Dr. Sanjay Gupta is taking to the podium as Jeopardy!'s next celebrity guest host, taking over for Savannah Guthrie for another two-week stint as the beloved game show searches for a permanent replacement for the late Alex Trebek. The neurosurgeon and Emmy-winning journalist has long been CNN's chief medical correspondent, also serving as the associate chief of the neurosurgery service at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.
During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Gupta was a frequent contributor to CNN shows, even hosting a weekly town hall with Anderson Cooper, who previously served as a Jeopardy! guest host. In an essay for CNN, Gupta recounted his experience stepping into Trebek's shoes, opening up about the special place Jeopardy! has had in his life since he was a child.
Gupta recalled watching the game show with his parents as a kid, showing off his knowledge of pop culture, sports and emerging trends while his parents, both newly-immigrated engineers, excelled at categories involving math, science and world history. "Jeopardy! was the great equalizer in our family. We all had our strengths and our weaknesses. Any of us could emerge a champion," he wrote. "Decades later, I can still recall the look of pride my dad had when he came up with the correct response. I later realized he was even more proud when his young son did the same."
Remembering the "immaculately organized" VHS tapes of Jeopardy! shows in his childhood home, Gupta shared just how important it was for him to do Trebek justice as a guest host. Spending hours reviewing the clues, repeating and memorizing them, Gupta called being on set a "sentimental experience," in which he was thinking of his parents "while standing on the set I had spent so much time watching with them in my early years."
Despite all his early practice, Gupta was feeling his nerves during rehearsals, joking that while the crew would never say it, he thinks they "would all agree I was pretty terrible." After a pep talk from executive producer Mike Richards, in which he impressed on Gupta how appearing on Jeopardy! was the "biggest day" in many of these contestants' lives, the doctor was renewed with a passion to get things right during the filming, which he said ended up showing him just how groundbreaking of a show Jeopardy! truly is.
"It made me realize that just because a show is full of facts and knowledge doesn't mean it has been stripped of intensity and humanity. Jeopardy! is all those things," he wrote, calling the hosting experience "the honor of a lifetime."