From “Jeopardy!” lost beloved host Alex Trebek in his battle with pancreatic cancer last year, America’s most popular Q&A show has been to a number of celebrity guest presenters with thousands of dollars earmarked for charities of their choice , matching the contestants’ earnings.
Before a permanent replacement for Trebek is named ahead of season 38 in September, 16 presenters will have taken the legendary lectern for a total of 160 new episodes over seven months. With 10 fewer and 6 more to come (in order: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, George Stephanopoulos, Robin Roberts, LeVar Burton, David Faber, and Joe Buck), this is how Sporting News ranks them all, from worst to best, as all worked to honor the late great Trebek:
The risk! Famous guest hosts, ranked
10. Dr. Mehmet Oz
10 shows, from March 22 to April 2
Strengths: Experience and enthusiasm. Oz is a regular on these television and radio shows. so there were no comfort level issues in front of the camera. He has a natural passion for the game and showed his vertigo in each of his episodes.
Weaknesses Delivery and diction. For those who are not fans of his medical programming, you should be aware that Oz is a bit all over the place with his presentation. That may work well when talking about certain bodily functions, but it didn’t translate well to questionnaires.
Bottom line: Trebek once hosted a show called “The Wizard of Odds.” The good doctor did not provide a worthy sequel.
9. Savannah Guthrie
10 shows, June 14 to June 25
Strengths: Intelligence and sympathy. Guthrie, whose credentials include a Georgetown law degree, is brilliant and paired it with a cheerful personality. She proved to be very welcoming to contestants, providing a warm space for the super smart.
Weaknesses: Voice and fluency. Guthrie has a good conversational tone for reading the morning news and chatting on “The TODAY Show.” That same force led to some agitation in answering the answers and providing the right questions. The flavor text often slowed down the pace of their games.
Bottom line: Guthrie passed away for a short time, but you shouldn’t think about quitting your job TODAY.
8. Bill Whitaker
10 shows, from May 3 to May 14
Strengths: Experience and versatility. Whitaker, a veteran of CBS news, was the lesser-known option to the general public. But he showed his love for the game and respect for Trebek as he took the lectern.
Weaknesses: Rhythm and slowness. Whitaker contestants often didn’t go across the board. His style of reading news with responses did not allow for the usual level of nimble responses. He was also subdued and showed none of that Trebek charisma.
Bottom line: Whitaker provided another case of a strong broadcast journalist who wasn’t cut out for the transition from full-time to educational entertainment.
7. Buzzy Cohen
10 shows, May 17 to May 28 (Tournament of Champions)
Strengths: Knowledge and connectivity. Buzzy knows what goes on behind the buzzer as well as anyone, having won the Tournament of Champions as a contestant. His spectacle-wearing splendor gave him a mix of television flair and another way of relating to the geek-chic style of the gamers.
Weaknesses: Inexperience and more inexperience. Although there were no real nerves with Cohen, it was clear that he was out of his element a bit presenting versus competing.
Bottom line: Cohen was a good player in the field of contestants behind Ken Jennings, as other top players like Brad Rutter and James Holzhauer would not have been so smooth on the other side of the lectern. But Buzzy is better only as a short-term guest.
6. Anderson Cooper
10 shows, April 19 to April 30
Strengths: Command and delivery. Cooper had prior experience in the celebrity edition reality competition of “The Mole” and has proven to be entertaining at his New Years Eve concerts with Andy Cohen. His voice, intelligence and polish as a longtime CNN personality were important assets with a Trebek-like familiarity to most of the audience.
Weaknesses: Inconsistency and inaccuracy. Cooper handled most of the clues and was solid in the intro and interview portions of the game. But the big surprise was some of his stumbles in spreading the source material.
Bottom line: Cooper’s presentation was solid for what the show needed, but it wasn’t smooth enough overall to stand out as much as it should have.
5. Katie Couric
10 shows, from March 8 to March 19
Strengths: Layout and distribution. There was no doubt that Couric, who combined the best elements of Guthrie, Whitaker and Cooper, was the best of the news personalities. His positive energy carried over to the contestants. He excelled at reading clues with proper diction.
Weakness: More substance, less style. What made Trebek so amazing was that he could combine academics with total nonsense, including self-loathing, when necessary. He was serious about the game and didn’t take it too seriously. Couric could handle the game well, but the hard-to-replace style wasn’t there.
Bottom line: Couric would be a decent option for permanence, but the show should want a bit more to get past the Trebek mantle.
4. Aaron Rodgers
10 shows: from April 5 to April 16
Strengths: Preparation and enthusiasm. Rodgers was ready for the concert from the beginning. Just like he might study for a game as the current NFL MVP quarterback of the Packers, you could tell he was watching a lot of what Trebek was doing and had filled the lectern with tips to help him succeed. You could tell Rodgers had a lot of fun as the host and the players fed off of that. Once comfortable, his dry humor and personality shone through.
Weakness: Lack of experience. It seems that Rodgers has a bright future presenting on television, in the style of Michael Strahan, Peyton Manning and other notable NFL players. But Rodgers’ first gig was tough, starting with his nerves and the competitive pressure he put on himself to be the best with Trebek in mind. However, at the end of the second week, Rodgers found his true rhythm.
Bottom line: Rodgers’ appearances accelerated the attention in the publication of the Trebek program, as well as the ratings. He appealed to audiences both uncompromising and casual. Whether he was the choice, making it work with his quarterback job or not, there would be more excitement than disapproval.
MORE: Aaron Rodgers passed “Jeopardy!” try, but are you ready to work full time?
3. Mayim Bialik
10 shows: May 31 to June 11
Strengths: Smart and stylish. As Bialik said while on the show, “Jeopardy!” It was a perfect opportunity to combine her teaching personality as a neuroscientist and her acting skills. Although best known to modern, younger audiences as Amy Farrah Folwer on “The Big Bang Theory,” Bialik’s high level of on-screen experience dates back to age 12 when she played a younger version of Bette Midler on “Beaches.” . Bialik’s changing wardrobe, including his glasses, took Cohen’s nerdy style to another level. She also presented with a smile or a laugh on her face, creating warmth for the contestants and the audience alike.
Weakness: Unconventionality. By “Jeopardy!” Fans (like the author of this article), Biaylik’s quirk and presentation have a lot of appeal after Trebek. More casual viewers may not like their nerdy pride as much, which is sad for them.
Bottom line: Borrowing from the underrated theme of “Blossom” performed by the late New Orleans legend Dr. John, in my “opinion” the sun surely shone for Bialik behind the lectern. In terms of the true celebrities who have hosted the show so far, Bialik has the narrowest lead over Rodgers.
2. Mike Richards
10 shows: February 22 to March 5
Strengths: Insider information and experience. Richards has a rare background, being a strong host on shows ranging from “Beauty and the Geek” to “Pyramid” before transitioning to being the smart executive producer on “Jeopardy!” He knows the game inside and out and has a good idea of how Trebek would want the tradition to continue. Has behind-the-scenes knowledge of how responses should be read. It is also natural with the jokes of the contestants.
Weakness: Limited star power. Richards is not known to many who did not watch his previous shows. But it does so for its ordinary name with an excellent overall approach to the game.
Bottom line: Richards’s career might have been a bit lost among celebrities. He’s unlikely to change Emmy-winning roles on the show, but he will continue to do better, no matter who takes over the lectern in the long run.
1. Ken Jennings
30 shows: from January 11 to February 19
Strengths: Experience and ingenuity. Before introducing the first 30 episodes after Trebek, Jennings won 74 games on the regular edition of the show before his various appearances in tournaments and all-star editions. He has remained a top-notch personality on the trivia scene, including his “Kennections” puzzles for “Mental Floss.” and “Jeopardy!” Parlay on the reboot of “The Chase.” Jennings has a great mix of likeable nerd with just the right dose of confidence, something Trebek had too.
Weakness: Lack of polish. Jennings, by not being a television host, actor or journalist, has become a force in front of the camera. As a small bump, it’s clear that he’s not as refined as the myriad of industry veterans who are guest hosts.
Bottom line: The first is the best and should be the last (for now). Jennings must be considered the worthy favorite for the permanent host, and Richards has a lot to say in the election.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.