Three 'Jeopardy!' Contestants Couldn't Answer an Obvious Question About Tom Hanks and People Are Freaking Out

Apparently, there is an excuse other than the fact that three people smart enough to get on "Jeopardy!" couldn't identify America's favorite actor.

Robin Zlotnick - Author

Mar. 8 2021, Updated 10:38 a.m. ET

You have to be pretty smart to snag a spot as a contestant on Jeopardy! There is a rigorous trivia testing process before you even get to the studio. One would think if you are on Jeopardy!, you could probably recognize America's favorite actor / dad, Tom Hanks, especially when he's featured in a $200 video question that shows part of the new movie in which he plays Mr. Rogers, a thing the whole country has only been talking about for months.

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You would think all three contestants would be jumping to answer that softball. But you'd be wrong. Something went very wrong on a recent episode of Jeopardy! because none of the contestants seemed to be able to answer that question. It was truly shocking to watch. 

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As the video showing Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers plays, Alex Trebek says, "In A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, beloved children's TV host Mr. Rogers is played by this beloved actor." Everyone on their couches was screaming, "WHO IS TOM HANKS?! WHO IS TOM HANKS?!" at the TV while all three contestants inexplicably just... stood there. Not buzzing in to answer. Not doing anything. 

Eventually, Beverly seems to come to life and hit the button, but it was too late. "The film opens Friday. That's Tom Hanks, not quickly enough, Beverly. Sorry," Trebek says, looking totally confused. What happened there? Was there a glitch in the matrix? Did all three of them not recognize Tom Hanks? It seems impossible. The moment quickly went viral and people started freaking out. 

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It's unthinkable! That's one of those questions that makes you think, "Psh, I could be on Jeopardy! "And then you get to the $400 questions and realize you really should have paid more attention in school. But Beverly, Andrew, and Kevin presumably know a lot about a lot! It's inconceivable that the entire notion of Tom Hanks was a blindspot for all three of them. 

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Not to mention, it wasn't an obscure fact about Tom Hanks! It was a literal video clip of the movie whose preview has been playing before nearly every movie in the theaters for months. It's been on the TV. The image of Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers has become so ubiquitous that I've almost forgotten what the real Mr. Rogers looked like. JK, here he is. 

mr rogers
Source: Getty Images
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What an adorable man. But I digress! The point here is that all three contestants on Jeopardy! seemed to have a collective brain fart when it came to identifying Tom Hanks, one of the world's most recognizable faces. And the entire nation was appalled. That's Tom Hanks! Forrest Gump! Joe Fox! F-O-X! Jimmy Dugan!

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This tweet is extra funny because Tom Hanks isn't Buzz Lightyear! He's Woody! Woody from Toy Story! The most iconic Pixar character of all time, I would say. Everyone was just so confused about what happened. How could this be? 

Several former Jeopardy! contestants jumped in to defend Beverly, Andrew, and Kevin, saying that the video clues are shown on a tiny screen very far away and are often hard to see. Esteemed Distractify editor Amber Garrett, who has actually been a contestant on Jeopardy!, told me, "The screen that shows the video clue is much smaller than you'd think and fairly far away and the studio lights are very bright — and sometimes the video doesn't even play." 

Another former contestant provided photo evidence of this exact scenario. 

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To be honest, if I was standing behind that podium, I probably wouldn't be able to see any of it, even with my glasses. But even if the video didn't play, even if the question was just text, the clue would still be, "In A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, beloved children's TV host Mr. Rogers is played by this beloved actor." It's still a $200 softball question, even without the video aid. 

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So it still doesn't quite make sense that none of them answered, even if all three of them couldn't see the video screen. Twitter account The Jeopardy! Fan, which tweets all about the show, shared what actually went wrong: "Heads-up to anyone annoyed over the Tom Hanks Triple Stumper on #Jeopardy tonight: Audience members reported that the lights that tell contestants they're allowed to signal did not activate. Judges ruled 'no harm, no foul' as nobody was advantaged or disadvantaged."

So there you have it, folks. The "go" light didn't trigger. We can all breathe a sigh of relief now knowing that the three contestants probably all knew that was Tom Hanks but they were all such strident rule-followers that they didn't chime in because the light didn't go on. Phew. 

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