Jeopardy! is back, and just like everything else during the coronavirus pandemic, things will look a little different. The show's producers have to protect a national treasure, host Alex Trebek, and keeping it safe for him is their top priority. The set will be changed up, as the contestants will also no longer be standing close together. In addition, Ken Jennings will be heavily featured in a new permanent role.
The new Jeopardy! season kicks off Monday night with the first new episodes since early June when they ran out of episodes produced before the pandemic. Jennings, who won the first Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time tournament earlier this year will help out Trebek by introducing special video categories and developing new projects. Jennings said the set "has been a little spruced up" for the new season.
"The thing you'll notice for COVID is that the individual contestant podiums, the lecterns, are now socially distanced; they're feet apart instead of being a single bank," Jennings told Good Morning America Monday. "And Trebek will stay at the host podium instead of coming over to the contestants because Alex's health is priority No. 1." The audition process is also virtual now, and Jennings will help out with contestant outreach. The first step of auditioning will be the new Anytime Test, which fans around the world can take. The next round will be held over Zoom.
"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," Jennings said on GMA. "It's a great gig being a goodwill ambassador for a show that has so much goodwill."
The 80-year-old Trebek's safety is of utmost importance because he is at high risk due to his age. He is also battling Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and is taking experimental immunotherapy. There was some worry that he would stop all treatment if the program was unsuccessful, but he assured fans in July he will resume his previous chemotherapy treatment. The confusion was caused by a comment in his new memoir, which was written before Trebek began the program.
"My current numbers are very good, but we will have to be patient with this new immunotherapy program that I am on. But, if it were to stop being successful, I would return to my previous chemo treatment, NOT stop all treatment," Trebek said. "I apologize for any confusion, and want everyone to know that I am optimistic about my current plan, and thank them for their concerns."