At last, Ken Jennings has finally settled into his role as the host of Jeopardy!‘s day-to-day broadcast. In a new interview with Vulture, Jennings is opening up about the year of uncertainty surrounding the show after Alex Trebek’s passing, as well as the difficulties of filling in for a cultural icon like Trebek.
‘It’s Going To Take Two Of Us To Do His Job’
When Alex Trebek passed away in November of 2020, the longtime Jeopardy! host had already contacted his preferred replacement: Ken Jennings. At the time, Jennings was well-known among Jeopardy! fans as the untouchable all-star. With a 74-game win streak, no contestant has ever come close to rivaling his trivia prowess. However, producers weren’t ready to hand over the reins just yet.
After a short guest-hosting stint, Jennings was sidelined in favor of executive producer Mike Richards. Then, once Richards was ousted for his past insensitive comments, Jennings was back in the running. However, he would be splitting hosting duties with The Big Bang Theory actress Mayim Bialik. According to his sit-down with Vulture, he understands why producers delegated hosting duties to the two of them.
“The virtue of it is that Jeopardy! has a huge audience and a really diverse one. Young folks, old folks, red states, blue states. It’s a weird TV show today because a huge swath of the country watches it and hosting style is largely a matter of personal taste,” Jennings explained. “I wish we had some unifying Alex Trebek type that everyone agreed was perfect for the job, but in his absence, it’s going to take two of us to do his job.”
Jennings Explains How ‘Jeopardy!’ Stays Neutral
The interviewer then suggested that quiz shows are one of the few spaces that politics have yet to invade. According to Jennings, Trebek was very aware of that fact.
“He took that very seriously and so do I. Alex was this cipher who did nothing but provide trivia clues and responses every night for half an hour. It’s going to be very hard in today’s polarized environment to find someone about whom you know nothing politically,” the host elaborated. “When I’m on Jeopardy!, I absolutely think it’s a show that brings comfort to so many people. You shouldn’t be aware of something jarring like politics or ideology when you’re watching Jeopardy!. That’s your time.”
However, Jennings recognizes how Jeopardy! remains important because of the political climate, not just in spite of it. “It’s representing facts and knowledge in an age when that’s sorely needed, but it’s also giving people an anchor in their day. Some comforting quality TV that the families watch together, that friends watch together. It’s a real bonding thing.”
It’s true that there are very few programs on TV these days that don’t sow some sort of division. Thankfully, Jeopardy! recognizes the value in being a show for everyone, and, hopefully, that fact will remain unchanged for years to come!