After beloved, long-time Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek passed away in November 2020, fans started to think about who they would like to see replace him. One of the first names that came up, and the one that seemed to garner the most traction early on, was Star Trek: The Next Generation vet and Reading Rainbow mastermind LeVar Burton. Well, along with several other well-known folks, Burton had a guest hosting stint while the show searched for a permanent replacement, but despite audience desire to see him in the job, the ratings didn't reflect his popularity. Now, we might know why LeVar Burton's Jeopardy! hosting gig was the least watched of all the guest hosts.
It was only a few days after Alex Trebek's death that a fan started a Change.org petition to have Jeopardy! tap LeVar Burton as the next permanent host of the popular game show. Nearly 268,000 people have now signed that petition, and not only were everyday fans committed to having him take over the hosting gig, but several celebrities backed the idea, too. However, after a string of guest hosts came through with varying degrees of success and popularity, Burton's week long stint is currently the lowest rated. And according to Newsweek, poor timing was likely what did him in.
The outlet notes that LeVar Burton's Jeopardy! week garnered an audience share of only 4.4, putting him behind the previously tied lowest audience share of 4.7, which is where Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Savannah Guthrie, and Robin Roberts stood for their respective hosting time. When Burton stepped in to guest host, audience interest had already been in a steady decline.
Jeopardy! superstar Ken Jennings was the first guest host (taking on the role for a whopping six weeks, beginning in January) and also nabbed the highest audience share of 6.1. But, each successive host got smaller and smaller shares. The only exception there was Aaron Rodgers, and he managed, in his first week, to best the previous host's audience share by just .4, so there was already a very steady trend of waning interest when it came time for LeVar Burton to step in.
Of course, if you can think back to the period that Burton called his own as he ran the proceedings on the Jeopardy! stage (which started on July 26), you can probably recall something else that would have led to a serious downturn in viewers for his hosting time...Not sure? That's totally understandable, so just think of a little sports competition that gets interest from literally all over the world, but was delayed from 2020 to this summer. You've got it! The Tokyo Olympics finally aired from July 23 until August 8, and those events dominated when it came to all syndicated shows.
Basically, even with all of the extreme fan enthusiasm for LeVar Burton to host Jeopardy!, there was very little likelihood that his guest stint would do well in the ratings, considering when he stepped into the position. Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards, who also guest hosted earlier this year, has now been chosen as the permanent host for the series, with another former guest host, Mayim Bialik, taking over duties for Jeopardy! specials.
Though people didn't manage to show up for LeVar Burton's time on the show, you can bet that this move still angered them. But, as expected, Burton responded to not getting the gig with his standard level of class, meaning that something bigger and better will probably be along soon for the man who is still the new Jeopardy! host in the hearts of many fans.
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Covering The Witcher, Outlander, Virgin River, Sweet Magnolias and a slew of other streaming shows, Adrienne Jones is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend, and started in the fall of 2015. In addition to writing and editing stories on a variety of different topics, she also spends her work days trying to find new ways to write about the many romantic entanglements that fictional characters find themselves in on TV shows. She graduated from Mizzou with a degree in Photojournalism.