The best and worst 'Jeopardy!' guest hosts, from Mayim Bialik to Buzzy Cohen

Kelly Lawler
USA TODAY

Quite a few new faces are standing behind the "Jeopardy!" host's lectern this year on the iconic quiz show. 

After the death of beloved and longtime host Alex Trebek last year, "Jeopardy!" has been cycling through guest hosts while producers search for a permanent replacement. So far "Jeopardy!" champ Ken Jennings; executive producer Mike Richards; journalist Katie Couric; talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers; CNN anchor Anderson Cooper; "60 Minutes" correspondent Bill Whitaker; former champion Buzzy Cohen; and actress Mayim Bialik have all had a chance to offer their take on the hosting job.

Future guest hosts include "Today" host Savannah Guthrie; neurosurgeon and CNN medical adviser Dr. Sanjay Gupta; "Star Trek" and "Reading Rainbow" star LeVar Burton, who campaigned heavily for a chance at the job; "Good Morning America" anchors George Stephanopoulos and Robin Roberts; author and CNBC host David Faber; and sportscaster Joe Buck.

So far it's been a mixed bag, from comforting to jarring, as each host brings their own personality and voice to reading each day's 61 clues. From the disappointing to the surprisingly great, we ranked all the "Jeopardy!" guest hosts so far. Might a permanent host be within their ranks? 

Dr. Mehmet Oz is one of many celebrities to guest host "Jeopardy!" He's at the lectern from March 22 to April 2.

9. Dr. Mehmet Oz 

The controversial TV doctor, who has come under fire for his medical advice on his own show and appearances on cable news, was an odd choice for a guest-hosting gig that rankled many fans. And while much of the criticism of Oz rolled in before his episodes even began airing, his appearance didn't do much to prove his critics wrong. Fundamentally, Oz lacks the quick wit and timing required for this job, and his early episodes dragged (it did not help that on his first two outings, the contestants were rather lackluster). His lazy, nasally clue reading was irksome and interrupted the flow of the game play. He also struggled with the occasional fun facts that "Jeopardy!" hosts add to the clue, stopping the momentum.  

Bill Whitaker, a correspondent from CBS's "60 Minutes," took a turn as "Jeopardy!" guest host starting May 3.

8. Bill Whitaker

While the "Jeopardy!" host has to be a bit of a cipher to avoid distracting from the game play, CBS' "60 Minutes" correspondent took that a bit too far as guest host. So soft spoken that he didn't show much personality at all, Whitaker was informed and broadcast-ready, but far too dull, especially during his first episode, which had poor contestants and a lot of wrong answers, Whitaker's pared-back approach did nothing to help keep the game flowing and retain its entertainment value. 

Katie Couric guest-hosted "Jeopardy!" from March 8-19.

7. Katie Couric 

The former "Today" host and "CBS Evening News" anchor made history as the first woman to host "Jeopardy!" and did an admirable job during her two week-stint. Couric perhaps brought more of her bright, enthusiastic personality to the job than viewers were used to with the reserved (but witty) Trebek. Sometimes she distracted from the game, or spent too much time getting chummy with contestants during the host chat segment, but overall she was an amiable host. 

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the latest guest host of "Jeopardy!"

6. Aaron Rodgers

If you ever wondered what it might be like for a very chill, very friendly bro to host the game show, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is here for you. The former Super Bowl champion – and perhaps more importantly, onetime "Celebrity Jeopardy!" champion – brought an extremely relaxed and genial presence to the series in his guest-hosting debut, happily noting when he had never heard of an answer and easily cracking jokes in the middle of reading clues. Occasionally, his approach was a little too casual, and at least one football-fan contestant was certainly very chummy with him, but overall he was a soothing presence. 

More:Aaron Rodgers reveals how he prepared to guest-host 'Jeopardy!' (and if Shailene Woodley will watch)

Anderson Cooper began his "Jeopardy!" hosting gig April 19, 2021.

5. Anderson Cooper

A consummate newscaster, Cooper slid into the guest-hosting gig with ease. Although he had none of the early shakes of Rodgers, Oz or Jennings, occasionally he took a bit too long to acknowledge right or wrong answers, and spent too much time apologizing to contestants who get it wrong. But he is certainly smooth, quick with a joke and comfortable at the job. Cooper's innate suavity has quickly proven to be among the most important, – and elusive – qualities of the successful guest host. If Cooper took the gig full time, it would certainly not be much of a change.  

Mayim Bialik's two-week turn as "Jeopardy!" host kicks off Monday, May 31.

4. Mayim Bialik

Amy Farrah Fowler of "The Big Bang Theory" would be proud: Former "Big Bang" actress Bialik was a solid, admirable guest host, relying on her academic background and natural charisma to get through the game. She excelled as an expert and detached reader of the clues, although sometimes she seemed a little too stoic. But like Trebek and the best guest hosts so far, Bialik has an innate sense of authority, due to her doctorate in neuroscience and noted activism. When she corrects a wrong answer, it's with confidence and a desire to help everyone watching to learn. 

More:'Jeopardy!' guest host Mayim Bialik on the 'dream job,' biggest challenge, Alex Trebek's legacy

"Jeopardy!" Greatest of All Time champion Ken Jennings was the first guest host, for a six-week stint that began Jan. 11, following Alex Trebek's final episode.

3. Ken Jennings 

The "Greatest of All Time" winner and longtime champ was the first to take up the guest host mantle after Trebek's death, and he was a comforting, familiar presence who got the job done. His ability to connect with contestants was key to his charm, considering he intimately knows what it's like to be in their shoes. Jennings only lacks the svelte, debonair affect that made Trebek so appealing to viewers, and he sometimes wobbled or struggled to get through an awkward transition. He was possibly the only guest host who could have immediately followed Trebek, and he deserves immense credit for keeping the show going and helping viewers mourn the late host. 

More:The first 'Jeopardy!' without Alex Trebek: How did Ken Jennings do as host?

Former "Jeopardy!" champion himself, Buzzy Cohen took a turn as guest-host of the quiz show for the 2021 Tournament of Champions.

2. Buzzy Cohen

Confident, cool and with a snappy pair of glasses, the former "Jeopardy!" champ waltzed in for this year's Tournament of Champions with ease, knowing his way around the clues and the contestants. Sometimes Cohen was seemingly so excited to be in the room that he rushed things – his enthusiasm occasionally bubbles over into a mile-a-minute reading of the clues and his script. But that energy is welcome to keep the mood of the entire episode in high spirits, even as contestants make mistakes. His run at the host job is enough to make us wonder if more former champions should have been on the docket (and fewer newscasters). 

'Jeopardy!' executive producer (and former game-show host) Mike Richards stepped behind the podium for two weeks, from  Feb. 22 to March 5.

1. Mike Richards 

"Jeopardy!" executive producer Richards took a turn at the podium between Jennings and Couric and quickly won ardent supporters. And it's easy to see why: From his cool and sleek delivery of clues to his clever banter, Richards was both comforting and uncontroversial, taking his cues from Trebek's work but never directly copying him. His ease in the job was apparent, as was his familiarity with the clues and gameplay (as executive producer, he should be familiar with the show). Although Richards has hosted game shows before, including "Beauty and the Geek" and "Pyramid," he was an unknown to many "Jeopardy!" viewers, and thus brought no baggage. Ending each episode with Trebek's call to be kind to one another, Richards feels like a genuine candidate for the job. 

More:'Jeopardy!' exclusive: Who's new guest host Mike Richards? Who's next? And how soon will the show replace Alex Trebek?