‘Jeopardy!’ Producer Mike Richards Reveals How LeVar Burton Landed Guest Hosting Gig

by Thad Mitchell

Popular game show Jeopardy! continues moving forward with celebrity guest hosts manning the hosting podium until a permanent host is found.

Jeopardy! officials have employed this strategy since the passing of longtime host Alex Trebek last November. To this point in time, five celebrities have completed their guest hosting tenures to varying levels of success. Former champion Ken Jennings, executive producer Mike Richards, Dr. Mehmet Oz, journalist Katie Couric and NFL star Aaron Rodgers have each taken a turn behind the host’s podium.

Though each guest host pulled a different score on the Nielsen rating scale, each has done an excellent job of keeping the show’s flow intact. Journalist Anderson Cooper is currently behind the Jeopardy! lectern. He will host three more episodes before his stint ends with Friday’s match.

Jeopardy! officials recently released a new batch of celebrity guest hosts that will round out the current season of the show. The list features well-known names like sports announcer Joe Buck, journalists Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos and actor LeVar Burton. Despite several big names in the new pool of upcoming hosting talent, it is Burton who seems to be emerging as the fan favorite.

Jeopardy! Executive Producer Impressed with LeVar Burton

Among Jeopardy! hosting candidates, Burton has lobbied for a spot the hardest. His backers also got into the act, starting a petition to see Burton get one of the highly-coveted hosting gigs. The petition has collected hundreds of thousands of e-signatures in Burton’s favor. Jeopardy! Executive Producer Mike Richards, who was the show’s second guest host, said the support for Burton could not be ignored.

“LeVar and I’ve been speaking for a very long time,” Richards says. “I think he was the first person to reach out to me after Alex passed away, so this is not a new conversation.”

The persistence of Burton and his fans paid off as he will step behind the Jeopardy! podium later this year. The exact dates of his hosting stint have yet to be revealed, but Burton and his backers are joyful for his opportunity. Richards is also appreciative of Burton’s efforts and his consistency in lobbying for a shot.

“It came down to LeVar speaking to his passion and really believing that he would be a great fit to be a guest host,” the executive producer says. “We came down to the final group we were excited to get it all to work together. This is not an easy process.”

Cooper will wrap up his stint on Friday with fellow journalist Bill Whitaker in the on-deck circle. After Whitaker’s run, Jeopardy! will enter its annual Tournament of Champions with former contestant Buzzy Cohen hosting.