It was a new, socially distanced game-show world when "Jeopardy!" premiered its 37th season Monday. And like a true Daily Double, seeing iconic host Alex Trebek back in action again was totally worth it.
"Welcome, everyone. Welcome, welcome, welcome," Trebek greeted the home audience for the first time since mid-summer. Production shut down in March due to coronavirus and new episodes ran out in June. "We're trying to provide as safe an environment as possible as we produce these new programs for your enjoyment."
Monday's show featured three new "Jeopardy!" players, as Zach Newkirk, the reigning champion when last season ended prematurely, was unable to travel from the East Coast for the premiere episode's taping. "But we will be bringing him back to the program in a few weeks' time," Trebek announced.
Trebek, the 80-year-old host and national treasure who's been battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer since last year, was as enthusiastic and invested as ever interacting with and getting to know the contestants, whether they were talking about playing the bassoon or traveling for a dream Spice Girls concert.
As much as things are the same in the game of "Jeopardy!" – the category wordplay is still sharp with the likes of "President & Accounted For" – some changes have come amid COVID-19 protocols. An upgraded stage features more space between the three contestant podiums. They're at a safe distance from Trebek, who now will stay at his lectern instead getting up close and personal chatting with competitors.
Also, 74-time champion and recently crowned "Jeopardy!" G.O.A.T. Ken Jennings has joined the show as a consulting producer this season. Beginning with Tuesday's episode, Jennings will appear in special video categories as well as develop projects, help with contestant outreach and serve as show ambassador behind the scenes.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Jeopardy!' stars its 37th season with Alex Trebek, social distancing