Alex Trebek, the host of “Jeopardy!” since 1984, stoked speculation today that he could retire when his contract expires in 2020, telling TMZ that his chances of staying longer were “50-50, and a little less.”
The absence of Trebek, 78, would fundamentally alter the lightning-fast trivia show, which relies on his steady delivery to keep the pace humming. His comments to TMZ were far from conclusive, and fans have long guessed who his replacement might be only to see him renew his contract again. But this time he suggested two people he saw fit to replace him — neither of whom had been on the radar of most fans.
He first mentioned Alex Faust, the play-by-play announcer for the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. On Twitter, Faust appeared to be surprised but grateful for the plug.
Trebek then suggested Laura Coates, a legal analyst and frequent on-air personality for CNN. She said on Twitter that she was “incredibly honored and humbled.”
Both candidates veered significantly from the usual names on fan shortlists: At 28, Faust is young and relatively unknown nationwide. Coates is neither white nor a man.
According to Andy Saunders, who runs The “Jeopardy!” Fan site, names commonly rumored as potential hosts include Dan Patrick, a sportscaster and radio host; Ken Jennings, a former contestant; and Buzzy Cohen, another former contestant. Matt Lauer was once considered among the most likely candidates, but that swiftly changed when he was fired from “Today” in 2017 after an allegation of inappropriate sexual behavior.
The front-runner in Saunders’ eyes? He thinks Anderson Cooper, the silver-haired CNN host, makes the most sense. Cooper has appeared on “Jeopardy!” before, and hosted two seasons of “The Mole,” a reality show, in 2001 and 2002.
Since “Jeopardy!” tapes about four to six days per month, the newsman could potentially keep his CNN job while hosting the game show on the side, he said.
“Hosting ‘Jeopardy!’ is one of those once-in-a-career opportunities,” Saunders said. “It’s not a position that comes around very often.”
Replacing Trebek would be no easy feat. While he occasionally demonstrates a quick wit, he is more likely to dryly move the game along than crack a joke that would eat up valuable time, making him more statesman than comedian.
“He has so much experience and he is such a good host that anyone, even Anderson Cooper, would find it incredibly difficult to fill Alex’s shoes,” Saunders said.