LeVar Burton Says He Was Duped During Jeopardy! Audition
LeVar Burton was one of the many guest hosts for Jeopardy!, but it seems the actor was never really given a fair shot at replacing the late Alex Trebek.
As if Jeopardy! needed any more controversy, it appears the long-running game show committed a few misdeeds in its search for a replacement host. Actor LeVar Burton, in a new interview with The Ringer, revealed that the show was not completely honest in its dealings with him, as he competed to replace the late Alex Trebek as host. In what is sure to ignite a Levar Burton Jeopardy! scandal, the 65-year-old actor claims, “the fix was in,” and he was never seriously considered for the job. Burton, best known for his roles on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Roots, lays much of the blame at the feet of former Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards, who failed to take his interest seriously. “He told me later that he didn’t believe me,” Burton said. “He didn’t sense in that call my passion.”
Although he was on the shortlist to replace Trebek, it now appears that the LeVar Burton Jeopardy! hosting gig was never going to happen. Burton said he called Richards in the days following Trebek’s death to express his interest in the job. He said that request was ignored, and he only got a guest host shot after calling back and asking again, resulting in five episodes that he hosted. Eventually, Richards himself (who has had some TV hosting experience) won the Jeopardy! hosting job last fall, but had to resign days later over a scandal involving some off-color remarks he made years before.
Jeopardy! has been using a host rotation this season, alternating between former champion Ken Jennings and actress Mayim Bialik until a single permanent host is chosen. Following Trebek’s passing, Jeopardy! relied on several guest hosts, hoping a frontrunner would emerge as the obvious successor. Those guest hosts included Aaron Rodgers, Anderson Cooper, Robin Roberts, Katie Couric, and LeVar Burton, in addition to Jennings and Bialik. Although the LeVar Burton Jeopardy! episodes did well in the ratings, but he didn’t get the job. “As it turns out, it was not a competition to find a new host, really,” Burton said. “Because the fix was always in.”
Burton’s guest host slot opened in large part because fans on the internet rallied to have the Reading Rainbow host get a shot at hosting. The LeVar Burton Jeopardy! fanbase grew after his week of episodes aired, and most were disappointed when he was passed over, ultimately for Jennings and Bialik. It was particularly crushing for Burton, who had said for years that hosting the show was a dream of his. Even so, over 300,000 people have signed an online petition to make him the host of the show.
Although it looks like there will never be a LeVar Burton Jeopardy! era, the actor is at peace with the situation now. He thought Jeopardy! would be the next chapter in his life, and it wasn’t. “It would have been a nice chapter,” he said. “I thought (the next chapter) was Jeopardy! Clearly, it’s not. So I am open to what it is going to be. And I’m here for it.” Part of that next chapter includes another appearance on the Paramount+ Star Trek series Picard, which is in production of its third season now. The new season will reunite the original Next Generation cast, which hasn’t happened yet on the show. That means Burton’s character of Geordi La Forge will get win new fans once again. He has also produced a pilot for a Trivial Pursuit game show, that he is hosting. It is currently looking for a network.