Over the weekend, a ‘Jeopardy’ spoiler let a huge cat out of the bag: the winning streak of contestant James Holzhauer would end Monday.
Jeopardy fans watched James Holzhauer lose on Monday’s episode. But many already knew what was going to happen thanks to a spoiler that spread across social media over the weekend.
A short video clip circulated showing the program’s “Final Jeopardy” endgame in which Holzhauer lost. At the end of the clip, as Emma Boettcher became the new champ, he high-fived her.
Sure enough, it wasn’t a faked video. On Monday’s episode, that’s exactly what happened.
The show’s executive producer wasn’t amused. Harry Friedman told The Washington Post that “appropriate action” would be taken against the person who leaked the video.
But what’s ‘appropriate’ in a case like this?
For one thing, it might be miraculous that the news didn’t get out sooner. The program was recorded back around the time host Alex Trebek revealed his cancer diagnosis. The show in question, according to The Atlantic, was taped on March 12.
That meant members of the audience had almost three months to spoil the ending. But apparently, no one did. (At least not in so effective a manner as the weekend social media spoiler did.)
Syndicated shows like Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune are fed to stations in advance for playback at their scheduled airdates. So television stations that carried Monday’s episode would have had the show available to watch over the weekend, possibly as early as Thursday or Friday.
Take the number of stations that carry the show, then multiply by probably five to 10 people — the number who may have had access to a recording of the show before it aired. Add the number of people at the distribution center that fed the show to those stations.
There’s no telling how many people could have been responsible.
When and if the guilty party is found, what then? What does the show do?
They might try to argue a copyright claim since the person obviously posted the program’s content without permission on social media.
But beyond that, I’m not sure exactly what else they can do.
A show like Jeopardy has a very dedicated fan base. I imagine the regulars would have watched to see what happened next regardless of whether they’d heard the news.
And who’s to say that the spoiler didn’t make more people tune in just to see if the spoiler actually were true?
TV was better before spoilers came along
These days, there are few surprises in TV shows. When a major character is leaving a show, we know in advance because we’ve seen behind-the-scenes reports about the actor’s departure. The only “surprise” is the manner in which the character departs: are they being killed off or just leaving town?
Soap fans have taken the art of spoilers to new heights. Some U.S. shows air in Canada a day ahead of U.S. broadcasts, a phenomenon I’ve never been able to figure out. Soap opera fans in the United States then get a detailed rundown of the next day’s episode the day before. They can then decide, based on the write-up, whether they’ll watch or just skip a day.
Can you imagine what would have happened if social media had been around on March 21, 1980, the night that oil tycoon J.R. Ewing was shot in his office in the season finale of Dallas? The resolution to the mystery, which captivated the nation (and the world) wasn’t resolved until the November 21, 1980, episode.
Granted, the show apparently did its best to safeguard the secret, shooting multiple shooter sequences so even crew members weren’t 100% sure who actually fired the shot.
But if social media had been in the mix, that secret might have been harder to keep.
I’ll admit that I do sometimes like to know what’s going to happen. But, if I’m honest, I have to admit that there are many times that I’m disappointed at the lack of a surprise when I then see the show.
I’m not a huge fan of Jeopardy. It’s just not really my cup of tea and never has been.
But I can imagine that if I were a fan and did see the winning streak spoiled, I’m sure I’d be angry about it.