When Ken Jennings bested the best to win the “Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time” tournament earlier this year — yes, it seems like so long ago, but it was definitely 2020 — he thought his time on the long-running game show was over.
Sixteen years and $4.25 million seemed like a good run. However, as venerable “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek might say in one of his silky-smooth segues, “Not so fast.”
Jennings has accepted a new position in an official capacity with the show. He’ll be a consulting producer with a varied role and occasional appearances on screen.
“I am very excited to continue working with the show because for most people it is kind of a one-and-done thing,” Jennings said. “And after I won the ‘GOAT,’ I thought, well, that’s kind of sad that I won’t get to hang out with the folks at ‘Jeopardy!’ anymore. So it’s nice that it’ll still be part of my life.”
Producers reached out to Jennings the morning after his $1 million “GOAT” victory aired back in January. Jennings, 46, will be presenting his own special video categories, developing projects, assisting with contestant outreach and serving as a general ambassador for the show. The 37th season debuts Sept. 14 and Jennings’ video questions will make their debut on Sept. 15.
The Seattle author and professional game-show contestant is a true trivia nerd in the best sense of the word and an enthusiastic champion of the show he’s dominated for nearly two decades. He prepared for his “Jeopardy!” contests like an athlete, working on timing, speed and knowledge.
His relationship with “Jeopardy!” began in 2004 when he won 74 straight games, an unthinkable run that netted him more than $2.5 million. He’s played in a number of tournaments since, including facing the IBM Watson super computer. His win in the January tournament over James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter returned him to the top of the career game-shows earnings list and put to rest any doubt about his “GOAT” status.
Jennings said he sees the new job as something of a goodwill ambassador.
“It’s all kind of a vague portfolio right now, but ‘Jeopardy!’ has always had the one face,” Jennings said. “Alex has been the face of the show for 37 years. This gives them flexibility. This gives them another person they can send to Game Show Con 2021 or whatever.”
What the job isn’t, Jennings said, is an audition. It would be easy for fans of the show and pop-culture watchers to see the move as something of a tryout to replace the 80-year-old Trebek, who has been very publicly fighting pancreatic cancer.
“I think that’s reading too much into it,” Jennings said. “Alex is going strong. That’s what makes me very happy because I cannot imagine a version of ‘Jeopardy!’ without Alex. He’s always going to be my ‘Jeopardy!’ host, I think, just because that’s what I grew up on. Yeah, there is no vacancy. We’re very lucky to have him.”
Another obvious question for Jennings: What’d he do with all that cash he won last January? Easy answer: Nothing.
“As soon as the show was over, the pandemic hit,” Jennings said. “So it’s the first day of school and I’m sitting here like everybody else helping my kids try to connect with their teachers.”