It was quite an emotional start to the week for game show fanatics, as Jeopardy! debuted its very first episode recorded after Alex Trebek's death in November. The winningest player in the show's history, Ken Jennings, was tapped as the first in a series of guest hosts that will stand proudly behind the podium as the producers seek out a permanent replacement to fill the void. While everyone's mileage will vary, as it goes, Jennings' debut on the other side of the Jeopardy! stage seemed to garner largely positive reactions from viewers mired in all the feels.
Ken Jennings immediately earned good graces from the audience in the episode's opening minute. After thanking announcer Johnny Gilbert, Jennings paid tribute to the iconic host that became his friend over the years, and acknowledged that the show wouldn't and couldn't be the same without Alex Trebek. (Whew, somebody must be cutting some onions behind my computer or something. Sniff.) Below is one particularly kind response from a fan who commented on the tribute video on YouTube.
'No one will ever replace the great Alex Trebek.' Nothing ever will. He’s always been our man of trivia, for the past 36 seasons, and Jennings became a grand part of it. He is never replaced, forgotten, or left behind, in Ken’s eyes, or our eyes. You can hear the pain in his voice- it’s very real. Even so, we will carry on his legacy, by playing the game he loved, and the game he once hosted. Thank you, Ken, and Thank you, Alex.
Alex Trebek is definitely the kind of entertainer who could inspire almost entirely positive comments across the Internet, from YouTube to Reddit to Twitter, and the above fan wasn't the only person who was both appreciative for Ken Jennings' tribute and emotional about it all the same.
"A little choked up" might have even been an understatement for some viewers. It's worth noting that it's pretty easy to come across people on social media who still haven't even watched Alex Trebek's final episode yet, simply because they're unable to come to grips with saying goodbye. So it's absolutely easy to relate to Sad Lisa Simpson Face seen below.
To that same end, watching Ken Jennings' first episode was also a big shock to the system for any viewer who still wasn't ready to picture Jeopardy! without its instantly recognizable former host running things. It definitely helps that Jennings handled himself and the contestants about as smoothly as possible for a first attempt.
By and large, fans were supportive of Ken Jennings' first episode, with many championing how graceful he was in attempting to fill Alex Trebek's shoes, as it were. Especially knowing how much pressure was on him, not only because he knew how much it meant to TV audiences, and everyone in-studio, but also how much it meant to him personally to stand in for someone he himself admired so deeply.
Not everyone on social media was completely wowed by Ken Jennings' Jeopardy! debut as host, of course, because that would be too dense a statistical anomaly for anyone to understand. Still, of the viewers who weren't fully on board with the switch-up, many still offered kind words like those below.
However it goes, Ken Jennings likely won't become the permanent Jeopardy! host, unless fan responses are so overwhelming that the producers are inspired to make that happen. The next host rumored to show up once Ken Jennings' stint is over is Katie Couric, and fans have been suggesting other temp hosts ever since Jeopardy! announced that was how they would move forward after Alex Trebek's death. But no matter who they choose, it's never going to be the same again.
Jeopardy!, which aired its own sob-worthy tribute to Alex Trebek for his final episode, airs weekdays in syndication, so check your local listings to see when and where it's playing in your area. And head to our Winter and Spring TV premiere schedule to see what other exciting shows are on the way that maybe won't inspire snot-nosed tears.