Sony stayed the course on Richards despite some blowback last week after Variety reported that Richards was the front-runner. Many fans voiced their displeasure and circulated articles about his being named by models in two lawsuits when he was an executive producer on “The Price is Right.” In a statement this week, Richards said the characterization of the complaints against him “does not reflect the reality of who I am.”
But the decision comes after seven months of actors, TV personalities, broadcast journalists and one proudly nerdy NFL quarterback taking the stage as guest hosts in the search to replace the legendary Alex Trebek, who died in November at age 80. Even with Wednesday’s announcement, we felt it important to assess them all — and organized them by category, of course. Before you get too enraged, do remember this is highly subjective.
Ken Jennings: For years, if anyone asked who would replace Trebek, the most common answer was (who else?) Jennings. The former “Jeopardy!” powerhouse (who shattered records with a 74-day winning streak in 2004 and now serves as a consulting producer) was a natural choice as the debut guest host in January. At first, the reception was lukewarm; adjusting to anyone besides Trebek was tough. But it was hard not to admire Jennings’s command of the game — and his ability to relate to the stress of playing.
Buzzy Cohen: Speaking of command of the game, Cohen — who won six figures during a nine-game run in 2016 and emerged victorious in the 2017 Tournament of Champions — appeared quite comfortable as he breezed through the 2021 Tournament of Champions in May. Maybe “Jeopardy!” producers would have kept him going during regular season games if they realized the enormously positive reception he would receive: Viewers immediately warmed to his sunny confidence and cheerful personality.
LeVar Burton: “Make LeVar Burton the next host of Jeopardy!” a Change.org petition demanded earlier this year — and it worked. Two weeks after Burton’s hosting stint, signatures are still streaming in. The actor, who first tweeted his desire to host the show back in 2013, had sky-high expectations set upon him — and he met them. Bursting with charisma and a voice that has soothed children and adults alike over the years on “Reading Rainbow,” Burton charmed the masses, even with a couple stumbles early in the week.
Katie Couric: The former “CBS Evening News” and “Today” show anchor was the first person outside of the “Jeopardy!” family to host (following Jennings and Richards), and served as proof that for those who had never stepped on the stage before, it would take a few episodes to get the rhythm. But Couric, the first woman to host the show, had an upbeat and steady demeanor that was an excellent match for the game’s pacing. Plus, it was clear she’s used to bantering with strangers. “Maybe you should keep him off carbs,” she suggested to one player who described a 20-pound pet cat that loves eating bread.
Mike Richards: “Who?” asked most viewers. Richards initially seemed like an unexpected breakout hit — an executive producer with a knack for being in front of the camera. Sony Pictures Entertainment, which owns the show, might have been taken aback by the negative reaction online when his name emerged at the top of the list. Though really, at the end of the day, who wants to see the executive producer when there are so many other fun options?
Mayim Bialik: The star of a CBS sitcom and a neuroscientist — how often does that happen? Bialik was an inspired choice and lots of viewers loved her, despite the social media complaints about her laughing too much between clues. Last week, Variety reported that Sony also considered her as one of the top candidates, which makes sense, as she fit perfectly in the “Jeopardy!” world and expertly chatted with the contestants. (“What is a late bloomer?” “Yes — I was one.”)
Robin Roberts: Did any host have as much fun as the “Good Morning America” anchor? She fondly reminisced about how when she was at “SportsCenter,” they would time commercial breaks so they could watch “Jeopardy!” between filming. Roberts immediately launched into the “Jeopardy!” cadence as if she had been hosting for years, which is not shocking, given her day job, and it made her one-week stint feel too short.
Anderson Cooper: The CNN anchor can host anything, so obviously, he was a natural. Almost too natural. As in, it was almost bland, because he’s that good at television. So he sort of cancels himself out.
Bill Whitaker: Despite the longtime broadcast journalist and “60 Minutes” correspondent’s admitted apprehension about the fast pace of the game, he caught on immediately, and was one of the few hosts who didn’t try to inject too much of his personality. While this was pleasing to fans who just want the hosts to stop talking and get to the clues, he handled everything so smoothly that his run also blended into the background.
Fine but forgettable
Aaron Rodgers: Being one of the greatest NFL players of all time (and the co-star of this recent viral and creepy video at Disney World with new fiancee Shailene Woodley) means you’re automatically graded on a curve. After an awkward start, the Green Bay Packers quarterback was a lot funnier and more charming than he had any right to be — including a genuinely hilarious moment when a contestant used “Final Jeopardy!” to troll Rodgers about the Packers’ recent playoff loss. But the gimmick would grow old if we had to watch it much longer.
Savannah Guthrie: The “Today” anchor instantly settled into the role and was delightful on-screen, and quickly made the contestants feel comfortable. However, she brought 7:30 a.m. energy to a 7:30 p.m. job, which doesn’t seem like it would work in the long term.
Sanjay Gupta: CNN’s chief medical correspondent appeared nervous in his early episodes, though he became visibly more comfortable as the game went on, even drawing some laughter by throwing in a “How about them apples?” when the answer to a clue was “Good Will Hunting.” So many of these TV people should probably stick to their regular jobs.
David Faber: The CNBC “Squawk on the Street” co-host was also quite chatty with contestants, which served him well when Yale University PhD student Matt Amodio started an epic winning streak last month, breaking into the Top 5 all-time earners in his 13th game. Faber didn’t just stick to the script, wondering aloud if Amodio’s parents were getting tired of watching him. Otherwise, his stint wasn’t all that memorable.
Thanks for playing
Dr. Oz: Yeah — there’s no way. Not only is it confusing for the host of a fact-based quiz show to be associated with questionable medical advice, but the controversial talk-show host (whose program just happens to share a parent company with “Jeopardy!”) was a grating, overconfident presence.
Joe Buck: Sports fans run hot or cold on Buck, whose persona hardly fits into the medium-warm vibe that characterizes “Jeopardy!” It’s worse if, like Amodio, you’re still processing the Cleveland Indians’ 2016 World Series loss — and sportscaster Buck’s voice is a dreaded reminder. “Jeopardy!” viewers can accept sports as a categorical font of clues, but the show must maintain its rep as a safe space for nerds. Buck doesn’t bring that.
George Stephanopoulos: Wait, did the “Good Morning America” anchor actually host? He did! For one week. We forgot. This doesn’t mean he didn’t do a passable job, but more that you can’t be that forgettable and expect to rank higher on the list.