LeVar Burton Gets Candid About Losing Out On Jeopardy Hosting Job, Calls It A 'Fix'

LeVar Burton hosting Jeopardy
(Image credit: Jeopardy)

To use a corny stereotype: if you look up TV treasure in the dictionary, you’ll probably see a picture of LeVar Burton. The Star Trek: The Next Generation vet isn’t only a legend to genre fans, but also to millions of former children who grew up loving Reading Rainbow. (That, on top of dozens of other TV and film roles.) As such, he seemed like as perfect a choice as any to take over Jeopardy!’s hosting job during the height of that ill-handled debacle tied to former EP Mike Richards. He didn’t get the gig — no one officially has, more than seven months later — and while he has been flush with projects in the aftermath, it sounds like he’s still got a noteworthy chip on his shoulder about it.

Just ahead of LeVar Burton taking the stage as host of the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee, and far ahead of his return to outer space for Star Trek: Picard Season 3, the well-spoken actor and producer spoke with Newsy about the residual emotions still within him this far removed from the Jeopardy! process. Even if he could eventually appreciate the way things turned out, with Burton taking on hosting duties for the syndicated Trivial Pursuit game show reboot, he said he was totally wrecked at the time. In his words:

Experiencing a very public defeat, humiliation, if you will, was sobering. And what I learned from the experience, really, is that it reinforced my belief that everything happens for a reason, even if you cannot discern the reason in the moment. In the fullness of time, everything will be revealed. And like I said, it was I think in that first week of feeling really sort of not just disappointed, but wrecked. I didn't expect that I would not be their choice for host.

There’s a thin line between confidence and arrogance, but I think we can all agree that LeVar Burton fell more on the “confident” side of things, given his fanbase, his know-how, and his relaxed demeanor behind the Jeopardy! lectern. Granted, not everyone was into his efforts (which he was fully aware of), but enough people were, including former champions, that he clearly thought he had a straight shot to the top of the applicant chart, as it were. 

LeVar Burton certainly doesn’t sound like he thinks Jeopardy!’s hosting situation is a purely objective and democratic process, either. To the point where he calls it a “fix,” saying: 

The truth is it was my favorite game show. It really was. I mean, I watched that show since I was in the third grade and Art Fleming was the host. And I honestly thought that I was well-suited for it. As it turns out, it really wasn't a competition, after all, the fix was in.

As bothered as he might be by how Jeopardy! shunned him, LeVar Burton has come to accept that losing out on that one job has made way for other opportunities that he likely wouldn’t have been able to accept had he been saddled with a full-time gig hosting the syndicated hit. 

And the doors have been opened. Windows have been opened. The phone hasn't stopped ringing, and I never would have experienced those things that I'm experiencing, like hosting the Scripps Spelling Bee, had I gotten that job. So I think it was a big lesson for me and just being willing to sit in the discomfort long enough to find out what was really supposed to happen for me around this game show thing.

I gotta say, any silver lining such as “landing a variety of TV jobs that included a return to the NCIS-verse” is about as good as it gets, so hopefully LeVar Burton can go into each of his new opportunities with all the confidence and happiness that’s deserved. I also hope that Jeopardy! makes the best decision possible when the new permanent host is announced in the near future, but that’ll be a judgment call either way.  

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.