As I wrote in a previous staff pick, I was visiting my family in California when I found out about the death of Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek on Nov. 8. It really deflated my mood that day, but also reignited my nostalgia for all of his work in the game show genre. I figured it would happen sooner or later, just not when it did.
Nonetheless, I knew once the world had a chance to grieve, that executive producer Mike Richards would have to get to work finding his next-in-line to host. So when I heard that he was lining up a series of guest hosts for the new year, and that former contestant (and Greatest of All Time tournament champion) Ken Jennings would lead off, my ears perked up.
I’ve long thought Jennings would be an excellent game show host in his own right. I mean, his depth of knowledge is incredible. How else could he stay on for 75 games and amass a cool $5.2 MILLION in game show winnings throughout his career? I gather as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he took seriously the charge of church members to obtain as much education as possible. The church owns Brigham Young University, Jennings’ alma mater, so the resources for him to feed his hunger for knowledge just happened to all be there.
After lending his knowledge to the mob on 1 vs. 100, several Game Show Network programs and now ABC’s ‘The Chase,’ it only seemed natural that he would eventually sit at the host lectern of one show or another.
So what do I think of his hosting style?
He’s alright. He carries the pace of the show very nicely, does well with interviewing contestants and pronouncing all the clues correctly, and honestly looks and sounds the part in my judgment having studied radio and television in college. He does seem a little wooden in his hosting style in this week of shows, but I feel that 1) That’s the jitters of knowing he’s filling in for a man who held his own in the role for 36 years and 2) If he gets the role full time, he’ll loosen up as he learns the nuances of hosting. That and as a fellow member of the church, it’s only right to lend a little moral support to Jennings.
Trebek jokingly stated in an interview to Good Morning America he wanted Betty White to host after his hosting days. I have to gather beyond the veil he’s thinking, “I should have said Ken.”
My suggestion to Jennings: Once you’re loosened up, don’t hold back with your sense of humor. If time permits, joke about one of the guests’ clues. Trebek once joked about Oprah Winfrey’s 2010 clue about working a McDonald’s drive thru for an episode of her eponymous talk show stating, “She wouldn’t super size my fries.” Just keep it fun, Americans love fun factor.
What about other guest hosts to come, you ask? It’s their move, but I don’t expect much.
Jennings returns tonight at 6 p.m. locally on KBOI channel 2. Other guest hosts will include Katie Couric, the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers and actress Mayim Bialik. Go to jeopardy.com to learn more.