Everyone Who’s in the Running to Take Over For Alex Trebek on Jeopardy!

Betty White. Anderson Cooper. Ken Jennings. What is: The list of candidates being bandied about to fill the Alex Trebek-sized hole in our hearts.

By Sarah Grossbart Nov 29, 2020 8:00 AMTags
Watch: Who Will Replace Alex Trebek on "Jeopardy!"?

No. Nope. Absolutely not. 

What is: Are we over the Nov. 8 passing of Alex Trebek? Truth be told, it's going to take a minute for us to accept the loss of America's Canadian dad, the guy with all of the answers who was far too humble to come off as a know-it-all. 

"People think because I'm the host of a fairly serious, intelligence-based quiz show that I must know all the answers," he shared with Vulture in a November 2018 interview. "I do—because they're written on a sheet of paper in front of me. And audiences are always surprised when they discover that I like to fix things around the house, that I'm not a nerdy person who spends all his time researching information that might come in handy on Jeopardy!. But I don't mind surprising people in that way."

He also didn't mind being pigeonholed as the face of Jeopardy!, the quiz show he'd helmed since it was rebooted in 1984. 

Alex Trebek: A Life in Pictures

"You have to set your ego aside," he reasoned to Vulture. "The stars of the show are the contestants and the game itself. That's why I've always insisted that I be introduced as the host and not the star. And if you want to be a good host, you have to figure a way to get the contestants to—as in the old television commercial about the military—'be all you can be.' Because if they do well, the show does well. And if the show does well, by association I do well."


It's that humble take that gives us hope someone will be able to fill Trebek's formidable shoes, even as we get misty-eyed over each new tribute for the television icon. 

Because while our grief continues, the show, as they say, must go on. And with Trebek having filmed enough episodes to get us through Christmas, Jeopardy! producers are going to have a decision to make come 2021. 

"Game show hosting is a skill," Adam Nedeff, a game show historian and author of the book Game Shows FAQ told Today of the challenge they face. "Alex was always introduced as the host of Jeopardy! not the star. Contestants are the star. So while there might be thinking that he was such a giant they'll need a 'name,' I don't think the show is suited to be a vehicle for someone. It has to be somebody who's willing to let the game take center stage."

With just dozens of Trebek's 8,000-plus episodes remaining, the show will resume production on Nov. 30, with interim hosts—including GOAT Ken Jennings—set to helm the big board. But who could possibly fill in full time? We dissect the short list of candidates.

Betty White

Okay, this one is admittedly a bit of a stretch, the legendary actress and comedian unlikely to pivot into a full-time role more than eight decades into her career. But she was the first name that Alex Trebek mentioned to Vulture in 2018 when asked who he'd pick to succeed him. "I suspect that the producers might give serious consideration to having a woman host. She'll obviously be younger; she'll have to be personable, bright, have a sense of humor," he said before nominating the now 98-year-old Golden Girls star. 

While he allowed it was a bit of a running joke between pals, White having once told the New York Post she watches Jeopardy! because "I happen to have a huge crush on the host, Alex Trebek," the two were friendly, so she undoubtedly had his blessing. And it's likely she gleaned some tips during her 18-year marriage to Password host Allen Ludden. So we're more than here for it. 

Ken Jennings

Among the most popular choice of Trebek successors is the multi-lingual computer science and English literature grad who spent an unprecedented 74 weeks in the victor's spot. Also holding the record for the highest average correct responses per game, he returned to battle the Watson supercomputer in 2011 and bested all challengers in January's Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time. Named a producer for the current season, he's also popped up to present categories in pre-taped segments, signaling that just maybe the 46-year-old was being groomed to take charge of the big board. Come Nov. 30, when the show returns to production, he'll begin his time as interim host. But could he make the position a permanent one? 

Anderson Cooper

Another bespectacled silver fox with all of the answers? We dig it. The two-time Emmy-winning journalist and host of Anderson Cooper 360 has been floated as an option for Trebek's podium. While his news background and hosting experience (he's helmed CNN's New Year's Eve special for nearly two decades) is definitely a plus, the main factor tipping the scales in the new father's favor is an email uncovered in the 2014 Sony hack showing that he was a top contender for the job when Trebek was done. And while the 53-year-old definitely indicated interest, it's worth mentioning that Jennings was also on that short list. 

George Stephanopoulos

In a May interview with Howard Stern, the Good Morning America coanchor said he'd be up for filling Trebek's shoes if the beloved host ever stepped down. "I think it would be a lot of fun," said the former Democratic advisor, who's also chief anchor and political correspondent on ABC News. "But I like what I'm doing too." Still, reports emerged after Trebek's Nov. 8 passing that Stephanopoulos, 59, was "lobbying" for the gig. 

Alex Faust

Not quite the long shot you might imagine, the Los Angeles-based sportscaster's name has been dropped by Trebek a few times over the years. "I mentioned to my producer before that the fellow who does play-by-play for the Los Angeles Kings, they should consider him," he said of the NHL announcer during a 2018 chat with Harvey Levin on OBJECTified. Faust, 31, seemed fairly game, tweeting later that day, "I'm flattered by Mr. Trebek's kind words, and delighted to hear he's a big @LAKings fan!"

Laura Coates

The CNN legal analyst's name also came up during Trebek's chat with Levin. Having pushed for a female host, Trebek noted that the attorney's credentials—she has a talk radio show on SiriusXM, a 2016 legal guide and an adjunct law professor position at George Washington University School of Law—made her a worthy candidate. 

LeVar Burton

It's not all that surprising that the Reading Rainbow host, a man we've long looked up to as an educator, inspired a Change.org petition calling for him to take over on Jeopardy! Making note of how the Star Trek: The Next Generation actor "has inspired and shaped the minds of several generations of trivia-loving nerds," the petition has already collected upwards of 101,000 signatures. As for Burton, he's both interested and deeply flattered, tweeting Nov. 12, "Even if nothing comes from it, I can't tell how much how I appreciate all y'alls love and support!"