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MATTER OF FACT

Why do so many celebrities want to host Jeopardy?

jeopardy tv show set
Sony Pictures Television
The iconic quiz show needs a new leader.
  • Adam Epstein
By Adam Epstein

Entertainment reporter

The nerdiest gig in Hollywood is also one of its most coveted. Actors, athletes, journalists, and TV personalities are lining up to be the next host of Jeopardy! And some of them are publicly lobbying for the position.

Jeopardy!, the iconic US quiz show, announced a final round of guest hosts before it chooses a permanent replacement for Alex Trebek, the beloved frontman who hosted Jeopardy! from 1984 until his death in November from pancreatic cancer. Trebek’s final show aired in January, and since then Jeopardy! has brought in a revolving door of celebrity hosts, including journalist Katie Couric and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The idea is that this will function as a tryout of sorts for the permanent job, which will be decided prior to the show’s 38th season later this year.

“Our goal has been to present a wide variety of guest hosts with different skill sets and backgrounds on our path to finding a permanent host,” Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards, who also guest-hosted the show in February, said in a press release.

Rodgers, who won the National Football League’s most valuable player award last year, has openly petitioned to host Jeopardy! in between NFL seasons. “I’m not shy at all about saying I want the job,” he told the Ringer. “That’s how I went into it. I want an opportunity to be in the mix.” A lifelong fan of the show, Rodgers also admitted to putting some “feelers” out to the Jeopardy! team to ensure he’d be on the list of guest hosts.

George Stephanopoulos, the co-anchor of Good Morning America, has reportedly lobbied behind the scenes to get the role, according to The Wrap. But no one has fought harder to be the next Jeopardy! host than LeVar Burton, the Star Trek actor and Reading Rainbow host who had said he wanted the job long before Trebek died. Burton, a well-liked actor with a history of promoting learning and education, would appear to check a lot of the boxes as a charismatic presence who wouldn’t have to fake being well read. He’d also bring racial diversity to a role that’s been held by white men since its inception in 1964.

The Jeopardy! host sweepstakes

There are obvious reasons why someone would want to host Jeopardy!. It is a high-profile, well-paid (Trebek was reportedly paid $10 million a year) job with relatively little commitment: The show films on the Sony Pictures lot in Hollywood just 46 days a year, with up to five episodes per filming session.

But that describes a lot of jobs in show business. What sets the Jeopardy! role apart is its unique place in American culture. Millions of Americans grew up watching the old-fashioned, refreshingly wholesome trivia show, which has hardly changed since it first aired a half-century ago. It’s in sharp contrast to the brainless reality TV that populates so much of American television.

Jeopardy! also has a huge nightly audience: It averages about 10 million viewers per episode, making it one of the most watched programs in the world. Its 2019 “Greatest of All Time” tournament averaged 15 million viewers—about the same as the audience for the National Basketball Association Finals that year.

For now, Ken Jennings, the former Jeopardy! champion who was the first guest host after Trebek’s death, is the betting favorite for the permanent role. (Yes, you can bet on this.) Burton, who won’t guest-host until July, is making a late push with oddsmakers.

The full list of guest hosts (with air dates) is below. One of these celebrities is likely to be the next permanent host of Jeopardy!:

  • Ken Jennings, former Jeopardy! champion (Jan. 4 – Feb. 19)
  • Mike Richards, Jeopardy! executive producer (Feb. 22 – March 5)
  • Katie Couric, journalist and author (March 8 – March 19)
  • Dr. Mehmet Oz, TV personality and doctor (March 22- April 2)
  • Aaron Rodgers, NFL quarterback (April 5 – April 16)
  • Anderson Cooper, CNN news anchor (April 19 – April 30)
  • Bill Whitaker, 60 Minutes correspondent (May 3 – May 14)
  • Buzzy Cohen, former Jeopardy! champion (May 17 – May 28)
  • Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory actress (May 31 – June 11)
  • Savannah Guthrie, Today co-anchor (June 14 – June 25)
  • Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN chief medical correspondent (June 28 – July 9)
  • George Stephanopolous, Good Morning America co-anchor (July 12 – July 16)
  • Robin Roberts, Good Morning America co-anchor (July 19 – July 23)
  • LeVar Burton, Star Trek: The Next Generation actor and Reading Rainbow host (July 26 – July 30)
  • David Faber, Squawk on the Street co-host (Aug. 2 – Aug. 6)
  • Joe Buck, Fox sportscaster (Aug. 9 – Aug. 13)

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