ABC rolled out the first official season of Celebrity Jeopardy! this fall, with Big Bang Theory veteran Mayim Bialik behind the hosting podium. Here’s how it works: 27 celebrities compete in nine quarter-final games, then the nine winning contestants square off in the semi-finals. Finally, on January 15, the three finalists will compete for the title of Celebrity Jeopardy! Champion. Even better, all the contestants are playing for the grand prize of $1 million to the charity of their choice.
Celebrity Jeopardy! also marks the first time in the game show’s history that there's a triple Jeopardy! round (as the actress/host explained on the show) meaning longer episodes and more trivia. If you’ve been playing along at home like me, you’re probably already a fan of Bialik’s work as the host. If not, here are the reasons you should tune in.
Mayim Bialik Has Good Banter With The Celebs—But She Knows How To Corral Them
Celebrity contestants pose a harder challenge for hosts than normal contestants. If there are two comedians and a podcast host up at the podiums, it can feel like the host is fighting to get a word in edgewise between comments from the peanut gallery.
But Bialik has a skill for engaging with the celebrities while also knowing how to bring them back to the task at hand (playing Jeopardy!). She’s good at keeping it lighthearted and letting the contestants show off their personalities, like you’d hope if your favorite celeb is competing—but she doesn’t let them run amok and hijack the format of the show. She definitely strikes the right balance.
She’s Genuinely VERY Smart
The real name of Bialik’s PhD dissertation is “Hypothalamic Regulation in Relation to Maladaptive, Obsessive-compulsive, Affiliative, and Satiety Behaviors in Prader-Willi Syndrome,” but I don’t know what that means and neither do you! She’s that kind of smart.
You can tell the contestants really respect her intelligence, too—in this past week’s episode, Bialik had to inform the contestants that doesn’t know every question off the top of her head after semifinalist John Michael Higgins suggested that she seems to know all the answers.
It reminds me a lot of Alex Trebek—I always assumed he knew every single answer, as well. You need a person exactly like that behind the Jeopardy! wheel.
She’s Very Patient With The Contestants
Sometimes the celebrity contestants need a bit of coaching, and that’s okay. The rules can be tricky, and there’s a learning curve for remembering to answer in the “What is…” format.
The regular game goes very fast, but Celebrity Jeopardy! offers the contestants a bit of leeway. Bialik is able to coach them through their first steps as baby Jeopardy! contestants, and by the end of the game they’re able to feel like seasoned competitors.
Don’t get it twisted, though: she still holds the celebrity contestants to the same rules as regular ones. Former Jeopardy! Celebrity Tournament winner Aisha Tyler found that out the hard way this past Sunday when Bialik had to withhold points for answering after time had run out.
Just Like Alex Trebek, She Has The Perfect Jeopardy Delivery
There’s no true replacement for Alex Trebek. Like legendary champ Ken Jennings said on his first night as a guest host after his passing in 2020:
Essentially, Bialik has some pretty enormous shoes to fill—but she does so with the same grace that made Trebek a beloved household name.
For me, it’s her delivery and her calm but firm voice, but it’s also the way you can tell she takes the job very seriously, just like Trebek did.
The Questions Are A Little Bit Easier—But That Doesn’t Mean It’s A Cake Walk
The questions are a little bit more attainable (and easier to play along with at home), but that doesn’t mean they insult the contestant’s intelligence with softball queries.
More importantly, Mayim Bialik still gives each question the same gravity—even if the question was “easy,” she still makes them feel special for getting it right. For example, when Matt Rogers correctly answered two true daily doubles during his quarter-final, Bialik gave a dramatic pause before letting him know he got it right. Rogers was visibly ecstatic, and I love her for giving him that triumphant moment (even if the question may have been somewhat easier than typical Jeopardy! fare).
She Is Probably Better With The Famous Contestants Than Ken Jennings Would Be
There’s no denying that Ken Jennings is perfect to partially fill Alex’s spot on Jeopardy! (he’s basically the master of the game show), but Mayim Bialik is the perfect fit for the celeb version.
She and a lot of the contestants know each other from the industry—for example, Bialik was recently a guest on quarter finalist Iliza Schlesinger’s podcast. It gives them something tangible to talk about during mid-game interviews, and also establishes a rapport between her and the nervous contestants.
Since she is also a successful actor, she garners a lot of respect from the contestants. They don’t feel superior to Bialik, and it shows. It allows her to command the stage and keep the show running quite smoothly. That’s a lofty achievement when you’re interacting with celebs who maybe aren’t so good at sharing the spotlight sometimes.
No one could replace Trebek, but I think Mayim Bialik does a damn good job. Celebrity Jeopardy! airs Sundays on ABC at 8 p.m. EST. If you'd like to revisit any of the season, you can also catch replays of the episodes with your Hulu subscription.
There’s a lot more Celebrity Jeopardy! to come—for stats, schedules, and more info on the contestants (including the charities they’re playing for), visit the Celebrity Jeopardy! contestant zone.
Your Daily Blend of Entertainment News
She/her. Lover of female-led comedies, Saturday Night Live, and THAT scene in Fleabag. Will probably get up halfway through the movie to add more butter to the popcorn.