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Wed March 27, 2013
Should Seattle 'Jeopardy!' champ be next Trebek?
Answer: This person is the obvious choice to succeed Alex Trebek as the host of “Jeopardy!”
The “obvious choice”, according to jenningsforjeopardy.com, is Ken Jennings, Seattle’s own record-setting “Jeopardy!” champ who won 74 straight games and more than $3 million (much of which Jennings says he spent on the “three essential T’s: taxes, tithing, and new widescreen TV”). He later faced off against IBM supercomputer Watson in a special "Jeopardy!" exhibition match.
Seattle resident and Jennings fan Mike Pantoliano is behind the website making the rounds on Reddit. The site, in tongue-in-cheek fashion, claims Jennings is getting all of the vote on its online poll. But jokes aside, Pantoliano says the real data shows "Ken is absolutely destroying it."
But wait — Jennings does have some stiff competition, according to the New York Post: The “Today” show’s Matt Lauer, whose deal with NBC expires in 2015. Trebek himself is expected to step down in 2016.
So what sets local brainiac Jennings apart from Lauer, a TV veteran? Jennings says he is addicted to the quiz show.
“Somewhere deep down, I think I'm still as ‘Jeopardy!’-addicted as when I was ten years old, watching the show every day without fail right after school,” he says on his website. “Because if I'm in an airport or restaurant or somewhere and ‘Jeopardy!’ comes on the TV, I can't look away.”
"Plus he's hilarious," said Pantoliano, who thinks Jennings would "inject new life" and attract younger viewers to the decades-old trivia show.
Jennings has said appearing on "Jeopardy!" has changed his viewing experience for good.
“I find that I have a hard time sitting on my couch and lazily shouting out answers at Trebek, like I used to,” he says about what he calls "life A.T.” — “life after Trebek.” “Everything about the show — the music, the graphics, the sound effects — causes some fight-or-flight adrenaline spike in my blood and I become hyper-aware of every detail of the show. Maybe I have post-traumatic stress disorder.”
And perhaps the most invaluable advantage: the champ has had a chance to see Trebek at work, up close, more than 74 times.
“The first thing you notice is that the seriousness-to-the-point-of-pomposity thing that he does on air is mostly a put-on. In person, he's a lot looser, prone to little jokes, accents, snippets of song and even soft-shoe.
“Like Alex or dislike him, you have to admit that he has one of the toughest jobs in show business—reading 61 clues flawlessly while running a fast-paced game show is an amazingly difficult task—yet he's made it look easy, every weekday for the last two decades," he said.
It’s unclear whether Jennings, if offered, would take Trebek’s job (Jennings declined a request for an interview). Pantoliano says he heard Jennings mention in passing — perhaps during a podcast — that he would, in fact, take the job if offered.
Jennings did flirt with the idea of hosting his own quiz show until Comedy Central reportedly pulled the plug on the idea.
If Jennings does end up getting the job, Pantoliano says he won't ask for a cut.
"Maybe a phone call or a tweet," he said.