To say that Jeopardy! is a cultural institution would be a bit of an understatement. The original incarnation of the show started airing in 1964 with Art Fleming as host, but the version of Jeopardy! that we all know and love premiered in 1984 with none other than the beloved Alex Trebek. Since Trebek’s passing in 2020, Jeopardy! has continued with a variety of guest hosts, including grand champion and reigning GOAT Ken Jennings, The Big Bang Theory's Mayim Bialik, and most recently, Reading Rainbow and Star Trek veteran LeVar Burton.
After a petition to get LeVar Burton his dream job as host of Jeopardy! went viral, the Roots actor snagged a week-long stint as guest host. It’s not the permanent position he’s always wanted, but LeVar Burton seems to have enjoyed himself nonetheless. However, as he told The Grio, it wasn’t all fun and games, since there’s a ton of pressure to live up to Alex Trebek’s legendary reputation. And according to Burton’s wife, makeup artist Stephanie Cozart, his first episode was...a bit rough. According to Burton:
I’ve jumped out of airplanes. I’ve walked over hot coals. This was a real challenge. First of all, because Jeopardy! is singular in the culture and what it means to people as a part of their daily lives. And the fact that there are only two hosts who have ever stood in that spot. The pressure, the natural tendency was to want to live up to Alex’s example, his legacy. I had, like all of the hosts, one day of rehearsal and the following day I shot five episodes of Jeopardy! I came backstage after taping the first episode and I said to Stephanie, ‘Well, how did I do?’ She said, ‘Ehhh.’ Now, this is a woman who loves me enough to tell me the truth. She said it wasn’t me.
Stephanie Cozart’s advisory admission ended up being a boon to Levar Burton. For the rest of his Jeopardy! filming time, LeVar Burton decided to simply relax and try to have fun. Here's how he put it:
I made it my business for the next four chances at bat to just be myself, to forget about the procedure, to forget about the process, stop trying, stop focusing on the wrong thing. You’re not going to be smooth as Alex, let go of that. But what you can bring to the table is you. So that became my point of focus. And when it did, I started having fun.
It’s true - no one can really replace Alex Trebek, nor should anyone try to. All a host can do is try to build on the foundations their predecessor laid before them. LeVar Burton has plenty of his own experiences, plus a unique point of view, to bring to the Jeopardy! stage. After a long career focused on educating as well as entertaining, a Jeopardy! guest host spot seems like the natural next step for Burton. And if the producers decide to bring him on as a permanent host? I’ll take ‘Yes, Please’ for $400.