For nearly 30 years, Alex Trebek has been the man with all the questions, leading Jeopardy!, the brainiest game show on television, through dramatically changing times without fundamentally changing a thing. But Trebek has suffered some health problems, including a mild heart attack last summer, and he’s expected to retire from the post in 2016. Meanwhile, Matt Lauer is the $25 million captain of the sinking ship known as NBC’s Today show, which has recently hemorrhaged viewers to ABC’s Good Morning, America, now the #1 morning show in the country. On Wednesday, the New York Times’ Brian Stetler broke a juicy story about the terrible dysfunction at the Today show, with one anonymous source after another blaming Lauer for fostering a toxic relationship with both staff members and the public at large. Lauer’s fingerprints could not be wiped from the messy departure of co-host Ann Curry, and segments like this skeevy interview with Anne Hathaway have chipped further at his likeability.
So who better to take over a venerable game show from a beloved long-running host than this pariah, right? With Lauer’s gaudy contract expiring in 2015, the timing looks right for him to fail his way into taking over Jeopardy!, under the presumed logic that the same viewers who loathe him on Today will embrace him as Trebek’s replacement. According to The New York Post, Lauer tops a shortlist that also includes Anderson Cooper, who also has an expiring contract with CNN. The fact that Cooper is not hated by virtually everyone right now would seem to give him the edge, but in Hollywood, that’s not how failing upwards works.
And yet, the Internet asks, where the fuck is Ken Jennings on this shortlist? Who better to host Jeopardy! than its winningest contestant—a sharp, witty, personable guy who can connect with longtime fans and knows what’s it’s like to be behind the clicker? Remember, dummies: It’s the institution of Jeopardy! that matters, and the important thing isn’t to get a host that everyone knows but a host that’s not going to fuck up a good thing. A Jennings-hosted Jeopardy! would be the ultimate affirmation of the show as TV’s nightly tribute to meritocracy.