LeVar Burton is up next, “Jeopardy!” fans, and the way the week goes for the beloved actor and reader will tell us a lot about the future of America’s favorite game show.
Burton is set to guest host the show July 26-30 after making it public that he was indeed interested in taking a shot at replacing 37-year host Alex Trebek, who died last November of pancreatic cancer.
The former “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Reading Rainbow” star will be among the last in a long line of guest hosts that started with Seattle resident and “Jeopardy!” G.O.A.T. Ken Jennings and will conclude with sportscaster Joe Buck next month. After that, the show will take its annual late-summer hiatus. It’s during this break that most expect producers to announce a new host — or at least a new plan going forward.
Jennings was considered the favorite going into the string of guest hosts. And other than a few social media stumbles before his run began, he’s done nothing to shake that status. The consulting producer’s run on the show was solid, a mix of Trebek’s good-natured approach with a bit of his own nerdy flair.
As the hosts have progressed, a few have entered the conversation. Mayim Bialik, the former “Blossom” and “The Big Bang Theory” star, was delightful in her run. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers sure seemed to get a lot of attention (though he wants to play football into his 40s). And “Jeopardy!” executive producer Mike Richards was smooth in his appearances.
Consider them much longer shots than the 64-year-old Burton, though. He’s had a run in the American consciousness for five decades.
The Emmy, Grammy and Peabody award-winning actor, director and producer first appeared widely on our screens with the release of 1977’s “Roots,” the miniseries about American slavery based on Alex Haley’s novel. Burton played Kunta Kinte and was nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of the young enslaved man’s journey in antebellum America.
He started “Reading Rainbow” in 1983. The show, in which a friendly Burton read books to children on PBS, played a large role in the childhoods of Generation X and millennials (and their parents). The show ran for 23 years and Burton has been involved in bringing the format to other platforms in the years since.
He’s also widely known for his portrayal of Lt. Geordi La Forge, the blind chief engineer of the Enterprise on “Star Trek: TNG.” At the time of the show’s start in 1987, he was by far the most well-known member of the cast and a fan favorite.
Burton has remained a popular pop culture figure since. So much so that a quarter-million “Jeopardy!” fans signed a petition asking producers to choose him as Trebek’s replacement.