Looks like Sony Pictures Television won’t be asking Anderson Cooper to permanently take up the Jeopardy mantle any time soon. The silver-haired CNN anchor pulled the least viewers of any guest host since Alex Trebek died of pancreatic cancer last November at age 80. In fact, Cooper scored the smallest audience of any guest host in the show’s history.
According to ratings information obtained by The Wrap, with the 53-year-old Cooper at the helm, the long-running series dropped 7% from the week before when Green Bay Packers’ QB Aaron Rogers stood behind the iconic podium. Even Dr. Oz, who Variety columnist Daniel D’Addario accused of giving the show a black eye, attracted a bigger audience — putting up a 5.2 share in his first week to Cooper’s 5.1.
Worse for Sony, Cooper’s stint cost the syndicated show its position at the top of the game show heap, causing it to fall behind Family Feud.
Former champion Ken Jennings, who holds the record for longest Jeopardy winning streak and highest-earning contestant, has been the most popular guest host since the show had to soldier on without the legendary Trebek, pulling 6.2 and 5.9 in the ratings in his first and second weeks, respectively. There seems to be a lesson in that for TV executives — they can largely disregard social media complaints when making hiring decisions.
In December 2020, when the production company announced that Jennings would temporarily take up the post as emcee, Twitter users dug up offensive jokes Jennings had posted in the past, including making fun of a then-11-year-old Barron Trump and saying there’s “nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair.” Many demanded Sony scuttle plans to have him host.
Jennings apologized, and perhaps because none of his targets represented current sacred cows of the progressive left, the company was content to let bygones be bygones. Ratings prove loyal viewers were unbothered by the dustup. They also seem unimpressed by high name recognition or media accolades. The second highest-rated guest host after Jennings has been Jeopardy executive producer Mike Richards, a man all-but unknown-outside game show circles.
The Wrap speculated that Cooper’s poor showing could have been partly caused by the Derek Chauvin murder trial on April 19 and 20. Next week, when ratings for Cooper’s second week as guest host finally post, could clarify whether he’s a victim of poor timing or simply unpopular. So too could a comparison with other media personalities slated to guest host, including “60 Minutes” veteran Bill Whitaker, “Today’s” Savannah Guthrie, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, “Good Morning America’s” George Stephanopoulos and Robin Roberts, Fox Sport’s Joe Buck, and CNBC’s David Faber.
What we do know is this — according to an interview Richards gave The Wall Street Journal podcast last week, extensive testing is ongoing and, come August, Jeopardy fans will know who will be helming their favorite game show for the long haul.
Megan Basham (@megbasham) is the entertainment reporter for The Daily Wire. She’s a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic who was previously an entertainment editor and podcast co-host for World Magazine.