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Celebrity Slam - Host with the most

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We spend a lot of time examining and unpacking the various foibles and/or misdeeds of the rich and famous in this space. Most weeks, we’re tickled to find this or that celebrity saying or doing something so arrogant or stupid or (usually) both that we can’t help but address it. Taking shots at those folks is undeniably fun – we don’t deny that.

Every once in a while, however, we choose to use this space as more of a celebration. Sometimes, it’s because a famous person that we admire has left us. Other times, it’s because one of our usual celebrity targets has found a way to turn things around. Still others, it’s an act of altruism that captures our attention.

We’re mostly snark, but not ALL snark.

This brings us to LeVar Burton. Now, everyone who has spent any time invested in popular culture over the past few decades knows LeVar Burton. The dude starred in “Roots,” was a cast member on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” AND hosted “Reading Rainbow” – of COURSE you know who he is.

Well, we’re talking about LeVar Burton this week for one reason and one reason only: he wants to be the new permanent host of “Jeopardy!” And he’s far from the only one.

Ever since the tragic passing of Alex Trebek, rumors have been swirling about who would be the one to replace the game show giant. Sony, hesitant to too quickly try and permanently fill those impressive shoes, chose to go with a series of guest hosts. That list includes folks like show legend Ken Jennings, Katie Couric, Aaron Rodgers, Mayim Bialik and (ugh) Dr. Oz.

Conspicuously absent? LeVar Burton.

(This is where I drop the façade and make clear that it’s me, Allen, writing this piece. Celebrity Slam is usually more of a collaborative effort, but this is a story that is very near and dear to my heart and I have every intention of making my feelings known.)

It's interesting to note Burton’s absence here, particularly when it has been clear for a long time that he would be well-suited for the gig. Heaven knows the “Jeopardy!” community has been vocally in favor of him getting a shot at the job (and we haven’t exactly been demure about letting our feelings about some of the guests be heard).

Burton hasn’t been shy about voicing his desire for the gig, though for the most part he seemed content to let the chips fall where they may. But we’ve seen a shift in recent weeks; he’s been out there giving interviews and posting on social media. In short, he wants the job – and he thinks he’d be great at it.

“I’ve thought and thought and thought — I’ve asked friends and family to help me identify someone out there who’s more qualified for the job than I am,” he said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “I don’t believe there is anyone out there who is better suited for this job than me. And I will go to my grave believing that.”

He went on to add that he believes his “whole career is an advertisement for being the host.”

Honestly? I think he’s 100% correct.

Is there another person in the entertainment sphere who checks all the boxes the way that LeVar Burton does? He’s universally beloved, with a sterling reputation. He’s well-known to multiple generations. He’s got the nerd/geek bona fides thanks to his work as Geordi LaForge. He loves the show, having competed on (and won) the celebrity version. His commitment to education is undeniable and he has two decades of experience directly addressing the camera. And how many thousands upon thousands of kids were drawn into reading by his forthright gentleness on PBS? And many of those kids are the same ones who grew up to dream of appearing on America’s premier question-and-answer show.

The guest hosts as a whole have been … fine. But if there’s a way to put LeVar Burton at that lectern, the powers that be at Sony should do everything in their power to make it happen.

(I’m not alone in these feelings, by the way. There’s a Change.org petition circulating that has more than 200,000 signatures.)

Do the right thing, “Jeopardy!” LeVar Burton is the best choice … but you don’t have to take my word for it.

Last modified on Wednesday, 14 April 2021 05:34

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