SALT LAKE CITY — Who is Ken Jennings?
It's the beginning of a new era for one of the country's longest-running television game shows.
Jennings, a BYU alumnus who first rose to fame on "Jeopardy!" during a stretch of 74 consecutive wins from 2004 to 2005, will guest host the show beginning Monday as the popular game show continues to look for a permanent host following the death of beloved host Alex Trebek in November 2020.
"Jeopardy!" first aired in 1964 but the version most TV viewers are most familiar with began in 1984 with Trebek as its host. It was in the middle of its 37th season when Trebek died of cancer at the age of 80. His last show was taped just before his death and aired Friday.
It was announced shortly after Trebek's death that Jennings would serve as an interim host until a permanent replacement is found. On Monday, the TV show posted a short video with Jennings providing his thoughts about hosting the show. In it, he called hosting the show "unimaginable" and added that he "still can't believe it."
That said, Jennings understands that it will be a difficult transition from what the show's fans are used to.
"Honestly? I'm with the audience. I don't want me out here. I want to see Alex out here. I know exactly how they feel when they see anybody else behind this lectern," he said. "But there are tens of millions of people who love this show. We love this show. Alex loved the show. I'm just happy to fill in and help out."
Ken has come a long way from his contestant days. Here are Ken's thoughts from behind the lectern as first in a series of guest hosts. pic.twitter.com/0HaxSv8mmW— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) January 11, 2021
Jennings added that moving from contestant to host offered a different perspective of the job Trebek did at the helm of the show for nearly four decades. He said he quickly learned that his predecessor did more than just keep the game going and master all the clues on the show.
"I thought I understood it all and then when I had to do it, I realized he was doing 10 things I wasn't aware of for every one that I saw," he said. "It's a very demanding job and he was just the best."
Jennings still holds two of the show's records: most consecutive wins (42 over any other contestant in history) and most money earned from wins from regular show appearances ($2.52 million). Jennings has won over $4.3 million from all his appearances on the show, including after his streak of 74 consecutive wins ended. That's the second-most all-time in the show's history.
He paired up with other "Jeopardy!" stars James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter to co-host a new show called "The Chase" that premiered on ABC last week.
Still, his pick to host the program "Jeopardy!" was met with controversy. Late last month, Jennings apologized for insensitive tweets he's sent on Twitter over the years.
"I've definitely tweeted some unartful and insensitive things," he tweeted. "Sometimes they worked as jokes in my head and I was dismayed to see how they read on screen."