At the start, Ken Jennings said he was “beyond nervous” to become the first guest host of “Jeopardy!” following Alex Trebek’s death.
“It was a very intense and nerve-wracking experience to be behind this lectern,” Jennings said ahead of his six-week run as guest host, according to the Deseret News. “I thought I had studied the man and I understood just what a remarkable job he was doing. … And then when I had to do it, I realized he was doing 10 things I wasn’t aware of for every one that I saw. It’s a very demanding job, and he was just the best.”
During Jennings’ stint as guest host, “Jeopardy!” had strong ratings — his debut week brought in an average 10.3 million viewers, second this season only to Alex Trebek’s final week as host, which averaged 11.1 million viewers, the Deseret News reported.
Jennings also won fans over for paying tribute to Trebek each night with the special sign-off, “Thank you, Alex.”
But on Feb. 19, Jennings signed off for the last time — at least for now.
“Thanks for watching, thanks for your patience with a tough learning curve,” Jennings tweeted on Friday. “And, as always, thank you Alex.”
Mike Richards, the executive producer of “Jeopardy!” recently told USA Today that Jennings exceeded his expectations during his time as guest host.
“And my expectations were incredibly high,” Richards said. “I think he was the perfect person to come onto the stage after Alex. Our fans, our staff and crew are all familiar with him. He came out, said the right things, was humbled by the situation, addressed the elephant in the room right away and said no one’s going to replace Alex, and they’re not. It’s a fool’s errand. … I’m proud of Ken because I know he was very nervous, but also very up for it.”
And Jennings could one day return to the “Jeopardy!” host lectern.
Richards told USA Today that Jennings is “absolutely” being considered as an official replacement for Trebek, adding that they’re exploring several options.
In the meantime, Richards is now stepping to the plate as the second “Jeopardy!” guest host, filling the role from Feb. 22 through March 5, the Deseret News reported.
Richards, who is also the executive producer for “Wheel of Fortune,” had a close relationship with Trebek — in fact, it was his idea to implement the “Thank you, Alex” sign-off, according to Jennings.
In a video “Jeopardy!” posted on Monday, Richards shared some of his favorite stories about Trebek. Surprisingly, one of his memories had nothing to do with “Jeopardy!”
Instead, Richards recalled a time when he was at Trebek’s home, attending a meeting in the study, when the late host’s wife, Jean, entered the room.
“And he stopped. And it was like he had not seen her for a month, and he had seen her just a few minutes before that,” Richards recalled. “I just loved their relationship and their chemistry, I think it was really inspirational.”
The executive producer, who has an extensive history with game shows, also recalled the day he met Trebek. It was his first day on the set and he was nervous.
“He started to quiz me about the logistics of the other game shows that I had produced. He wanted to understand how we did them. … And then he started to quiz me on geography in the U.K. … I looked at him and I said, ‘Is the great Alex Trebek quizzing me?’ and in his very calm way, he said, ‘Well, I guess he is.’”
After Richards’ two-week run as host, Katie Couric will fill in from March 8-18, the Deseret News reported. Dr. Mehmet Oz and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will then each take a turn behind the hosting lectern for two weeks, USA Today reported.
“Jeopardy!” is not announcing an official host at this time, and likely won’t until the summer, according to USA Today.