‘Jeopardy!’ announces first ‘interim guest host,’ airdate shuffles

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Jeopardy!” has named the first of what it says will be several “interim hosts” as well as a change to how it will air the final episodes featuring the late Alex Trebek.

Ken Jennings, who already signed on as a producer and consultant at the beginning of the current season, will be the first interim host, the show confirmed on its social media Nov. 23, 2020.

“Additional guest hosts to be announced,” the statement adds.

Jennings has already been appearing in pre-taped clues and is also said to be working on “special projects” for the show.

The show will go back into production Nov. 30, 2020, according to the announcement. Production had been on pause since Trebek taped his last episodes just weeks before his death Nov. 8, 2020.

The show had originally been planning to air Trebek’s final episode on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2020.

Now, however, the show is changing directions and will air 10 of his “best episodes” the weeks of Dec. 21 and Dec. 28, 2020.

Trebek’s final episodes will air the week of Jan. 4, 2021, with Jennings making his debut Jan. 11, 2021 (this means Trebek’s last episode will air Jan. 8, 2021).

With this announcement, it appears “Jeopardy!” is taking a deliberate and perhaps even cautious approach to naming a permanent replacement for Trebek by testing out multiple hosts to presumably gauge audience reaction and performance.

Although the show did not name additional guest hosts Nov. 23, other fan favorites for a permanent replacement include Jennings’ fellow super champ Brad Rutter.

When Jennings was officially announced as a part of the “Jeopardy!” team earlier this year prior to Trebek’s death, some fans saw this as a move to name him as heir apparent to Trebek’s lectern — though the show never officially labeled it that way.

Meanwhile, an online fan effort has been lobbying for former “Reading Rainbow” host Levar Burton to take over, though there hasn’t been any official word on if that’s even being explored.

“Jeopardy!” is one of the most successful syndicated TV franchises of all time, so its future success, which could be heavily driven by who replaces Trebek, could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars in syndication fees, ad revenue and more.

Trebek hosted the show since the current iteration debuted in 1984. There had been various daytime and evening versions prior to that, with the first version dating back to 1964.

As of his death, he had appeared in over 8,000 episodes, having never missed a taping with the sole exception of a 1997 April Fools’ edition he and “Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak swapped roles for a single episode (this episode often isn’t considered “missing” a taping because he still appeared on air that same day, albeit on a different show).

Like many TV shows, “Jeopardy!” halted production for a period of time in the spring of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning it aired a few blocks of repeats to fill the time.

“Jeopardy!” is syndicated, meaning that it airs on different stations in different markets, often the station that’s willing to pay the most for the rights to broadcast it. In major markets, it typically airs on the ABC owned station, including the flagship WABC in New York.

Some stations also air repeats, usually from the season immediately preceding the current one, on weekends.

Although the show did not announce plans for weekend reruns, if it continues to follow this model, Trebek could continue to be seen in these timeslots into 2021.