look straight in the camera.”
Another ‘Jeopardy!’ Gameplay Change Has Fans Divided
Since the simple request, Michael Davies has made some other moves, most notably, he gave the two temporary hosts, Bialik and Ken Jennings, permanent jobs.
“With all of our plans for ‘Jeopardy!’ — which is more ‘Jeopardy!,’ not less, more versions — we’re going to need multiple hosts to represent the entire audience, to represent the entire country, in order to take this franchise forward,” Davies told Variety in June.
And even more recently, he and Foss decided to give players an enforced five-minute time limit for Final Jeopardy! wagers. If they fail to lock in an amount, they lose their ability to make one at all.
The new rule created some discussions on Reddit, and fans weren’t sure how they felt about it. One said that “five minutes really sounds like ample time to make a wager,” and several people agreed. Another added that “If you can’t make a wager in 5 minutes, you probably don’t deserve to win.”
But as it goes with most things, some people simply don’t like change. And they also worry that the pressure of coming up with an answer and calculating the risks creates an unnecessary disadvantage.