Actor LeVar Burton made his highly-anticipated debut as Jeopardy! guest host on Monday night, and it turned out to be a historic night a contestant will likely want to forget. Patrick Pearce, a product specialist from Fountain Valley, California, broke the record for the worst ever score on the long-running game show. He finished with -$7,400 and could not participate in Final Jeopardy!. The previous low record was set by Stephanie Hull in 2015.
Pearce was not doing too bad for the first part of the show. He ended the Jeopardy! round with just -$200, which was not an impossible hole to come out of. However, during the Double Jeopardy! round, his hole became increasingly more difficult to get out of. Since players with negative scores cannot participate in Final Jeopardy, Pearce was left to watch Kathleen McHugh of Detroit and Matt Amodio of New Haven, Connecticut finish the fame without him. Amodio won the game, bringing his four-day total to $122,400.
condolences to the new recordholder for worst day ever on Jeopardy, Patrick Pearce pic.twitter.com/JecMLYjQms— Dan Kois (@dankois) July 27, 2021
Pearce's score is the lowest score recorded on the show. There is one caveat to this record though. According to The Jeopardy Fan, contestant Joan Kantor finished a game with -$5,100 in a 1985 episode. If you take double dollars into account, Kantor's score was -$10,200, which would still give her the record.
Five years after Hull scored a low -$6,800, she shared her experiences with Slate, noting how quickly the game got out of hand for her, even though she answered many of the clues correctly early on. She also noted how awful the response was on Twitter at the time. "It was super mean. I'm not entirely sure, but I think it was one of the first kind of viral Jeopardy! moments, the game, my game, which, because both [fellow contestant Brad King] and I ended up with negative scores, was the game played with only one person in Final Jeopardy!" she said, adding that she deleted her Twitter account the morning before her episode aired.
Jeopardy! fans had been itching to see Burton's first episode for months. At the start of the show, he told viewers he would honor the legacy of the late Alex Trebek. "As a longtime viewer of the show, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to guest host Jeopardy! And I'm proud to be here to honor Alex's legacy," the former Reading Rainbow host said. "I'm gonna do my best to ensure that these talented Jeopardy! contestants enjoy their moment here as well."
Viewers gave Burton mostly positive reviews, although some noticed he seemed a bit nervous. "LeVar was nervous but still great," one Twitter user commented. "When he settles in he will be fantastic and the obvious choice to be the new host. Before criticizing his nervousness have you seen Alex's early episodes? Remember he hosted for 35 years."