As most fans of Jeopardy! know, Alex Trebek has been fighting a stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis since 2019. It was a daily double of sadness for anyone who has truly enjoyed Alex’s clue-reading and fully-enjoyable moments of contestant-directed roasting. Alex’s most recent update was that his cancer was affecting his quality of life, but that he would only step away from his hosting gig if he started messing up clues. Alex Trebek is nothing if not a professional. With all that being said, it sounds like the decision-makers at Jeopardy! want to ensure their bases are covered in the event Alex decides it’s time to step down from his job as host, which he’s done since 1984. In comes Ken Jennings, the highest-earning American game show contestant of all time who holds the highest average for correct answers and holds the longest winning streak on Jeopardy! with 74 consecutive wins. According to The New York Post, there’s speculation that Ken is being “groomed” to take over as host when Alex Trebek decides to leave.
The Post reports that 46-year-old Ken Jennings has been brought in as a consulting producer on the show. He’ll also appear in many filmed segments when Jeopardy! finally returns with new episodes on September 14th. Ken will also reportedly help develop Jeopardy! based projects, scout for contestants, and be a general Jeopardy! ambassador. Alex released the following statement about Ken’s new job as the Gritty of Jeopardy! (sorry, Who Is…the Gritty of Jeopardy!).
“I feel good, and I feel excited because once again Jeopardy! has demonstrated that it’s at the forefront of television programmin. I believe we are the first quiz show to come back on the air in the COVID-19 era. On a personal level, I’m excited because it gets me out of the house. It gives me something to do on a regular basis, and I was missing that.”
Naturally, lots of fans started wondering if this wasn’t the beginning of a transition period, where 80-year-old Alex is able to take his time retiring, and Ken can swoop in and accept Alex’s stack of clue cards. Some fans called it, “grooming.” Another Twitter user wrote that they hoped Ken’s new promotion isn’t what it looks like. But Alex is assuring everyone that he’s still going to be the host.
#Jeopardy37 starts September 14 with some exciting changes!
— Jeopardy! Returns 9/14! (@Jeopardy) September 3, 2020
Ken has also chimed in, mostly to address the haters who don’t want to see his face on TV:
I am become Death, destroyer of game shows. pic.twitter.com/6K4tt9PqGo
— Ken Jennings (@KenJennings) September 3, 2020
Alex said just two years ago that he could see his Jeopardy! successor being LA Kings hockey announcer Alex Faust, or CNN legal analyst Laura Coates. So who is to say what the future holds? Maybe Ken Jennings really will just be Jeopardy!’s most-winning mascot. Or maybe he’ll end up hosting the show. I could see problems in that. Ken is a human encyclopedia, not an actor. He’s going to require hours and hours of on-screen training to get it right. Because nothing will kill the flow of the show like Ken’s brain going into Jeopardy! champion mode spoiling all the clues. “State birds for 600. Much like Nebraska’s terrain…oh, I know the answer to this one, what is the meadowlark. Oh no, cut the cameras, I did it again.”