LeVar Burton may have had all the internet buzz when it came to potentially taking over as Jeopardy! host, but those tweets certainly didn’t translate into eyeballs on the syndicated trivia game show.
While the last week has been full of discussion and controversy over who Jeopardy! picked as its next hosts, a common name frustrated fans brought up when mentioning alternatives is former Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton. Burton fans were outraged he did not get asked to host the show over Mike Richards and Mayim Bialik, who will host the syndicated run and ABC prime time events, respectively.
A rumor that Burton was offered a production deal was also squashed much to his supporters’ dismay. Picking the successor to Alex Trebek has turned into a messy process involving behind-the-scenes politics, on-screen performance and other metrics of evaluation. One thing missing from that discourse, however, was how Burton actually did in the Jeopardy! ratings. But as Newsweek uncovered on Monday it was probably for the best that wasn’t a factor for Burton, because his week guest hosting the show in July was the worst reported stretch of the guest host periods this year:
But figures obtained by Newsweek from Nielsen Media Research show that the TV personality actually landed at the bottom of the guest-hosting pile, with a paltry 4.4 audience share during his single week at the helm of the syndicated quiz show.
Before that, Savannah Guthrie and Dr. Sanjay Gupta held the record with a tied low of 4.7 during one of their two weeks as presenter—a figure also shared by Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts during her week of hosting.
Newsweek pointed out that Ken Jennings had the highest ratings of the year, taking over for the late Trebek first and posting a high of 6.1 during his six weeks of hosting. Richards, the eventual pick to replace Trebek, had a 5.9 rating during his fortnight behind the podium. Those stood as the highs for the current season, which ended on Friday with broadcaster Joe Buck hosting the show.
Looking at these ratings as a 1:1 comparison is, of course, a bit unfair. But for one reason or another the show saw a steady decline in ratings as the guest hosting string went along. Jennings also hosted immediately after Trebek’s death, and there was considerable buzz over how he would do. Both his and Richards’ hosting duties were also in winter, not late in the summer when people may be less likely to sit down and watch syndicated television with the sun still out.
It’s also worth noting that Burton got just a single week to guest host, while most got a full fortnight’s worth of shows filmed over two days. That may have a lot to do with his actual performance on the show, which he himself admitted wasn’t nearly as good as he’d hoped. All of those factors, whether fair or not, conspired to keep him out in the cold when it came to who the show actually picked to succeed Trebek.
If you’re a fan of Burton and want him to host Jeopardy!, though, none of the numbers we’re seeing (or his own performance review) will deter the frustration of seeing Richards and Bialik taking over full-time. And it’s worth noting that we don’t have ratings data for David Faber or Buck just yet, so Burton may not end the season as the worst-rated guest host. But what is clear is despite Burton being the talk of Twitter in the aftermath of the hiring decision, his presence actually hosting the show did little to move the needle in the ratings.