TV & Showbiz

‘Jeopardy,’ ‘Wheel’ Dropping Studio Audience Over Coronavirus Fears


It may be difficult to imagine a game show not having a live studio audience. But two hit shows say they’ll go without them because of the coronavirus.

No studio audience. That’s the word from producers of both Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune as concern continues over the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

A source connected to both productions confirmed to The Washington Post Tuesday. They made the decision “out of an abundance of caution [becuase of] the spread of COVID-19.”

It makes sense on a variety of levels. For one thing, the audiences, particularly for Jeopardy, tend to be older. And health experts say COVID-19 can be particularly dangerous for people 60 and up.

But you also have to consider the casts of the shows involved. The youngest is Vanna White, Wheel of Fortune’s “letter pusher,” who is 63. Host Pat Sajak turned 73 back in October.

Over on the Jeopardy set, host Alex Trebek, who is still fighting stage four pancreatic cancer, is 79. Then there’s the show’s venerable announcer, Johnny Gilbert. He’s by far the oldest of the four cast members, still going strong at 95!

Think about that the next time you hear him say, “This…is…Jeopardy!”

Talk shows also drop studio audiences, too

Two popular talk shows, The Wendy Williams Show and Dr. Phil, also confirmed Tuesday they would begin taping shows without a studio audience indefinitely.

Dr. Phil executive producer Carla Pennington confirmed the plan to USA Today. The show normally tapes in front of an audience of 300 in Los Angeles.

Host Phil McGraw is 69.

Williams’ show, meanwhile, released a statement that referred to their studio audience as Wendy’s “co-hosts.” There was no timetable on when the audience would be back in the studio.

Williams is the only one of the six performers in this post who isn’t over 60. She’s currently 55.

Since the talk shows always show their audiences throughout the programs, it’d be hard to “fake” the empty room. But game shows, other than The Price is Right, seldom show the studio audience except for wide shots taken at the opening and closing (and an occasional bumper to commercial). It’s entirely possible producers may simply go with canned laughter and applause.

Depending on the audio mix (and whether the hosts actually say there’s no audience present), we may not necessarily know.

At least, I’d like to think we wouldn’t know. It’d be hard to imagine either game show, even the more sophisticated Jeopardy, without at least some applause.

Call it “hysteria” or not, but given scientists don’t have a treatment or vaccine, safety probably is not a bad idea.

Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.