by pat howard

THE FRIDAY FIVE | Suggestions for Trebek replacements

In The Friday Five on May 1, 2009 at 1:14 pm

I’ve been watching a lot of Jeopardy lately. Between the reruns on GSN and new episodes daily in syndication, it’s two games a day, five days a week. This far exceeds the recommended exposure to Alex Trebek.

Growing up watching Jeopardy with my mom, I always thought Trebek was awesome, and I wanted to be that smart. Once I figured out that he gets the answers ahead of time, I felt sort of ripped off. But over the last decade (and especially since jettisoning that famous ‘stache), he has steadily become a bigger jerk.

Whether it’s employing an unnecessary and terrible accent in a particular category, or the condescending way he says, “No, sorry,” when someone gets a question wrong, the man oozes smug superiority. It seems to me that anyone else who behaved this way would be run out of town on a rail; why then must we put up with such attitude from Trebek?

The introduction of the Clue Crew initially seemed frivolous, but I now feel like they’re trying to take some of the edge off by taking away some of Trebek’s chances to grate on people’s souls. I take comfort in the assumption that the writers are laughing at him rather than with him at categories where they invoke his name and then ask five questions about rap songs, for example.

My ardent, if sporadic, viewership of the show over the years has led me to consider becoming a contestant. But I fear I would not be able to put up with Trebek’s hamming it up and acting an arrogant fool. Since I fear that the producers frown on contestants displaying their unadulterated disdain for the host, and as I do not wish to become caught up in a murderous conspiracy with fellow contestants, I choose to abstain from the Jeopardy audition process.

Watching is a whole other beast, however. This is one of those shows that I’ll get sucked back into for a few months, then abruptly abandon one day. Ultimately, though, it always keeps me coming back for more, which is probably a mind trick on Trebek’s part.

Since I doubt I could ever shake the Jeopardy habit entirely, I have begun to wonder if perhaps a change of host would reinvigorate the show and give America hope for Jeopardy again. Or maybe it would be the kiss of death. Regardless, I’m proposing five alternate hosts, should Trebek ever become unable to perform his duties.

Jeff Probst
Before becoming host of Survivor, Probst ran the board on VH1’s Rock and Roll Jeopardy in the late ’90s. And he wasn’t an ass about it. Probst is pleasant enough on television, and has expressed a desire to eventually vote himself off the island, so he may be available in the next few years.

Bob Bergen
Just throwing this one out there. Jep!, the childrens’ version of Jeopardy, was not great. But you can’t really blame Bergen, who has quite the body of voice work. And having a pleasant voice is most of the battle here, since a Jeopardy host is seen much more than he is heard.

Mayim Bialik
But why does it have to be a he? How many female game show hosts can you name? The three that spring to my mind are Vicki Lawrence (Win, Lose or Draw), Anne Robinson (The Weakest Link), and Meredith Viera (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire). Bialik is an admittedly random choice, her claim to fame being Blossom, but she has since earned a PhD in neuroscience, so don’t completely write her off.

Anderson Cooper
Gravitas, the voice, and the added bonus of having been to most of the foreign countries that are bound to turn up as categories: Cooper’s got quite a bit going for him here. Let’s not forget his sense of humor, which was deftly illustrated in his turn as original host of The Mole at the advent of this decade. Jeopardy‘s light taping schedule would free him up to continue his world travels — perhaps he could still contribute to CNN or 60 Minutes.

Will Ferrell
If all else fails, perhaps Ferrell could be cajoled into the role, provided that he reprise his popular cynical impersonation of the offending Trebek (the real Trebek recently called out politicians, saying they’re afraid to come on the show and seem stupid). Those “Celebrity Jeopardy” lampoons on Saturday Night Live certainly soothed some of the pain. Years later, “suck it, Trebek” remains the greatest wager in Jeopardy history.

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