By any measure, Amy Schneider is extremely good at Jeorpardy!
Last Friday, she won her 28th game in a row, becoming the fifth contestant in the show’s history to surpass $1 million in winnings in the process.
But, for all of her talent, Schneider isn’t as much of an outlier as she might once have been.
In the last five years, Jeopardy! players have been going on more and more winning streaks — and fans and former contestants are noticing.
“I think the contestants are absolutely getting better,” said Andy Saunders, creator of the website thejeopardyfan.com.
Ken Jennings holds the record for longest streak, for his run back in 2004. But half of all 10-or-more game streaks have happened in the last five years — and a quarter of those streaks have happened in the last year alone.
Part of the reason contestants are better now, Saunders told As It Happens host Carol Off, is simply because they’ve had longer to get ready.
“There have been a few times now where, over the last couple of years, contestants have been called to be on the show, but because of changes in COVID protocols or other issues, those contestants have had to be rescheduled and have been given more time to prepare,” said Saunders, who lives in Guelph, Ont..
Schnieder is benefiting from that extra time, he says, as did contestant Matt Amodio, who won 38 games in a row this past October.
Still, extra COVID prep-time doesn’t tell the whole story, given that winning streaks were becoming more common before the pandemic even began.
I would say that judging by the ratings, that the majority of viewers do enjoy seeing the long streaks”– Andy Saunders
Could it be that the show is getting easier?
According to Jeopardy! Executive producer Michael Davies, it’s the exact opposite.
He told the New York Times in an email this week that he believes the show is actually getting harder, with information drawn from more diverse sources than ever before.
That’s where savvy, technology-assisted preparation comes in, said Saunders.
Contestants are now able to study 20 years of past Jeopardy questions online, and “we have our iPhones or our Android devices at our fingertips with [a] world of information,” he said.
Luckily, he continued, most Jeopardy! fans like to see super-champions succeed — however they get there.
“I would say that judging by the ratings, that the majority of viewers do enjoy seeing the long streaks,” he said.
Written by Kate McGillivray. Story produced by Chris Harbord.