GOAT Jeopardy! contestant Ken Jennings took the guest-hosting reins in Monday’s episode of the iconic game show, filling the gargantuan void left by the late Alex Trebek. At the top of the broadcast, Jennings addressed the elephant in the room, assuring fans that he is fully aware that Trebek is irreplaceable.
“Sharing this stage with Alex Trebek was one of the greatest honors of my life,” Jennings said. “Not many things in life are perfect, but Alex did this job pretty much perfectly for more than 36 years, and it was even better up close. We were dazzled by his intelligence, charm and grace.
“Like all Jeopardy! fans, I miss Alex very much,” he continued, fighting back tears. “And I thank him for everything he did for all of us. Let’s be totally clear: No one will ever replace the great Alex Trebek. But we can honor him by playing the game he loved.” (Watch video of Jennings’ message to viewers above.)
The ascension of Jennings to guest host was foreshadowed last September when he joined the show as a consulting producer. In that new role, he presented his own special video categories, developed projects, assisted with contestant outreach, and served as a general ambassador for the show.
Just prior to Monday’s show, Jennings acknowledged the uphill battle he faces winning over viewers. “Honestly, I’m with the audience, I don’t want me out here — I want to see Alex out here. I know exactly how they feel when they see anybody else behind this lectern. But there are tens of millions of people who love this show. We love this show. Alex loved the show. I’m just happy to fill in and help out.”
In announcing Jennings’ promotion to guest host last November, EP Mike Richards said, “Alex believed in the importance of Jeopardy! and always said that he wanted the show to go on after him. We will honor Alex’s legacy by continuing to produce the game he loved with smart contestants and challenging clues. By bringing in familiar guest hosts for the foreseeable future, our goal is to create a sense of community and continuity for our viewers.”
Jennings has been mired in numerous controversies of late involving, among other things, his “unartful and insensitive” Twitter history. Some have speculated that the myriad dustups could jeopardize his shot at becoming the series’ permanent host.
Trebek, who died on Nov. 8 at age 80 after a nearly two-year battle with pancreatic cancer, taped his last Jeopardy! episode in late October. That final episode aired on Jan. 8.
Jeopardy! has yet to officially confirm the identity of its other guest hosts, although it has been reported that former Today co-anchor Katie Couric will step behind the lectern for a week.
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