While LeVar Burton is happy with where his career has since gone after failing to land his dream job hosting Jeopardy!, he can still recall how “humiliating” it felt at the time. Following the death of longtime host Alex Trebek in 2020, it was announced that a series of guest hosts would come in on an alternating basis until a permanent host could be named. Right from the start, many fans had thrown their support behind Burton, quickly launching a petition for the Reading Rainbow host to get the job.
As it turns out, Burton was all for hosting the famous game show. He had been a lifelong Jeopardy! fan, and even considered hosting the show as something that would be a dream come true. Burton did end up briefly hosting the show as one of many guest hosts, but producers were not interested in hiring the Star Trek: The Next Generation star. It was later announced that executive producer Mike Richards would succeed Trebek before stepping down amid controversy, resulting in Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings now alternating as guest hosts.
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In a new interview with In the Loop, Burton opened up about the Jeopardy! fiasco. He explained how much it hurt at the time for him to learn he wasn’t up for the job, though it worked out for the better, as he would ultimately discover.
“Experiencing a very public defeat — humiliation, if you will — was sobering. And what I learned from the experience, really, is that it reinforced my belief that everything happens for a reason, even if you cannot discern the reason in the moment… In the fullness of time, everything will be revealed. And like I said, it was I think in that first week of feeling really sort of not just disappointed, but wrecked. I didn’t expect that I would not be their choice for host.”
LeVar Burton Has Moved On From Jeopardy!
Burton also explained that the reason it felt so disappointing to lose the Jeopardy! gig was because he was such a big fan. He was also confident in his abilities to be a great host, but ultimately, Burton says he was never really given a fair shot at the job.
“The truth is it was my favorite game show. It really was. I mean, I watched that show since I was in the third grade and Art Fleming was the host. And I honestly thought that I was well-suited for it. As it turns out, it really wasn’t a competition, after all — the fix was in.”
This isn’t exactly a case of sour grapes. Following his brief stint on the show, it was reported that Burton was never truly considered for the job. Many fans felt that the producers made that obvious from the start, as he was not named among the many guest hosts that were first announced for the show, despite the popular petition that had already been launched by that point. His stint was also much shorter compared to other guest hosts, and worse yet for Burton, his episodes were forced to compete with the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, which put a big dent in syndicated viewership across the board.
But, at the end of the day, Burton is happy with how things turned out. He didn’t lose his interest in hosting a game show. He only realized that Jeopardy! wasn’t the right game show after all. It has since been announced that a Trivial Pursuit game show is in the works that will feature Burton as host, and he’s happy with the other opportunities that have come up as well.
“The doors have been opened. Windows have been opened. The phone hasn’t stopped ringing, and I never would have experienced those things that I’m experiencing, like hosting the Scripps Spelling Bee, had I gotten that job… So I think it was a big lesson for me and just being willing to sit in the discomfort long enough to find out what was really supposed to happen for me around this game show thing.”