Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings’ reign on the show may be over but he will forever be connected to the long-running program through his historic 74-game run in 2004 and his 2020 win as the Greatest of All Time player.
Now, even more, the Washington resident is part of the show in his new role as Consulting Producer.
Here’s what we know about how Jennings landed his new job on Jeopardy!
Ken Jennings let ‘Jeopardy!’ higher-ups know he wasn’t competing any more
The trivia king made the decision recently to hang up his buzzer. What had started out as a lark of a road trip to California to audition on Jeopardy! resulted in Jennings’ life completely changing in pleasant and less pleasant ways. The increase in money was great but Jennings couldn’t say the same about being recognized everywhere he went.
He contacted Jeopardy!‘s new executive producer Mike Richards recently to let him know of his decision to give up the buzzer life. Perhaps, in an indirect way, it was Jennings’ way of testing the game show waters for employment?
“He came to us and said, ‘I’m done competing,’” Richards told The Ringer in Sept. 2020. “I think that he feels like he isn’t as good as he was and he doesn’t want to keep pushing that, because he said he even had a little bit of difficulty in the GOAT episodes. It didn’t look like it to me, full disclosure.”
“At that point,” Richards said, “I thought, he is so synonymous with the show—how can we utilize him?”
Jennings soon after was named Consulting Producer on the show, responsible, according to a press release on the show’s website, “for presenting his own special video categories, developing projects, assisting with contestant outreach, and serving as a general ambassador for the show.”
Will Ken Jennings really never play ‘Jeopardy!’ again?
The champ’s declarations that he felt a little off his game, literally, during the GOAT tournament and that he intends to never again play Jeopardy! are rather jarring.
In a May 2020 conversation with The Boston Globe, months after he had completed and won the GOAT competition, Jennings was asked if he’s ever thought about what his life would be like without Jeopardy! and if he, indeed, will no longer be playing on the quiz show.
“I think about it all the time,” Jennings said. “It changed everything. Them calling me in 2004 and saying, ’Hey, you’re going to be on Jeopardy!,’ at that point, I could’ve died happy. Then winning that first game, nothing — not even the GOAT — compares with that. Because you realize no matter what happens, they can’t take this away. I’m a Jeopardy! champion to the grave.”
As for whether he’ll ever defend his GOAT title, Jennings jokingly but firmly replied, “Like Apollo Creed says: ’Ain’t gonna be no rematch.’ Jeopardy! can retire my jersey as far as I’m concerned.”
How the GOAT tournament came together
Jennings almost turned down the invitation from Jeopardy! to compete in the GOAT competition. He didn’t feel up to that level of challenge in playing against two such intense – and very good – players.
“I thought I was off [Jeopardy!] for a while, or maybe forever. They called me and said: ’We want to have you, Brad and James [play] in prime time.’ And I told them no. I was having the “Flowers for Algernon” experience, being in my 40s, and not feeling as good at trivia as I did when I was young and sharp. I said I think I’m past my prime.”
“They called back and said, ’We really would love you to do this.’ And [I realized] when the chips are down, I’m not going to turn down a chance to play “Jeopardy!” during the Alex Trebek years.”
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