“He never mentioned names to us. He really wanted to be the host of the show, while he was the host of the show,” Mike Richards, the show’s executive producer, recently told Entertainment Tonight. “So we didn’t say, ‘Hey, what about this person? What about that person?’ It was his show until he told us he was going to retire and, amazingly, he never did. I think that’s a blessing.”
Eighteen months after announcing his pancreatic cancer diagnosis, Trebek died on Nov. 8 at the age of 80, surrounded by family and friends. He continued to host “Jeopardy!” as he underwent treatment, and his last day in the studio was Oct. 29 — meaning taped episodes featuring the beloved host will air through Dec. 25.
”We will eventually, in a couple weeks, start having those conversations, because we owe it to Alex to keep the show going. That’s the only thing that will propel us, to be honest,” he said. “That’s when we’ll start to really talk to people and see who can do this. It’s going to take someone with an amazing skill set.”
Although “Jeopardy!” has not actively begun its search for a new host, “Jeopardy!” fans, analysts and others have offered up some contenders. Here’s a rundown of seven potential hosts.
“I mean, it’s absolutely a dream job,” Jennings told the Deseret News earlier this year. “What a great job. … But I really can’t even think about anybody but (Trebek) hosting the show. He’s a hero to America’s nerds. I’m not emotionally prepared for turning on the TV and seeing anybody who’s not Alex Trebek — whether it’s me or not — hosting ‘Jeopardy!’ I’m just not ready to consider that yet.”
Fans have also thrown “Reading Rainbow” host LeVar Burton’s name into the ring — as of Nov. 12, a petition to make Burton the next host has exceeded 15,000 signatures. Burton has even shared the petition and a New York Times article listing him as a potential replacement on Twitter.
“LeVar Burton has inspired and shaped the minds of several generations of trivia-loving nerds,” the petition reads.
I understand why Ken Jennings seems like a great choice to host Jeopardy...— Mychal (@mychal3ts) November 10, 2020
And yet, pretty sure we all know LeVar Burton is the perfect choice.
But you don’t have to take my word for it... pic.twitter.com/F5J1s1ag6H
Author Claire McNear — who interviewed Trebek for her new book “Answers in the Form of Questions” — told The New York Times the longtime “Jeopardy!” host said he would like to see a woman or person of color succeed him.
“He did say to me that he was keenly aware that the vast majority of hosts were white men,” McNear said. “And it would be wonderful if the next host of ‘Jeopardy!’ did not look like him.”
Before Trebek’s death, Burton even tweeted about his interest in hosting the quiz show.
“Not gonna lie, I feel like I’ve been preparing my whole life to occupy the Jeopardy host podium when Alex retires,” he wrote in September.
The ABC news anchor is also a possibility. There have been reports that George Stephanopoulos is lobbying for the position.
From a sportsbook's odds on Alex Trebek's replacement. Only two-thirds of the names are wall-bounce bonkers. pic.twitter.com/KnOBB9iqYU— Steven Zeitchik (@zeitchikWaPo) November 12, 2020
In May, the “Good Morning America” co-host told Howard Stern he was interested in the role, but that whoever takes over for Trebek would have “big shoes to fill,” according to the New York Post.
Despite reports of Stephanopoulos’ interest, though, an ABC rep told the New York Post he is not actively pursuing the role.
During interviews over the last few years, Trebek has occasionally dropped potential names to replace him — including 98-year-old Betty White.
“I joke with the audience all the time and I say, ‘Betty White,’ because they want somebody younger, somebody funnier,” he recently told “Good Morning America.” “Betty and I have been friends for a long, long time.”
In a 2018 interview with TMZ, Trebek also mentioned Alex Faust, who does play-by-play for the Los Angeles Kings during NHL games.
“They should consider him,” Trebek said.
“I guess there are worse ways to randomly see your name show up on TMZ!” Faust tweeted on July 30, 2018. “I’m flattered by Mr. Trebek’s kind words.”
I guess there are worse ways to randomly see your name show up on TMZ! ♂️— Alex Faust (@alex_faust) July 30, 2018
I’m flattered by Mr. Trebek’s kind words, and delighted to hear he’s a big @LAKings fan!
In that same 2018 interview with TMZ, Trebek also mentioned Laura Coates, a legal analyst for CNN.
At the time, Coates said she was “incredibly honored” to be named a potential replacement, according to the Deseret News. Coates also paid tribute to Trebek on Sunday following the news of his death.
“I’m profoundly saddened by the passing of Alex Trebek,” she wrote on Twitter. “When my own grandmother lost her battle w/ pancreatic cancer, the void she left was devastating & unimaginable. I pray his family will feel the love we all feel thinking of the mark this humble legend has left on the world.”
I’m profoundly saddened by the passing of Alex Trebek. When my own grandmother lost her battle w/ pancreatic cancer, the void she left was devastating & unimaginable. I pray his family will feel the love we all feel thinking of the mark this humble legend has left on the world.— Laura Coates (@thelauracoates) November 8, 2020
Several fans responded on Twitter that Coates would be a worthy replacement for Trebek.
“He was one of a kind. And leaves an amazing legacy including you being one his top choices to replace him as the host of Jeopardy!” one user wrote.
Coates would also add diversity as the first African American and first female to host the quiz show, according to Parade.
In 2014, the CNN news anchor was in discussions with the distributors of “Jeopardy!” to be a possible replacement following Trebek’s retirement, according to Today.
Anderson Cooper has also competed on “Celebrity Jeopardy!” a number of times, and has been a longtime fan of the quiz show.
”Cooper said he was definitely interested at that time,” McNear said, according to Today. “He’d be a more traditional game show host to some degree, because he comes from a newscaster model like Trebek. Having someone with that background comes with gravitas and neutrality, and they can do the traffic control that the show requires.”
At 65, Tom Bergeron has an extensive history hosting TV shows — everything from “Hollywood Squares” to “Dancing With the Stars.” In fact, after 15 years, “Dancing With the Stars” let go of Bergeron earlier this year, which would put the TV personality in a good position to host “Jeopardy!”
”Bergeron fits into a classic, broadcasters mode of the people who’ve hosted ‘Jeopardy!’ so far,” said game show historian Adam Nedeff, according to Today. “Tom definitely fits the mold of what the show has had in the past, and there’s a chance they’ll go with what has already worked.”
Other top names floating around include astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and “Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak, according to the New York Post. But no matter who ends up filling the role, Trebek made it clear in his memoir that “Jeopardy!” will always maintain its popularity.
“You could replace me as the host of the show with anybody and it would likely be just as popular,” he wrote, according to the Deseret News. “After 36 years with me, it might even be more popular.
“‘Jeopardy!’ will be just fine. It doesn’t matter who’s the host,” he continued. “I think ‘Jeopardy!’ can go on forever.”