Feature

The future of Jeopardy!

Because two hosts are better than one

After almost two years of uncertainty, Jeopardy! has finalized its plans for the future following the death of longtime host Alex Trebek. Here's what you need to know:

Who is the new permanent 'Jeopardy!' host? 

It's a true daily double! Jeopardy! has officially hired not one, but two permanent hosts: former The Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik and former Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings, who holds the record for longest winning streak in the show's history. 

This maintains the status quo from the most recent season of Jeopardy! but on a permanent basis, as Jennings and Bialik had been rotating spots behind the lectern since September 2021. According to executive producer Michael Davies, Jennings and Bialik have both closed deals to remain on the show going forward. It wasn't clear how long those deals last, but Davies said the two are "at the beginning of their Jeopardy! hosting careers." 

How did we get here?

The road to get to this point has been long and chaotic, to say the least. After longtime host Alex Trebek died in November 2020 following a battle with cancer, producers brought in a series of rotating guest hosts for the rest of that season, among them Jennings and Bialik. Jennings was long seen as the frontrunner for the permanent gig, so it came as a shock when it was announced in August 2021 that Bialik would share hosting duties with Jeopardy!'s own executive producer, Mike Richards. Fans were outraged by the appearance that Richards could have influenced the job search in his own favor. Then, when offensive podcast comments from Richards resurfaced, he stepped down after only one day of taping. 

After the initial permanent hosting plan blew up, Jeopardy! quickly called on Jennings and Bialik to step back in to host the show, a situation that was finally made permanent in July 2022. It was especially notable that Jennings was hired on a permanent basis, though, given reports that he was passed over the first time due to controversy surrounding offensive tweets, which he apologized for in 2020. 

Why not just pick one host?

One significant factor is that Bialik seemingly wouldn't have time to serve as full-time Jeopardy! host, as she's currently starring on a Fox sitcom called Call Me Kat, which was recently renewed for a third season. Indeed, when the original Jeopardy! dual-hosting plan with Richards was announced, a report from TMZ said Bialik was the frontrunner for the main full-time job, but producers couldn't make it work because of her other commitments — and that's reportedly when the idea of two hosts was born. 

Plus, having multiple hosts also allows the show to appeal to different demographics. "We're going to need multiple hosts to represent the entire audience, to represent the entire country, in order to take this franchise forward," Davies previously said

There is also the fact that producers hope to significantly expand Jeopardy! as a brand moving forward, with multiple new tournaments and prime-time spinoffs. "The fact is, we have so much Jeopardy! to make, and so many plans for the future, that we always knew we would need multiple hosts for the franchise," Davies said. 

What kind of spinoffs?

For one, ABC has already ordered Celebrity Jeopardy!, a prime-time spinoff that will see famous faces compete for a charity of their choosing, joining the network's line-up of similar programming like Celebrity Family Feud and Celebrity Wheel of Fortune. Bialik has officially been named host of this spinoff, a job she seemingly won't share with Jennings. 

There's also the Jeopardy! National College Championship, a tournament of college students that aired in prime-time on ABC earlier this year, hosted by Bialik. This championship will be returning, with Bialik again serving as host.

Jeopardy! is also introducing something called the Second Chance competition, a tournament that will involve inviting past Jeopardy! competitors back on for another shot. Though it was previously thought that Bialik would host all tournaments and spinoffs, the upcoming Second Chance tournament will actually be hosted by Jennings. Additionally, Jennings will host the upcoming Tournament of Champions, which is highly anticipated this year because an unusual number of super-champions will compete, including Amy Schneider, Matt Amodio, and Mattea Roach.

Jeopardy! also says that in addition to hosting the National College Championship, Bialik will host "a couple of new tournaments," but the details haven't been announced.

In the past, Jeopardy! has experimented with the idea of topic-specific spinoffs, such as with the short-lived Sports Jeopardy!, and Davies previously teased that "we are working on developing a pop culture version" of the show. On Wednesday, he promised future announcements regarding "new developments in the areas of pop culture and sports." 

What's the hosting schedule going forward?

Jeopardy! is now on hiatus for the summer, but when the new season begins in September, Jennings will be hosting. He'll then host the Second Chance competition and Tournament of Champions, meaning Jennings' "initial hosting run will take us through December," according to Davies. 

At the same time, Bialik will be hosting Celebrity Jeopardy!, which airs Sundays on ABC beginning in the fall, and she'll then take over for Jennings on the main, syndicated show in January. It wasn't clear how long Bialik will host for, but Davies said she'll be on for "as many weeks as she can manage with her other primetime commitment to Call Me Kat." Still, the producer promised that because fans "value consistency," Jeopardy! "will not flip flop the hosts constantly and will keep you informed about the hosting schedule," hence the plan to begin the season with Jennings for several months. 

What has been the fan reaction to this?

Both Jennings and Bialik have their supporters and detractors, though the idea of not settling on one host for the main, syndicated show has drawn some pushback. "It would be best if the daily show was one person," one fan commented on the Jeopardy! subreddit. "It is frustrating to see who is hosting and decide to watch or not." 

Still, ratings have been strong amid a year of Jennings and Bialik back-and-forth — in no small part thanks to the show's unusual streak of super-champions — suggesting that after the most tumultuous period in its history, America's favorite quiz show may have finally weathered the storm. 

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