Hit game show Jeopardy! has undergone some major changes recently after the passing of iconic host Alex Trebek. The show has had numerous guest hosts including Ken Jennings. It’s not easy following a legend like Trebek as Jennings soon found out.
Finding Jennings behind the Jeopardy! podium instead of Trebek, contestant Zach Newkirk understandably made a small error. Newkirk was the reigning Jeopardy! champion when the COVID-19 pandemic shut the show down. He was a four-game winner who last recorded a show in March with Trebek at the helm. It isn’t that he mistook Jennings for Trebek, but by force of habit he called the all-time great “Alex” during the contestant introduction segment.
“I felt really bad and embarrassed, but he was such a great sport about it,” Newkirk says. “He said, ‘If there’s anyone I could hope to be compared to, it would be Alex Trebek, so it’s really an honor.’”
Newkirk wouldn’t be the only person to make the easy mistake that day. He recalls a crew member also referring to Jennings as Alex.
The mix-up would be edited out and in the version that went to air, Newkirk says “That’s right, Ken” instead of “That’s right Alex.” All is well that ends well in the editing room.
Alex Trebek and His ‘Jeopardy!’ Legacy
For 37 years, Alex Trebek presided over Jeopardy! matches and in the process became a superstar himself. With a list of accolades and accomplishments that rival any and all game show hosts, Trebek stood out for his intellect and poise. His lengthy list of awards included numerous Emmy Awards, and he had stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Canadian Walk of Fame.
Trebek passed away late last year after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80-years-old at the time of his passing and recorded his final Jeopardy! episodes only days before his death.
Replacing a legend like Trebek is a tall task for Jeopardy! officials and they are committed to taking their time. Instead of rushing out to find a permanent host, Jeopardy! has utilized various celebrities to serve as guest hosts. Former champion and world’s most successful game show contestant Ken Jennings was first in line. He began his stint as host earlier this year. It comes as no surprise that there was to be a major adjustment period for the show and its contestants. That much was evident during Jennings’ first few episodes as the show adapted to a brand new host.
Jennings would go on to guest host Jeopardy! for six weeks before handing off to executive producer Mike Richards. The hosting reigns are currently in the capable hands of journalist Anderson Cooper. His two-week tenure will end next Friday with fellow journalist Bill Whitaker then set to assume the role.