When Alex Trebek passed, the producers of Jeopardy! were put in a tough spot. How do you replace a beloved man who’s synonymous with the show? Well, you buy some time by trying out a bunch of guest hosts! Here are the 16 names who’ve attempted to fill the void, ranked from worst to best.
To say Dr. Mehmet Oz was an unpopular choice would be an understatement. Viewers actually launched an appeal to remove the controversial TV star from the show! Co-created by two past contestants, a petition on Medium.com was signed by a total of 600 fans.
Why was Oz such a lightning rod for bad feeling? Well, the petition made it clear. “Throughout his nearly two decades on television, he has used his authority as a doctor to push harmful ideas on to the American public – in stark contrast with his oath to first do no harm,” it said. Dr. Oz advocated hydroxychloroquine as a way to combat COVID-19, for instance.
And the doctor’s performance on the show was widely criticized, too. Emily Seaman, a contestant on one of Oz’s episodes, told The New York Post, “It was just odd. I don’t think he likes Jeopardy!” She also claimed that he struggled to say a difficult word during the Final Jeopardy! round, and that meant the segment had to be re-shot up to eight times. Oh dear.
“Joe Buck shouldn’t even be a sports announcer.” “I will never watch a single episode of Jeopardy! featuring Joe Buck.” “If there’s one person that would disrespect the class and honor of hosting Jeopardy!, it’s Joe Buck.” That’s just a small taste of the social media fury that came after the Fox Sports commentator was announced as a guest host.
And while social media doesn’t speak for the whole world, it definitely wasn’t the reaction producers were looking for. Perhaps the backlash came because he wasn’t LeVar Burton, who many fans have been desperate to see host.
Savannah Guthrie’s time as Jeopardy! guest host was fairly uneventful. When news broke that she had landed the temporary gig, she shared photos that showed her on the Jeopardy! set, along with the message “So honored and excited for this!” But for some observers, that seemed to ring a bit hollow.
Guthrie didn’t appear to be a genuine Jeopardy! superfan like some of the other guest hosts. And while viewers didn’t hold this against her, it may have dampened the enthusiasm of a certain section of the fanbase. Even her Today co-stars’ well wishes were lackluster, with Al Roker replying, “So excited for tonight!” and Natalie Morales adding, “Amazing!” Is that the best they could come up with?
When 60 Minutes journalist and Jeopardy! fan Bill Whitaker was asked if he wanted to guest host, he jumped at the chance. But he was totally unprepared for the fanfare that surrounded his appointment. He told The Washington Post, “I truly did think, silly me, that I was going to be a Jeopardy! guest host and carry on with my life as usual.” That definitely wasn’t the case.
Whitaker was met with a whole lotta scrutiny, including column inches in People magazine and The Hollywood Reporter. He admitted that the fast-paced nature of hosting a game show took a bit of getting used to, and ultimately that reflected in his performance. It wasn’t bad, per se, but it was a tad wooden.
Whitaker was able to do the basics of hosting, but he struggled to inject real personality into proceedings. Game shows are meant to be entertaining as well as brain-teasing, after all. As one fan tweeted, “Current Jeopardy! host Bill Whitaker seems like a pleasant enough fellow. He also has the stage presence of a coat rack.” Ouch.
When David Faber got the guest host gig, he sent out a solid gold tweet. The Squawk on the Street co-host wrote, “He is the least well-known out of an incredible group of guest hosts but promises not to disappoint Jeopardy’s many fans. Correct response – this guy!”
The tweet undoubtedly proved Faber was at least a fan of the show, and that goes a long way. He was able to bring his experience on Celebrity Jeopardy! to his hosting duties, too, and we reckon he did a solid job overall. He wasn’t one of the best guest hosts, but he certainly wasn’t one of the worst, either.
“I used to watch Jeopardy! with my parents and now with my own kids,” Dr. Sanjay Gupta tweeted when he was announced as a guest host. “The thing is, there is just something so beautiful and reassuring about facts; simple, straightforward facts. I cherish that. An honor to be an upcoming guest host, but seriously miss the great Alex Trebek.”
Gupta took time out from his duties as the associate chief of neurosurgery at Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital. And he did well on the show, easily eclipsing the other medical professional chosen to step in as guest host. Sorry, Dr. Oz. But you were no Dr. Gupta.
Not long after Trebek’s unfortunate passing, reports emerged that George Stephanopoulos wanted the full-time job hosting Jeopardy! He had already told Howard Stern, “I think it would be a lot of fun.” But an ABC source denied that Stephanopoulos was campaigning for the role. That would have been disrespectful to Trebek’s family, you see. It also wouldn’t have been a good look for the GMA co-anchor.
But Stephanopoulos did at least become a guest host. He did a good job, too, with his decades of familiarity with the American public making him a compelling presence. Let’s not forget that Stephanopoulos was referenced on Friends, played himself in Spin City, and was reportedly the basis for Rob Lowe’s character in The West Wing!
Buzzy Cohen exactly didn’t bring much mainstream name recognition to his hosting role at the 2021 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions. But for fans of the show, he was a familiar – and beloved – face. Lest we forget, he appeared on Jeopardy! in 2016. He even went on to win the 2017 edition of Tournament of Champions.
During his time on the show as a contestant, Cohen was dubbed “Mr. Personality” by Trebek, which should tell you something about his charisma. And the former music exec – whose real name is Austin David Cohen – took to Twitter to spill his excitement at being chosen to host the tournament. He even made it a family affair.
Cohen tweeted a video of his nephew’s jaw dropping when his mother said, “Guess what? Uncle Buzzy is going to be the host of Jeopardy!!” Alongside the clip, he posted, “Same emotion when I found out I was hosting Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions.” So he was like a returning hero to the show, and he made everyone smile. Nobody can complain about that.
History was made when Jeopardy! producers announced Robin Roberts as a guest host. That’s because the GMA co-anchor became the first black woman ever in the role. It was another step forward for representation, and it made a lot of people get emotional on social media.
One fan tweeted, “Excuse me while I cry,” while another wrote, “Great to see a female representing, and especially since it’s the great Robin Roberts.” Considering the show has sometimes faced criticism for its lack of black contestants, it was a small step toward addressing that imbalance. Perhaps Roberts’ hosting gig will attract a more diverse base of people to apply for the show?
When Mike Richards stepped in as guest host of Jeopardy!, fans would have been forgiven for not recognizing him. He isn’t a famous actor, musician, or news anchor. He definitely isn’t on the A-list. But Richards was a perfect choice. He was the executive producer of Jeopardy!, you see!
Richards is also something of a game show expert. During his career, he has executive produced Let’s Make a Deal, The Price is Right, Wheel of Fortune, and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? His hosting skills were also honed on Beauty and the Geek and The Pyramid. That’s one pretty packed resume!
Viewers immediately warmed to Richards, with his slick delivery and razor-sharp wit recalling the late Trebek. And he did a great job of staying in the same lane as Trebek while never falling into the trap of trying to imitate the legendary presenter. The only reason he isn’t higher on this list is because he isn’t as famous as some of the other guest hosts.
Katie Couric seemed to split viewers when she guest hosted Jeopardy! Some fans loved that she brought her bubbly personality to the role. Others? They felt she drew attention away from the contestants. And Twitter reactions varied wildly from high praise to complete disdain.
Couric still made history when she hosted the show, as she was the first woman to ever do so. And during her two weeks on camera, she helped raise an impressive $230,000 for Stand Up to Cancer. She took her opportunity and did her best with it, which is why we’ve placed her relatively high on our list.
At the end of her stint, Couric was asked by Poynter if she would ever consider hosting the show full time. She replied, “It was a really fun thing to do. But I love what I’m doing now.” And she did say that filming Jeopardy! had made her respect Trebek and the contestants even more, as shooting five shows in one day had been gruelling.
CNN host Anderson Cooper was a natural at hosting Jeopardy!, and fans mostly thought so, too. Somehow, though, he wound up with the worst first-week ratings of any of the guest hosts. That’s why he hasn’t quite hit the heights on our countdown that his hosting skills deserved.
Cooper’s first seven days got a 5.1 rating, which lagged far behind Aaron Rodgers’ at 5.6 and Ken Jennings’ at 6.2. He also lost out to Dr. Oz, who drew a 5.2 rating. Yes, he somehow attracted fewer viewers than the guy who had people petitioning against him!
So it wasn’t a pretty picture for Cooper, ratings-wise. But he was warmly received, nonetheless, and he raised $138,000 for his chosen charity. His experience as a newscaster undoubtedly helped him think on his feet as Jeopardy! host, and he was smooth, funny, and comfortable dealing with contestants. Maybe viewers just needed some time to adjust to him… or perhaps not.
LeVar Burton has made something crystal clear when it comes to Jeopardy!: he wants to be the permanent host going forward. The Star Trek actor told The View that he believes he’s good enough. And his guest-hosting stint may have been crucial in deciding whether he got the job.
Burton was certainly popular enough with fans to be in serious contention. More than 250,000 people signed a petition requesting that he get the job! He also picked up celebrity support from Stephen Colbert and Yvette Nicole Brown. We reckon Jeopardy! and Burton are a great match, so we’ll be eagerly watching to see if he ever gets his wish.
Ken Jennings took on one of the hardest jobs in show business. As the first guest host of Jeopardy!, he somehow had to fill Trebek’s shoes. He was a fitting choice by producers, though, as his legacy as a contestant is second to none. To this day, he still holds the record for most consecutive wins on the show.
Jennings also won Jeopardy! The Greatest Of All Time in 2020, taking home the $1 million prize, and in 2020 he became a consulting producer on the show. So despite not being a true television personality, he made perfect sense to take over from Trebek for a while. And he repaid the producers’ faith in him by delivering a comforting performance during the awkward transition.
Jennings even killed it in the ratings. His first week of shows got 10.3 million viewers, which was enough to make it the second most-watched week of the season. The first most-watched? Trebek’s final week, of course. And after his time as host concluded, Jennings paid tribute to the fans and to Trebek in particular when he tweeted, “Thanks for watching” and “As always, thank you, Alex.”
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers wowed everyone with his guest host stint on Jeopardy! And no one seemed to be a bigger fan than New York Post writer Andrea Peyser, who gushed, “He’s funny, self-effacing, whip-smart and ridiculously handsome, with a sense of comedic timing that should be the envy of every seasoned television professional out there.” Who’da thunk?
USA Today also noted the totally chill, friendly bro vibe Rodgers brought to his hosting duties, which was pretty on the money. His comfort level with hosting was pleasantly surprising, and he always seemed at ease. It all led one Twitter user to hilariously write, “So it turns out Aaron Rodgers is a TV game show host who happens to be good at football.”
Rodgers’ presence led to a huge $236,000 being raised for charity. And it also let the professional athlete live out one of his personal dreams. He said during his first show, “As a lifelong fan of Jeopardy!, it is an incredible honor to guest host.” He then fondly remembered Trebek, who he had shared the stage with during his winning run on Celebrity Jeopardy! A class act.
The Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik had all the right ingredients for excelling as a Jeopardy! host. On top of being a famous comedic actress with bundles of personality, she’s a neuroscientist with a Ph.D. from UCLA. Her charisma and smarts are more than enough to place her at number one on our list.
And Bialik rocked it despite not being a big fan. She admitted to People magazine, “It wasn’t, like, a cultural cornerstone of my parents’ and my life growing up, but obviously I’ve watched it.” She also doubted how well she’d fare as a contestant, as she felt her scientific knowledge may be too narrow. So, she’s smart, but maybe not Jeopardy! smart.