MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 03: LeVar Burton attends the 2020 Breakthrough Prize at NASA Ames Research Center on November 03, 2019 in Mountain View, California. (Photo by Ian Tuttle/Getty Images for Breakthrough Prize )

I don’t look at Twitter during the Monday-Wednesday portion of my work week, and so I missed this beautiful gem from Reading Rainbow and Star Trek: The Next Generation star Levar Burton.

“Leaving this here in the event the powers that be are listening…” he wrote in the tweet, linking out to a petition. Yeah, in the realm of useful and effective forms of action, internet petitions tend to rank pretty low on that scale. But this particular petition caught my eye.

The title? “Make LeVar Burton the next host of Jeopardy!

I’ve gotta say: Hell yeah, do that. For those who haven’t paid close attention to the widely beloved game show in the months since longtime host Alex Trebek’s death, the show has been vetting potential replacement (and keeping the broadcast going) with a rotating cast of guests that have so far included Aaron Rodgers, Dr. Oz, and Katie Couric. Fans can also look forward to seeing Anderson Cooper, Mayim Bialik, Bill Whitaker, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta in the future.

Notably absent from the lineup is Burton, and that’s a real shame. While most of his success as a fixture of pop culture comes from his long tenure on The Next Generation as Enterprise Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge, Burton has a long history in Hollywood that includes a breakout in the TV miniseries Roots

He was also, notably, the host of Reading Rainbow for more than 20 years. The educational children’s program served the express purpose of encouraging kids to read, and Burton, a magnetic personality on-screen, fully invested himself in his role as host. He’s also personally committed to the show’s core educational mission and has worked over the years to keep the spirit of Reading Rainbow alive in various forms and forums.

As of this writing on April 11, the Change.org petition calling for Burton to host Jeopardy! — which appears to have launched around the time Trebek died — has picked up more than 225,000 signatures out of a targeted 300,000. And importantly, Burton himself is on board. He spoke to EW after posting his tweet and made the case for himself to host better than anyone could have.

“The values that my family has established over time has been, if there is a leveler of the playing field in America, it’s education — aside from, you know, just being born white. But if you are ever going to fulfill your full potential, then learning needs to be your friend.”

Jeopardy! is fundamentally a show about education. As pretty much anyone who grew up watching it can attest, the particular quiz show format used on the show lends itself very well to a playful family competition where everyone’s shouting out answers (technically they’re questions, because of Jeopardy!). 

The wide-ranging approach to trivia that draws on everything from distant history to modern pop culture has kept the show relevant for literally decades. Even now in the 2020s, it’s not uncommon to see memes drawn from Jeopardy! clips and freeze frames. Moments from the show still go viral. It’s not PBS educational, but it’s still something we can regularly learn from.

Few people are better suited to host a format like that than Burton. He’s also appeared on the show before, winning his Celebrity Jeopardy appearance in 1995. He has the bona fides. He has a fandom. I never imagined myself getting worked up over who the next host should be, but here we are. 

Burton is the best choice, even if it’s just to get in line with the rest of the guest hosts and shoot his shot. He clearly wants to. So make it happen, Jeopardy!.

https://bit.ly/3mBGbPA

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