Because it has so many moving parts, hosting a game show like “Jeopardy!” isn’t easy (particularly for a non-broadcaster), but Jennings has had plenty of experience doing other shows, and has always seemed very at home on the set of this one. Smartly, he copied the style and attitude of the man who did the job for more than three decades — there’s no reason to create a new mold. I can see him taking on the job permanently with no problem.
It was also comforting to hear announcer Johnny Gilbert still on the job at 96. Since the pandemic began, he’s been recording his voiceovers from a studio at home. I used to think getting those done for a week’s worth of five shows (even if they’re all shot in one day) would require maybe 5-10 minutes of sitting in front of a microphone. It only just occurred to me that Gilbert still has to spend much of the day waiting for the outcome of the game, because the returning champion might be someone different from game to game, so the introductions change. So, yes, Gilbert’s role only lasts a few minutes in the aggregate, but it takes a whole day to do it. And he still sounds great.
Jennings is also a panelist on “Master Minds” (a daytime show on Game Show Network) as well as one of the stars of “The Chase,” a game show imported from the UK a few years ago and now rebooted by ABC in primetime. It pits three contestants against a “chaser,” which in this version is Jennings or one of his fellow “Jeopardy!” champions, James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter. The three “chasers” aren’t playing to win money, but to try to deny it to the contestants by proving that their wells of knowledge are deeper.
On the initial episode of “The Chase” last week, it was Jennings in the hot seat while the other two sat backstage watching on a large screen and providing running commentary on the proceedings. Actually, it was almost entirely Holzhauer offering funny remarks while Rutter merely sat there. Meanwhile, Jennings was directing snark from the “chaser” seat towards the contestants, as Mark Labbett (“The Beast”) did in the original. It was clear to me that some of Jennings’ lines had been provided by writers, and it seemed like he was pushing it a little too hard. It’s a mistake to set up someone with such a nice-guy personality as the villain, rather than as a trivia expert who’s awfully hard to beat.
Still, I liked the show enough to look forward to its second episode later this week, even though I’m sure it, too, will be full of faux snark (which is delicious with a cocktail sauce).