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Ken Jennings to be first 'Jeopardy!' interim guest host

"Jeopardy!" all-time champion Ken Jennings will begin guest

"Jeopardy!" all-time champion Ken Jennings will begin guest hosting new episodes that are set to air early next year. Credit: Valerie Macon / AFP via Getty Images

The future of "Jeopardy!" without legendary host Alex Trebek at the helm has begun to take shape: Ken Jennings will be interim host when the show resumes taping Monday. The last edition with Trebek — who died Nov. 8 aged 80 — will air early next year while Jennings' episodes will begin Jan. 11.

The show's executive producer, Michael Richards, said in a statement that Jennings will be the first of a "series of interim guest hosts from the 'Jeopardy!' family." Additional guest hosts will be announced later.

"By bringing in familiar guest hosts for the foreseeable future," he said, "our goal is to create a sense of community and continuity for our viewers."

"Within the family" would appear to rule out — at least for now — a number of other rumored candidates, far-fetched or otherwise, including ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos who made various, if highly speculative, lists of potential replacements in recent weeks.

Jennings, however, was always considered a leading candidate. The former computer programmer and all-time "Jeopardy!" champion joined the show as consulting producer over the summer, which prompted immediate speculation that the off-screen role might lead to the on-screen one in the event that Trebek decided to step down.

Trebek himself seemed to offer support for the idea in his memoir, "The Answer Is … Reflections on My Life," published in July. He wrote: "You could replace me as the host of the show with anybody and it would likely be just as popular. Hell, after thirty-six years with me, it might even be more popular." But Trebek almost seemed to single out Jennings, 46, as his replacement, by writing: "[S]omeone I can be very simpatico with because I think we’re the same type of person. We’re comfortable in our own skin and comfortable in dealing with other people and don’t feel we have to go out and impress or make a mark. He’s somebody I genuinely liked as a contestant on the program."

While Jennings' 74-game winning streak championship run ended in 2004, he's been a household name — at least in "Jeopardy!" households — ever since and later won the hugely promoted "Greatest of All Time'' playoff this January.

What other guest hosts from "the Jeopardy! family" might follow is especially intriguing — a former player, perhaps, or someone else within?

One obvious answer might even be a member of the show's so-called "Clue Crew" who present the video clues and who are particularly well-known to fans. The best-known are veterans Jimmy McGuire and Sarah Whitcomb Foss, but Kelly Miyahara, who left in 2019, was here for decades as well.

Richards said that "Jeopardy!" will air repeat episodes for the holiday weeks beginning Dec. 21 and 28, while Trebek's final week of shows will air starting Monday, Jan. 4.

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