After a year of uncertainty over who the face of ‘Jeopardy!’ the long-running quiz show decided to stick with its existing arrangement and split hosting duties between actress Mayim Bialik and former champion Ken Jennings, the show announced on Wednesday.
The announcement follows a period of introspection and strategizing about how the show should move forward without its longtime host, Alex Trebek. Following Trebek’s death in 2020, the quiz show first hired a rotating cast of potential hosts, whom they effectively auditioned on air, before announcing that the program’s executive producer, Mike Richards, would be getting the job permanently, with Bialik would host prime-time specials.
Jennings will host the regular season shows through December, and Bialik will take over in January, according to the announcement from the show’s executive producer, Michael Davies.
“The fact is that we see so much ‘Jeopardy!’ to have. and so many plans for the future, we always knew we would need multiple hosts for the franchise and we’re just so thankful that Mayim and Ken stepped in to put the show in a position to succeed,” he wrote.
The once staid game show was turned upside down when initial succession plans imploded over a series of offensive comments Richards, the first choice host, made on a podcast. After his departure, the show tapped Bialik and Jennings to share hosting duties — temporarily at first. The program announced last September that the duo would be sharing the job until the rest of 2021. Then, in December, the show said the arrangement would continue through 2022.
But as the show struggled to gain a foothold behind the scenes, it continued to generate excitement and ratings with a string of star contestants. Within one season, four new champions were added to the show’s all-time leaderboard, sparking many theories among fans about what became a series of streaks. For a while, the growing celebrity of the winning contestants — including Amy Schneider, Matt Amodio, and Mattea Roach — seemed like a welcome distraction from the lack of clarity about who would become the show’s regular face.
Jennings has retained the lead as the contestant with the highest number of consecutive wins (74) and highest amount won in regular season matches ($2.5 million) in the history of the show. Bialik, who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience and is best known for her role as a scientist on the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory”, has made it clear from the start that she is interested in getting the job permanently, although she had to balance it with her sitcom “Call I Cat.”
After Richards left, Davies, a veteran game show producer who produced the original US version of ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ developed, temporarily transferred the position of executive producer – a job that soon became a permanent fixture.
Under Davies, the show has done its best to move beyond its traditional structure, announcing a primetime spin-off, “Celebrity Jeopardy!”, which will debut on ABC in September.
Bialik will say ‘Celebrity Jeopardy!’ while Jennings will host the upcoming Tournament of Champions, as well as a new Second Chance tournament, in which notable players will be invited back to participate. In his announcement, Davies hinted that more spin-offs could be on the way, noting that Bialik would also host a number of new tournaments in addition to the college championship.