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Jeopardy's Two Hosts Are Headed for an Emmys Showdown

Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings were nominated individually for Best Game Show Host. Will Emmy voters finally break the tie?
  • Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik (photo: Jeopardy productions)
    Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik (photo: Jeopardy productions)

    The saga of replacing the late Alex Trebek as the host of Jeopardy has featured many twists and turns, and now it’s moved into head-to-head competition. Jeopardy's permanent co-hosts Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik received individual nominations for Outstanding Host for a Game Show, meaning they will compete with each other alongside Wheel of Fortune's Pat Sajak, Family Feud's Steve Harvey, and Password's Keke Palmer.

    Usually, multiple hosts from the same show are nominated together for Emmy purposes. This year, all five Queer Eye hosts are nominated as one single entity in the Host for a Reality Competition category, as are Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph for Baking It. But Jennings and Bialik, who have been alternating as Jeopardy hosts since they took over officially after the Mike Richards fiasco in 2021, are nominated separately.

    Naturally, as the two people chosen to step into Trebek's legendary shoes, Bialik and Jennings have been subjected to much analysis over who is the better host. Bialik has the enhanced stage presence of an actor, though she is sometimes awfully slow reading the answers. Jennings has the gravitas that comes with being one of Jeopardy's winningest players of all time, but he's stiff in comparison to his counterpart. Understandably, neither one has completely filled the hole in viewers' hearts that was left by Trebek, one of the greats in the industry who won the Game Show Host Emmy eight times.

    The Outstanding Game Show Host category is in a transition period of its own this year. Historically, this category was part of the Daytime Emmys, but in 2022, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS, which runs the Primetime Emmys) and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS, which runs the Daytime Emmys) agreed to a realignment of categories based no longer on what time of day the shows run (an increasingly obsolete distinction in the age of streaming) but instead the genre. So, this will be the first year for the retooled Game Show Host category, though Steve Harvey will still be looking to pick up where he left off as the most recent Daytime Emmy winner.

    This won't be the first time that Bialik and Jennings are at odds when it comes to their Jeopardy hosting duties. In May of this year, when the Writers Guild of America declared a strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, Bialik declined to host the final week of the season in solidarity with the WGA. Jennings, who unlike Bialik is not a member of the Screen Actors Guild, stepped in to host that final week before production ended for the season.

    Whenever the 75th Emmys are ultimately held — the strike has led to talks of postponing the ceremony to November or even January, especially now that SAG-AFTRA may soon be joining the picket lines after their talks with AMPTP expired Wednesday night — we could be looking at the first institutional judgment as to which of the two new Jeopardy hosts is superior. Or Emmy voters could just give the award to Pat Sajak as a pre-retirement honor, and the Jennings-or-Bialik debate will carry over into the next round.

    Join the discussion about Jeopardy! in our forums.

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Jeopardy!, 2023 Primetime Emmy Awards, Ken Jennings, Mayim Bialik