The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine has had yet another strange knock-on effect on the media landscape this week, as Jeopardy! was moved to issue a rare disclaimer this weekend for one of its clues on a recent episode. Specifically, the long-running trivia series posted a tweet ahead of the episode that aired on Friday night, explaining that it was filmed on January 11, more than a month before the invasion began—relevant, since the question in question focused on “serious border issues” between the two countries which have now, obviously, escalated into actual war.
Jeopardy!’s position within the cultural landscape—and, specifically, its ability to transmit viewpoints through the ways it words its clues, and the topics it chooses to cover—have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. In general, that’s presumably just a byproduct of how much easier it is now for viewers to confer with each other online for a quick “Hey, that was fucked up, right?” (See the general backlash for a clue from last year, in which the show used an outmoded term for the medical condition “Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.” The show later issued an apology.) But the series also brought some of this on itself with its high-profile, often-blundering host search over the last year and change, one that included bringing criticized figures like Dr. Oz on to hop behind the podium as a presumed arbiter of facts.
To be clear, the issues surrounding the Ukraine question from this week are pretty easy to understand—TV gets made on its own schedule, and the show’s structure doesn’t really allow for an ability to cut a clue while maintaining the continuity of the game. But it does serve as an interesting reminder of the way Jeopardy!’s role as a deliverer/tester of general knowledge has to operate within a world where said “general knowledge” can often shift unpredictably. (It’s also just the latest instance of pop culture shifting itself to grapple with the Russian invasion, including recent moves to ban Russia from participating in this year’s Eurovision, the increased global interest in Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s old sitcom work, and calls by Ukrainian culture groups to ban Russian films from international distribution.)