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When 'Jeopardy!' Might Announce A Permanent Host

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

There was an answer that stumped all three "Jeopardy!" contestants this past week.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JEOPARDY!")

AARON RODGERS: In the 1960s, these Midwesterners earned five NFL championship trophies.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: With the NFL's reigning MVP, Aaron Rodgers, standing right in front of them.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JEOPARDY!")

RODGERS: Green Bay Packers?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Not a single person buzzed in with, who are the Green Bay Packers? The former winner of "Celebrity Jeopardy!" is just the latest to take the stage as guest host since the death of Alex Trebek, and the game show's fans are waiting for what's next. Claire McNear covers sports and culture for The Ringer. She also wrote a book about "Jeopardy!", "Answers In The Form Of Questions," and she joins us now. Welcome.

CLAIRE MCNEAR: Thanks so much for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So Katie Couric, Dr. Oz - they took turns as hosts. Mayim Bialik and Anderson Cooper are scheduled to appear. LeVar Burton seems to be actively campaigning for the job. What are the show's producers really looking for?

MCNEAR: I mean, this is such an interesting experiment for "Jeopardy!" because, of course, it is not a show that changes very much. And now, every two weeks, there's something radically different on the screen. So this season has been this incredible rotation of guest hosts and - looking for somebody who has a lot of TV experience, who has experience saying complicated names and, you know, is also kind of charismatic and can maybe bring in their own audience.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Could someone like LeVar Burton, who's best known for shows like "Star Trek" and "Reading Rainbow," get the producers' attention through an online pitch...

MCNEAR: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...That even involved a tweet from Dick Van Dyke? I mean, it's been a very sort of bizarre campaigning.

MCNEAR: Yeah, it absolutely has. And, I mean, it's kind of funny to see people actively campaign to become the host of "Jeopardy!", even if it's just kind of one of these two-week guest rotations. I think there are probably some surprises in store. I don't know if it's LeVar Burton. I doubt that they are unaware at this point that he and so many fans would really like to see him up there, but I guess we'll see what happens.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I will note I pitched myself in a tweet, as well...

MCNEAR: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Tagging "Jeopardy!" Unfortunately, no response. Oh, well, their loss. I mean, in your view, what makes a great "Jeopardy!" host?

MCNEAR: It is a uniquely really hard game show to run. The host is really involved in "Jeopardy!" in a way that doesn't really happen on a lot of other game shows. And you want somebody who projects that sort of gravitas - that academic air to them that Trebek, of course, had. And so I think that's why a lot of people have been really clamoring for LeVar Burton because he so is those things. But you also want somebody with a little bit of humor and a little bit of the kind of quick wit that, of course, was kind of a mainstay of Trebek's "Jeopardy!"

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. So who are you rooting for?

MCNEAR: (Laughter). I mean, I will say I interviewed Aaron Rodgers at the beginning of his time on the show, and he talked a lot about how he prepared. And I really, when he was announced, did not see him as a candidate for the permanent job, but he made clear he is absolutely gunning for it. He wants to be the permanent host of "Jeopardy!" He thinks he doesn't even have to retire from the NFL to make it work. We'll see if that's actually the case. I'm not sure producers would agree with that sentiment, but he has been so, so good.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, you wrote about it - that he basically was watching endless episodes of "Jeopardy!" preparing for it, pretending he was in the host's chair with the volume down. I mean, he really, really kind of went for it.

MCNEAR: Yeah, absolutely. One of the funnier things I think that he did was, in addition to watching all those episodes, he would watch also not on mute and basically write down every single one of Trebek's responses - the various ways he said correct, the various ways he said that's wrong, all the little Trebek-isms. And so he kind of had this list of, you know, things that Trebek would say that he kind of memorized so he could quickly turn to those things.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Is a permanent host on the horizon? When will we know?

MCNEAR: I think we will know pretty soon. Just the next few weeks, I think, will be the end of the taping season. They start taping the next season end of July, so I think within the next few months we will get the kind of announcement of the permanent host because they have said that there will be a permanent host for next season.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Author and staff writer with The Ringer, Claire McNear, thank you so much for talking with us.

MCNEAR: Thanks so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.