While their experiences diverged dramatically — Burton got fairly positive reviews — the two men had something in common: an aspiration to step foot on the “Jeopardy!” stage.
Pearce told The Washington Post via text message Wednesday evening that he grew up watching “Jeopardy!,” which would air shortly after “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
“So it was an absolute privilege and honor getting to be on that stage, and especially with someone like LeVar hosting,” Pearce wrote.
On Monday, Burton shared a similar sentiment with the audience.
“As a longtime viewer of the show, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to guest host ‘Jeopardy!’ and I’m proud to be here to honor Alex’s legacy,” said Burton, the star of “Reading Rainbow” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
He was referring to Alex Trebek, the show’s host of 37 seasons, who died in November.
Pearce had once played bar trivia across the street from the “Jeopardy!” studio in Culver City, Calif., as Burton noted during Monday’s show introductions.
Burton was just beginning his week as guest host when Pearce ended his historic “Jeopardy!” run with 10 correct answers and 11 incorrect answers, according to The Jeopardy! Fan, a site that tracks the game show’s statistics. Pearce’s final question came with a photo of a house in Dublin and an explanation that it was used by John F. Kennedy’s sister, Jean Kennedy Smith, the former U.S. ambassador to Ireland.
Shaking his head, Pearce could not say where the house was located, and his score dropped to negative $7,400, surpassing Stephanie Hull’s negative $6,800 score from 2015, Entertainment Weekly reported. (Some close observers argue the lowest score actually belongs to Joan Kantor, who in 1985 finished with negative $5,100, before the game’s dollar values were doubled. With today’s values, she would have scored negative $10,200.)
Nevertheless, Burton’s debut appeared to be a hit, with fans expressing their support online. “Great job!!! It appears to be a natural fit. He’s only going to get better and better!” one fan tweeted.
Salon.com’s television critic, Melanie McFarland, wrote that Burton got off to a “shaky” start, noting he stumbled a few times but that it “emphasize[d] Burton’s humanity.”
“It proves that seasoned veterans still get opening night jitters,” she continued. “Moreover it also [shows] how badly Burton wants this job.”
In April, Burton was “overjoyed” when Sony Pictures Entertainment selected him to be a guest host, alongside big names like Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and former co-host of “Today,” Katie Couric. The selection followed a petition, now signed more than 260,000 times, that addressed the show’s producers and made the case for Burton as the best choice.
“Between hosting 21 seasons of the educational Reading Rainbow, playing the brainiac engineer Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: the Next Generation, and filling the roll of Kunta Kinte in the ever important miniseries Roots, LeVar Burton has inspired and shaped the minds of several generations of trivia-loving nerds,” the petition reads.
In an interview with the Associated Press last week, Burton said he was hopeful he’d get the job, only because he’s a “preternaturally optimistic person.”
“If I don’t get the gig, it’s not immaterial, but it certainly is secondary,” he said. “I got what I was after. The chance — get me in the room.”