Author: 'Jeopardy!' rules bent to help women

LOS ANGELES -- Producers of 'Jeopardy!' often altered categories and clues to help female contestants, a former writer of the popular game show said in his new book.

Publishers of the book 'Inside Jeopardy! What Really Goes On At TV's Top Quiz Show' told a news conference Thursday that rules have been bent to give women an advantage.


Federal law prohibits changes to be made in game shows to predetermine the outcome.

According to the book's author, Harry Eisenberg, who worked as a staff writer on the show for seven years, last-minute changes were often made to assist female contestants, including changing a tool category to fine china, weapons to clothing, and a $400 clue for athlete Michael Jordan was changed to dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Eisenberg did not attend Thursday's news conference.

A spokeswoman for Merv Griffin Enterprises, which produces 'Jeopardy!,' denied that any changes were made to assist women.

'These allegations are defamatory, specious and without merit,' a spokeswoman said, adding the charges were made by a 'disgruntled, former employee who thinks the show owes him back pay.'

But according to Eisenberg the practice of helping female contestants occurred from 1988 to 1991.


Another former employee, cited in his book, said the show's producer George Vosburgh once told him: 'We have an unaggressive female champion. Let's give her some easy stuff.'

Northwest Publishing Inc. of Salt Lake City agreed to publish Eisenberg's book, despite threats of legal action by Merv Griffin Enterprises and its owner, Sony Pictures. The book will be sold May 20.

Jesse Riddle, a spokesman for the publishing company, said he did not know why the show would want to help women, but the producers may have wanted more women in the Tournament of Champions because the show has a lot of women viewers.

He said five champions compete for the title, traditionally they are men.

'They probably figure that it's better to have women in the finals,' he said.

Contestants go through a rigorous written exam and several pratice games before going on television.

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