• Sun. Nov 28th, 2021

The best and worst ‘Jeopardy!’ guest hosts, from Ken Jennings to Dr. Oz

Mar 24, 2021

Quite a few new faces are standing behind the “Jeopardy!” host’s lectern this year on the iconic quiz show. 

After the death of beloved and long-time host Alex Trebek last year, “Jeopardy!” has been cycling through guest hosts while producers search for a permanent replacement. So far “Jeopardy!” champ Ken Jennings, executive producer Mike Richards, journalist Katie Couric and talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz have all had a chance to offer their take on the hosting job. Future guest hosts include CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, “Today” host Savannah Guthrie, neurosurgeon and CNN medical adviser Dr. Sanjay Gupta, “60 Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker and actress Mayim Bialik, who stars in the Fox sitcom “Call Me Kat.”

So far it’s been a mixed bag, from comforting to jarring, as each host brings their own personality and voice to the reading each day’s 61 clues. From the disappointing to the surprisingly great, we ranked all the “Jeopardy!” guest hosts so far. Might a permanent host be within their ranks? 

Dr. Mehmet Oz is one of many celebrities to guest host "Jeopardy!" He's at the lectern from March 22 to April 2. (Photo: Rhyne Piggott, USA TODAY)

4. Dr. Mehmet Oz 

The controversial TV doctor, who has come under fire for his medical advice on his own show and appearances on cable news, was an odd choice for a guest-hosting gig that rankled many fans. And while much of the criticism of Oz rolled in before his episodes even began airing, his appearance didn’t do much to prove his critics wrong. Fundamentally, Oz lacks the quick wit and timing required for this job, and his early episodes dragged (it did not help that on his first two outings, the contestants were rather lackluster). His lazy, nasally clue reading was irksome and interrupted the flow of the game play. He also struggled with the occasional fun facts that “Jeopardy!” hosts add to the clue, stopping the momentum.  

Katie Couric guest-hosted "Jeopardy!" from March 8-19. (Photo: Carol Kaelson/Jeopardy Productions)

3. Katie Couric 

The former “Today” host and “CBS Evening News” anchor made history as the first woman to host “Jeopardy!” and did an admirable job during her two week-stint. Couric perhaps brought more of her bright, enthusiastic personality to the job than viewers were used to with the reserved (but witty) Trebek. Sometimes she distracted from the game, or spent too much time getting chummy with contestants during the host chat segment, but overall she was an amiable host. 

"Jeopardy!" Greatest of All Time champion Ken Jennings was the first guest host, for a six-week stint that began Jan. 11, following Alex Trebek's final episode. (Photo: Jeopardy Productions, Inc)

2. Ken Jennings 

The “Greatest of All Time” winner and longtime champ was the first to take up the guest host mantle after Trebek’s death, and he was a comforting, familiar presence who got the job done. His ability to connect with contestants was key to his charm, considering he intimately knows what it’s like to be in their shoes. Jennings only lacks the svelte, debonair affect that made Trebek so appealing to viewers, and he sometimes wobbled or struggled to get through an awkward transition. He was possibly the only guest host who could have immediately followed Trebek, and he deserves immense credit for keeping the show going and helping viewers mourn the late host. 

'Jeopardy!' executive producer (and former game-show host) Mike Richards stepped behind the podium for two weeks, from Feb. 22 to March 5. (Photo: Carol Kaelson, Jeopardy Productions)

1. Mike Richards 

“Jeopardy!” executive producer Richards took a turn at the podium between Jennings and Couric and quickly won ardent supporters. And it’s easy to see why: From his cool and sleek delivery of clues to his clever banter, Richards was both comforting and uncontroversial, taking his cues from Trebek’s work but never directly copying him. His ease in the job was apparent, as was his familiarity with the clues and gameplay (as executive producer, he should be familiar with the show). Although Richards has hosted game shows before, including “Beauty and the Geek” and “Pyramid,” he was an unknown to many “Jeopardy!” viewers, and thus brought no baggage. Ending each episode with Trebek’s call to be kind to one another, Richards feels like a genuine candidate for the job. 

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