Two weeks ago, Katie Couric did something no other woman had done: She became a host on "Jeopardy!"
As one of an ongoing stream of extended guest hosts stepping in to fill the shoes of the late host Alex Trebek, Couric, 64, was perfectly on point and says she had a lot of "fun" reading out all the answers. But as she revealed in an interview Monday with Poynter, it's not a gig she would ever want full time.
"I don't think so," she answered when asked about assuming the slot (if offered) on a long-term basis. "It was a really fun thing to do. I love what I’m doing now. I have tremendous flexibility."
What the former TODAY co-anchor (who was with the show from 1991-2006) is doing is running her own news organization, one with many tentacles: a newsletter, a podcast and a website, plus creating original journalism and scripted series. Her memoir, "Unexpected," is due out in October.
But "Jeopardy!" was a real change of pace and a way to challenge herself.
"I was quite nervous when I walked onto the Sony lot and very nervous when I walked into the studio," she said. "But right away they put me at ease. Mike Richards, the executive producer, said, 'We are not going to let you look bad.' And I instantly relaxed and I knew that they had my back."
She was able to rehearse for one day. She was handed the show clues "like they were delivering the nuclear code," she said. "I basically had to promise my life savings if I divulged any of the clues to anyone. They were really serious about it."
After that day of rehearsal, she shot five shows on the second day and five more on the third. "It was highly COVID-sensitive and they had serious protocols in place, which made it even more challenging because I couldn't get near anybody and when I was interviewing them, I couldn't move close or anything like that," she recalled, adding that when someone gave her notes, they laid them on the floor and Couric had to go out and pick them up.
Fortunately, the more shows she did, the more relaxed she became with the format. But there was always the fear of not reading the clues correctly. "It's pretty exhausting to do five of those in one day — just to make sure you’re pronouncing everything correctly," she said. "They give you these complicated Latin terms. My daughters would've really crushed it, but I don't really speak Latin. ... I've always marveled at the contestants. But this really made me appreciate and respect the contestants more than I already did."
In the end, she says she tried to personalize her stay on the beloved game show. "I tried to make it my own, as Paula Abdul would say, but also respect the institution because 'Jeopardy!' is not really a game show," said Couric. "It doesn't feel right to call it a game show. It is an American institution."