Well, that probably wasn’t what anyone had in mind for a graceful Jeopardy! transition. After a months-long audition process of guest hosts, executive producer Mike Richards was selected as the show’s permanent successor to Alex Trebek. Then, just one week later, he was out as host, following an extensive report from The Ringer which raised questions about his past comments, fitness for the job, and potential influence he wielded in the selection process.
So, it’s back to square one. Complicating matters, Richards already taped a number of episodes that will air as planned, to not disrupt continuity with contestants. Mayim Bialik, who’s still keeping her role as the primetime Jeopardy! specialist, will then fill in for a fifteen-episode run of guest-hosting.
If we narrow the field down to the four most likely contenders — paring away fill-ins who never really wanted the job (Joe Buck and Savannah Guthrie) or those whose other gigs likely keep them out of contention (Aaron Rodgers) — America is split. According to a recent CivicScience study, LeVar Burton (18%) has a slight edge over Ken Jennings (15%) and Mayim Bialik (16%). Insider accounts suggest that Bialik is too busy for the main gig but will stick around for the primetime specials, and that it might just be Jennings’ job to lose. Viewers could essentially go either way with the top three picks, with Buzzy Cohen pacing well behind the pack.
Viewers who primarily watch live TV prefer Jennings to Bialik and Burton, while Bialik has an overwhelming edge with Americans who primarily use streaming services. Since Jeopardy! doesn’t have a significant streaming footprint, the viewers tuning in on cable, satellite, and antenna will likely be the ones at top of mind for Sony.
It’s a foregone conclusion that no host can fill Trebek’s shoes, so what about two? While Bialik is sticking around in some capacity, 14% of Americans would like to see alternating hosts for the syndicated episodes — with another 7% preferring guest hosts in perpetuity. Either option could be a way to get around a high-profile candidate’s scheduling conflicts, but a significant share of the country — and the most likely scenario — points to just one host. Americans 35 and older are more than twice as likely as Gen Zers to prefer just one host.
Although Jennings was the most popular choice the last time CivicScience surveyed Americans, he currently trails his closest competitors in a dead heat. He’s already a consulting producer, was always considered a shoo-in for the role, and remains the most popular pick among live TV viewers. The show certainly defied expectations in picking Richards, but whichever outcome Sony settles on, it can’t go worse than the first try, can it?