The new permanent host of Jeopardy! will have some big shoes to fill. In November 2020, the death of longtime host Alex Trebek stunned the popular game show’s legions of fans, kicking off an unusual season of television. A revolving door of celebrities and television personalities have put in short-term stints behind the Jeopardy! lectern, but as season 37 winds down, speculation abounds as to who will take over for the long haul. Fans may not have to wait for answers much longer, as Jeopardy! producers have signaled that news about the permanent host is coming soon.
Executive producer and showrunner Mike Richards that a casting decision will be made before the next season begins taping in late July or early August. He also detailed the reasons behind the slow hiring process, saying, “We started talking about it internally, that to name someone right away would be very hard for us, because we were still reeling from the loss [of Alex Trebek]. [For] the Jeopardy! family — which is the fans, the country, the staff — that if on Friday it’s Alex’s last show, and then Monday it’s a new person’s show, that would probably be unfair to the person stepping in to do it.”
As they seek out the permanent host, Richards and his fellow producers are scrutinizing the show’s viewership numbers, while also bringing in focus groups and paying close attention to social media.
“You want to make an informed decision,” Richards said. “We want to go at this with real analytics and real testing and not just go, ‘Hey, how about this guy?’ which is kind of how a lot of these decisions have been made historically.”
Related video: A look back at Alex Trebek's career
But just who will it be? Richard speculated that one of the show’s many guest hosts will be made the permanent host, though he’s not ruling out any out-of-left-field contenders. Even if the pool of contenders is limited to guest hosts, that’s quite a long list. Guest hosts have Ken Jennings, Katie Couric, Mehmet Oz, Aaron Rodgers, and Anderson Cooper, with more celebrities yet to come. Upcoming guest hosts include Bill Whitaker, Buzzy Cohen, Mayim Bialik, Savannah Guthrie, Sanjay Gupta, George Stephanopoulos, Robin Roberts, LeVar Burton, David Faber, and Joe Buck.
It’s still anyone’s game, as Trebek often said, but a few guest hosts have launched campaigns to land the full-time gig. Aaron Rodgers has made no secret of his desire to stay on permanently, to The Ringer, “I’m not shy at all about saying I want the job. That’s how I went into it. I want an opportunity to be in the mix… There’s not many bigger fans of the show than me. I’ve been watching it for years and years and years.”
Rodgers has stiff competition from LeVar Burton, who joins the guest host rotation following a to install him behind the lectern. Burton has said for years that hosting Jeopardy! is his dream job, prior to Trebek’s death in September 2020, “Not gonna lie, I feel like I’ve been preparing my whole life to occupy the Jeopardy! host podium when Alex retires.”
Claire McNear, the author of Answers in the Form of Questions: A Definitive History and Insider’s Guide to Jeopardy!, spoke on NPR about her expectations for what comes next. She’s not convinced that the loudest social media campaign is the way to win the permanent gig.
“It’s kind of funny to see people actively campaign to become the host of Jeopardy!, even if it's just kind of one of these two-week guest rotations,” McNear on NPR. “I think there are probably some surprises in store. I don't know if it's LeVar Burton. I doubt that they are unaware at this point that he and so many fans would really like to see him up there, but I guess we'll see what happens.”
McNear went on to underscore just how singular the job is.
“It is a uniquely really hard game show to run,” McNear said. “The host is really involved in Jeopardy! in a way that doesn't really happen on a lot of other game shows. And you want somebody who projects that sort of gravitas—that academic air to them that Trebek, of course, had. And so I think that's why a lot of people have been really clamoring for LeVar Burton, because he so is those things. But you also want somebody with a little bit of humor and a little bit of the kind of quick wit that, of course, was kind of a mainstay of Trebek's Jeopardy!"
We don’t envy Jeopardy! producers the task of filling Trebek’s shoes, but we can’t wait to see who they choose. Watch this space—we’ll be updating this story as more information becomes available.
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