They’re Doing The Best They Can To Fill An Icon’s Shoes
A Look At How The Guest Hosts of Jeopardy are Doing
It’s been a little more than two months since the last episode that Alex Trebek shot for Jeopardy before his untimely passing last November. Ever since early January, the show has been going through the process of selecting someone to succeed to the unenviable position of taking Alex’s place.
It’s still unclear who will take that job or when it will happen. (It’s my theory that they will not reach a permanent decision until the next season of the show.) But they’ve announced that for the immediate future, there will be guest hosts taking over for short periods. Among those announced for later are such diverse personality as former quarterback Aaron Rodgers, CNN personality Anderson Cooper, and actress/neuroscientist Mayim Bialik. I thought this would be a good opportunity to evaluate the ones who have been doing the job the past two months.
Ken Jennings: In a way, he is the most fitting person for this job: no one outside of Alex Trebek has appeared on more episodes (as a competitor, of course) and he took a staff position this season, reading out categories. He has always been deferential to Alex, speaking fondly of him in the first few episodes and ending each broadcast with a ‘Thank you, Alex.” He was also aided by having some good champions in his run — Brian Chang, who won seven games and over $163,000 (including a memorable tie breaker) and the return of Zack Newkirk, a four day champion who was unable to appear until travel restrictions eased. (He won two more games before being defeated.) He also demonstrated a superb sense of humor, when one of the contestants wrote down as an incorrect Final Jeopardy: “What is H & R Block?” an answer that ended his marathon streak. That said, he’s still seemed a bit stiff at times, though that may have been inevitable considering how overwhelming it must be to be the first host after Trebek. He might be able to do the job. Ranking: 4 stars.
Mike Richards: When Jennings had to leave to star on the game show The Chase and there was a hiatus for any guest show, Mike who had been the executive producer of the show stepped in. He showed great humility from the start, clearly demonstrated the debt he owed to Alex, and has been embraced by the internet and the critics. In many ways, he has done the best job probably because he spent years simply observing Alex and therefore knew what to do and what not to do. He has just shown up and done his job, simply and without flair and there’s a great deal to be said about that. One almost wishes that he could take on the job permanently, but the age we live in demands celebrity for Alex’s role and Mike simply is not one. He does, however, deserve praise for being a good sport and simply doing his job. How many celebrities just do that?
Ranking: 4.5 stars.
Katie Couric: There was a great deal of significance in Katie Couric being the first woman to ever host Jeopardy for however long. One would like to give her credit for being a pioneer, but so far she seems the least fit for the job. It’s not so much that she does anything wrong — she has a good back and forth with the contestants, has a level of enthusiasm that the other hosts haven’t had, and clearly enjoys being there. It’s more like her personality is more suiting to interviews than to hosting a game show. In truth, the longer I’ve watched her this week, the more she’s seemed to fit in and it is possible that my problems with her are more due to growing pains than anything else. So far, she’s the only one who I can’t see doing the job permanently — though obviously, she clearly can.
My score: 3.5 stars.
I’ll be back with more evaluations as the seasons continues, along with any ideas as to who I think most deserves to fill Alex’s shoes.