Ever since Alex Trebek’s death last November, there was never any question about whether Jeopardy! would go on — he was always clear about his intention for the show to outlast him, if a bit less clear about his desired replacement. Although the show won’t replace his frank, calming presence, the producers have been testing out several guest hosts to find the next permanent Jeopardy! host.
These have functioned as high-profile auditions for the guest hosts, and longtime Jeopardy! viewers are starting to pick favorites. According to a recent CivicScience study, Jeopardy! fans are most enthusiastic about Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time winner Ken Jennings taking over for Trebek (22%), but surprise contender Aaron Rodgers is polling right behind him (16%) — and significantly ahead of the other guest hosts. Jennings, the first and longest-tenured guest host, has long been considered a shoo-in for the job, but he might have some competition.
Rodgers, who might not be the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback for much longer, is the top pick for viewers in the 18-to-24 age bracket, but Jennings bests him in every other age bracket. Among viewers ages 55 and older, fan-favorite and executive producer Mike Richards outpolls his figure with the Gen Pop (6%).
Among live TV viewers, Jennings and Rodgers are in a dead-heat, with Jennings getting the edge. Rodgers bests him among viewers who primarily stream, which aligns with his popularity among younger fans. The distribution is a bit more evenly spread out with viewers who record the show and watch later – presumably some of the most devoted daily viewers – with even Richards, Buzzy Cohen, and Bill Whitaker outpacing their popularity among the Gen Pop.
Don’t Count Out LeVar Burton
But Jeopardy! is far from finished when it comes to auditioning guest hosts. The show has a slate of fresh faces booked through August, including actors, sportscasters, journalists, and more. LeVar Burton, the Reading Rainbow host who inspired a fervent petition to get him on the show, is currently the most popular choice of the future guest hosts, with nearly one-third of Jeopardy! viewers favoring him to become the permanent host over the other upcoming guests.
The Most Popular Hosts Are Also the Most Polarizing
It’s increasingly common that the most beloved social figures are simultaneously the least beloved figures, and this is also true of potential Jeopardy! hosts. Aaron Rodgers (16%) would be a slightly more polarizing choice than Ken Jennings (11%) or LeVar Burton (13%) for the permanent host, and surprisingly more likely to turn off young viewers than old viewers. LeVar Burton is most unpopular among viewers ages 25 to 54.
The show’s viewership might be in a fragile state, no matter which host producers select. More than one-third of Jeopardy! viewers surveyed by CivicScience have been less likely to watch the show without Trebek at the helm. So with the viewership ceiling already shrinking substantially, it could be a point in favor of a less alienating choice like Richards.
The Jeopardy! team is clearly taking its time to find the host best-suited to honor Trebek’s legacy, keep fans’ faith, and maintain its role as a dinner-time trivia fixture. About half of viewers are consistent in their viewing habits from when Trebek was the host, but Jeopardy! will have the difficult choice between Jennings, Rodgers, Burton, or someone else for retaining the skeptics.