“Who is LeVar Burton?”
According to fans of the renowned “Reading Rainbow” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” star, that’s simply the correct way to respond to a lingering “Jeopardy!” clue as the game show churns through guest hosts following Alex Trebek’s death in November.
As of Wednesday morning, more than 167,000 fans have signed a Change.org petition pressing Sony Pictures Entertainment to tap Burton to replace Trebek permanently, and a host of celebrities have doubled down on their support.
“Everyone wants this!” tweeted Ahmed Best, who played Jar Jar Binks in the “Star Wars” prequels. “Do the right thing and make Uncle Levar the host!!!!”
On top of 23 years hosting “Reading Rainbow,” the 64-year-old Emmy-winning actor and director played engineer Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge in “Star Trek” and Kunta Kinte in ABC’s “Roots.”
According to fan archives, Burton also won a match of “Celebrity Jeopardy!” in 1995 against Olympic gold medal speed skater Dan Jensen and “The Young and the Restless” actress Melody Thomas Scott, earning $14,500 for the Somalia Foundation. He’s also participated in several episodes by reading clues to contestants, including a 2004 match that featured an entire “Reading Rainbow” category. He’s also been mentioned as an actor or host in at least a dozen “Jeopardy!” clues since 1989, archives show.
The beloved actor has other game show credits as well, serving multiple times as a celebrity guest on Dick Clark’s “Pyramid” shows in the 1980s, and he won $167,500 for Junior Achievement of Southern California by topping William Shatner and other “Star Trek” actors in a special edition of “The Weakest Link” in 2001.
Currently hosting a podcast, “LeVar Burton Reads,” Burton shared the popular “Jeopardy!” petition on Twitter this week, “in the event the powers that be are listening.”
His “Next Generation” co-stars, Brent Spiner and Jonathan Frakes, also fired off messages of support on Twitter on Tuesday. “When is Jeopardy going to get it? The public wants LeVar Burton to host the show!” Spiner said. Jane Lynch, the actress and comedian host of “Hollywood Game Night” and the “Weakest Link” reboot, said in March that Burton would be “such a solid choice!”
Even back in November, sports books placed Burton third behind record-breaking “Jeopardy!” champion Ken Jennings and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos as the most likely to get the gig. Actress Geena Davis, television journalist Katie Couric and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers, who’s hosting this week, have also been named as contenders for full-time MC.
Burton told MSNBC’s Joshua Johnson in March that, “in many respects, I feel like I have been preparing my whole life for the job ... should that job come my way, I would be exceedingly glad.”
According to USA Today, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, “Today” host Savannah Guthrie, CNN medical adviser Dr. Sanjay Gupta, “60 Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker and actress Mayim Bialik are lined up as future guest hosts.
Executive producer Mike Richards says the permanent host may not take the podium until the show kicks off its 38th season in September.
“Let’s make sure we get someone we are going to feel even better about in a decade than we do this year,” Richards told USA Today.
Richards made clear that he’s not necessarily looking for a huge name to replace Trebek, contrasting “Jeopardy” with “Match Game,” which “demands” that Alec Baldwin “go on and be a superstar.”
“You have to have on ‘Jeopardy!’ someone who’s larger than life, but also humble in the same way that isn’t going to make the game about them, in any way,” Richards said.
In November, when the petition for Burton launched, he told his fans, “Even if nothing comes from it, I can’t tell how much I appreciate all y’alls love and support!”