By all that is right and just, Jeopardy! should never air a show after Alex Trebek’s final show, which was taped October 29. That is the show that should be the ace that wins the hand and cleans out the table. It is hard to imagine anyone who could succeed him, and it is harder still to think of anyone who would thrive upon succession. After all, Art Fleming, the original host, didn’t like the reboot of the show because he thought moving it from New York to Los Angeles would dumb it down.
Whether or not Fleming was right is immaterial. Jeopardy! had this way of grafting itself into one’s brain box, whether you were the first host, the second host or, well, whomever the third host will be. It is the last discernible rock amid the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that is modern television.
And therein lies the trick here. Since Jeopardy!, as cashy a cow as TV has ever emitted, is not going to vanish with Trebek because nobody in that business leaves as much as a quarter in a sewer grate, the question of succession is a massive one. Even though he fistfought cancer for two years and gave every indication that he would win on all three judges’ cards, the inevitable must surely have gnawed at the brains of the producers. Unless, of course, they, like the rest of us, thought he would live forever, or do the show intercranially from a studio location in the Phantom Zone.
Still, on the slim chance that answering in the form of a question will survive us all, someone will have to do it, damn the comparisons. Ideas follow, and knowing the comments section as we do, we anticipate ours all being rejected in favor of LeBron James.
So in very flexible descending, the Defector Slate Of Candidates:
THE EXPERIENCED, CLEVER, AND QUALIFIED
Victoria Coren Mitchell: We begin with an off-the-board choice because, frankly, the Canadian Trebek was no Wink Martindale himself. Coren Mitchell hosts the most brainiac of British game shows, Only Connect, and without getting too technical about it, the six categories from which contestants may select a clue are hidden behind Egyptian hieroglyphs. She possesses Trebek’s general demeanor about the players while not punching down at the innocent, is also a writer and championship-level poker player, so she has plenty of game. If smart’s what you’re trying to recreate, much worse could be done.
Sandi Toksvig: Hosts the funniest of the brainiac British game shows, QI (for Quite Interesting), and has an easy charm and quick wit that can ease a contestant’s worst answers away from “You idiot!” toward “That answer reminds me of an idiot I once knew.”
Ben Bailey: Host of Bravo’s Cash Cab, which is probably familiar to the demographic that watches Jeopardy! most religiously. A comedian who can ask questions while driving a cab in New York City, he apparently has managed not to drive through a showroom window yet.
Jane Lynch: Already does the reboot of The Weakest Link, which is a blander version of the original, which was a meaner version of most other shows. I watched the original once, wanted everyone to lose and then have the roof collapse on Anne Robinson.
Michael Sheen: Played the host in the British movie Quiz, which portrayed a husband and wife who cheated the original British version of So You Want To Be A Millionaire. That’s sufficient qualification as long as your weird old parents don’t get put off by him being Welsh.
Pat Sajak: Letters aren’t sentences any more than cilantro is dinner.
Steve Harvey: Not likely to get a game through more than 10 questions because of his long expressionless play-for-the-laugh stares into the audience.
THE KIND OF EXPERIENCED
Greg Davies: Stand-up from England and the host of Taskmaster, the first and better version of the show that came to America and died the death it deserved. Of course, his panelists are also comedians, so the answer isn’t as important as the setup, and nobody watches Jeopardy! to laugh.
Drew Carey: He’s already cornered the hyperactive/costumed/shrieking contestant market, and nobody wants that for this property.
Keegan-Michael Key: Hosts Brain Games, which is a game show based on cognitive science. That seems sufficiently cerebral, at least for the replays on Buzzr.
Jamie Foxx: Among his other sidelights, he hosts something called Beat Shazam. I don’t know either.
Ellen DeGeneres: Hosts Ellen’s Game Of Games. Exceedingly problematic at best because of her cheerful disposition with underlings, and this is far from anything that could be called “best.” A Blake Snell–level hard pass.
Wayne Brady: Only if the producers are trying to rethink the show to include prize packages dominated by rowing machines and three-day vacations in Saskatchewan.
Jameela Jamil: Hosts The Misery Index, which is based on the card game Shit Happens. Based on this calendar year, nothing would be more apropos.
Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer, or Brad Rutter: Too busy playing the game in their heads to MC it properly.
THE SPORTY TYPES
Ernie Johnson: Has not yet yanked off his own head trying to keep Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, and Kenny Smith from burning down the set on Inside The NBA. If he wants it, he should certainly get a call. He has a calming influence that the high-octane world of Jeopardy! could use.
Mike Emrick: He’s got the time, and he’d be thrilled as all get-out to help everyone win as much money as they can. So earnest and happy with humanity that he could fake dealing with junior college-level dimwits trying to fake knowledge about Geoffrey Chaucer and Lizzo.
Michael Strahan: He hosts the new $100,000 Pyramid. I’ve never seen it. I don’t want to.
Doris Burke: On the as-yet-unproven theory that there is nothing she can’t do.
Tom Brady: He would never stoop to working the booth, let alone the pregame shows. This, he might consider if he could work remotely from his home gym.
Bob Ley: I could live with it. Somehow, I’d guess he wouldn’t.
Dan Patrick: Did Sports Jeopardy! in the middle of the last decade. Everyone does a version of Sports Jeopardy! now, including Defector. Looks like a copyright infringement nightmare.
Joe Tessitore: Based on the hot mess that is Holey Moley, this can’t be allowed even in the playground of the mind.
BECAUSE THE HELL WITH IT, LET’S GET WHO WE WANT
Dave Chappelle: Because yes.
David Letterman: Only if he keeps the beard.
Craig Ferguson: Much yes.
Leslie Jones: Yeah, especially if you need an attitudinal host.
Frankie Boyle, Stewart Lee, or Doug Stanhope. Nobody else would want this, but I absolutely would, and on a 24-hour loop.
Daniel Levy: Mostly as an homage to his dad, who did several homages to Alex on SCTV. Let the circle be unbroken.
WHO WE’LL END UP GETTING
If Trebek gets his way from the beyond, it’ll be Betty White because she was married to Password‘s Allen Ludden and will say absolutely anything that fires through her head as is her right as a 98-year-old. If some TV blockhead who respects nothing, cares even less, and is totally comfortable whoring whatever is trending five minutes ago (a common malady in the industry), it’ll be Donald Trump. And trust us, that oil-soaked lamprey Jared Kushner is working on this even now because … well, America.