Ken Jennings proved Jeopardy! may be Jeopardy! with out Alex Trebek

Jeopardy! entered an unsure new period on Monday, however by the tip of the episode, the present’s future appeared much more assured.

The Jan. 12 episode of Jeopardy! — the present’s 8,311th because the debut of its present incarnation in 1984 — was its first one with out legendary host Alex Trebek, who died in November on the age of 80. Taking Trebek’s place at his hallowed lectern was maybe the present’s most well-known noncelebrity contestant: Ken Jennings, champion of the Biggest of All Time event, who’s the primary in a collection of interim visitor hosts.

Jennings walked out onto the stage following Johnny Gilbert’s introduction — “Right here is the visitor host of Jeopardy!, Ken Jennings!” — and (understandably) acquired off to a little bit of a shaky begin in talking about Trebek and about his personal time as a contestant.

“Like all Jeopardy! followers, I miss Alex — very a lot,” mentioned Jennings, his voice breaking. “And I thank him for every little thing he did for all of us. Let’s be completely clear: Nobody will ever change the nice Alex Trebek. However we are able to honor him by enjoying the sport he beloved.”

And honor him he did. With the assistance of the contestants, who’re, as Trebek all the time mentioned, the true stars of the present. As soon as the Jeopardy spherical started, it was remarkably easy crusing for everybody concerned.

Jennings is probably not blessed with the pure gravitas of Trebek’s deep, authoritative voice, honed throughout his pre-game-show profession as a broadcaster in his native Canada. However he already had some expertise studying Jeopardy! clues in his position as a consulting producer, which started this season, and it confirmed. Since contestants can not buzz in till the second after the speaker finishes studying the clue, timing is vital: Longtime viewers, maybe clicking a retractable pen in time with the gamers on TV, discovered to clock Trebek’s dependable cadence. And Jennings managed to ship the identical deliberate tempo as his beloved predecessor.

Above all, a bunch’s job is to keep up move and seem personable. Viewers beloved Trebek for his wit and his typically deadpan humor, particularly when he engaged in light ribbing of the contestants — each through the interview phase and through the recreation itself. Jennings pulled all of it off admirably, maybe aided by his years of expertise as a participant.

When the $2,000 clue within the “Choose Up the Homophone” class — “A gaggle singing, or a set of 24 sheets of paper” — stumped all three contestants, Jennings remarked that he had figured that third-podium participant Julia Shear Kushner would possibly know the right response: What’s choir/quire? Kushner, a lawyer from Lengthy Seashore, California, had mentioned in her interview that she sings in a choir with a bunch of different attorneys.

And as Solutions within the Type of Questions: A Definitive Historical past and Insider’s Information to Jeopardy! writer Claire McNear famous on Twitter, citing avid fan Mark Hinog, each Jennings and Trebek ended their respective first episodes — greater than 36 years aside — by chiding the brand new champion for his or her diminutive Remaining Jeopardy wager.

“I hope [the contestants] really feel that I’ve a way of solidarity with them — , that I’m rooting for them; that I understand how arduous it’s and the way it feels; that after I’m impressed, that’s real, as a result of I do know what they’re going by means of,” Jennings mentioned in an interview with Jeopardy!’s producers, responding to a query about what he brings to the internet hosting gig.

Tanay Kothari, a enterprise operations affiliate from Oakland, California, shrugged when Jennings revealed his $zero wager on the Remaining Jeopardy class, 1960s Songs. “Now he decides to not take a threat!” mentioned Jennings, referring to the truth that Kothari had gone for a real Every day Double twice through the recreation.

Kothari was in all probability kicking himself a bit of bit, since he had been capable of provide you with the right response to the clue: “The identify of this title music from a 1964 film may be translated from Spanish as ‘Lengthy Reside the Meadows.’” (Jennings was on the lookout for this: What’s “Viva Las Vegas”?) However then, Kothari’s opponents couldn’t catch him Remaining Jeopardy — the sport was a “runaway,” as Trebek would have put it, and Kothari was topped the brand new Jeopardy! champion with a powerful tally of $26,800.

As quickly because the credit rolled, my spouse turned to me to say that she thought Jennings had achieved a terrific job, and I needed to agree. Jeopardy! won’t ever be the identical with out Alex Trebek, however in only one episode on the helm, Jennings proved that the present can nonetheless really feel like residence.

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