We’ve seen Aaron Rodgers as guest host of the legendary quiz show “Jeopardy” for nearly two weeks now. He’s a self-admitted superfan of the show, and has said that he wants to be the permanent host. He’s even gone as far as figuring out his schedule so he could continue being quarterback of the Green Bay Packers (he’d have 178 days during the year to host “Jeopardy,” which is typically filmed over a 46-day period).
This is the main job of a “Jeopardy” host. They have to sound sure and authoritative when they read the answers. When a contestant gets it right, they need to sound positive but not overly excited. When a contestant gets it wrong, they need to sound disappointed and sympathetic but not smug or disapproving.
It’s a tough balancing act. In the early episodes, Rodgers struggled and definitely didn’t have the gravitas to make it sound natural. His voice had a light, conversational quality to it that didn’t fit this kind of game master role, but that’s probably because he’s spent his entire life up to now as a professional football player and not a professional announcer or game show host.
However, Rodgers got noticeably better as the episodes went on. He stopped sounding overly rehearsed and sounded much more authoritative when he read the answers. By the second week, he sounded like a pro.
Alex Trebek’s unsung talent was his tremendous ability to interact with the contestants, the audience, and the unseen viewers. He was a fatherly figure, always curious, always expecting the best, and appreciative of the contestants showing any extra cleverness or humor.
Developing that kind of talent takes time, which is why you could practically see the fear and terror in Rodgers’ eyes in the first few episodes whenever he had to depart from the answers and interact with the contestants on his own. It had a very “this is how humans act, right?” vibe.
After the first handful of episodes, Rodgers seemed much more relaxed when interacting with the contestants during their “getting to know you” segment.
In the above clip, he’s got it figured out. He shows interest in the first contestant’s Lego story, is suitably wowed (or confused) by the second contestant’s hitchhiking story, and then changes his attitude from playful to serious when the third contestant talks about his work with the AIDS quilt.
Rodgers ended up having a steady showing over his two weeks of “Jeopardy” hosting, but a few moments stood out. At the end of his first episode, one contestant decided to pick a Rodgers-specific response when he didn’t know the answer to Final Jeopardy.
The “Jeopardy” Twitter account tweeted a video of Rodgers talking about that response with the contestant, Scott Shewfelt, and it’s clear how much that moment made an impression on Rodgers.
By the second week of episodes, the tentativeness Rodgers originally had when giving the answers was gone. He started injecting more personality into his voice and sounded much more confident in himself — confident enough to make a meal out of the contestants not knowing the correct response to a Packers-related answer.
Knowing how much Rodgers loves “Jeopardy” and reveres Trebek, the amount of improvement Rodgers showed over 10 episodes was excellent. Getting the chance to live out your dream like that must be exciting but also nerve-wracking. Thankfully, it went as well as anyone could have hoped.
If Rodgers got that much better over just 10 episodes, imagine how good he could be if he had more time. If he worked with a Hollywood vocal coach on his game show host voice, and if he continued to hone his on-screen personality to be even more welcoming, he could be a dynamite host.
It would take some time to get him to that level, though. When (or if) the “Jeopardy” people choose their new permanent host, they may want someone that can hit the ground running, who wouldn’t need that kind of acclimation period or have the kind of schedule limitations that Rodgers currently has.
There are certainly people out there who could host “Jeopardy” more professionally straight out of the gate, like people who have been on the show as a contestant numerous times, or who do this kind of thing for a living. But Rodgers’ love of the game shined through during his stint as host, and that more than anything kept me glued to the TV, eager to watch him host every night.