‘Jeopardy!’: Is Ken Jennings Worthy of Alex Trebek’s Lectern?

Ken Jennings
Ken Jennings | Ron Batzdorff/ABC via Getty Images

The Alex Trebek era of Jeopardy! approaches its final days this week, nearly four decades after the Canadian-born host took his place at the answer-and-question program’s lectern.

As the Ken Jennings-hosted episodes of the game show air next week, it’s more than obvious that Jennings has exceedingly huge shoes to fill.

But the man who became known to the world in 2004 after winning 74 consecutive games has recently been the recipient of negative attention thanks to his own comments.

All of this has Jeopardy! fans wondering if the long-presumed show successor should be set aside for another more worthy candidate.

Jennings has been under scrutiny of late

Jennings’ star has been rising over the past few years. He’s co-starring in the new game show The Chase in ABC’s American version of the Brit program. He’s also been featured on Game Show Network’s Master Minds, co-created a board game, and written prolifically on trivia and the world of trivia buffs.

Unfortunately, it’s been the father of two’s own observations that have rubbed the shine off his star of late. In 2014, Jennings tweeted the now-infamous remark, “Nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair.” He backtracked on his comment, apologizing for it.

“I never did a public flogging for this, but I did apologize personally to angry/hurt people who reached out personally,” he tweeted in 2018. “It was a joke so inept that it meant something very different in my head [and] I regret the ableist plain reading of it.”

 After that in 2015, another tweet in bad taste had fans wondering ‘what was he thinking?’ when he posted about the death of a Star Wars fan who died after going to see The Force Awakens.

“It can’t be a good sign that every fan who has seen the new Star Wars movie died shortly thereafter,” he said.

And then there was Bean Dad

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A week before his Jeopardy! guest-hosted episodes are due to air, Jennings couldn’t resist tweeting again in controversy-filled waters.

Jennings co-hosts a podcast called “Omnibus.” This week, his podcast co-host John Roderick tweeted about his daughter needing help opening a can of baked beans. He posted a lengthy description of his approach to her request: handing the 9-year-old a manual can opener and letting her know she would not be eating unless she mastered use of the can opener.

Roderick’s parenting boast horrified many followers but it was Jennings’ apparently tone-deaf support of his colleague that disappointed many as well.

“Extremely jealous and annoyed that my podcast co-host is going to be a dictionary entry and I never will,” Jennings said in a tweet the staff of Jeopardy! surely groaned upon reading.

What Alex Trebek had to say about Ken Jennings

Perhaps Jennings has just been, as he himself put it, unintentionally “unartful and insensitive” in his remarks. He might consider a break from social media for a while.

There’s plenty of good about Jennings noticed by many, but in particular praised by one: Alex Trebek.

Alex Trebek and Ken Jennings
Alex Trebek and Ken Jennings | Jeopardy Productions via Getty Images

The late and beloved host even dedicated an entire chapter to Jennings in his 2020 memoir The Answer Is… saying, “When I think of Ken, I think of a quality human being. Extremely bright – that goes without saying. Someone who’s not out to impress you. Somebody I can be very simpatico with because I think we’re the same type of person.”

It’s also relevant to recall the times Trebek endured public scrutiny during his tenure on the quiz show for remarks that offended contestants or viewers.

In the end, as was the case with Trebek, viewers will have to allow Jennings’ upcoming week of guest-hosting on Jeopardy! to reveal whether or not he is worthy of that lectern.