Roush Review: On 'Jeopardy!,' the Show Goes on With Ken Jennings

Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

Jeopardy! will never be the same.

Jeopardy! will always be the same.

That comforting realization was brought home Monday night, when “Greatest of All Time” champion Ken Jennings stepped into the role that Alex Trebek had so capably and indelibly performed for decades, a nightly balm of wit and wisdom as the longtime host of TV’s greatest quiz show ever.

Introduced as “guest host” by stalwart announcer Johnny Gilbert, Jennings stepped into the spotlight he and we had hoped never would be necessary, assuming the temporary-for-now position with humility, dignity — and, even better, enthusiasm.

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The trivia master readies for a new kind of game, and stays coy on guest hosting the show that made him famous.

“Sharing the stage with Alex Trebek was one of the greatest honors of my life,” Jennings said with visible emotion as he took the stage. “Not many things in life are perfect, but Alex did this job pretty much perfectly for more than 36 years, and it was even better up close. We were dazzled by his intelligence, his charm, his grace —really, there’s no other word for it.”

Jennings may not be everyone’s perfect choice, but I knew that the millions of fans, and the show itself, were in good hands when eventual champ Tanay Kothari lost it all in the first round, by going for a “true Daily Double” and missing it, only for Jennings to encourage him that it was still early in the game and all was not lost. Just like Alex would have done.

Ken Jennings Alex Trebek

His rapport with the contestants was friendly, funny, and smart, and Jennings kept the game moving with skill, peppered with bits of the kind of offhand knowledge Trebek excelled at.

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'I'd like you to open up your hands and open up your heart to those who are still suffering.'

“Let’s be totally clear. No one will ever replace the great Alex Trebek,” Kennings noted in his introduction. “But we can honor him by playing the game he loved.”

We who love Jeopardy! can rest easy knowing that whoever eventually takes the helm full time, the game will never change. What is a cause for celebration?

Jeopardy!, Weekdays, Check your local listings