Ken Is The Only Possible Choice

[ Posted Thursday, November 19th, 2020 – 17:01 UTC ]

I have to apologize in advance, because today's column has nothing whatsoever to do with politics. Regular readers know that on exceedingly rare occasions, I feel the need to comment about something completely separate from the political world. Sometimes I'll toss in my two cents on the subject of sports, or grammar, or anything else I feel so strongly about that I am compelled to share my thoughts. But I certainly never thought I'd ever devote an entire column to a television game show.

Recently -- and tragically -- we all mourned the death of Alex Trebek. The host of Jeopardy! was loved by millions, and for good reason. The show has long been a totally different kind of game show, and no, I'm not talking about the "respond in the form of a question" part of it. Unlike virtually every other game show on television, Jeopardy! contestants do not spend time yelling and screaming and emoting. Also, half of the show's time is not taken up with chitchat and other irrelevancies. It is a throwback to a much older style of game show, because the show's complete focus is on the game itself -- the trivia questions (or, more properly, answers) and the knowledge and speed of the contestants. More questions are posed on Jeopardy! in five short minutes than are asked on any other such trivia show (The Weakest Link, for example) in an entire hour. That's one reason why it is so fun to watch -- because you don't have to wade through a whole bunch of jumping up and down or faux-serious discussions between the host and the contestant, or any of the other nonsense the other shows use as "filler." There's only one very short segment of Jeopardy! where the contestants are briefly interviewed, and then the entire rest of the show is jam-packed with trivia. In other words, the game itself is the important thing -- not the contestants' ability to scream or the host's ability to endlessly fill up time.

The questions themselves are tougher than most shows, as well. They delve into subject matter that other shows don't even bother with (such as "Opera," or "Those Darn Etruscans"), because they are considered too wonky and brainy. Jeopardy! doesn't mind, because wonky and brainy is just fine -- it's exactly what the show's always been about.

I have to admit I was too young to really remember the earliest run of Jeopardy!, when it had a different host. I only really know the era of Alex Trebek. But he was a perfect fit. He was erudite (he always insisted on providing the correct pronunciation, even when the contestants stumbled over it), he was completely unflappable, and yet he was genuine and personable at the same time. To put it another way, he was perhaps the coolest nerd of all time.

This is why his passing has generated such an outpouring of emotion. I haven't seen this much love for a minor television presence since "Mr. Rogers" died, to tell you the truth. Which is entirely fitting, because both Fred Rogers and Alex Trebek were quite similar in one very important respect -- they were both such downright decent human beings. They were the very opposite of what television stars usually are, in fact. That's really what made them special.

Which brings me to the real reason I'm writing this today. My wife has been informing me all week that there are apparently some vultures circling in hopes of feeding off the carcass of Alex Trebek. I'm sorry to be so graphic, but that's truly the way it looks to me. Now, to be fair, I haven't delved into these stories myself because they really horrify me. So I don't know for sure whether this is coming from these people themselves, or just if other people are considering them for Alex's job. So I won't condemn them for these efforts, because I just don't know how culpable they are.

Even so, the first name my wife told me was "being talked about" to replace Alex truly made me shudder: Gayle King. The best-known "F.O.O." (friend of Oprah) ever, Gayle has turned this into an entire television career of her own. Hey, more power to her. She now hosts the CBS morning news show, which is a fairly impressive job. Now, watching morning news shows is, to me, akin to getting a wisdom tooth extracted without painkillers, because I cannot stand all the "dumbed-down" aspects of it, personally. Gayle personifies this trait, which is why I'll freely admit that she may be indeed a perfect morning news host. But coming from me, that's not exactly a compliment. I refuse to call King a journalist, for instance, because I don't think she fits the job title at all.

The second name floated was another morning host, but one I have a lot more respect for: George Stephanopoulos. At least George is a real journalist, over on ABC, and he is sharp as a tack when he needs to be. That's why Bill Clinton hired him to work in the White House in the first place, please remember. So George is a lot more qualified than Gayle -- but he's still not the right fit, not by a long shot.

The third name I heard (complete with some sort of online petition) was LeVar Burton. That's when I thought to myself: "This has got to stop!" Please, everyone, just stop it. Because there's really only one qualification for the next host of Jeopardy!. When Gayle or George or LeVar wins 74 straight games in a row, then maybe they can host the show. Until that time, the job obviously needs to go to one man and one man only: Ken Jennings.

Jennings is really the only possible choice, when you think about it. Sure, there have been other mega-winners on Jeopardy! who might also be deemed qualified to even be considered for Alex's job, but Ken's still the clear best fit. And as anyone who regularly watches the show can see, they've already been grooming Ken to take over, all year long.

First there was a "greatest of all time" championship, which pitted Ken against two of the other biggest winners in the show's history. Ken easily beat them. But even if he hadn't, he still would be the clear favorite for the hosting gig.

Ken Jennings is exactly what Jeopardy! needs, in many ways. He is smart as a whip when it comes to trivia (smarter even than Alex, as even Alex admitted), but much more importantly he is a genuinely nice guy. He is not only low-key and inoffensive, he is truly cut from the same mold as Alex. Both men are smart without ever being condescending or snobby about it, both men seem to be great "people persons" (a key quality for a game show host), and neither made anyone uncomfortable in any way. Some of the other big Jeopardy! winners are very smart people, but at times also very quirky people. Sometimes these quirks came out during the show, and it could be kind of off-putting to the audience. Jennings is not off-putting in any way, instead he is just as endearing as Trebek.

After the big greatest-of-all-time tournament earlier this year, Jennings has been popping up on the show, giving clues and whatnot, so it seems a pretty safe bet that Alex himself had already made the decision of who his successor should be. Ken obviously loves the game just as much as Alex, and can be counted on not to ever change the game's core essence (as George or LeVar or... shudder... Gayle most certainly would have).

Ken Jennings is really the only possible choice to succeed Alex Trebek. But I have to say, I'm pretty confident that the people running the show already know this -- and that they'll ignore the circling buzzards and announce fairly soon that Ken will be the next Jeopardy! host. Or, to put it as Alex would have demanded, the correct question in response to: "The obvious choice for next Jeopardy! host" can truly only be: "Who is Ken Jennings?"

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


32 Comments on “Ken Is The Only Possible Choice”

  1. [1] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    "And now, for something completely different..."

    Back to politics tomorrow, I promise.



  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I guess Ken is the obvious choice. But, I heard Levar Burton is also in the running. I think he'd be more fun. :)

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Oh, I see you don't like that choice. Oh, well ... I haven't watched that show in years, anyways.

    But, how many straight wins (in a row!) did Alex Trebek get?

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I don't know but, I still think Levar would be more fun. I'd start watching again.

    Chris, why do you think he would change the core essence of the game?

  5. [5] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    LizM -

    LeVar, maybe not so much as Gayle, I admit.

    What I don't want to see is it suddenly being about the host or limiting the time for the game itself. That's what I mean about the core...


  6. [6] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    Are you sure 'erudite' is the right word, I was thinking Canadian would be a better fit?

    I like your direction, it's pretty much what I was thinking also. Alex would have liked it too, for what it's worth. I always got the vibe that Trebek's unassuming nature wouldn't presume to tell an organization who would make the best replacement, but if he did, he'd agree with you, without reserve.

    Jeopardy was, with Trebek on the tiller, styled on the greatest 'trivia' game show model...The empress of all game shows... Mastermind.



  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I just don't understand why you would be worried that Levar Burton would make it all about himself and not stick to the basically etched in stone format of the show and core essence.

    In any event, I'll tune in to see how Ken handles it. Maybe he'll change the core! Stranger things have already happened, repeatedly. :)

  8. [8] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    [19, preceding column]




  9. [9] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    I can only see one problem with LeVar...

    There's no way half of America will believe or accept a former slave and future blind starship helmsman can read, let alone answer complex questions...

    Obama would stand little chance in this charged environment, and he has the minerals.



  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    More than you know.

  11. [11] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Like any show that “starred” one beloved person who was considered the “soul” of the show — the physical personification of the show, itself — Jeopardy’s producers will need to find someone that the public will “like” enough to get past their not being Trebek long enough to give the show a chance. Look how many hosts Family Feud had to go through to finally land Steve Harvey. Neil D. Tyson might be someone who would fit the role. I do not know how personable Ken is, but while CW thinks he would be perfect for the job, I still think it would be like the contestant who wins both Show Case Showdowns also being made the host of the Price is Right the next day.

    I agree that Gayle King would not be my first choice, either, simply because she has her gig doing the morning news already. Same for George S. — stick to journalism! For both of these choices, they need to recognize that in today’s political realms, the distinction between “journalist” and “entertainer” is already very blurred; and they need to pick a lane and stick in it!

    Walter Cronkite did not seek a side job hosting a game show out of his respect for the field of journalism; not because he wouldn’t have been a hoot hosting the Newlywed Game!

  12. [12] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    [9, 10 and arguably my point from 9, eleven]


    It's not something the average Bear can process, sadly.


  13. [13] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    I saw an interview where Trebek said he thought it would be a woman.

  14. [14] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    it's sorta like former sportsers becoming sports show hosts.

  15. [15] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    maybe jeopardy! has reached that weird level of being more like a sport than a game show...

  16. [16] 
    Kick wrote:

    Georgia for $500

    Host: He won this state in the presidential election of 2020 on the first count and on the subsequent recount.

    Me: Who is Joe Biden? I'll take Georgia for $1000, whatever your name is. :)

  17. [17] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    nypoet22 -

    Or a religion. Heh.


  18. [18] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    'Where is Wenck?'

    'Why aren't his armies attacking south?'

    'Mien Fuhrer, Wenck no longer has the necessities to conduct an operation of this type...'

    'And Steiner, where are his divisions'

    'Mien Fuhrer, I regret to inform you, Steiner was unable to break through, operationally both armies are now redundant... For the sake of Berlin and her people, you should consider immediate egress to the south and the redoubt...'

    'I see...clear the room, except for Krebs (no relation) Goebells (no relations remain) and...where is Hermann Fegelein?

    Off Trump and his painted monkey, Guilliani, go to their redoubt...Michigan.

    Why choose the hill you want to die on where the greatest obstacle to your fraud remains.

    It is almost Wagnerian in its clumsiness, no?

    My hopes remain.


    ...I swear, that's the last brilliantly focused comparison...

  19. [19] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    LWYH [11] -

    While I do agree with you about Steve Harvey (he really fits, the way the original Hogans Heroes guy did), I think you're selling Ken short.

    He's also an institution to the show's viewers. He didn't just win a showcase, he won 74 of them in a row. He spanned two seasons, it went on so long. And he's returned again and again (he battled Watson, the IBM computer).

    Like I said, there are indeed other mega-winners, but Ken stands ahead of them by a mile, in my opinion at least...


  20. [20] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Why do you have to be a megawinner to host the show?

  21. [21] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    because, sports.

  22. [22] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    I'm Beta-testing (un-named and equally irrelevant) on-line protocols and underwritten comment's section rules and regulations, enquiring minds skip over, 'Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast.'

    The post-Trumpian era needs new guard rails, I'm happily working my way through a few suggestions...

    'The Carlin Table'

    We all grew up with this one... If you're vexed with some troll or other on a moderated, and humourless comments section of your preferred outlet, consider this subtlety...

    "Sir, you're a Carlin-6, look it up",%22%2C%20%22%20motherfucker%20%22%2C%20and%20%22%20tits%20%22.

    I like how 'Carlin-1 through 7' look, it's clinically aesthetic...

    Thoughts? Feel free to make use of this material, RSVP.


  23. [23] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


  24. [24] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Of course, 23 was in response to 21. Ahem.

  25. [25] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    lol, tater tits!

  26. [26] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    donald is fighting a war on seven different fronts. even if he manages to throw a monkey wrench into a couple states, it's highly unlikely he'll be able to somehow change the eventual outcome.


  27. [27] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    highly unlikely?

  28. [28] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    JTC [6] -

    You're right about Mastermind....


  29. [29] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    [28] And more besides.

    I'm more inclined towards perception than I am anything else.

    Naturally, I've many wasted hours logged into my 'transmogrified' hindbrain.

    We've come to a few conclusions, the details of which can be purchased in the lobby.

    However, without confusion, I urge people to read, watch, and ultimately explore things that can't corrupt their thoughts through the prejudice of political belief, which obviously precludes FOX and CNN.

    They need to acquiesce their directed political bent to a more measured, and frankly, less obtrusive coverage.

    When Laura Ingram-Man-Person from FOX starts laying down religious markers in a political debate, the time for self-evaluation is at hand, if not overdue.


  30. [30] 
    James T Canuck wrote:


    All proceeds from my flights of fiction go to the Biden, "keep Rudy Guilliani talking shit until his hair stops crying" fund.

    'Live to give', that's my slogan.


  31. [31] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Oh, hey, LizM -

    Came across this during the week, which answers a question you were posing on Election night...


  32. [32] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    Well, my furry friends, today should be fun. Trump in all his majesty will attempt to do away with American democracy in a naked display of rank-corruption.

    We get to watch a slow-motion coup in real-time, for me, as a history-hobbyist, this is a thrilling moment in time. We'll all soon know how 300 plus non-Nazi's sat in the Reichstag felt the day Goering announced the Enabling Act and it dawned on them they were in the hands of mad-man.

    I'm giddy with excitement, I've never lived so close to a budding dictatorship, I've been pinching myself all morning.

    I'm curious to see Trump's liquidation rosters, there'll be more than a few recognizable names near the top for the chop...

    Erasing the intelligentsia shouldn't take too long, most have fled. Religion doesn't stand a chance, I can't see an avowed anti-theist maintaining that pretence longer than needed. (tick to the good column)

    If any of you survive the day, I look forward to your observations, your perspective from inside the maelstrom of an unpopular coup will enrich my over-all experience...



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