Thirteen people have guest hosted “Jeopardy!” this year, but perhaps none of their stints were met with the same anticipation as LeVar Burton’s.
The actor and former television host began his long-awaited week as guest host Monday following a wave of fan support. Burton is considered one of the front runners to land the permanent hosting gig, which is expected to be named in late July or early August.
Why Burton wants the job
He’s made no secret it’s a job he wants, alluding to such in a September tweet when he said he feels like he’s been preparing his whole life to take over hosting duties when Alex Trebek retired. Trebek died in November following a battle with pancreatic cancer.
Now with an announcement on the horizon, the star of “Roots” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and host of “Reading Rainbow” continues to campaign for the job.
“Everything that I’m about is in the same vein as ‘Jeopardy!’ ” he told Esquire. “The idea of education being a value or a principle, and that education should be available to everyone. We take that nightly quiz and test ourselves against those champions, and we play the game as a nation every night.
“The things that I’ve done in terms of using the medium of television to do more than simply entertain — bringing a little more to the table to educate, inform, enlighten, uplift… ‘Jeopardy!’ does those things too.”
Not only does Burton believe he should be the next host, so do his fans. More than 257,000 people have signed an online petition requesting Burton be named the next host. When the show announced he would get to be a guest host, Burton thanked fans for their “passionate support” and said they made a difference.
Burton told The New York Times last month “it will hurt” if he does not get the job.
“It’s difficult to explain, but there’s something inside me that says this makes sense,” Burton said. “I feel like this is what I’m supposed to do. I have been watching ‘Jeopardy!’ more or less every night of my life since Art Fleming was host. ‘Jeopardy!’ is a cultural touchstone, and for a Black man to occupy that podium is significant.”
The challenge of the job and sharing a daily wealth of knowledge and information to the public is what entices Burton to the job, he told GQ.
How did his guest hosting go?
Burton said guest hosting “Jeopardy!” was the scariest thing he has ever done, even more so than when he jumped out of a plane, Esquire reported.
His wife, Stephanie Cozart Burton, was his toughest critic after his first episode. When he asked her how he did, she responded with am emphatic “ehhh,” he told the Associated Press.
“I made it my business for the next four chances at bat to just be myself, to forget about the procedure, to forget about the process, stop trying, stop focusing on the wrong thing,” he said, according to AP. “You’re not going to be smooth as Alex, let go of that. But what you can bring to the table is you. So that became my point of focus. And when it did, I started having fun.”
“I just went out there and tried to bring as much LeVar to the moment as I could,” he said Monday in a “Good Morning America” interview.
The highlight of his guest hosting week was meeting the contestants “and seeing how good they are at the game,” he said in an interview for the show.
'Jeopardy!' guest host schedule:
July 26-30: LeVar Burton, actor and former host of “Reading Rainbow”
Aug. 2-6: David Faber, co-host of CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street”
Aug. 9-13: Joe Buck, Fox sportscaster