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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Jeopardy! champ Austin Rogers would like to make it clear that, no, the show isn't rigged

Illustration for article titled Jeopardy! champ Austin Rogers would like to make it clear that, no, the show isn't rigged
Screenshot: Austin Tyler Rogers (YouTube)

YouTube channel The Film Theorists has gone and stirred the goddamned hornet’s nest. Over the past few weeks, through a pair of videos subtitled “Jeopardy Is Rigged,” the YouTube channel outlined a conspiracy theory that would blow apart the foundations of modern TV trivia society if proven true, suggesting that contestant James Holzhauer’s record-breaking winning streak—and its conclusion—is evidence of the show’s nefarious, behind-the-scenes secrets.


Well, former champion Austin Rogers—someone who would know how Jeopardy! is played better than most—is here to clear things up by creating a video that extensively breaks down the ways in which The Film Theorists are basically just full of shit.

Rogers comes out of the gate swinging. “Patently false,” he says, referring to the question of whether Jeopardy! is rigged. “For a channel that portrays itself as incisively researched any of the things that they postulated could have been addressed with just a cursory Google search or, better yet, asking a past champion,” he continues. Rogers goes on to outline stuff a lot of regular Jeopardy! viewers already know (stuff used as evidence in The Film Theorists’ videos). He talks about how jumping around from category to category is hardly an unusual tactic, but one that goes back decades to Chuck Forrest’s pioneering technique. He also lays into the original videos’ claim that the show is controlled by NBC (“That is a patent falsity. Fix it!,” he says) and mentions just how common it is to use shorthand for category titles and “dollar values” in order to keep the show moving. It’s not a mind tactic.

Lastly, Rogers describes the processes used to randomize clues and categories and the steps taken by Jeopardy!’s producers to legally protect themselves. He also kicks the final shreds of the conspiracy argument apart by questioning why the show’s creators would ever want to sabotage the ratings boom that comes from a champion’s record-breaking run, which earns far more than it costs in prize payouts. Rogers calls on The Film Theorists to take down their videos and edit in corrections, saying that “Otherwise, you’re no better than Fox News.”

People have always had plenty of interest in analyzing the best ways to play Jeopardy!, but there’s a pretty big difference between discussing game show strategy and suggesting that the whole thing is a sham. Considering that Holzhauer’s performance is called into question by the videos, The Film Theorists also imply that all previous champs are suspect, too. Not only does it make sense that this would piss off Rogers, but it should disgust all of us, too, who know deep in our hearts that Alex Trebek, stalwart custodian of trivia sanctity, would ever allow anything untoward to happen on his watch.

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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.