Professor James A. Zeller writes:
“I am a professor and have enjoyed “Jeopardy!” for many years. … I thought that someone in your profession should know how Jeopardy “structures” its program.
“For a long time I wondered why ‘winners’ one day would soon find themselves outdone by new competitors. It became evident when I thought it might be an adventure to attempt to get on the program myself.
“They require that one ‘pass a test’ to see if one is ’qualified’ to be on the program. In the process they required me (and I presume all candidates) to answer numerous questions. It soon became apparent that they were looking for candidates with ‘strengths’ in certain categories.
“I lost interest in becoming a candidate and became a bit disappointed in the program itself.
“Watch carefully—new candidates are given topics in which they are well established. The dollars add up and they end up trouncing the victor of the previous day or two. I don’t know why they do this—I suppose it makes the program look more challenging…”
So in other words, the producers of “Jeopardy” reject polymaths in favor of contestants with knowledge in some areas but not in others, so that they can switch up subject areas after a few days and knock them off the show.
Interesting theory. But couldn’t it also be true that the producers, knowing what categories are scheduled in coming days, look for contestants who excel in them? In that way they would ensure at least the contestants’ short-term success.