CNN’s Sanjay Gupta first Atlanta ‘Jeopardy!’ guest host

Sanjay Gupta is the latest guest host on "Jeopardy." JEOPARDY

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Sanjay Gupta is the latest guest host on "Jeopardy." JEOPARDY

The chief medical correspondent and neurosurgeon called it an ‘honor of a lifetime.’

The 11th “Jeopardy!” guest host since Alex Trebek died will be CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, starting Monday for two weeks.

His run, from June 28 through July 9, was pre-taped. He will be the first Atlanta resident to take on the role. Others who have been guest hosts include “Jeopardy” champ Ken Jennings, NFL player Aaron Rodgers, journalist Katie Couric, syndicated talk-show host Dr. Mehmet Oz, “Big Bang Theory” star Mayim Bialik and fellow CNNer Anderson Cooper. “Jeopardy!” has not yet announced a full-time replacement host.

Gupta, a neurosurgeon, said being given this chance was an “honor of a lifetime” in an essay on CNN.com.

He noted how during his childhood, “the show was the great equalizer in our family. We all had our strengths and our weaknesses. Any of us could emerge a champion. Decades later, I can still recall the look of pride my dad had when he came up with the correct response. I later realized he was even more proud when his young son did the same.”

He added: “‘Jeopardy!’ was not just our favorite show, it was in our DNA.”

In fact, Gupta, 51, now watches the game show with his three teenage daughters and his parents will come over the next two weeks to watch his guest-led shows with him.

“It will be special, comforting and more important than ever,” he wrote.

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Gupta noted how “Jeopardy!” prides itself on its integrity. He was told to keep the clues close to the vest, to lock them in a hotel safe when he left the room and not even show them to his spouse. He had no clue which script he would be using until just before taping.

The morning meeting with “Jeopardy!” staff to go over clues was held in an actual library and the writers would check reference books in that library when needed.

“The whole feel of the meeting was so studious and so scholarly: very ‘Jeopardy!’,” Gupta wrote. “I loved it and felt right at home.”

Gupta said on his first day of rehearsals, he was admittedly terrible, noting that his pacing was off, his language skills less than ideal, his ability to hit the marks on the set lacking. He studiously practiced in his hotel room that evening and absorbed “the incredible emotion of ‘Jeopardy!’”

He had to come up with a list of various ways to say “correct” after a contestant provided the right response. And he had to make sure he didn’t use the word “answer” because the players actually answer with a question.

Going in, Gupta didn’t fully appreciate how quickly the game progresses. In 22 minutes of airplay, he had to provide up to 61 clues, an average of one about every 15 seconds (again, they are not questions because they are actually answers).

“I had to be in constant control, keeping everyone focused and moving the show along,” he wrote.

Plus, over two days, he had to tape five shows per day. That’s up to 610 clues total.

By the day of actual taping, he said he was ready, but he was hardly mistake free.

Gupta noted that he is not on screen when reading the clue. The contestants are mostly reading the clue anyway and simply waiting for him to finish before buzzing in. If he mispronounces a word in a clue, he can re-tape it during a commercial break, or at the end of the show, and the producers can seamlessly sub it in afterwards.

There was one category full of 10-letter words in a foreign language, he noted, that required him to re-read them all. Trebek, who died last November of pancreatic cancer, rarely needed to re-do a clue, Gupta was told.

“Jeopardy!” airs in Atlanta on 11Alive (WXIA-TV) daily at 7:30 p.m.

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ON TV

“Jeopardy!” 7:30 p.m. weekdays, 11Alive (WXIA-TV).