Last night I watched Mayim Bialik host Jeopardy! for the first time and folks, we have a national emergency on our hands. I wish I had realized it sooner — maybe if I had tuned in to any of her other appearances on the show I could have done something, anything. I fear it is too late. Nevertheless, I come to you now knowing that this much is true: Mayim Bialik absolutely sucks at hosting Jeopardy!
You might want to tell me that I just watched a bad episode, that maybe the contestants weren’t that interesting or the categories weren’t that fun. Here’s the thing, you can watch literally any episode of Alex Trebek’s Jeopardy! and have a good time. Trebek, as many people noted when he died last year, fostered an environment on the show that was comfortable and fun but not too safe. He moved through questions energetically and was not afraid to make a joke at a contestant’s expense when they got an answer egregiously wrong or told a stupid story during the interview portion.
The show depends on its host, so when Bialik learned that contestant Paula’s fun fact was that one time she met someone she had a mutual friend with while abroad and didn’t even bat an eye, I was disappointed. You can imagine Trebek snarkily telling her that he runs into people all the time, or a subtly sarcastic, “How interesting.” Bialik’s move was to pretend that this incredibly boring fact was genuinely interesting and keep it moving.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Bialik said that she’s “a person really interested in maintaining the integrity of the show.” Well, so am I, sweetheart. The integrity of the show relies on having someone at its helm who can make up for the lack of charisma brought by people who are nerdy enough to get on the show in the first place.
The problem with Bialik and the other people who have been in the running for Jeopardy! host (Ken Jennings and LeVar Burton, most notably) is that they are all people dweebs can get behind. Bialik is mostly known to people for wearing a floppy hat, being a self-described “liberal zionist,” and for being on The Big Bang Theory for a million years. Apparently she’s now on a show starring as a woman who runs a cat café, there’s nothing sexy or charming there. Forgive me for what I’m about to say, but I think what Jeopardy! needs is a a comedian, instead of a pro-Israel wet blanket like Bialik.
Hear me out. There are two ways this could go: a Nicole Byer or a Marc Maron. You either need someone who has professional TV hosting experience (and a personality) or you need someone who’s dry and funny and whose main job is talking to people he might not always be that interested in. Byer or Maron could turn Jeopardy! back into what Trebek made it — a rousing game that felt more like a sporting event than a bar trivia night where three sad, lonely people showed up.
Of course, the Jeopardy! producers will not hear my incredible advice. Bialik or Jennings will probably become full-time hosts of the show, and I will tune in less regularly. Like most long-term relationships, the spark will die and I will shack up with any other game show that sparks even a little bit of excitement within me. God forbid it’s Wheel of Fortune.