Even before the news of Alex Trebek’s passing spread, viewers wondered if the show would go on — and if so, who would be passed the baton?
Most seem to agree that the matter isn’t so much finding someone to completely fill Trebek’s shoes — who could? — but rather someone who could keep the show going.
Rumors and suggestions swirled as fans questioned who might be asked to host. George Stephanopoulos and LeVar Burton were two popular votes, according to CBS News.
“Alex believed in the importance of JEOPARDY! and always said that he wanted the show to go on after him,” Mike Richards, the executive producer, said in a statement.
“We will honor Alex’s legacy by continuing to produce the game he loved with smart contestants and challenging clues. By bringing in familiar guest hosts for the foreseeable future, our goal is to create a sense of community and continuity for our viewers.”
On Monday, the show announced which direction they’d be going in.
“We will resume production on 11/30 with a series of interim guest hosts from the Jeopardy! family — starting with Ken Jennings,” the “Jeopardy!” account tweeted. “Additional guest hosts to be announced.”
We will resume production on 11/30 with a series of interim guest hosts from the Jeopardy! family – starting with Ken Jennings. Additional guest hosts to be announced. pic.twitter.com/0MdGqnzp3R
— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) November 23, 2020
It seems fitting that Jennings, renowned as the best “Jeopardy!” player in the history of the show, would return to its stage to help usher in a new era of gameplay. Jennings holds the record for highest winnings in regular season play as well as most consecutive games won.
Shortly following the game show’s tweet, Jennings confirmed his role in upcoming episodes of the show.
“There will only ever be one Alex Trebek, but I’m honored to be helping Jeopardy! out with this in January,” he wrote.
There will only ever be one Alex Trebek, but I’m honored to be helping Jeopardy! out with this in January. https://t.co/2m2b5IQnkw
— Ken Jennings (@KenJennings) November 23, 2020
Jennings has been watching the show since he was a boy. He knew Trebek for 16 years and got to watch the legend up close.
“Later, watching Alex host the show from up close, I understood the persona better,” he wrote in a story for TIME. “Running a fast-paced show like Jeopardy! is a harder job than viewers realize; the host is not only moderating the game for the three contestants, but he’s also interpreting it for viewers.”
“In sports terms, he’s the referee and the broadcast booth all at once. Alex wasn’t aloof; he was just busy. But he always made it look easy. And despite that daunting job description, he was never introduced, as Art Fleming had been in the 1960s, as ‘the star of Jeopardy!'”
“At Alex’s own insistence, he was always just ‘the host of Jeopardy!’ The star of the show, he always maintained, was the game itself.”
Jennings appears to be the first in a lineup of hosts that the show will see in future episodes, and as a lifelong fan and accomplished player, he should do rather well.
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