Jeopardy! continues to try out guest hosts to fill the void left by the late Alex Trebek. While each guest host’s viewership won’t be the only factor in naming Trebek’s successor, it’ll undoubtedly be part of the conversation.
This week, The Wrap ranked each Jeopardy! guest host by their average TV rating:
10 (tie). Savannah Guthrie, average rating: 4.8 (June 14 – June 25)
10 (tie): Dr. Sanjay Gupta, 4.8 (June 28 – July 9)
9. Anderson Cooper, 5.0 (April 19 – April 30)
6 (tie). Mayim Bialik, 5.1 (May 31 – June 11)
6 (tie). Dr. Oz, 5.1 (March 22 – April 2)
6 (tie). Buzzy Cohen, 5.1 (May 17 – May 28)
5. Bill Whitaker, 5.2 (May 3 – May 7)
4. Katie Couric, 5.5 (March 8 – March 19)
3. Aaron Rodgers, 5.6 (April 5 – April 16)
2. Mike Richards, 5.9 (February 22 – March 5)
1. Ken Jennings, 6.0 (January 11 – February 19)
Keep in mind, the viewers’ initial interest in the tryouts boosted the show’s ratings early on. But as expected, Jeopardy!’s numbers tapered off from there. Jennings and Richards had advantages Guthrie and Gupta did not.
That said, media circles have viewed Jennings as one of the frontrunners from the start. Jennings is familiar with the audience, and they know what to expect from him. Jeopardy! viewers aren’t looking for a surprise.
Though as a casual Jeopardy! viewer, I find Aaron Rodgers to be an appealing option. Forget that he’s one of the best QBs of all time. Rodgers is a life-long Jeopardy! fan, and his strange, witty personality gives the show a spark. Moreover, Rodgers was impressive on stage in March.
It’s not clear whether each host was truly auditioning in the minds of decision-makers. I find it hard to view current TV hosts like Savannah Guthrie, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Anderson Cooper, or Dr. Oz as realistic candidates.
Jeopardy! will close out its season with LeVar Burton (July 26 to the 30), David Faber (August 2 to 6), and Joe Buck (August 9 to the 13).
It’s worth watching the role that social media plays in Jeopardy!’s decision. Twitter has had such an impact on TV decision-making over the past five years. You can book that Twitter will cheer LeVar Burton and make Joe Buck trend negatively.
Then there’s the question of how high profile the job is. Though the show is historic and a habit for viewers across the country, there’s an old saying that it’s better to replace the guy who replaced the guy than to replace the guy. Alex Trebek will always be “the guy.”
Stepping in Trebek’s shoes comes with pressure and unreasonable expectations. At best, Trebek’s successor can hold onto most of Jeopardy!‘s viewers. At worst, it’ll be like trying to replace Howard Stern. It just can’t be done.
While I’ve long been a high risk/high rewards guy, in this case, Jeopardy! is better off going with the sure thing. That is Ken Jennings.