Former Jeopardy Champ Weighs In On Ken Jennings As A Host, And Points Out The One Thing He Has That Alex Trebek Didn’t

 Ken Jennings and Alex Trebek as hosts of Jeopardy!.
Ken Jennings and Alex Trebek as hosts of Jeopardy!.

Longtime Jeopardy! fans are being treated to an embarrassment of riches with the Invitational Tournament that’s currently airing in syndication. Some of our favorite contestants of the current and past eras are returning to Sony Pictures Studios to face off against one another for the opportunity to advance to Jeopardy! Masters, and for some of them, that means they’re competing for the first time without Alex Trebek as the host. One returning champion, Celeste DiNucci, shared her opinion about how Ken Jennings is doing, and she pointed out one thing the GOAT has that his predecessor didn’t.

Celeste DiNucci first competed on Jeopardy! in 2006, winning five games (and $83,601) to advance to the Tournament of Champions, which she won in 2007. Her recent appearance in the Jeopardy! Invitational Tournament was her first time back since Alex Trebek’s death, and she shared her opinion on how Ken Jennings is holding up behind the lecturn, telling TV Insider:

I think he’s doing actually a very good job — a better job than I expected that he would. I’ve conversed with Ken in other settings and other circumstances, and it’s good to see how comfortable and how at ease he is in this role.

Saying that Ken Jennings is a better host than she expected is no dig at the current host. Celeste DiNucci has been around the game long enough to know just how hard that job actually is. Jennings has spoken about how easy Trebek made it look, not to mention Jennings has the added pressure of carrying on the legacy of one of the greatest game show hosts of all time.

Alex Trebek is indeed a legend, but Celeste DiNucci pointed out one thing Ken Jennings has that Trebek didn’t — knowledge of what it’s like to be on the other side of things. This allows him to have a different rapport with the current players, she said, pointing out:

I think that he’s able to joke with the contestants in a way just because he’s been there, you know? It’s very different from Alex, but it’s good.

Ken Jennings is possibly more casual in his approach than Alex Trebek was, and he can needle the contestants in a way that doesn’t come off as mean-spirited because he’s been there. However, Jennings knows the show isn’t about him, and he said he at least attempts to keep a straight face (which apparently is particularly hard on Celebrity Jeopardy!).

Season 40 is the first since Alex Trebek’s 2020 death to feature just one host. A revolving door of celebrities guest-hosted for a while, before Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik were designated to share co-hosting duties. Ahead of the current season, it was decided that moving forward with just one host was the right thing to do, and Jennings won the job, executive producer Michael Davies said.

Check your local listings to see how to catch Ken Jennings in syndication, and keep up with all of the upcoming premieres with our 2024 TV schedule.