Hint: Dr. Oz is a big longshot
Instead of naming a permanent replacement for Alex Trebek after his death, the producers of “Jeopardy!” decided to try something new with their august brand: inviting “a series of guest hosts comprised of award-winning journalists and distinguished figures” (their words) to take the podium and continue the show for charity while a final decision is being made. As the experiment enters its fourth month, let’s step back and review the guest hosts’ performance so far, and set some odds, for entertainment purposes only, on who’s most likely to get the gig.
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Ken Jennings +150
The safe choice, and a name synonymous with “Jeopardy!” over the years, Jennings’ test run as Trebek’s first replacement went well enough, with Jennings lending a familiar presence to the proceedings that made Trebek’s absence less jarring. He also has a consulting producer credit this season, meaning that the powers that be have already worked with him professionally. What might factor against him? His commitments to “The Chase,” ABC’s rival quiz show, which has been renewed for a second season, and a history of #problematic jokes on Twitter. Nonetheless, he’s still the favorite, a personality so widely beloved by “Jeopardy!” viewers that he even survived the taint of Bean Dad.
LeVar Burton +250
The sentimental choice, and there’s even a petition. Admittedly, the petition credits Burton with “[inspiring and shaping] the minds of several generations of trivia-loving nerds,” which may or may not be a positive thing in 2021, but Burton has it all: a groundswell of fan support, a stated desire to do it, and enough gravitas to pull off the job. Yet “Jeopardy!” hasn’t announced him as a guest host. Is there something they’re not telling us, or is Burton perhaps too good to need an audition?
Aaron Rodgers +400
The most pleasant surprise of the guest hosts so far, Rodgers is affable, mellow, and wry, with a jockish spirit that initially seemed like a strange fit for Jeopardy’s mental pressure cooker but quickly belied a good-natured sense of humor. His first week of shows was eminently watchable: Rodgers played along with a goofy Final Jeopardy answer referencing the NFC Championship Game, revealed his love of Ewoks, and openly lobbied for the job in interviews. Nobody would be upset if Rodgers continued in the role –except Vikings fans.
Mike Richards +800
A game show lifer with numerous hosting and production credits, Richards is in charge of the current incarnation of the show, and took a guest turn after Jennings in February. It was a competent, largely unremarkable run, and while it would be a bit of a letdown to see him take over the permanent job, he’s ultimately the person who has to make the decision, and thus can’t be ruled out.
Mayim Bialik +1000
Bialik is an interesting dark horse mostly because of her real-life bona fides: namely, a neuroscience Ph.D. and a three-decade acting career. We haven’t seen her take the podium yet, so it’s unclear how her charm will translate to the stage in Culver City, but she’d check a lot of boxes as an established, familiar star with intellectual cred.
Anderson Cooper +1500
A similar logic as the one behind Bialik’s candidacy applies to Cooper: he’s a famous, familiar name with a credible personality and lots of side projects. It’s hard to say if he’s a serious candidate, but he seems like an inoffensive pick and will likely do well.
Katie Couric says she doesn’t want it. Bill Whitaker, Savannah Guthrie and Sanjay Gupta haven’t gone yet. There are always the possibilities of Alex Faust and Laura Coates, LA-era news personalities whom Trebek touted as his possible heirs in the years before his death. The field may also include names we haven’t heard yet, but with a few solid choices already in the mix and a permanent replacement promised for the fall season, a surprise feels unlikely.
George Stromboulopoulos +10000
Who better to take over the job than another Canuck? Strombo is an iconic Canadian TV presenter who has attempted to cross over into the American market from time to time. Virtually unknown to “Jeopardy!” viewers, he nonetheless has the je ne sais quoi to make it look like he knows what he’s talking aboot.
Hank Azaria in character as Jim Brockmire +25000
There’s a precedent for this: Azaria is open about wanting to continue the Brockmire character, and actually appeared as a talking head during ESPN broadcasts of Korean baseball games last year. Would it last very long, with Brockmire assaulting America’s living rooms with tales of Chiang Mai heroin benders and Steve Garvey’s hog? Absolutely not. Would it be a week or so of must-see television? Absolutely.
Dr. Oz +50000
Dr. Oz’s turn as guest host in March was a disaster in every conceivable way: bad press, poor ratings, the intense public scorn of many former contestants, and worst of all, pretty lousy TV. Oz had a hard time finding the correct energy level for the show, with a cheesy, high-wattage grin that might have sold a few extra bottles of diet pills, but was out of place on “Jeopardy!”. On Monday, The Ringer’s Claire McNear reported that Oz even criticized contestants within their earshot, a remarkable faux pas in the show’s supportive bubble. Even a show that had no problem shilling term life insurance and vitamin supplements over the years knows enough to stay away.
Tom Brady +100000
Just saying: if you want a Hall of Fame quarterback AND a guy who peddles pseudoscience…