Can you spoil a game show? It’s a complicated question. In many ways, we live in a post-spoiler world. A day behind on Game of Thrones? Too bad, you’re going to see who killed the Night King unless you are able to stay offline and avoid all water coolers. But game shows were a different breed. Sure, American Idol and The Voice create a certain level of mystique around who wins but most lower stakes game shows haven’t been affected by the immediate information flow of the Internet, primarily because nobody really cares who wins the most recent round of Wheel of Fortune or Deal or No Deal?
That all changed with James Holzhauer, as he managed to become the biggest game Jeopardy! phenomenon since Alex Trebek’s beard. People who hadn’t watched the trivia show since Jennings’ legendary run were suddenly intrigued by Holzhauer’s run. Not only was he approaching Jennings’ record, but he was also doing it at a pace we hadn’t seen before. Last Friday, Holzhauer won his thirty-second game on Friday, bringing his winnings to $2,462,216, putting him within $70,000 of Jennings. Could he become the all-time champion?
Spoiler Warning: In case the last paragraph of meta-reflection on the nature of spoilers didn’t give you a proper heads up, there are going to be Jeopardy! spoilers in this article.
It turns out, no, while Holzhauer had a historic run, it appears to come to an end tonight, as he loses to Emma Boettcher, a librarian from Chicago. It’s a shocking end to an exciting streak but the entire thing feels a bit underwhelming. Why? Because rather than all of us getting to watch this loss happen on our TVs, it was spoiled unceremoniously by The New York Times and then by every other publication, including ours.
To Holzhauer’s credit, he seems to be taking the entire thing in stride, as he told The New York Times that Boettcher was a “top-level competitor” who played a “perfect game.” And to be fair, the episode has already aired in several markets so it can be argued that this was not technically a spoiler. Still, it’s hard not to feel like this was a rare case where knowing what happens in advance actually hurts the final product, as we were all robbed of the increasingly rare more where we all are watching something genuinely surprising happen at the same time.