By Andrew C. Francois
“And now, here is the host of ‘Jeopardy!’ … Alex Trebek!” Since 1984, television announcer Johnny Gilbert has used these words to usher in each new episode of Jeopardy!, which is, by most accounts, the most beloved and popular game show in television history (Jeopardy!’s 39 Daytime Emmy Awards would certainly point to this).
Sadly, Trebek, the longtime host of the show, had been battling pancreatic cancer since early 2019. As his chemotherapy dragged on over the past year-and-a-half, it became clear to fans that Trebek would soon pass away. That happened on November 8th, 2020, and while predictable, Trebek’s death was still a profound loss felt deeply by the millions of Jeopardy! fans worldwide. It was quickly decided by Jeopardy! producers that the show would go on and debate quickly began amongst fans about who should succeed Trebek.
Early on, Ken Jennings was seen as a natural pick. Jennings achieved some degree of fame in 2004, when he won 74 consecutive games of Jeopardy!, picking up more money than anyone else had in the show’s history. Sure enough, on November 23rd, Jeopardy! producers announced that Jennings would be interim host of Jeopardy!, the first in what will be a series of guest hosts, now including personalities such as journalist Katie Couric, Bill Whitaker of 60 Minutes, and even Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers.
While I initially had my doubts about Jennings’ hosting abilities, after a week of seeing him as the Jeopardy! host, I can safely say that the show is in good hands with him, and certainly will be in the future given the roster of upcoming guest hosts. It’s clear from his episodes so far that, though Jennings lacks some of the cadence and rhythm in reading clues that Trebek was so well known for, he is certainly a suitable replacement. One thing that has stood out to me about his on-screen personality compared to Trebek’s is that he seems much more engaged and personable than Trebek, with all his strengths, when it comes to interviewing contestants.
Meanwhile, the quality of the show remains top-tier. The questions still cover an ever-changing range of topics, and continue to be fun and engaging for families all over the world. I can certainly say as much for my family.
Overall, despite Trebek’s tragic passing, I was very pleased with how the producers of Jeopardy! worked to honor his legacy through the show he loved, which he spent nearly half of his life hosting. No number of guest hosts will ever replace Trebek’s wit, nuance, and compassion on the show, but they can certainly help keep the Jeopardy! flame alive, and Ken Jennings has been doing an excellent job of that so far.