“Jeopardy!” stars Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter plus Sara Haines talk with USA TODAY’s Erin Jensen about their new game show.
While “The Chase” is blazing toward its future, ABC’s new game show can’t help but give a nod to the past.
Host Sara Haines (“The View”) opens Thursday’s premiere (9 EST/PST) by dedicating the program to the memory of Alex Trebek, the longtime “Jeopardy!” host, who died in November from Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Three of the quiz show’s brightest stars – Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter – appear on “The Chase,” battling contestants to keep them from walking away with cash.
“We all stand on the shoulders of his legacy, and hope ‘The Chase’ will do him proud,” Haines says of Trebek on the show’s debut.
Holzhauer remembers filming “The Chase” the week of Trebek’s passing. “Everyone’s emotions were really raw time at the time, and we thought, ‘None of us would be here without standing on the shoulders of the legacy left behind,'” he says. “I’m not even sure that the idea of a prime-time quiz show could exist without ‘Jeopardy!’ showing that smarts are cool.”
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Longtime “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek with champ Ken Jennings. (Photo: Jeopardy Productions via Getty Images)
Jennings, crowned the greatest “Jeopardy!” player of all time in January, joined the show as a consulting producer this season. He is also the first interim host for an undisclosed term that begins Monday but downplays rumors that he wants the job permanently. (Producer Sony Pictures Television has a secret list of candidates; Trebek’s last episode, taped in late October, airs Friday.)
“I don’t want to have it because it means we don’t get Alex,” he says. “It’s just sad for me to go out there, in a way, because I know that, like the audience, I wish it was Alex walking out at the top of the show.”
Still, the show must go on, Jennings says. “‘Jeopardy!’ (is) a ritual for people,” he says. “People rely on it.”
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Sara Haines hosts ABC’s new game show, “The Chase,” featuring “Jeopardy!” hall of famers Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer, and Brad Rutter. (Photo: Peggy Sirota/ABC)
Haines praises Trebek as the “pinnacle” of game show hosts and marvels at his expertise, which made the job look effortless.
“It looks like he could’ve done it in his sleep,” she says. “He had so many qualities … aside from the technical execution of the job, he had this beautiful humanity to him that you could see the grace in which he let people down.”
Holzhauer remembers Trebek’s desire to keep the spotlight on the brilliant players.
“The thing that Alex always said was that he didn’t want to to be introduced as the star of ‘Jeopardy!’ because he felt the contestants were the stars,” Holzhauer says. “I think one of the qualities of a great host is just allowing everyone shine. I think Sara did a great job of that.”
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