All throughout the search for the next Jeopardy! host, former champion Ken Jennings was widely thought to be the frontrunner. So what happened?
A new report from The Wall Street Journal published Friday provides some answers, revealing that like many fans, executives at Sony Pictures Entertainment initially saw Jennings as an "ideal successor" to Alex Trebek. After all, he was a major fan favorite and is well known for his 74-game winning streak on the quiz show, and the Journal says that executives felt confident he would "grow into the role."
But according to the report, the executives were then given "pause" by the reaction to old tweets of Jennings' that resurfaced. In particular, Jennings tweeted in 2014, "Nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair." Before he started guest hosting Jeopardy! in January, he apologized and acknowledged that he's "definitely tweeted some unartful and insensitive things," adding, "I screwed up, and I'm truly sorry."
The Journal also reports that focus groups "didn't react well to Mr. Jennings afterward," and it describes his resurfaced tweets as "unraveling" the show's succession plan. Ultimately, Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards was named the show's new permanent daily host. But ironically, Richards stepped down from the job just one week later amid controversy over his own past offensive comments made on a series of resurfaced podcast episodes. Sony has indicated it was unaware of those remarks.
After Richards' departure, Jeopardy! said it would resume the search for a permanent daily host. Some reports have suggested Jennings is once again a frontrunner for the gig, though another contender could be The Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik. She was already hired as a part-time host for Jeopardy!'s primetime and spinoff series, and CNN reports executives are considering her for the full-time role. She's set to guest host the show for three weeks in September.