60 Minutes' Bill Whitaker Says Guest-Hosting Jeopardy! Was 'Quite Surreal': 'I Had to Pinch Myself'
"The thing that I was most surprised about was just how fast-paced it is," Bill Whitaker said
While recently speaking with The Washington Post, the 69-year-old television journalist shared details about what went into his guest role on the long-running television quiz show and how it was different from his other television ventures, including CBS' 60 Minutes.
"I work in television news, which is a totally different animal," he said. "I'm used to talking to one camera."
"Here, you had, I think, four cameras — one swoops in from the side, you talk to that one at the end of one commercial, and then swoops to another one you have to talk to after a commercial, and then the contestants are over on the other side," he added. "The thing that I was most surprised about was just how fast-paced it is."
Whitaker — whose guest-hosting tenure began on Monday evening — also shared with the Post that he only had one day of rehearsal ahead of filming.
"I probably could have used two," he said, noting, however, that he quickly picked up on the Jeopardy! rules, including that contestants give "responses" instead of answers and that hosts say a response is "incorrect" instead of "wrong."
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But, despite some of the qualms he had, Whitaker said that there were a "couple of times I had to pinch myself to say, 'Oh my gosh! Look where I am. This is crazy'. It looks just like it looks on television."
"You're not watching on the box, you're actually there. The big screen and the questions and the podiums with the guests and the directors and the producers and the whole thing," he added. "It is quite surreal."
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Reflecting on the late Alex Trebek, whose hosting spot has yet to be officially filled, Whitaker told the Post that he was impressed by how Trebek carried himself on the series.
"He was always kind and personable and he seemed to be brilliant himself. He made the contestants feel welcome and appreciated," he said. "There's so many things to think about, so many moving parts. To be able to do that and make the contestants all feel as though his focus is on them, that's remarkable."
During his time on set, the outlet reported that there was "zero talk" about who may take over as permanent host, after so many before Whitaker — including Ken Jennings, Katie Couric, Aaron Rodgers and Anderson Cooper — also served as guest hosts.
As for potentially taking on the job, Whitaker has no plans to do so anytime soon. "I love my day job, so this was just a change of pace," he said.