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Roughly six months after longtime “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek died, an executive producer on the show is speaking out about the process of finding his replacement.
Trebek died in November of 2020 at age 80 after a lengthy and public battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The late star made good on his promise to continue hosting the show as long as he could, with a handful of episodes in which he hosted continuing to debut after his death. Since those episodes dried up, though, a rotating roster of celebrity guest hosts have been tapped to keep the show going as the minds behind “Jeopardy!” search for a permanent replacement.
Speaking on a recent episode of The Wall Street Journal’s podcast “The Journal,” executive producer, and former guest host, Mike Richards, revealed some details about the lengthy and thorough process that Sony Entertainment is using to fill the massive shoes left by Trebek.
He notes that, when Season 38 kicks off in late July or early August, he fully expects it to do so with Trebek’s permanent replacement at the helm.
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“It’s going to come down to the heads of Sony (Entertainment) to make that decision, ultimately, and it’ll come down to testing,” the 45-year-old said (via “Today”). “They’ve been a part of it. They know what’s going on in the studio. They’re watching the feed, the tapings. It’s very extensive. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of, as far as testing in its size and scope.”
‘Jeopardy!’ is reportedly winding down its search for a new host to replace the late Alex Trebek.
(Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images)
Representatives for “Jeopardy!” did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
Although Richards has been privy to the testing process, he says that he’s as completely in the dark as everyone else when it comes to who is a current front-runner to take over Trebek’s duties as host full-time. However, he did note that the hope is to find someone to actually do the job full-time like Trebek did.
“I feel like it worked out pretty well for Alex as one job,” he explained. “It’s not a side hustle to me, and we’ve been clear about that.”
Since Trebek died, guest hosts like Richards, former “Jeopardy!” champ Ken Jennings, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Katie Couric, Aaron Rodgers and more have filled in as guests. Currently, stars like Bill Whitaker, Mayim Bialik, Savannah Guthrie and LeVar Burton have been tapped for guest hosting runs in the future. Although he does not know anything for sure, Richards implied that he would be surprised if one of the previous or upcoming guests were not picked as the new lead.
“It’s definitely going to play into it, and I think there’s different ways fan response can play into it,” Richards explained. “What we are working on, as far as really understanding what the fans are saying and who’s saying it, is very important.”
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Many fans have made their voices heard on the matter online, notably with the immensely popular petition for former “Reading Rainbow” and “Star Trek” actor Burton. In addition, Rodgers has previously hinted that he would be willing to hang up his NFL career and take on the role of “Jeopardy!” host if it were offered to him. However, in addition to name recognition and fan support, Richards insists there’s more to hosting “Jeopardy!” than simply the loudest fan or guest host voice.
“Do you believe in them when they’re making a ruling in the game?” Richards said. “The host of ‘Jeopardy!’ is the arbiter of the game. So do you buy them going, ‘Yes, that’s correct’?”
Alex Trebek’s wife, Jean, spoke out about what hosting ‘Jeopardy!’ meant to him.
(ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP via Getty Images)
Hosting “Jeopardy!” was more than just a job to Trebek, as his wife, Jean, recently explained in an interview with “Today” co-anchor Savannah Guthrie as part of the NBC special “Inspiring America: The 2021 Inspiration List.”
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“Yeah. Doing ‘Jeopardy!’ really gave him a sense of purpose, a reason to wake up in the morning,” she revealed. “And I would say we all need that. We all need a purpose.”
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She added: “Yeah. I think, Savannah, that I knew his life was going to, on Earth here, would wrap up quickly when he could no longer do the show. But he wanted to finish strong. And he did. And he lived life on his own terms.”
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