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Published April 04 2013

Benshoof: Please don’t ask Lauer or Cooper to host ‘Jeopardy’

It seems that Alex Trebek’s nearly 29-year run as host of America’s favorite quiz show is in jeopardy.

Rumors have been swirling on the Internet for the past few weeks that the 72-year-old host of “Jeopardy!” may step down from the show when his current contract ends in 2016.

As a fan of “Jeopardy!” – and as someone who auditioned for the show, as you may remember from one of my columns last year (I’m still waiting to hear back, by the way) – that news is disappointing enough.

But the real daily double of a downer is the short list of potential candidates to replace Trebek: Namely, Anderson Cooper and Matt Lauer.

Brian Williams was also mentioned as a possibility, but on “The Late Show with David Letterman” last week, the “Nightly News” host seemed to indicate he’s not interested.

But back to Cooper and Lauer: Both are high-profile newsmen, but does that mean they’d succeed as “Jeopardy!” hosts?

To answer in the form of a question: “What is, I don’t think so?”

For starters, Lauer has just a bit of an image problem. Right now, he’s less popular than another month of winter in the Red River Valley.

That’s the last thing “Jeopardy!” needs in replacing its beloved Canuck host.

I sure hope it’s not here “Today,” “Jeopardy!” tomorrow for Lauer.

Cooper, meanwhile, is smart. He went to Yale and has proved that he has trivia chops, doing well on three past appearances of “Celebrity Jeopardy.”

He’s a popular name, but I wonder just how popular – his daytime talk show on CNN was recently canceled after nobody tuned in to watch.

Additionally, the news anchor has the giggles like a middle school student. There are YouTube videos of him losing it during his show, usually when he tries to tackle a dirty pun.

That style wouldn’t compare so favorably with Trebek’s dry, sarcastic wit that has served him so well on “Jeopardy!”

That’s not to say that the next host should be an exact replica of Trebek and his mannerisms, of course.

Except, I think the show and the host’s style have become inseparable, one not really the same without the other. And it’s a combination that works – this season, “Jeopardy!” is averaging between 9 million and 10 million viewers per episode, according to Nielsen TV ratings.

For context, that’s about how many people watch ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” each week, and more than tune in for the current cable powerhouse “Duck Dynasty.”

But whether it’s Cooper, Lauer or anyone else, whomever Sony TV chooses to replace Trebek will mean a change for “Jeopardy!” and its viewers. So why not make the pick in as fair a way as possible?

I say pit the host candidates against each other in a special game of “Celebrity Jeopardy.” The winner gets the gig.

Maybe they can also invite Sean Connery, so often lampooned on “Saturday Night Live's” spoofs of the show, just to make it interesting.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535