Ken Jennings pays tribute to Alex Trebek in first appearance as “Jeopardy!” guest host

Ken Jennings choked up as he introduced the first episode of “Jeopardy!” without iconic host Alex Trebek. “Like all ‘Jeopardy!’ fans, I miss Alex very much and I thank him for everything he did for all of us,” Jennings said.

Jennings was tapped to serve as interim host of the long-running game show after Trebek died at age 80 from pancreatic cancer in November. The final episode Trebek taped aired on Friday.

Ken Jennings steps up to the lectern today as our first guest host – but not before honoring Alex.

“You know, sharing the stage with Alex Trebek was one of the greatest honors of my life. Not many things in life are perfect, but Alex did this job pretty much perfectly for more than 36 years and it was even better up close,” Jennings, who holds the record for most consecutive “Jeopardy!” wins, said. “We were dazzled by his intelligence, his charm, his grace, really there’s no other word for it.”

Just before the show, Jennings tweeted a picture of what he called “a piece of quiz show history”: a ticket from the first “Jeopardy!” episode Trebek ever hosted in 1983.

A friend gave me this piece of quiz show history: an audience ticket to Alex’s very first Jeopardy! pilot from 1983. (“ALEX TREBEK! DOOR PRIZES!”) I kept it in my pocket while guest-hosting Jeopardy! this week, as a good luck charm.

Following Trebek’s death, rumors initially swirled that Jennings would permanently replace him. Jennings is serving as a consulting producer on this season of “Jeopardy!” and is also involved in another game show called “The Chase,” featuring fellow “Jeopardy!” alums James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter. All three competed in the “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time” tournament last year, with Jennings emerging victorious.

It’s unclear who will permanently host the show going forward, but a series of interim hosts are set to assume Trebek’s former duties until an official replacement is announced.

“Let’s be totally clear: No one will ever replace the great Alex Trebek,” Jennings said before introducing the day’s contestants, “but we can honor him by playing the game he loved.”

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