A new era of Jeopardy! debuted Monday as former contestant Ken Jennings took over as host following the death of Alex Trebek.
Jennings, who was crowned the Greatest of All Time, assured fans at the beginning of his first episode that Trebek is irreplaceable.
“Sharing this stage with Alex Trebek was one of the greatest honors of my life,” Jennings said.
“Not many things in life are perfect, but Alex did this job pretty much perfectly for more than 36 years, and it was even better up close. We were dazzled by his intelligence, charm, and grace.
“Like all Jeopardy! fans, I miss Alex very much,” he continued.
“And I thank him for everything he did for all of us. Let’s be totally clear: No one will ever replace the great Alex Trebek. But we can honor him by playing the game he loved.”
Jennings became a more permanent fixture on the show in recent months when he was elevated to consulting producer, giving him a lot more screentime on the beloved daytime series.
“Honestly, I’m with the audience, I don’t want me out here — I want to see Alex out here. I know exactly how they feel when they see anybody else behind this lectern,” Jennings tweeted ahead of the broadcast.
“But there are tens of millions of people who love this show. We love this show. Alex loved the show. I’m just happy to fill in and help out.”
Jennings is not serving as a full-time host, however. EP Mike Richards previously said that the series would have a string of guest hosts before naming a more permanent host.
“Alex believed in the importance of Jeopardy! and always said that he wanted the show to go on after him,” he said.
“We will honor Alex’s legacy by continuing to produce the game he loved with smart contestants and challenging clues.”
“By bringing in familiar guest hosts for the foreseeable future, our goal is to create a sense of community and continuity for our viewers.”
Trebek passed away in November at age 80, almost two years after revealing he was battling pancreatic cancer.
Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.