There is no more quintessentially 2021 story—nothing as on-the-nose encapsulating of this wretched damn year—than the inane melodrama of who will replace Alex Trebek as Jeopardy! host.
On the one hand, you have a hilariously underqualified white man declaring himself the winner of a rigged and placebo-filled audition that he was in charge of, only to be forced to resign after the world learned he was as fit for this gig as a tumor is for a tooth. (But then, somehow, through the grace of the whitest possible Gods, keeping his other job despite failing so spectacularly at the only part of it that matters that they hired that milk-eared nigga a babysitter.)
On the other hand, you have us—and by “us” I mean “all you niggas”—on all the social medias, performing breathless interest in a game show y’all only watch when sitting on your grandmama’s couch, waiting to ferry her to the casino.
The first thing is as predictably American as terrorism. The second thing, though, is a bit cloudier. “Why are so many of you pretending to care this much about Jeopardy!?” I’d ask myself, while in a still-dry shower, too deep in thought to turn the water on yet. “What point are these niggas trying to prove?” And before you Jeopardy! truthers get your knickers in a knot, I know it’s an iconic show that people watch and enjoy! I am one of those people! When I’m visiting my aunts in Cincinnati! But I believe that Jeopardy! provides the same cultural function for y’all that conscious rap did for me in 1999, where I pretended to love it more than I actually did because it made me feel smarter than niggas who only listened to Luda. All y’all’s some performative elitist swine! (Except me.)
Anyway, the show is still hostless. And if LeVar Burton still wants this gig, a red carpet ain’t enough. Nah. The Jeopardy! niggas should drive to his crib, marinate that offer, bake it, plate it, and feed it to him like Salt Bae. But if he’s no longer an option, the obvious best choice is Steve Harvey.
Harvey, as you might already know, is currently the host of 739 different shows, including Family Feud, Celebrity Family Feud, The Miss Universe Pageant, Fox’s New Year’s Eve Special, NFL Honors, Steve, Steve on Watch, Judge Steve Harvey (seriously), Steve’s Sleeves (a show about his suits), and Steves Without Sleeves (a show about amputee niggas named Steve). Although his brand of cheeky homespun aphorism ages like milk in heat in large doses, it’s perfect for the dynamic of hosting things, which requires an innate grasp of when to be hotel wallpaper, and when to be the minibar.
Now, to say that Steve Harvey would be a counterintuitive choice is like saying whiskey is a counterintuitive alternative to water. Jeopardy!’s entire brand is the performance of the cerebral—its contestants are the type of niggas confident enough in their intellectual capacity to test it in front of millions, and the viewers are either testing themselves against the standard of the contestants or actively competing against them. There’s a significant difference between booksmart and bookish. But with the typical Jeopardy! contestant, there is none. Introducing Harvey’s aggressively Cleveland affect to this would be jarring as fuck. Which is exactly why I believe it would work. Imagine the nuclear chaotic energy of witnessing Steve malaprop his way through those categories. Picture the juxtaposition of the tweeds and corduroys of the contestants with his iridescent cabaret ‘fits. Imagine his enunciation. His faces. His teeth.
Plus, he already has the Trebekian quality of being enough of a dick to roast the nerds, but not so much of a dick that they don’t laugh with him. And old people already looooooooooove him, so you know they’d be down for host Steve. You’re telling me you wouldn’t watch the fuck out of this? Y’all won’t have to pretend anymore! There would be Jeopardy! watch parties and game nights. Girls trips to wherever the fuck it’s filmed instead of Essence Fest. Shit, Jeopardy! would literally have a special edition at Essence Fest.
Cultural critic and undergarment enthusiast Jamilah Lemieux shares my feelings about the cinematic potential here, and had this to add:
“There is nothing, I mean nothing, that would be more watchable than Steve Harvey doing battle with the English language as the host of Jeopardy!. It would be appointment television and Americans would become smarter from watching every day and learning all that trivia shit. Win-win.”
Of course, this probably won’t happen, because good things never do. But Rush Limbaugh died last year, so anything is possible.