The search for Jeopardy!’s new host is in full swing, but who has what it takes to fill the late Alex Trebek’s shoes? Since the start of 2021, various personalities, starting with former champion Ken Jennings, have stood behind the lectern once occupied by the iconic host. Find out which famous faces have delivered clues since Trebek’s passing and see how they fared in the eyes of Jeopardy! devotees.
‘Jeopardy!’ Is Looking For A New Host After The Tragic Passing Of Alex Trebek
The world lost a legend when Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek died of pancreatic cancer in November 2020. Trebek hosted the famous quiz show for 36 years, and his passing put the fate of the series in question.
Jeopardy! producers have since used a line-up of interim hosts while they decide on a permanent replacement. So far, their selection has been diverse. Predictable appointments include Jeopardy! GOAT Ken Jennings and executive producer Mike Richards; more unexpected faces range from CNN medical adviser Dr. Sanjay Gupta to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Future hosts include NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, and fan-favorite pick, LeVar Burton.
“We’re going to look at the guest hosts, we want to see how the community reacts, how people feel,” Richards told USA Today shortly before his own two-week hosting stint. “I felt it was very important to not choose someone right away, because we are all still mourning Alex, we all still miss him. Whoever we put in that role would have been in an unwinnable war, so that’s the reason for the direction that we’ve taken.”
Richards’ conservative approach was for the best. Diehard Jeopardy! fans have had tons of hot takes on the roster of potential replacements, and they’ve been reflected in the show’s volatile, post-Trebek ratings.
A permanent host is expected to be named this summer. As the search continues, check out our ranking from the worst guest hosts to the best. We’ll add to this list as more guest hosts take their shot at the gig.
8. Dr. Oz
On paper, Dr. Mehmet Oz seemed like a good choice for hosting Jeopardy! The Oprah-endorsed doctor already has experience hosting an Emmy Award-winning talk show, and he was a close friend of Trebek.
Unfortunately, Dr. Oz’s hosting lacked the wittiness that audiences appreciated from Trebek. His personality felt like a mismatch for Jeopardy! And to make matters worse, ratings during his two-week run were a flop. While Trebek’s final episode drew 14 million viewers, Oz attracted 4.9 million. It was a million fewer than the guest hosts who preceded him.
Oz’s poor showing is also linked to his controversial standing as a healthcare professional. For years, he’s been criticized for making false medical claims and promoting questionable treatments. His gig even had previous Jeopardy! hopefuls up in arms.
“I’m horrified that [Jeopardy!] producers are providing Dr. Oz with an opportunity to show off and reinforce his credibility as an ‘expert,’” former contestant Tova Perlmutter told VICE. “Given his track record of shilling for unproven and even dangerous practices, having Dr. Oz as a host damages the show’s credibility as a neutral purveyor of facts.”
Even without his history of scandalous endorsements and comments, Oz didn’t come close to having Trebek’s spark. Over 85 percent of respondents in a TV Line poll voted against Oz as a full-time replacement.
7. Katie Couric
Compared to Dr. Oz, Katie Couric fared slightly better as a guest Jeopardy! host. The former Today co-host and CBS Evening News anchor led to a five percent dip in ratings, and her performance was mostly met with mixed reviews.
When Couric shared the news about her role as guest host, Diane Keaton reacted on social media with raised hands emojis. Heidi Klum replied, “Love it!!”
“Hang in there Katie, you did a great job and I was so excited to see a woman hosting!” tweeted former five-time champ Kristin Saulsville. “The contestant community stands behind you.”
Of course, there were critics, too. Much of the negative feedback wasn’t related to her actual performance, but her politics.
“People like Katie Couric and Anderson Cooper are too political for Jeopardy,” said one commenter on TV Insider.
“Alex kept politics out of Jeopardy…” added another. “Why bring these outspoken, controversial characters onto such a great show?”
The haters can rest assured that Couric won’t be a permanent fixture on the show. In March 2021, Poynter asked if she’d be interested in full-time hosting duties.
“I don’t think so,” said Couric. “It was a really fun thing to do. I love what I’m doing now. I have tremendous flexibility.”
6. Bill Whitaker
Legendary journalist Bill Whitaker guest-hosted Jeopardy at the beginning of May. He lands towards the middle for his performance. It definitely wasn’t the worst, but it also wasn’t our favorite.
Drawing from his journalism experience, Whitaker had a calm, stoic presence. It made for easy watching, and fans on social media had positive things to say about his smooth demeanor. However, he seemed to struggle with maintaining chemistry with the contestants, and that’s a very important piece to the puzzle.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Whitaker admitted that he was a little bit out of his element and only had one day to rehearse.
“I work in television news, which is a totally different animal. I’m used to talking to one camera,” he said. “Here, you had, I think, four cameras — one swoops in from the side, you talk to that one at the end of one commercial, and then swoops to another one you have to talk to after a commercial, and then the contestants are over on the other side. The thing that I was most surprised about was just how fast-paced it is.”
He got into the groove by the end of his two-week stint, but hosting the show full time doesn’t seem to be on his radar. He told the Post, “I love my day job, so this was just a change of pace.”
5. Aaron Rodgers
Green Bay Packers quarterback (and Shailene Woodley’s future husband) Aaron Rodgers was an unexpected hit as guest host. With his soft-spoken and pleasant demeanor, the athlete surprisingly resembled Trebek in his delivery. He showed that he’s just as adept on a game show as he is on the gridiron.
He also revealed that he’s a good sport in the face of trolls. Check out this clip where a contestant references a losing play from the Packers’ last season.
Does Rodgers have the charisma of a permanent game show host? Probably not. But even Chicago Bears fans (the Packers’ rivals) can admit that the 10-episode run was head-and-shoulders above Oz’s time on the show.
“[He] came in so prepared it was unbelievable,” executive producer Richards told The Ringer. “He approached this like he was breaking down game footage. He watched a ton of episodes and he came in with questions like, ‘Now if this happens, how do I deal with it?’ And I was like, ‘Well, that doesn’t really happen.’ And he said, ‘I saw one! I want to know because I want to be prepared.’ He came in prepared like an MVP quarterback would for a huge game.”
4. Anderson Cooper
Anderson Cooper’s two-week run on Jeopardy! wrapped on April 30, and fans were pleasantly surprised by his performance. It probably shouldn’t have come as a shock, though—after all, the CNN anchor is a four-time contestant and two-time winner himself.
In 2004, he won $50,000 for the American Heart Association on Jeopardy! Power Players Week. Eight years later, he defeated New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell during 2012’s Jeopardy! Power Players Week. Cooper scored another $50,000, this time for The Trevor Project—a nonprofit organization that provides suicide prevention programs for LGBTQ+ youth.
Despite his achievements, Cooper confessed to having the jitters about stepping into Trebek’s shoes. “I’m actually kind of nervous,” he said in a pre-show interview.
But Cooper’s appearance generally received lots of love—even from familiar names.
“I sit on the edge of the bed glued to the tube,” said actor Leslie Jordan. “Just like your little boy!!!”
3. Ken Jennings
If Trebek is the ultimate Jeopardy! icon, Ken Jennings runs a close second for the title. The highest-earning contestant in the show’s history is a common-sense choice to replace the late host. He’s witty, smart as a whip, and has a built-in legion of fans.
His genuine connection to Trebek also adds to his appeal. But, Jennings carries some baggage for a history of problematic tweets. He has had to clarify or apologize for past comments on a number of topics, including, but not limited to, disabled people, Barron Trump, and cancer patients.
Jennings isn’t likely to be sidelined for his insensitive remarks. In fact, many believe—and want—him to step into Trebek’s role for the long haul. By his third week as guest host, ratings even crept up by two percent.
“I did feel like at the end, I was almost starting to get comfortable, I was starting to enjoy it a little bit,” said Jennings. “I think with time I am starting to figure this out. So I do hope I get another chance.”
With all of the praise that’s been showered on him, you might wonder why he’s in the number three spot. Our top picks may come as a surprise.
2. Buzzy Cohen
Like Ken Jennings, Buzzy Cohen is a fan-favorite contestant who landed a shot at guest-hosting the show. Fans remember him as the winner of 2017’s Tournament of Champions, so it was a full-circle moment for him to host this year’s Tournament of Champions.
When he was a contestant on the show, he earned the nickname “Mr. Personality,” and that big personality definitely shined through during his time as guest host. You can tell that Cohen has a genuine enthusiasm for the game, and that helps him connect with both the guests and the audience at home.
The response from fans on social media was overwhelmingly positive. “Buzzy is rocking it! Best episode I’ve seen in a while,” wrote one commenter.
“Confident, comfortable, personable… He certainly has a future as a host even if it isn’t on J,” wrote another fan.
Originally, we thought Ken Jennings had the best shot at landing the full-time gig, but Cohen has certainly given him a run for his money. Still, he isn’t our number one pick.
1. Mike Richards
Mike Richards is the dark horse in the Jeopardy! hosting race. Most people aren’t familiar with his name, but he’s the executive producer of both the quiz show and Wheel of Fortune. It’s not his first time at the rodeo, either—back in 2012, he hosted The Pyramid on the Game Show Network.
His experience has undoubtedly given him the tools to be an exceptional host. During his two-week stint, Richards was a pro. He didn’t use cue cards during contestant interviews, and he had a natural delivery when giving clues. It was even more impressive when he revealed that he took the job on three days notice.
“In some ways it’s easier for me, because I’m an executive producer,” he told USA Today. “So if I didn’t like the way [a clue] was written I could get mad at me. Once I was able to get [past] the enormity of the man who stood behind the lectern for the better part of four decades … it was very fun.”
Listen as the 45-year-old talks about the gig and shares memories of Trebek.
Although we have yet to see how future guest hosts fare, it feels like either Jennings or Cohen are a lock for the job. But based on performance alone, we give Richards the honor of being the most competent and engaging Jeopardy! host we’ve seen so far.