After a noteworthy two weeks as “Jeopardy!” guest host that featured one contestant trolling him in his first episode, and several other contestants not knowing the history of his team, pro football quarterback Aaron Rodgers concluded his stint at the lectern April 16. In his place, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper took over beginning last Monday for a two-week run.
As part of the gig, Cooper will also raise funds for the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Haiti; “Jeopardy!” will match the contestants’ winnings from his hosting stint, and donate them to the hospital instead of an honorarium.
Cooper has competed in four separate episodes of “Celebrity Jeopardy!,” so he knows the game fairly well. In prior years, his name often arose as someone who could succeed Alex Trebek as the show’s permanent emcee, so giving Cooper a tryout as guest host made some sense.
Nondescript Hosting Stint
That said, one word generally described Cooper’s first week of hosting duties: Meh. Unlike most of the other guest hosts, few notable traits or characteristics jumped out during Cooper’s time behind the lectern.
Ken Jennings had an earnestness about him, but also a nervousness that sometimes approached timidity. Katie Couric reprised her effervescent morning show personality. Dr. Mehmet Oz seemed confident, to the point of appearing brash. And Rodgers most closely emulated Trebek’s mannerisms, but with a monotone voice so soothing that it almost became soporific.
Call his efforts workmanlike, or call them boring, but Cooper lacked many unique mannerisms while behind the lectern. He often seemed to take a moment’s pause before calling a contestant’s response correct — perhaps waiting to see if the show’s producers would speak into his earpiece to advise him on a ruling.
But other than those occasional pauses, Cooper did little to add to, or detract from, the play of the game. Whether that style generates plaudits or criticism may depend on one’s view of the role of a “Jeopardy!” host — or perhaps one’s view of Cooper’s political views, and those of the network he currently represents.
Additional Guest Hosts Announced
On Wednesday, “Jeopardy!” announced what it said was its full lineup of guest hosts through the end of the show’s 37th season. The lineup of guest hosts — including former “Jeopardy!” champion Buzzy Cohen, who will host the Tournament of Champions, set to air during the May sweeps period — will run through mid-August. At that point, the show will likely air a few weeks of reruns until the start of its 38th season, presumably with a new permanent host, in mid-September.
Two items stand out from the announcement: First, to the great delight of the many who had signed a petition seeking his appearance on the “Jeopardy!” soundstage, former “Reading Rainbow” host LeVar Burton will host a series of episodes in July. He joins ABC morning personalities George Stephanopoulos and Robin Roberts, CNBC anchor David Faber, and Fox sportscaster Joe Buck among the last group of guest hosts.
But to accommodate all these guests, “Jeopardy!” had to shorten the duration of their hosting stints. Thus far, and continuing through mid-July, guests appeared on two weeks of shows — which, given the show’s taping schedule, made a great deal of sense. The show normally tapes five episodes (a week’s worth) in one day, two days per week (normally Tuesdays and Wednesdays). That tape schedule allows each guest host to tape two weeks’s worth of shows within a relatively brief two-day window, allowing easy travel for out-of-town guests.
But beginning with Stephanopoulos in mid-July, guests will only host one week’s worth of shows, taped within a single day. The compressed schedule explains why this space decided in January to review guest hosts after their first week’s appearances, thinking some would not have longer hosting stints.
All told, 16 individuals will guest host “Jeopardy!” episodes during the second half of its 37th season. Only time will tell if one of these 16 individuals is named as the permanent host, or another individual takes the coveted hosting gig.