Looking back at Jeopardy’s evolution after Trebek

Staff writer Joseph Nichols argues the famed game show is on the right track

By Joseph Nichols, Staff Writer

Following the death of Alex Trebek, many wondered if Jeopardy! would be canceled, since Trebek was a staple host of the program and of television as a whole. A variety of hosts have stepped into Trebek’s shoes, but these changes haven’t all been as negative as many believed. Taking a look at Jeopardy!’s trajectory following Trebek’s death, we can see that this beloved show can outlive Trebek and continue to adapt to a changing world.

Before the current tag-team actress Mayim Bialik and former Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings were chosen, veteran producer and host Mike Richards stepped in.  After only a week’s worth of filming, amounting to five episodes, Richards resigned. 

In January 2021, Jennings was chosen as interim host. He is the highest-earning American game show contestant, winning more than four million dollars on Jeopardy! alone. He also holds the longest active win streak in Jeopardy! history, so his was a familiar face to fans at the time of this decision.

While he served as interim host, Jennings was joined in part by a plethora of celebrity hosts including NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Star Trek actor LeVar Burton, among other famous television personalities. 

One of these personalities was The Big Bang Theory’s Bialik, who was chosen to co-host with Jennings after they both received positive reviews following their respective episodes being aired.

“We miss Alex every day. But luckily, it still feels like Jeopardy! The people here are so good at their jobs. They kept the continuity,” Jennings stated.

The first episode under the new official host duo aired in September 2022 following a two-week Tournament of Champions that yielded high ratings that bested those of all other game shows.

Photo courtesy of flickr.com

It would appear that in an era where there is an uptick in cable networks greenlighting absurd game shows and long-standing game shows appearing to be in the twilight of their career, Jeopardy! is making a resurgence.

Constructing a newfound identity built upon the foundation of a household name, Jeopardy! is reinventing itself and becoming more accessible to younger viewers. 

While searching for a new permanent host, Jeopardy! was home to myriad celebrity guest hosts. This garnered attention for the television show that had been absent in recent memory.

Because Jeopardy! called upon well-known people to host, like sports broadcaster Joe Buck and political commentator George Stephanopoulos, followers of these figures tuned in to the program to watch. This introduced or reintroduced a group of people that possibly would not have previously watched Jeopardy!

Casting a wide net and using hosts with a large range of backgrounds has proven itself to be a significant factor in creating a larger following to the program.

This initial buzz surrounding Jeopardy! in the spring with its celebrity guest hosts, paired with the rise of the program on its TikTok and Instagram accounts, has led to its viewership increasing substantially, especially among younger watchers.

Two years after Trebek’s death, the show that he hosted for 37 years continues on a steady course with full steam ahead.