Alex Trebek's health is 'priority No. 1' on new set
"Jeopardy!" is protecting Alex Trebek at all costs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Appearing Monday on "Good Morning America," recently crowned "Jeopardy!" GOAT Ken Jennings discussed his new role as a consulting producer on the game show, which has adapted its set to meet updated health and safety standards ahead of the season premiere.
"The set's been a little bit spruced up this season," Jennings said. "The thing you'll notice for COVID is that the individual contestant podiums – the lecterns – are now socially distanced.
"They're feet apart from each other instead of being a single bank. And Trebek will stay at the host's podium, instead of coming over to the contestants because Alex's health is priority No. 1 on that set."
Before the pandemic, it was customary for the beloved host to approach the contestants at their stations and introduce them to the audience during the show. Trebek, 80, is battling Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, putting him in the high-risk category amid the public health crisis.
"I feel good, and I feel excited because once again JEOPARDY! has demonstrated that it's at the forefront of television programming," Trebek said in a recent statement. "I believe we are the first quiz show to come back on the air in the COVID-19 era. On a personal level, I'm excited because it gets me out of the house. It gives me something to do on a regular basis, and I was missing that."
"He's the last of the old-school broadcasters – the way he's in people's homes every night," Jennings said. "People feel like he's part of the family. I know he's raring to go. He was not happy about the slightly longer-than-usual 'Jeopardy!' hiatus. He's excited to be back."
Jennings, who has won more than $4 million on the program (including his most recent victory for the all-star "Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time" tournament), has graduated from contestant to consulting producer. His new role will include presenting video categories, collaborating with clue writers and scouting for the next "Jeopardy!" GOAT by helping with contestant outreach.
"I've got a unique perspective on 'Jeopardy!' having been a fan of the show for over 35 years now," Jennings said. "And then, for the last 15 years or so, seeing the show as a contestant. I've played 100 games of 'Jeopardy!'
"I think that's more than anybody else on Earth, and I probably know as much or think as much about 'Jeopardy!' as anybody in the world who's not on the payroll. So I'm happy to be on the team."