It has an uncertain future and what happens next is unclear. Correct response: ‘What is ‘Jeopardy!’?’
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For now, “Jeopardy!” says it will welcome a series of guest hosts again, reverting back to the format used after the show’s longtime host, Alex Trebek, died in late 2020.
Richards himself was one of those guest hosts — though there are reports that he wiggled his way in front of the cameras after a minor scheduling conflict with a guest host popped up.
During that period, several people emerged as possibilities and fan favorites, including Mayim Bialik, Buzzy Cohen, Ken Jennings and LeVar Burton. Some other fan favorites likely were not ever serious contenders given that they already have lucrative full time jobs.
We know that “Jeopardy!” did enter into talks with Bialik, given that she was named as host of the show’s primetime spinoffs. Sony admitted that it was talking to multiple people for the role before announcing it had settled on Richards and Bialik.
Technically two people fits the definition of “multiple” people, so it’s not clear if others were considered.
Jennings is already a consulting producer on “Jeopardy!” but also has a contract with ABC’s “The Chase,” where he serves as one of the now four “chasers” alongside fellow “Jeopardy!” champs Brad Rutter and James Holzhauer (the show added British import Mark Labbett for the second season).
Despite being produced by Sony and distributed by CBS Media Ventures, “Jeopardy!” also has a longstanding relationship with ABC because it airs on the network’s owned station in New York City.
Because of this, the network’s standards and practices division oversees “Jeopardy!” and its gameplay, making sure all contestants are treated fairly and material is kept secure.
ABC also aired the show’s primetime “Greatest of All Time” games and will also carry a college championship special hosted by Bialik.
Sony had originally pledged it would name a permanent replacement for Trebek by the start of the 2021-2022 season, but that won’t be the case now — so who might be in consideration?
Jennings is probably a logical first choice for the show to talk to — he’s familiar with the show and format and his shows were the highest rated of all guest hosts (in fairness, Jennings also hosted the first block of shows right after Trebek’s final original ones aired, so he had the advantage of the momentum left by Trebek and interest in the show after his death).
Jennings is also already on staff with “Jeopardy!” and given the show’s relationship with ABC, any scheduling conflicts with “The Chase” might be something that can be shuffled behind the scenes. Jennings could also depart “The Chase” entirely.
Sony had indicated it wanted someone whose only job was “Jeopardy!” — but that rule isn’t necessarily set in stone as accommodations can almost always be made for the right person.
Bialik, who was another fan favorite, is another possibility given that she’s already under contract with the show. The big challenge is that she’s also committed to Fox sitcom “Call Me Kat” through at least one season.
It’s possible that “Jeopardy!” could work around that show’s production, though sitcoms are generally filmed on frenetic one episode per week schedule that includes table reads, rehearsals and tape night, so it’s not immediately clear how effective that could be pulled off.
“Call Me Kat” also hasn’t been a runaway hit, delivering only modest ratings. Fox picked up “Kat” in 2019, likely trying to bank on Bialik’s star power coming off ratings powerhouse “The Big Bang Theory,” which had just ended.
Why is that important? Because “Kat” might not be around much longer. Most new TV shows don’t make it past one or two seasons and even fewer become standout hits.
With “Kat” only delivering moderate viewership, it might not be worth it for Fox to continue beyond Season 2. Season 1 of the show also only had a 13 episode order.
It’s not clear how many have been ordered for Season 2, but it’s set for a mid-season debut, meaning it’s likely going to be around 13 again.
“Jeopardy!” typically takes an extended hiatus around the holidays, which could collide with when “Kat” goes back into production, but those dates are still subject to shift.
Other possibilities include talking with Rutter, Cohen or any other of the guest co-hosts who did well, including fan favorite LeVar Burton. That said, none of the other guest co-hosts used in Season 36 seem like likely candidates because they already have prominent day jobs.
Added to all of these possibilities is the potential conflicts due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and rising number of cases as America sinks into vaccine hesitancy and anti-masking movements.
Hollywood shut down production of most shows after the March 2020 outbreak, eventually coming back online with strict safety protocols (the title “COVID compliance officer” started becoming commonplace in show credits).
Once “Jeopardy!” restarted production, it redesigned its set to socially distance contestants and also adjusted how contestant interviews were shot to keep the host farther away.
If another surge of cases hits, shows could be forced to shut down production again and travel could be affected as well, making it hard for guest co-hosts to get to Los Angeles where “Jeopardy!” tapes.
That said, the TV industry does have one advantage it didn’t have before: More and more people are vaccinated, so hopefully another complete shutdown can be avoided.