Ken Jennings’ new, on-camera role with Jeopardy! is not a tryout of sorts for him to one day succeed Alex Trebek as host.
When it was announced that the Jeopardy! GOAT contender was joining Season 37 as a consulting producer — where his duties include the presentation of his own special video categories, starting with this Tuesday’s episode — the common assumption was that he was being groomed as Trebek’s eventual successor.
But new executive producer Mike Richards nixed that notion, in an interview with The Ringer.
“[Alex is] the host of the show. We’re not shopping,” Richards asserted. “He’s our guy, and he’s our guy till he tells us he’s not our guy, and then we can have a different conversation. I just don’t think it’s appropriate to have that conversation until Alex comes to me and says, ‘OK. This is my plan.’”
Trebek seemingly made a wink to such fan suppositions in a recent Season 37 promo, saying, “Don’t worry, I’ll still be the host”:
#Jeopardy37 starts September 14 with some exciting changes!
— Jeopardy! Returns 9/14! (@Jeopardy) September 3, 2020
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Having run out of original episodes in early June, Jeopardy! resumed production in late July with a slightly altered set designed to keep contestants and crew safe in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Specifically, producers added additional space between the contestants’ podiums (and between the contestants and Trebek).
Jeopardy!‘s Sept. 14 return came nearly two years into Trebek’s battle with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The TV icon recently shared that an experimental immunotherapy treatment has been “paying off,” adding, “My doctor has told me that he is counting on me celebrating two years of survivorship past the diagnosis of Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and that two years happens in February. So I expect to be around — because he said I will be around — and I expect to be hosting the show if I am around.”