After a year of uncertainty around who would be the face of “Jeopardy!,” the long-running quiz show decided to stick with its existing arrangement, splitting hosting duties between the actress Mayim Bialik and the former champion Ken Jennings, the show announced on wednesday.
The announcement follows a period of introspection and strategizing over how the show should move on without its longtime host, Alex Trebek. After Trebek’s death in 2020, the quiz show first hired a rotating cast of prospective hosts, effectively auditioning them on the air, before announcing that the program’s executive producer, Mike Richards, would get the job permanently, with Bialik hosting prime-time specials.
Jennings will be hosting the regular season shows through December, and Bialik will take over in January, according to the announcement from the show’s executive producer, Michael Davies.
“The fact is, we have so much ‘Jeopardy!’ to make, and so many plans for the future, that we always knew we would need multiple hosts for the franchise and we are just so grateful that Mayim and Ken stepped in and stepped up to put the show in a position to succeed,” he wrote.
The once-staid game show was upended when its initial succession plans imploded over a series of offensive comments that Richards, its initial pick as host, had made on a podcast. After his departure, the show tapped Bialik and Jennings to share hosting duties — temporarily, at first. The program announced last September that the duo would share the job through the remainder of 2021. Then, in December, the show said the arrangement would continue into 2022.
But while the show was struggling to find its footing behind the scenes, it continued to generate excitement and ratings with a series of star contestants. Within one season, four new champions were added to the show’s all-time leaderboard, fueling plenty of theorizing among fans about what became a streak of streaks. For a while, the growing celebrity of the winning contestants — including Amy Schneider, Matt Amodio and Mattea Roach — seemed a welcome distraction from the lack of clarity around who would become the permanent face of the show.
Jennings has maintained the lead as the contestant with the highest number of consecutive wins (74) and the highest amount of money won in regular-season games ($2.5 million) in the show’s history. Bialik, who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience and is best known for her role as a scientist in the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” has made clear from the beginning that she is interested in getting the job permanently, though she has had to balance it with her sitcom “Call Me Kat.”
After Richards’s departure, Davies, a veteran game-show producer who developed the original American version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?,” took over temporarily as executive producer — a job that soon became permanent.
Under Davies, the show has worked to expand beyond its traditional structure, announcing a prime-time spinoff, “Celebrity Jeopardy!,” that will debut on ABC in September.
Bialik will host “Celebrity Jeopardy!,” while Jennings will host the upcoming Tournament of Champions, as well as a new Second Chance Tournament, in which standout players are asked back to compete. In his announcement, Davies hinted that there could be even more spinoffs ahead, noting that Bialik would also host a couple of new tournaments, in addition to the college championship.