The recent death of Alex Trebek leaves the venerable TV quiz show Jeopardy more than a little adrift. The show taped only half its season before going on break, and it doesn't want to just write off half a season. The studio probably wouldn't like to lose that much money coming out of pandemic-related hiatuses anyway, plus the many people who worked on the show with Trebek say he would have disliked a mid-season shutdown for its harm on the people with everyday kind of paychecks.
So far it seems like the plan is to get a rotating roster of familiar Jeopardy faces to finish out the season before making a move to a more permanent successor. The first is all-time winner Ken Jennings, whose 74 consecutive wins tops all other contestants. Some folks suggest Jennings should get the job permanently, but there are a number of problems with that. Chief among them is that he's a jerk. Or, more fairly, that he knows how to portray one on social media. You'd hope that Jennings, like a lot of other meatheads who use the platform, simply gave in to temptation to say something in front of people but without saying it to anyone's face. But even though the miracle of pre-taping can make certain similar outbursts would never make it on air, if they happened they'd be bound to have a corrosive effect on the show and its image.
Levar Burton is another potential permanent successor and would probably do a good job -- but here's where I, who will never be found guilty of being a very woke feminist, would like to stake out a spot for women. In a conversation via comment a couple of weeks ago with blogger Brian Noggle, I suggested Mayim Bialik would be a good choice. Bialik is personable and capable of projecting some nerdy host charm and holds an actual doctorate in neurobiology -- she was the Big Bang Theory cast member who already knew the science words in her script.
Brian also suggested actress Danica McKellar, perhaps best known as Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years and as the author of several books encouraging school-age girls to discount the idea that math is for boys and girls can't succeed at it. McKellar would probably also be able to project the kind of calm authority-with-a-twinkle-in-its-eye at which Trebek excelled. She's no slouch in the classroom either, graduating summa cum laude from UCLA with a degree in mathematics and being a named developer of something called the "Chayes-McKellar-Winn theorem," explained in a paper she and another undergraduate helped their professor research and write.
I'm not a person who figures a woman should get a prominent role just because up until now a man's always had it. But part of me would like to see strong campaigns for either or both McKellar and Bialik if only because the eventual choice to go with yet another dude would help show what a fib show business tells us when it talks about its progressive and egalitarian character.
Plus, at 63 Burton's smack in the middle of the baby boom, while both Bialik (44) and McKellar (45) are Xers. It'd be kind of a nice change to see an Xer get a job instead of yet another Boomer.