The ‘Jeopardy’ host floated CNN legal analyst Laura Coates, a lifelong fan of the show, as one potential successor.
She’ll take “completely shocked” for $1,000, Alex.
Laura Coates, a 38-year-old CNN legal analyst and host of her own daily eponymous SiriusXM show, has watched “Jeopardy!” since she was 4 or 5. She once created a “Jeopardy!” game for an eighth-grade class project; used to play the “Jeopardy!” computer game; and remains “a very vocal watcher” of the game show today, she told Moneyish, shouting out the answers she both knows and doesn’t know.
So imagine her delight when Alex Trebek himself, the show’s second and longest-tenured host, floated her name Sunday as his potential successor during an interview on Fox News’ “OBJECTified” with TMZ founder Harvey Levin. The 78-year-old game-show icon, conceding his odds of remaining after his contract expires in 2020 were “50/50 and a little less,” offered two suggestions: Alex Faust, the 28-year-old play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Kings, and Coates, whom he’d seen on cable news.
The St. Paul, Minn., native, who lives in Washington, D.C., was celebrating her seventh wedding anniversary with her husband; when she heard her name, she was folding laundry and trying to get their two kids to bed. “Mommy, he just said ‘Laura Coates’!” her 4-year-old daughter said. “Oh my gosh, Mommy … Alex Chek-bek knows who you are!” exclaimed her 5-year-old son. “Do you think that he heard you screaming at the TV all those times?”
To Coates, a self-described lifelong “Jeopardy!” fan, the recognition felt “completely amazing.” “For me, it’s only ever been two hosts of ‘Jeopardy!’ … Alex Trebek with a mustache, and Alex Trebek without a mustache,” she said. (Art Fleming served as the show’s original host until 1975; Trebek, who was raking in an annual reported $10 million in recent years, has hosted the current version since 1984.) “To have my name in the ring, and actually to even come from Alex Trebek entirely, it was so crazy and so awesome.”
Though Coates later reached out to Trebek through his management to thank him, their paths had never previously crossed. She racked her brain trying to recall having made an explicit “Jeopardy!” reference on air. “‘Jeopardy!’ is one of those universally loved shows — you can find no one who hasn’t seen it, or hasn’t tried to play for as long as they could … or felt exponentially smarter when they were able to answer a question,” she said. “So I guess I’d have to assume he knows that everyone is a fan, but I think he had no idea that I was a megafan.”
Asked whether she would take the job if offered, Coates answers in the form of a question: “Oh my God, how quickly could I get to L.A.?” She also points out that Trebek, who is “synonymous with the show,” hasn’t announced his exit. “I, like everyone else, want to see Alex Trebek remain the host of ‘Jeopardy!,’” Coates said. “It would be so hard to see him go.” But if the opportunity ever presented itself, she said, “of course” she would take it. “I would love to still be able to do the other things that I’m doing, in terms of … analysis and radio,” she added.
I'm beginning to think I fell asleep while watching @jeopardy & have dreamed the last few days. Do me a favor–don't wake me up. Just take off my glasses & the remote from my hand, cover me w/a blanket, & repeatedly hum the final jeopardy song to me until morning. Thank you all!
— Laura Coates (@thelauracoates) August 1, 2018
You could make a compelling case that Coates — a Princeton-educated attorney and George Washington University lecturer who has served in the Department of Justice’s civil rights division and worked as an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia — is overqualified for a game-show gig. But Coates says she doesn’t think “you can ever be overqualified to edu-tain.”
“One of the things that makes ‘Jeopardy!’ so wonderful is that it taps into all the different interests that people have,” she said. “It really capitalizes on the fact that no one is monolithic, and you could know so many different things in life and have different interests, and still enjoy the program.”
And while Coates felt it was “classy and wonderful” that Trebek had considered her in general, the fact remains that women — let alone women of color — are incredibly scarce in America’s game-show landscape. (The only notable example on network TV today remains Jane Lynch, the Emmy-winning host of NBC’s “Hollywood Game Night.”)
“I had never considered the absence of women, or women of color, in this particular position … I think (Trebek) must have known the ripple effect of his statement, and I’m grateful for that,” she said. “I also think that ‘Jeopardy!’ is universally loved and has universal appeal, and so I think it’s really important for people to be able to see themselves in the programs they’re watching. And if I am in any way relatable for those reasons or others, then I’m honored to be considered that way.”
“I’ve seen my children and so many others like them who place a great deal of value — and it can’t be overstated — in seeing yourself in the people that you’re watching,” Coates added, “and creating an image and a view that you can be anywhere, and be anything, you want to be.”
Coates can’t quite settle on a single contestant “fun fact” about herself, offering up nuggets about her “Golden Girls” fandom and “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” prowess. But the first one that flies out of her mouth? “My fun fact would be that Alex Trebek knows who I am.”
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