Savannah Guthrie Says Guest-Hosting Jeopardy! Is 'Super Challenging': 'You Have to Nail It'
The Today anchor helmed 10 episodes of the game show following longtime host Alex Trebek's death
"I can't believe I got the opportunity to do it," Guthrie, 49, tells PEOPLE. "I am a huge fan of the show, and I'm an even huger fan of Alex Trebek now that I know how hard it is to host Jeopardy! — it's really fast and very precise."
Beloved longtime host Trebek died last November following a battle with pancreatic cancer. A rotation of guest hosts have been helming the show since March; Guthrie's 10-episode stint begins airing Monday.
"The writers and producers of the show are absolute geniuses in my book," Guthrie says. "It was intimidating to walk in there, but I left feeling like I was on a natural high. It was just so fun to learn something new and to acquire a new skill. Getting to host Jeopardy! was definitely one of those bucket list items."
And it was "super challenging," the Today anchor adds. "It's unlike anything I've ever done. It's fast-paced, and you really, literally, have to be on your game. It never lets up. You have to nail it. And it makes me realize just how impressive Alex truly was. He was such a maestro."
The biggest difference between hosting the Today show and a game show like Jeopardy!, Guthrie says, lies in "the precision."
"The Today show is live, and that adds a whole level of pressure. Jeopardy! is live-to-tape, but you can't mess up the game," she explains. "The game has to be sacrosanct. The game has to unfold in real time, because there are real contestants who are pressing that buzzer. So the pressure I felt was to not in any way mess up the integrity of the game. Not only do you have the contestants who have lived their whole lives for this very moment, but you also have writers and producers who have researched and worked on these questions for months."
"When you start thinking about that, you just realize, 'If I blurt out the answer or if I mess something up, there goes a lot of people's hard work and hopes and dreams out the window!'" she continues. "So those stakes were not ones I'm used to. I'm used to high stakes and high pressure on a TV show, but this was a different kind of pressure."
Katie Couric, Aaron Rodgers and Anderson Cooper are among the stars who have already stepped up to the plate. Down the road, celebs including Robin Roberts, LeVar Burton and George Stephanopoulos will guest-host future episodes.
During an appearance on PEOPLE (The TV Show!) last week, Guthrie said the person who eventually takes on the full-time role will have "big shoes to fill."
"Alex was not only legendary in how he did it, he was legendary in how he conducted himself off-air and the family that he created. [He was] such a revered figure," she reflected. "So stepping into Alex's shoes won't be easy, but I think they've got some really good candidates. I'm not going to name names."
Guthrie's episodes of Jeopardy! begin airing Monday and will run until June 25.
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