After Alex Trebek’s tragic passing, the movement to convince Jeopardy! to pass the torch to LeVar Burton gained an enormous amount of steam. An online petition garnered over a quarter of a million signatures and Burton himself seemed very warm to the idea. Why wouldn’t he be? After spending a huge portion of his considerable career explaining the joy of reading to millions of children, hosting a new show to usher those now-grown children into the game show-watching part of their life just makes obvious sense. Burton transcends the cultural zeitgeist in a way that makes sense for a Jeopardy! host, so when he was selected as one of several interim hosts as the show sorted out its future, the dye seemed all but cast.
Until it wasn’t. On Wednesday, Variety reported that Jeopardy! was entering final negotiations to hire Michael Richards for the role. Wait, who? Michael Richards, man! He was one of the interim hosts who was not LeVar Burton and he also just oh-so-coincidentally happens to be an executive producer on the show. Variety reports that Richards “impressed Sony Pictures brass with his command of the fast-paced game and easy on-air manner.” Uh-huh.
Record-setting contestant Ken Jennings was also seen as a possible contender for the job, as were actor Mayim Bialik and Jennings’ fellow former contestant Buzzy Cohen. But Richards is apparently the frontrunner, though the contract hasn’t been signed yet. As you might have noticed, none of these people are LeVar Burton who, again, was the only person anyone outside of the Jeopardy! boardroom was seriously considering for the job. There are any number of reasons that a long time gig for Burton might not have worked out, but current reporting suggests he was never even in serious consideration, which is a head scratcher. But, hey, maybe this leaves Burton free for some sort of La Forge-based solo spinoff series for the Star Trek-verse. Just because Jeopardy! is gonna pass Burton up doesn’t mean everyone else has to.