NEW YORK ( Associated Press) — As Mattia Roach, Amy Schneider and Matt Amodio can attest, it’s good to be smart again.
“Danger!” The unusual race of super champs is on. Over the past seven months, each of those contestants has entered a historic list of the top five winning streaks for television game shows. Roach’s winning streak ended in his 24th game on Friday.
Time “Danger!” Couldn’t be better for — and fans of the show know all about the timing.
The show was devastated last summer when it complicated the process of replacing late host Alex Trebek. Mike Richards was fired as both the show’s host and executive producer following insensitive statements he made on the podcast.
“It really made people fall in love with ‘Jeopardy! Forget about ya and focus on all these amazing contestants,’” said Andy Saunders, who runs thejeopardyfan.com website.
Amodio, a doctoral candidate at Yale University, had 38 straight victories before losing last October. He soon gave way to Oakland engineering manager Schneider, who was a fixer on TV over the holidays before his streak ended at 40. Roach, a 23-year-old tutor from Toronto, was the show’s youngest major champion.
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They join Ken Jennings, whose 74-game streak in 2004 was never seriously challenged, and high-stakes gambler James Holzhauer, who won 32 in 2019, “Jeopardy!” first five.
The show, which has aired regularly since 1984, changed its rules in 2003 to allow people to stay until they lose. Prior to this, the winners were placed over five games.
Ask show executive producer Michael Davis why all of a sudden the big winners race, and you get a verbal shrug.
“I don’t have an easy answer,” he said.
The “price” for such long runs may be a link to dull games because the players are so impressive. Yet winning streaks create strong characters in ways that are unusual for game shows. Saunders, who has worked in game show production, said people tune in to root for or against sports teams.
This is reflected in the rating. “Danger!” Davis said viewership this year is 400,000, while most shows are shrinking. The Nielsen company said during the third week in April the game averaged 9.4 million viewers a night, more than any program on prime-time television that week.
“The people who win are the people who put in the most effort, who are able to figure out what’s asking faster than anyone else,” Davis said.
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Schneider and Roach were notable for their impressive breadth of knowledge, and they were rarely wrong. Amodio was particularly adept at difficult questions with a large monetary value and sought them out first, expressing hope on a “shock and astonishment” strategy that discouraged opponents.
Since he has been a producer, Davis exclaims “Junk!” Trying to broaden the subject matter facing the competitors.
“We’re trying to test excellence,” said Davis, who was the producer of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” during Regis Philbin’s heyday. “We’re trying to test people how much they really know. We don’t want it to be for people who know common sense. We want it to be for people who spend a lifetime reading books spend in acquiring knowledge.
“We celebrate the facts,” he said. “We celebrate those who know things.”
Not all television viewers know this, but “In danger!” Usually tapes a week’s worth of episodes in a single day. It can help a champion who is on the roll.
But after losing, both Schneider and Roach pointed to fatigue as a factor.
“I think my last two games, I was probably out of it,” said Roach, who had to come from behind for his last win. “I was really, really tired. I remember yawning uncontrollably before playing my second-to-last game. What I remember thinking was that I was slow on the buzzer, I used to react. Couldn’t come along.”
She will return for the annual Tournament of Champions, competing with Amodio and Schneider. Davis, a sports fan, wants to place more emphasis on the event that brings together each year’s best competitors, and to ensure that it is held at the same time each year, in the fall.
“I think it’s pretty clear that this has been good for the franchise,” he said.