Fire “Milkshake Duck” Mike Richards

Jeopardy – not just another syndicated game show

Milkshake Duck
Show #7894 – Thursday, December 27, 2018. A triple stumper.

I learned a new term very recently. It’s Milkshake Duck. Hey, it’s only been around since 2016.

The term is “an Internet meme that describes people who gain viral popularity on social media for some positive or charming trait but are later revealed to have distasteful histories or offensive behavior.”

Know Your Meme: On June 12th, 2016, Twitter user @pixelatedboat posted a tweet about the internet’s love for ‘Milkshake Duck,’ followed by the revelation ‘we regret to inform you the duck is racist’. Within one year, the tweet gained over 22,700 likes and 9,600 retweets.” Huh? Whatever.

Short-lived host

Mike Richards was pleasant enough as a fill-in host of Jeopardy. But, as you may know, he stepped down as the newly-named permanent host of the show,  following reports of a number of inappropriate comments he made on a podcast that ran in 2013 and 2014. The podcast was appropriately named The Randumb Show.

Much of the offensive comments that targeted Jews, Haitians, and especially women are documented extensively in The Ringer, as well as mentioned in  Parade. Just one example:  him calling his colleague on-air a “booth ho” and “booth slut.”

I now believe Mike Richards should resign – or be fired – as JEOPARDY’s Executive Producer because he has harmed the show.

Institutional memory lost

Long-time executive producer Harry Fridman retired in May 2020, after 23 years. “Then, just months into Richards’s debut season, Trebek died due to complications of pancreatic cancer.” And though it started before Richards’ tenure, Glenn Kagan, longtime coordinator on the show, says “he was discriminated against based on his age and ultimately fired from the show on the pretense of Covid-19 safety procedures, while being replaced by a much younger employee.

There were other recent departures of several key staffers—including the longtime head of the contestant department, Maggie Speak, and stage manager John Lauderdale. Add to that “the taping difficulties caused by the pandemic, which left many staff members working from home, there was a widespread perception internally of a power vacuum.”

(BTW, I LOVED Maggie. She made me feel good after my loss. “You were the only one to get Final Jeopardy correct!”)

Heir apparent

A bunch of paragraphs from The Ringer on how Richards undercut Ken Jennings:

Sources close to the show cast doubts on Richards’s decision-making surrounding Jennings. Many Jeopardy! staffers and former contestants long presumed that Jennings would be Trebek’s anointed successor, an expectation that only grew in the months after Trebek’s 2019 cancer diagnosis.

After Jennings won 2020’s Greatest of All Time tournament, Friedman hired him as a consulting producer—a move from contestant to staff that some interpreted as a bridge to hosting, with Jennings’s early duties including presenting categories of his own creation. Trebek furthered this perception, asking Jennings to narrate much of his 2020 memoir, The Answer Is …, and arranging a call with him to discuss guest-hosting just two days before Trebek’s death.

As The New York Times reported, the host left Jennings a pair of his cuff links, which awaited him in Trebek’s dressing room, along with a note from Trebek’s wife, Jean, when Jennings arrived at the studio to serve as the season’s inaugural guest host.

Jennings taped six weeks of episodes before a minor conflict with an upcoming tape day emerged… Sources say the show’s production staff was able to accommodate the conflict, only for Richards to step in and insist on hosting instead. When the time came to tape the preamble to his first episode, Richards blamed COVID-19 for the change and exaggerated the nature of Jennings’s conflict.

Mike to the rescue?

After Jennings’s curtailed run, which posted the highest ratings of any guest host this season, Jeopardy! did not air any additional [clue] categories hosted by [Ken]. Previously, the categories had aired roughly once a month, about as often as those hosted by members of the Clue Crew. Categories featuring clues read by the Clue Crew, celebrities, and affiliate station news anchors continued to air…

After Richards was named the executive producer of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune in 2019, another former Let’s Make A Deal employee remembers a supervisor who had worked closely with Richards remarking, “I bet he hires himself.”

“I think that one reason why Jeopardy was aspirational for many of its contestants was its sense of integrity,” says Kristin Sausville, who won five games on Jeopardy! in 2015. ‘There was something intrinsic to the show and Alex Trebek’s hosting of it that elevated it above other game shows.

“‘The baggage Mike Richards has brought from his previous experience as an executive producer, as well as the optics of what comes across as his self-selection as host, have tarnished that. I think there’s a real danger of Jeopardy! becoming just another syndicated game show, and that makes me concerned for its longevity and standing.”

Out goes he

I’ve been in touch with other Jeopardy contestants. A few noted a decline in the quality of the clue-writing under his tenure. “It has long been more than clear that Richards’s focus has not been on the good of the show.Most [contestants] don’t understand how he can stay on, as he was the guy in charge of this whole guest host year of distraction in the first place.”

As a columnist noted, it makes “one wonder why the Jeopardy team didn’t perform much due diligence on Richards. Oh, wait … I forgot who was put in charge of it.” And, presumably, Richards will be choosing his own successor as host.

This is why I think that the self-aggrandizing Mike Richards, milkshake duck, should be fired as Executive Producer of JEOPARDY!