Here’s What ‘Jeopardy!’ Looks Like In The Age Of Social Distancing

Jeopardy! is officially back on Monday night as the show kicks off its 37th season in an unprecedented time for television game shows. The show tried its best to keep filming as the pandemic took away studio audiences in the fall, and life in quarantine was restless for Alex Trebek as they ironed out the kinks regarding filming in the age of social distancing.

Monday marks the return of the show to syndication, with new episodes that were filmed after quarantine began. That means a lot of social distancing and new tweaks to what you’re used to seeing on Jeopardy! Ken Jennings appeared on Good Morning America on Monday to talk about what’s different with the show this season as well. The newly-minted Jeopardy! producer said most of the changes were made with keeping people safe in mind, starting with the show’s legendary host. He noted the set has been “spruced up” for the new season, with new podiums for each contestant and a new spot for Trebek as well.

“They’re feet apart from each other instead of being a single bank,” Jennings said Monday morning. “And Trebek will stay at the host’s podium, instead of coming over to the contestants because Alex’s health is priority No. 1 on that set.”

The show’s Twitter account later tweeted out what the set will look like, with some annotations pointing to some changes made this for social distancing.

A piece on The Ringer by Claire McNear also went into great detail about the precautions the show has taken and what’s changed about filming, both for those working on the show and contestants. Since they use the same spaces as Wheel of Fortune, the shows are using each other’s areas to keep people apart and basically making everyone wear masks unless they’re on camera. And don’t expect to get very close to Trebek if you make your way on as a contestant:

Trebek, meanwhile, is very much back at work, albeit at a greater distance than normal: Instead of leaning across the contestant podiums for Q&As with players and shaking the hand of the newly crowned champion at the episode’s end, he stops partway between his podium and theirs. It’s long been a joke in trivia circles that you can immediately tell when you’ve encountered a Jeopardy! alum on social media: Their profile picture is always the commemorative shot of them standing next to Trebek. While Season 37 contestants won’t have that, they’ll at least have a socially distant version, with Trebek on one side of the Final Jeopardy screen and them on the other.

Considering Trebek continues to battle Stage IV pancreatic cancer, it certainly makes sense that they’re doing their best to keep him safe. McNear’s story has a lot of great details about what life is like on the Jeopardy! set these days, and there’s a charming story of a contestant’s sister making a cutout version of herself to put on an empty chair in the studio audience to “cheer” her on. We are living in some truly weird and worrying times, but Jeopardy! back on the air will certainly be a welcome comfort in a COVID-weary world.

(Via The Ringer)