As many may know, the beloved television staple Jeopardy! has recently lost it’s iconic host of 36 years, the legend that is Alex Trebek. For his entire run, Alex Trebek provided a unique and incredibly calming presence to viewers across the world, as well as the show’s many contestants, and his name has become synonymous with the program that he hosted. His untimely passing from pancreatic cancer has left a void in the heart of millions, and it’s a void that the show runners of Jeopardy! have had an incredibly hard time trying to fill. Audiences have been sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for the announcement, and, finally, the new Jeopardy! host has officially been revealed!
Alex Trebek’s shoes definitely weren’t going to be the easiest to fill, especially after his 36-year run that essentially defined the beloved game show Jeopardy! for it’s ever-growing audience. Trebek had a wholesome and inviting presence that not only won over and comforted contestants on the show, but also touched the lives of all of the many people the world over that would tune in routinely to watch. He wasn’t only a part of the Jeopardy! family, he was a part of the family of all of his audience, and his death had a major impact upon both the audience and those closest to him.
As with any death, though, the time eventually comes to move on, and that was going to be an incredibly tough prospect for the show runners of the beloved game show that Trebek had helped put on the map oh-so-many years ago. Still, any job worth doing can be done, and the show runners took their journey in strides. They had several months to choose who the replacement host would be, and they had a plethora of amazing choices to pick from him. There was some interesting criteria these candidates would have to fill, though, which made the decision that much tougher for the executives tasked with making the final choice.
Game show hosting is a unique skill, and Alex Trebek is one of the best that has ever graced the business. It’s telling that Trebek was always introduced as the “host” of Jeopardy! and not the star, because the true stars of the show were the contestants that would come on and play each episode. Alex’s job, then, was to be the middle man between these contestants, the audience, and the game itself. Because of this, it was important that Trebek didn’t try and steal the show, instead being a simple calming presence that would help the contestants loosen up and be comfortable in their own skin on the camera. This affability is what translated so well to the audience, and the show runners knew this when picking a replacement.
The important point was that whoever they picked couldn’t be a “star”, or someone that would try to center the show around themselves. It could be someone that the audience recognized, and they would have to have a personality that translated well to the camera, but it couldn’t be someone that would eclipse the audience, or the show itself. For this reason, there was a very fine line that the executives in charge had to walk when making the final choice. Let’s take a look at some of the many candidates they had to pick from!
One possible choice that the show runners were kicking around for a while was Betty White. Perhaps an equally beloved personality to Alex Trebek, Betty White rose to mass prominence in the show Golden Girls, and has since become a universal and very family-friendly icon that few people can resist. She was friends with Trebek, and certainly knows her way around the camera. However, at 98 years of age, hiring on Betty to take Trebek’s place permanently didn’t seem like much of a “golden” prospect, and the aging star likely wouldn’t have had much interest in taking the reigns at this late stage in the game, anyways. Still, her heartwarming presence would have been the perfect match for the game show, and it’s certainly what the show runners were considering when they brought her name up.
After Betty White, another person that the executives considered was Anderson Cooper. Most popular for his work with CNN, Cooper is a fairly welcoming and controversy-free figure that the majority of the Jeopardy! audience likely wouldn’t mind getting behind. This might seem like a bit of strange choice, but the newsman certainly is no stranger to the camera, or hosting. As the host of his own successful program, Anderson Cooper 360, for many years, Cooper has dealt with many, many guests of different calibers and, most importantly, an ever-changing audience that spans people from all ages. The 53-year-old anchor has previously been in talks as a just-in-case replacement for Trebek as early as 2014, so it’s no wonder that the executives seriously considered him now that they’re actually in need. However, it appears that both the executives and Cooper have chosen a different direction. If you’re enjoying the story so far, be sure to hit the like button to support more content from Facts Verse in the future! As well, subscribe to be notified when that content is on it’s way!
Neither Betty White nor Anderson Cooper ended up being the best choices for the show runners, so let’s take a look at some of the other candidates that they considered! One other candidate was Laura Coates, another CNN alum. Her and Trebek were on good standing, and she was another very experienced candidate given her prior jobs. However, like White and Cooper, things just didn’t quite work out. The executives then considered the actor LeVar Burton. Perhaps best known as the host of another hit show, this time the seminal children’s program Reading Rainbow, Burton was another perfectly experienced forerunner for the competition due to his incredibly warm and family-friendly presence, as well as his unmatched affability. The audience was certainly interested in the prospect of Burton coming on to replace Trebek, with Burton standing as the only potential candidate who was backed up by an audience petition! However, the 63 year-old television start just didn’t end up being the perfect match.
Then there’s Alex Faust, another prime candidate, who has spent many of his 31 years as a sportscaster. Once again, this is an area of expertise that can come into play in a big way when it comes to hosting a game show, as Faust is both a veteran on camera and a welcoming presence for the audience. Faust was named as a potential replacement by Trebek himself before his untimely passing, saying personally that “[the show runners] should consider him [in the event of his passing or retirement]”. While this was certainly an incredibly flattering thing for Faust to hear, things didn’t quite work out. The logic makes sense, though, as what Faust does is comment on games, and there’s no game out there quite like Jeopardy!.
Tom Bergeron, a previous host of America’s Funniest Home Videos, Dancing With the Stars, and Hollywood Squares, was also considered. The 65-year-old television veteran was both available and perfectly experienced to take the reigns of Alex Trebek, although the executives in charge eventually decided to go in a different direction. Just like with Betty White, Bergeron’s age made him a bit of a gamble for the show runners, who certainly didn’t want to choose a replacement who was simply going to retire in a couple of years, leaving the void in need of filling once again. The candidate the executives were looking for was someone who was experienced, available, and would be able to commit to the show long-term, hopefully coming close to the 36-year run that Trebek put in.
All of these candidates brought something unique to the table, and gave the show runners plenty of options to mull over before making their final choice. However, in the end, they decided to go in a completely different direction… choosing someone who was experienced with the beloved game show in a completely different way. For those who have been watching Jeopardy! over the years, the replacement that the executives ended up choosing was a familiar face, because he had been a contestant on the show previously. Not only that, but he is known as the contestant with the longest winning streak on Jeopardy! in history, and is famous for being the highest-winning American game show contestant of all time. This man, of course, is the legendary contestant Ken Jennings.
The 46-year-old didn’t simply get pulled right out of the blue. Jennings previously turned his winning status into his own multimedia brand, with a large social media presence and even his own book deal. More importantly, the year of Trebek’s untimely death saw Jennings take on an actual role as a consulting producer on Jeopardy!, and he got to try hosting some pre-recorded segments for the show. Many onlookers speculated that perhaps Jennings was being prepared for eventually filling in for Alex Trebek, and it appears as if those onlookers were right on the money! Just recently, it was made official that Jennings was going to become the official replacement for Trebek, and is going to start filling his shoes incredibly soon!
Jennings turned out to simply be the perfect choice. As both a contestant and a media personality in his own right, he was the perfect medium to help bridge the gap in the unique way that Trebek was known for. Unlike other celebrity candidates, he is the perfect everyman to make both the contestants and the audience feel welcome with that classic Trebek spirit, while still bringing his own unique personality to the table. As of now, Jennings has only been named the “temporary guest host” for the beloved game show, but it’s very possible that this is simply a label the executives are giving him just in case things don’t work out. If history is any indication, Jennings heart is certainly in sync with the beloved television staple that is Jeopardy!, and it’s very possible that he might end up filling Trebek’s shoes permanently later on. As for now, we can all feel excited to watch Jennings try his hand at hosting for the time being, and we may even come to love him just as much as we loved Alex Trebek!
Alex Trebek certainly has some large metaphorical shoes to fill, and hopefully Ken Jennings is able to prove himself as the beloved icon’s rightful heir! Comment down below to share your favorite Alex Trebek moment over his long career, or share with us who you think might’ve made an excellent replacement for the beloved American icon! As well, hit the like button if you’d like to support more Facts Verse content being made in the future, and subscribe and hit the notification bell to be sure you’re notified when it’s on it’s way!