‘Jeopardy!’: Where Do Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik Stand on Hunt for Permanent Host?

by Josh Lanier
(Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images)

When historians look back at 2021, they’ll likely call it the great placeholder year. Everything happened. Nothing changed. COVID-19 cases raged. That Netflix show we promised our friend we’d watch is still in the queue. And Jeopardy! still doesn’t have a full-time host.

But it does feel like we’re reaching an endpoint with at least one of those. And it’s not Narcos, which I promise I’m going to watch. Jeopardy! seems to have down the show’s search for a permanent replacement down to two people. Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik have taken turns since September hosting the popular syndicated game show as producers work behind the scenes to figure out who gets the job. Though, we still don’t know who that will be.

Ken Jennings appears to be the fan-favorite. And he was Trebek’s favorite contestant during his decades hosting the show. When Jennings began guest-hosting duties last month, Alex Trebek‘s widow sent him a special gift.

“I miss Alex a lot,” Ken Jennings says in a clip posted to Jeopardy!‘s Twitter. “When I’m in here, I feel like he’s probably in the building somewhere. It’s hard not to talk about him in the present tense. The first day I came in to guest host was just a few weeks after Alex passed, and it was a really rough time. I got to the studio and one of the producers handed me a little box. Alex’s wife, Jean, had given me a pair of cufflinks that he had worn on the show.”

But Sony already passed on Jennings this summer when executives picked producer Mike Richards to take the podium. Though, that choice blew up in their faces.

Both Gave Jeopardy! a Steady Hand During Tough Times

Jeopardy!’s future seemed uncertain after Alex Trebek’s last year. He’d hosted the show since 1984 and built it into a behemoth. Ken Jennings stepped in and gave the show its first glimpse of life after Trebek. He was steady and consistent.

This summer, when Jeopardy! was facing its next major hurdle, Mayim Bialik was the one to guide the show through rough seas. Sony executives picked Mike Richards to host the show in August with Bialik handling all primetime duties. Within hours of the announcement, the Richards pick looked shaky. Sony had tasked him with finding a new host, and he suggested himself. That didn’t sit well with former past champions, show staff, and many fans. Then The Ringer reported about some of the offensive things he’d said on his podcast, and he was done.

It was Bialik’s turn to save Jeopardy! She took over hosting the syndicated show and pushed it forward through some of its most prosperous times with contests such as Matt Amodio and Jonathan Fisher.

After Trebek died, Sony had the impossible task of finding someone to fill his shoes. Now, the company has the opposite problem. There are too many qualified hosts.