Alex Trebek can never be replaced, but Jeopardy! will go on in the wake of the beloved host’s death. While the show is “not announcing plans for a new host at this time,” that hasn’t stopped fans from weighing in. A few names that have been tossed around online are George Stephanopoulos, Rosie Perez and Joe Rogan, but there’s one potential contender picking up steam: LeVar Burton.
Burton, 63, is known for playing Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: the Next Generation and he hosted 21 seasons of the educational program Reading Rainbow. According to a Change.org petition signed by more than 15,000 people, Burton has “inspired and shaped the minds of several generations of trivia-loving nerds.”
“This petition is to show Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. and producers Mike Richards and Harry Friedman just how much love the public has for Burton, and how much we'd all love to see him as the next host of Jeopardy!,” it reads.
Although Trebek was somewhat tightlipped, publicly at least, over who he viewed to be a worthy replacement, there’s one thing for certain: He would applaud any effort to try and fix Hollywood’s diversity problem.
There’s a common theme in the tributes pouring in for Trebek, who died Sunday at age 80 from pancreatic cancer. Many note how he inspired people of all backgrounds. It’s what helped him earn such a loyal, diverse group of fans around the world. Trebek was a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, with the L.A. chapter calling him “one of the kindest souls” who “believed deeply in racial justice.”
We send our love and prayers to Mr. Trebek’s family and friends. He was a strong supporter of #BlackLivesMatter who believed deeply in racial justice. He was one of the kindest souls. BLMLA feels blessed to have called him friend. May the good that he has done last forever. https://t.co/XnHSWDaDZu
— #BlackLivesMatter-LA (@BLMLA) November 8, 2020
An early criticism of Jeopardy! was the lack of Black contestants on the program. It’s one Trebek took personally, admitting in a 1995 interview the screening test could be part of the problem. But he noted how the show made a conscious effort to recruit people of color and featured “on a regular basis categories about famous Black people.”
“We are trying our darnedest to make America in general more aware of the accomplishments of Black people in this country,” he told The Seattle Times 25 years ago. It’s certainly part of the show and Trebek’s legacy as diversity among contestants increased.
One of the vintage Trebek clips to go viral since his death is when Jeopardy! featured a rap category in 2017. Trebek, who was a fan of the genre, sang lyrics from Drake, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne and Desiigner.
— Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) November 8, 2020
Trebek was equally as embraced by the Black community as evident from all of the condolences pouring in. The Nod host and producer Brittany Luse even noted before Trebek’s death how his name was on her church’s prayer list.
“Small, tight knit Black church on the west side, and his name was tucked right in among the sick and shut in,” she shared last week. “I can't think of many people with that kind of impact.”
I'll never forget when I spotted Alex Trebek's name on my home church's prayer list last winter. Small, tight knit Black church on the west side, and his name was tucked right in among the sick and shut in. I can't think of many people with that kind of impact ❤️ https://t.co/3ccvCMSnnN
— Brittany Luse (@bmluse) November 6, 2020
Burton is among the stars who reacted to Trebek’s death, posting an emoji of a broken heart.
Alex Trebek 💔
— LeVar Burton (@levarburton) November 8, 2020
As for succeeding Trebek, it sounds like Burton’s up for the task — should the petition carry any weight with Sony.
“Even if nothing comes from it, I can’t tell how much how I appreciate all y’alls love and support!” he wrote on Thursday.
Even if nothing comes from it, I can’t tell how much how I appreciate all y’alls love and support! 🙏🏾♥️
Petition · Make LeVar Burton the next host of Jeopardy! · https://t.co/60lC1WCD61 https://t.co/QFxedpuWpU
— LeVar Burton (@levarburton) November 12, 2020
Where it goes from here remains to be seen.
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